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Saturday
Sep172011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Disclaimer: This review is for the Xbox 360 version of the game. I cannot speak for any specific mechanical aspect of any other versions, PC included.


Deus Ex. 2 words that strike both fear, and joy into the hearts of PC gamers everywhere. From the classic original, to the legendarily disappointing sequel, it's a franchise steeped in controversy, with many seeing the original Deus EX as one of the (if not THE) greatest PC game of all time, but others having the franchise forever tainted by the sequel. So where do you go when you're attempting to make a third entry in the franchise?

Adam Jensen - Your typical video game badassThe direction they went was very smart. Make the game a prequel so as not to alienate any new gamers (but still keep the original fans happy) and make playing completely unstealthily a more viable (though obviously still not really recommended) option to keep the impatient gamers interested. What you're left with is a game that places you in a fascinating, well-realised world and allows anybody to play any way they would like, a freedom not many games even attempt.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells the story of Adam Jensen, head of security at a company on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the field of human augmentation, a new kind of science that enhances human's abilities with technology. Needless to say the shit hits the fan, and in the ensuing chaos you character becomes augmented against his will in order to save his life. The game's story explores the extensive world of the game, as Often you'll just have to stop and take in the viewwell as the philosophical (and political) implications that enhancing ourselves with technology might actually bring about. It's all very well done, though the subject matter isn't so much delicately handled as it is crammed down your throat; combine that with almost universally terrible voice acting and a main character that permanently channels Keanu Reaves in The Matrix and you've got an unusual, yet somehow enjoyable story to enjoy.

A major factor in the game's game's story, and to the overall experience of playing the game, is the amazing world the designers have created. A great art style, and impeccable map design help make the universe feel grounded in reality and genuine, and in-game E-books and NPC-to-NPC emails help to fill in the smaller details of the world, giving it a more organic feel. Combine all this with pretty graphics and you're onto a winner. The variety of places you get to explore is refreshing, feel justified, and all feel very unique from each other.

Now story and setting are all very well and good, but they're nothing without solid gameplay, and it's in the actual playing of the game that it really starts to shine. As you can imagine, the concept of being a robotically enhanced human being leads to some pretty interesting upgrades when you level up, whether it's being able to fall from any height and not take damage, lift skips and vending machines or even something as subtle as influencing people in conversations, each upgrade feels significant, because each and every one is actually useful.

You're never short on options when you level upThankfully you get lots of oppurtunity to level up, because you receive experience for doing almost anything in the game, whether it's hacking, or exploring, or just doing the various side quests you discover throughout the game's hubs. In that respect I found the game reminded me of a Fallout game in lots of ways. The side quests are varied and not just fetch quests, and conversations with other characters let you choose to be either naughty or nice, and there's even an upgrade that lets you influence people in conversations with pharamones.

The action in the game is interesting. You have access to instant stealth knockouts but each one uses up a "battery"s worth of energy. Over time you'll always refill a battery that isn't fully depleted (and you'll always have atleast 1 battery that will recharge). You can get more batteries by levelling up but to refill a battery you've used up you need to eat a chocolate bar. Seriously. You also have access to a cover mechanic, which you activate simply by holding the left trigger down. It takes a few minutes to get the hang of but is actually really intuitive, and adds alot to the game. Bullets go wherever the crosshair is pointing (no accuracy stats) which makes it fairly easy to headshot enemies. You feel like a huge badass, knocking guards out easily, headshotting them with ease and generally demolishing whoever you want in whichever method you see fit. You don't have much health though, so don't go TOO mental...

It's not a perfect game though by any means. Enemy AI is "My name Jaron. I nearly ruin your game, yes?"absolutely terrible; animations during conversations are very robot-like; the story can take turns that would never actually happen if you were making your characters in-cutscene decisions; the game's inventory system leaves a lot to be desired as far as making room for new items goes; the mini-map becomes very unreliable once you get the upgrade that doubles it's range (it actually just zooms it out, making it much harder to identify enemy camera locations effectively) and not constantly saving can oftentimes leave you dead, staring at the "load game" screen, sobbing gently as you realise you just lost 15 minutes worth of hacking, stealthing, looting goodness. The absolute worst thing in the game though, by FAR, are the boss battles. The boss battles take what's great about playing the game, and make you do the complete opposite. Bosses walk/run right towards you and do insane amounts of damage instantly. Compared to the methodical, tactical action in the rest of the game it's jarring, and completely goes against the flow of the entire rest of the game. There are only really 4 in the entire game though, so on balance, I'd say it's worth the soul-crushing tediousness of facing the game's bland bosses.

There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding Deus Ex: Human Revolution pre-release, but hype's a funny thing. Hype can get you massively pumped and increase your excitement level for something you're really looking forward to; or hype can oversell something, leaving you ultimately dissatisfied, no matter the quality of the finished product. Deus Ex: Human Revolution manages to straddle the line between these two extremes, yet somehow manages a level of polish, and playability that is sorely lacking in most modern sequels. A definite rental, and if you're a fan of the original, an extremely worthy prequel.

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