This is the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write. It’s hard to effectively detail why everyone should play a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution knowing that there will be those that despise it. There is also so much that makes up this game that I will need to go into tremendous detail to do it justice.
For those unfamiliar with the Deus Ex series, it is a first-person RPG. The first game was released in 2000 and set a new standard for both first-person shooters and video game entertainment period. It was highly praised and topped many “greatest video games” lists. The second game Deus Ex: Invisible War had a hard time living up to the standard that was set with the first game, and many die hard Deus Ex fans consider the game to be the weaker of the two. It is clear then that Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a lot to live up to, but the fact that the game is on new and more advanced tech means that they have the opportunity to bring the franchise to the next level.
Set in 2027, Human Revolution is a story about the merging of technology and biology, and those who oppose it. You control main character Adam Jenson who works as head of security for Bio-mechanical research company Sarif Industries. The game begins with Sarif industries being attacked. As the security officer for the company you must try and get to the bottom of the attack. Many are killed and Adam is almost one of them. The game then brings us forward a couple months where we find that Adam has been augmented (fitted with bio-mechanical enhancements). This is where things really begin to kick off. You must utilize Adam’s augmentations and find out what exactly happened when Sarif Industries was attacked and why. You will first be briefed by Sarif Industries boss David Sarif, whom you can’t help but suspect from the very first moment you lay eyes on him.
To successfully get through the numerous tasks you will be set throughout the game, you will need to utilize your augmentations. The freedom this game gives you is impeccable. You must collect Praxis, which allow you to unlock new mechanical augmentations that Adam can utilize. If you wish to play in a sneakier manner; you can focus on unlocking augmentations to increase hacking skills, reduce the amount of noise you make on foot, add on an invisible cloaking system, expand your radar to gain more information on enemy positions and much more.
If you want to be a hardman and go in all guns blazing you can spend Praxis points on augmentations aimed at reducing damage, reducing recoil, and there’s even a fancy 360 explosion move that looks like something out of a movie when performed. Keep in mind that even if you choose to go in all guns blazing, you still have to apply some caution when picking off enemies, using cover is crucial. Ultimately the choice is yours, and there are so many different augmentations to choose from that you will have trouble deciding what to spend your Praxis points on.
Keep in mind that Praxis points can be few and far between. If you are a true explorer you will find them lying around, if not then you will automatically unlock a Praxis point after earning a certain score, your score builds up as you achieve things in game. You may also buy Praxis points with credits earned throughout the game.
Another thing you will find to be scarce is ammo, especially during the first half of the game. There are many points where you’ll feel under-equipped and this makes me feel like using stealth is the best way to get through this game. In fact I think it’s actually a lot more fun using stealth than simply picking off enemies with a weapon.
You must fully explore every area to find the best way to your goal. There are usually multiple routes to take, but more than likely they will be obstructed by something. Depending on which augmentations you have already unlocked, you may find it incredibly difficult to take specific routes. You must fully explore all areas of the map to uncover the right route for you. You’ll find vents that you can enter (often hidden from view), security terminals or computers you can hack (to turn off security cameras/robots/turrets), or unguarded passages. At times you may find a route is obstructed by electricity (which will leave you fried), or poisonous gas which you cannot go through unless you have unlocked the appropriate augmentation. The one thing to remember is that there is always a way to reach your goal, and patience is required to find the best way for you based on the augmentations you have unlocked.
There were times I felt stuck to the point I thought the game was broken; but consistent exploration will eventually lead you to find a data pad with a useful password, or a ladder you didn’t know was there before, or you may discover that you can jump from one building to another, or find your way in through the sewers. The point is that Deus Ex: Human Revolution requires a lot of patience from you for it to pay off. Depending on who you are this may be a good thing or a bad thing.
One thing you’ll find unavoidable is hacking. Whether you’ve spent Praxis points on hacking skills or not, eventually it will serve you well to learn how to play the hacking mini-game. The hacking mini-game is a small puzzle where you must take control over nodes whilst trying to avoid being detected by the network security. If you manage to take control of the whole system before the network detects your location your hack is successful. Successful hacks can bring you new information (via emails), access to security controls and cameras and if you have the right augmentations you can even hack turrets and robots so they attack your enemies instead of yourself. Hacking may seem like a chore at first, but once you’ve hacked at least fifteen systems it begins to feel all too easy.
The atmosphere in Deus Ex feels shockingly natural. When you’re not in a major story related mission you will be able to free roam one of the two cities in the game. Speaking to characters will either launch side missions; give you useful information or even some humour. One of the prominent themes throughout the game is regular civilians looking down on augmented people as if they are unnatural. This theme is very well portrayed through interactions with people in the cities. NPC’s don’t just stand there like props either, you will see them getting hassled by police officers, dancing in subways, and even rioting.
Dialog also plays a huge part in a couple of key moments. A personality augmentation will help at these moments, but otherwise you will have to respond instinctively. While these conversations do affect the outcome of certain missions, they would have meant more if they had an impact on the overall outcome of the story. One thing some gamers may not like is the requirement to fully understand what’s going on. For the most part you must pay close attention to what is being said to Adam; otherwise you’ll find yourself unsure on how to proceed. Voice acting is another thing this game does fantastically, every NPC in the game is voiced and I don’t specifically remember coming across any two that sounded the same; If there are it’s not noticeable.
Visually the game is up to par with every other game on the market; Human Revolution could even be thought of as one of the better looking ones. A small nitpick for me would be the fact that the visual consistency between cutscenes and actual gameplay is pretty unbalanced. Cutscene’s have an extra gritty look about them, making them seem completely different to the clarity of the actual gameplay.
Inventory management is also something that Dues Ex does very well. Instead of having a set limit of items (including weapons) you can carry, you have a grid which can be expanded through augmentations by your Praxis. At first the grid is only a few columns wide, but it won’t matter as you’ll only be picking up pistols, stun guns and a tranquilizer gun initially. You can also find/purchase energy bars which are required to refill Adams batteries, because a few of those fancy augmentation abilities do take up some energy. You will also collect painkillers, grenades and ammo. As you reach the middle half of the game you’ll find bigger weapons as well as weapon upgrades, at this point you may want to expand the grid so that it has more columns for you to store items.
One thing that would have been nice is to have item storage, especially since Adam has his own apartment in the first city (Detroit). However I have found that dropped items will remain in the same place, even after long periods of time. So if there is something you wish to store for later you can simply drop it anywhere you please and come back to it. I guess the storage would have been better for the purpose of role-playing.
I could go on and on about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is so much that makes up this game. I feel that to do it proper justice it has to be played. There aren’t many faults I can clearly detail about the game besides the minor nitpicks I have already detailed; and I can honestly say that I enjoyed the full 40 hours I spent playing the game. There are three different ways to end the game and each one is as good as the others. If you have the patience to dedicate to Deus Ex: Human Revolution you will find yourself caring for characters, feeling sad when/if they die; you’ll find yourself playing along to various sequences, being pissed off when you’re supposed to be, laughing when you’re supposed to. If you dedicate yourself to this experience it pays off. However if you’re the type of gamer who wants to just pick up the controller and get straight to the action, Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not exactly be suited to you. I can tell you that based on my experience with the game, it is one of the best I have played this generation period; it deserves nothing less than the top honours.
This review was based on a review copy of the game for the PS3 provided by Square Enix.