The lights are on
When a developer decides to reboot a classic franchise, they're generally taking a significant risk. It is, unfortunately, fairly common for reboots to alienate a franchise's original fanbase due to any number of revisions. Reviving the classic Deus Ex franchise was no small task on the part of Eidos Montreal. The original Deus Ex is widely regarded as one of the greatest PC titles of all time. Fans had already received a sequel in the form of the much maligned Invisible War, which was widely shunned for its drastically simplified mechanics. As a result, when Human Revolution was announced fans were, perhaps understandably, skeptical. Could Eidos really do a series like Deus Ex justice in the modern gaming industry? Fortunately for Eidos and fans alike, they were more than capable.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the classic action RPG, Deus Ex, that takes place in the year 2027. It follows Adam Jensen: former SWAT operative and Sarif Industries' chief of security. Sarif Industries is one of the world's leading firms in human augmentation and other transhuman studies. The game opens to a rather shady scene to a mysterious individual discussing Sarif Industries with an even more mysterious group. (Or not so mysterious to fans of the original game.) Apparently, the firm's latest discovery is not within the shady organization's best interests, and they've decided to take action; in the form of an operation to eliminate the scientists responsible for the breakthrough. During this attack, Adam is gravely wounded, and Sarif has him augmented in an attempt to find those responsible.
From that point on, the story takes you on an intriguing journey of corporate espionage and conspiracy. The game starts of in Detroit, Michigan, and from there takes you to top secret military installations, the world's primary news outlet, and a thriving, state of the art Chinese metropolis constructed on an artificial island. This journey will span three hub areas as well as a variety of dungeons: the aforementioned Detroit, and the fictional city of Hengsha's Youzhao and Kuaigan districts. The game's various areas are fairly large, and exploring them is a rather exciting experience. The game also rewards adventurous players for their troubles; much like the game's predecessors. As an added bonus, the story is rather solid and takes some interesting twists. However, I must say I feel it took a somewhat bizarre turn in the closing chapters, and while the events seemed like they should have made sense in context, I couldn't help but feel a little bewildered by the sudden change of pace. Regardless of whatever problems I may have had with these events, however, my grievances were relatively minor in the end, and I found the story fairly interesting, overall.
That said; perhaps this game's greatest strength was the philosophical nature of the story. The game's narrative largely centers on transhumanism: the school of thought dedicated to using technology to improve the human condition, and the debates surrounding it. The game does a good job of representing both sides of the issue, and provides some very valid justification for those on both sides of the arguments. I was also impressed by their general knowledge on human augmentation. To the developers' credit, it's obvious that a lot of research went into this title. For example, one of the major drawbacks of augmentation in universe is that augmented individuals become dependent on a drug called Neuropyzene, which prevents augmentation rejection due to the build-up of glial tissue; a major concern in actual augmentation studies. The entire narrative is rather intelligent, and fairly well thought out.
As for the gameplay, the game handles fairly smoothly; especially on PC. The game offers players a variety of methods to approaching various situations. Run and gun, stealth, non-lethal tactics; all are more or less viable, and it's up to each individual player to decide which best suits them. This ties into the game's augmentation system: the game features an interesting adaptation of the standard RPG leveling system. The game doesn't utilize classes, but as you progress through the game you will be rewarded with experience for completing various tasks and challenges. Every 5,000 experience points you gain earns you a "Praxis Point," that can be used to activate a variety of augmentations. You can also buy or find "Praxis Kits" to earn a quick point, as well. Augmentations exist that reduce recoil from firearms, increase Jensen's energy reserves, and even nullify various grenade effects; such as EMP and poison gas. The exciting part about these augmentations is that the augmentations you choose to activate will serve to complement your preferred playstyle. For example; a player who prefers eliminating his or her enemies with superior firepower might focus on augmentations such as the "Aim Stabilizer" and "Dermal Armor," while a stealthier player might opt for augments like "Silent Movement" and "Cloaking." The system ensures that every player has their own unique gameplay experience. Even the game's weapons offer a variety of customization options in the form of upgrades.
In regard to the characters and interaction; the game scores fairly well in that area, as well. You can interact with every NPC you encounter, and while a vast majority of them won't have much to say, the game offers a variety of side missions. These missions present a level of variety in their possible resolutions that I don't see nearly often enough in modern role-playing. The characters that are significant to the plot are all memorable, and tend to be fairly likable. The game's conversational system is not unlike that of Mass Effect. When it's your turn to speak during a conversation, an interface will appear asking you how you'd like to respond. Keywords like "sympathize" or "intimidate" summarize the response in a manner that prevents one from accidentally taking a confrontational tone, which is helpful. This conversational system is put to interesting use in various negotiation segments. From time to time, the game will throw you into debates with certain characters that, if succeeded, will often simplify your job; such as an early sequence where you have the option to talk an anti-augmentation terrorist out of taking a woman hostage. However, these segments will rarely ever be resolved in the same manner as before, as the game will randomly determine which options will serve you best; which is great for keeping the experiences from becoming too easy, but can become somewhat frustrating. These sequences require you to be able to read your opponent and respond accordingly. There also exists an augmentation: the "Social Enhancement" CASIE aug, that assists you in reading your opponents' behavioral patterns; as well as allow you to pry some extra information from certain mission characters outside of negotiation.
It should come as little surprise that this man is more than just a bartender.
This game is not without its flaws, however. One of this game's biggest issues is its hostile AI. When hostiles are unaware of your presence, they tend to be pretty predictable; which is understandable. Predictable AI is rather common among stealth games, as without set patrol routes avoiding detection tends to be pretty difficult. However, it doesn't really improve upon entering combat. Hostiles tend to have little regard for their safety, and it's quite exploitable. Hostiles are either too cautious, and will grab some cover and periodically step out to take fire, or they're too aggressive, and casually push towards your position; leaving them vulnerable for close range takedowns, another highly exploitable feature.
Adam Jensen: Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
The worst of it becomes apparent in the game's boss battles; likely as a result of outsourcing. The original Deus Ex offered you a variety of solutions to boss characters: you could fight them, or you could just sneak around them; occasionally talk them down. If you were in the mood for some laughs, you could even just run away from them. The point is that you didn't have to deal with them. Not so in Human Revolution, where you're forced into a total of four boss fights; which can be frustrating if you've been playing a stealthier, non-lethal character, and didn't properly prepare for them. This isn't helped by the fact that their AI is by far the worst in the game, and highly exploitable; though this is probably a good thing, considering the previous complaints. They're also prone to glitches and bugs. I literally defeated the game's second boss by standing behind her and unloading three and a half magazines from a machine gun into her back while she just stood there; staring at a wall! I've even heard a claim from one player that he managed to survive the first boss battle without firing off a shot. Why is this, you may ask? Because the AI had a grenade mishap involving explosive barrels. Yeah... Fortunately, this is one of the issues Eidos plans to address in the upcoming Director's Cut.
By this point, you've probably delivered so many haymakers that this is likely karmic justice.
Aside from that, I can't help but bring the experience system back up. For the most part, it's pretty solid; except that the game actively rewards players for taking on a specific playstyle. I can understand an XP bonus for headshots, or for succeeding a negotiation sequence, but it's a bit ridiculous when you offer a sizable bonus for sparing enemies after telling players they can approach these situations in whatever manner they'd like. This won't be a problem for players who take a non-lethal, stealthy approach like I normally do, but if you're more prone to stealth kills and don't eliminate every enemy in an area, don't expect to be rewarded in the same way a more thorough player might.
In regards to the more superficial elements of the game; the visuals are decent. They're not state of the art, but there's a distinct art style to it that I can't help but appreciate. The animations, on the other hand are, well... robotic; pun intended. The voice acting is fair, but the best feature of the audio has to be the soundtrack; featuring just over 150 tracks. Why so many, you may ask? The game's various areas feature multiple variations on the tracks depending on the situation; another tradition carried over from the original. In Human Revolution, the tune is revised for ambience, stress, and combat; all fairly self explanatory. The tracks themselves tend to be nothing short of amazing; offering a wonderful compilation of electronic tracks.
Overall, this is an incredible game, and a worthy entry into the Deus Ex franchise. Whether you're a long time fan of the series, or you'd like to start with the earliest on the universe's timeline, I'd definitely recommend it; regardless of its flaws, as there's more than enough good to outweigh the bad. Of course, if you are interested in buying it, it may be worthwhile to wait for the Director's Cut, which aims to address a few of the more glaring issues.
No one has commented on this article.