Deus Ex: Human Revolution
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Stealth/Action, Shooter, Role-Playing
August 23rd, 2011
In a world where the line between man and machine is blurred, how do you define being 'human'? This question is a very prominent theme in the third installment of the Deus Ex franchise, Human Revolution. Eidos Montreal allows you to step into a futuristic world divided by the morality behind human augmentation for a cyber punk thriller with more twists, turns, and action than you can shake a prosthetic arm at.
Human Revolution is a prequel to Deus Ex and follows the story of Adam Jensen. As ex-SWAT with a shadowy past Jensen begins the game as a security manager for Serif Industries, a leading cybernetic prosthesis producer. Serif Industries’ own Dr. Megan Reed, a pioneer in the field nanotechnology, is minutes from a controversial press conference in Washington D.C. Amidst protests by pro-human groups; Serif Industries prepares to reveal their biggest breakthrough, a new technology that would make cybernetic prosthesis available cheaply to everyone. As you prepare to escort Dr. Reed to Washington for the history changing press conference alarms begin to sound as the building comes under siege. While making your way through S.I. you get blindsided by an elite group of augmented mercenaries. Dying, only heavy augmentation is able to save your life. With your new upgrades you must get to the bottom of who is responsible for the murder of so many innocent lives... and the conspiracy behind it all.
There are many elements to the graphics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. On one hand you have your art direction which is superb. The world is perfectly the kind of futuristic cyberpunk setting the game embodies. As one would expect the skyline is littered with buildings and helicopters. The streets are crammed and dirty; the dichotomy of economics very clear. Other cities like Shanghai have undergone vast improvements such as literally building a platform above the existing city, with another city on top of it. Only the platform is visible in the sky above you and is both a literal and non-literal representation of the ceiling most residents of Shanghai have on their lives. Environments and all the details that come with them are the perfect compliment to the game and are unique of most games today.
From art direction and design to actual execution is where Deus Ex disappoints. I was extremely confused to see the game only supports a maximum output of 720p. While Eidos Montreal stretches the limits of 720p the fact remains the game could have looked spectacular in 1080p. Aside from the lack of power another problem I personally had with the graphics in Human Revolution is the character design. Most characters are very caricature with jaws that open a little too much or cheekbones that jut out unnaturally. If that wasn't enough many of the NPC models are used heavily and give you a feeling of déjà vu as each city seems to have only five different people living in it.
Human Revolution features one of the best video game soundtracks I've ever heard. Now I may be a little biased considering the kind of music I generally listen to but the atmospheric collection of futuristic songs of intrigue and suspense are perfect. If you took somewhere between Daft Punk's Tron Legacy soundtrack and Vangelis's Blade Runner you'd have a pretty good idea what Deus Ex: Human Revolution sounds like.
Unfortunately the voice acting is not so good. I'm torn between describing Adam Jensen's voice as a bad Christian Bale Batman impression, a young Clint Eastwood, or a chain smoking Keanu Reeves. Most of the other cast's voice acting is equally campy save a few characters. This goes double for the NPC's who have accents so stereotypical they border on racial insensitivity.
Thankfully the sound effects don't leave anything to be desired. The various whirring machine noises, alarms, gunshots, and computer sounds provide great ambiance. The effects are well matched and sound very clean as well.
Deus Ex successfully combines a first person shooter, stealth action, and role playing game into one. Shooting is all done in first person and is mostly cover based. While in cover the game changes to third person. The transition may seem strange at first but it becomes surprisingly easy to get used to. You are able to shoot blindly from behind cover which is helpful for forcing enemies to cover. The stealth based game play is especially well done. As stated before being in third person helps stealth a lot. In addition to being able to perform a "SWAT turn" you are also able to transfer to different sides of the same object to deftly avoid enemies' sight. Both of these modes make up the core of game play. Less common are a sort of social stand-off that occurs occasionally. At times getting different people to acquiesce to your will takes some smooth talking. All the outcomes of these social battles can greatly affect game play and are easy to mess up if you read the opposition wrong. Of course also spread pretty constantly throughout the game is the ability to hack. Hacking is completely optional but can allow you new ways to procede through missions and quests or to unlock otherwise unobtainable loot. The hacking interface is confusing at first, featuring several different icons scattered about with pathways between them, but it is easy to learn and get used to, especially with a few augements to help you along.
Of course the RPG elements affect the game heavily as well. Experience nets you Praxis Packs which are used to turn Adam Jensen into a powerful augmented force to be reckoned with. Hacking skill, battery meters, and inventory expansion will probably be universal but you can dramatically change your character to meet your play style through these augmentations. Shooting is improved by augments such as Aim Stabilizer, Dermal Armor (added damage resistance), and Typhoon (360 degree explosions all around you!). Stealth can benefit greatly from the Glass Shield Cloaking System (allows you to become invisible for a short time), Smart Vision (allows you to track targets through walls), and Stealth Enhancer (provides detailed info such as enemy cones of vision). Other augments such as the Icarus Landing System (which allows you float safely down from any height and even stun enemies upon landing), Cybernetic Arm Prosthesis (which allows you to break cracked walls), and Cybernetic Leg Prosthesis (allows you to jump higher and run faster) are perfect for navigating some of the more hidden areas. Augmentations can also help in more general situations like the Cybernetic Arm Prosthesis that can also allow you to lift heavy objects to use as cover while walking or even to throw as weapons.
When it comes to weapons Deus Ex: Human Revolution does not disappoint. At first the game seems to lack guns, but more unique and powerful weapons become available, doubling the number of usable weapons at the end. When all is said and done 13 different weapons (not including grenades and mines) can be used and upgraded. Each weapon has its own unique stats that can be upgraded along with additions like silencers, laser sights, and armor piercing rounds. These upgrades can be found in many places like lockers and safes or purchased from vendors.
One thing I don't think anyone will be a fan of is the inventory system. Much like games such as Baldur's Gate, Resident Evil or Diablo, Human Revolution uses a grid based inventory system. About half the screen is available to you starting out but you have to unlock more space for you to play around with. While this is certainly isn't that big of a deal I cant help but wonder why game makers haven't moved past inventory screens like this.
The absolute best part of this game has to be the fact every mission is non-linear. For every mission there are many ways to complete it, so many so that you could replay the same mission several times and not do it the same way twice. Certain augments further increase the number of paths you can possibly take. Best of all no one has to feel left out. Players favoring stealth can still receive comparable experience to people choosing to simply fight it out. Experience is granted for killing, takedowns, non-lethal takedowns, hacking, exploring hidden areas, and even successfully sneaking around enemies altogether. With the ability to gain experience with virtually every thing you do it's easy to play the game your way and not miss out.
Eidos Montreal should take particular pride in the universe they’ve no doubt added to with Human Revolution. Many references to future events (Deus Ex, and Deus Ex: Invisible War) can be found for those who know where to look. If that weren’t enough there are also several tongue-in-cheek pop culture references around. I won’t spoil them save for one, a poster for Final Fantasy XXVII which can be seen in a few places in the game!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not the kind if game you want to play just once. With its multiple endings, and multiple ways to play it really does feel like a vastly different game the second time around. There are even different ways to finish quests, making subsequent play throughs just as exciting as the first. Simply picking a different focus and taking paths you didn't explore the first time is an easy way to get even more out of this game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great example of an FPS/Stealth Action RPG providing a rich experience that can appeal to fans of each genre simultaneously without sacrificing substance. While the graphics could have been greatly improved and the voice acting leaves something to be desired I would much rather have these problems than a shallow and predictable game that looks fantastic. So to any person who loves futuristic cyber punk environments, cover based shooters, stealth espionage action, loads of side quests, customizable talents, immersive story telling, or the simple feeling getting the job done your own unique way, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game you cannot be without.