The year is 2027. Man has mastered the technology to break the bonds of physical limitation through human augmentation. This does not come without a price, however. Corporations eager to make a profit and gain power over these breakthroughs have been duking it out for years. The result is the development of private security firms turning into private corporate armies ready to lay down their allegiance to whoever can spare the most dough or provide the best augmentations. Corporations now operate above the law, even going so far as to make the law. Years of corporate fighting hasn’t been cheap, however, and neither is augmentation. The world has been split into those who can afford augmentation and those who either believe it to be unnatural evolution or just cannot afford it. There are also those who would stand to make a profit from the market of the highly addictive drugs used to fight off and control augmentation rejection by the human body. Welcome to the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
The game is the official prequel to Deus Ex: Conspiracy Theory, which was released in 2000. This game was originally developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive. The original Deus Ex was pretty much a smash hit, receiving much praise by the PC community as a fresh new experience for first person shooters. Having some big shoes to fill, Human Revolution comes onto the scene riding a knife edge between disappointment and distinction. Well, fortunately it has fallen towards the latter. If the series fell off with Deus Ex: The Invisible War, then Human Revolution is the series’ redeemer. Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, Human Revolution has distinguished itself as a unique game, living up to the hype of its much beloved predecessor.
You play as Adam Jensen, the newly hired security chief of Sarif Industries (one of the major corporations leading the way in Human Augmentation Technology. Adam is your standard rough and tough jaded protagonist. Nothing too special or new here in this character. He’s kind of a gruff talking everyman that I guess everyone can relate to in some way. Oh, and by “gruff talking”, I mean this guy must eat marbles coated with rock salt for breakfast. He’s thrust into the controversial world of augmentation through some work related accident, but Adam isn’t what makes this game great, so lets talk about what does.
First, since the game is published by Square Enix, that means they’ve got their hand in the pot obviously. For those of you who live under a rock or on the moon (Dracula’s Moon Base),
Square Enix is best known for their little RPG series Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. What does that mean? It means they know how to tell a damn good fantastical story with tons of depth and Human Revolution is a prime example. This game is teeming with plot. Not only do you play through the story, but you can also read about the world around you through bits and pieces found throughout the game. So while you may be lead to believe one thing by just playing the game, you can uncover something totally different by going the extra mile and reading all the clues you find. You uncover these clues by finding data pads, speaking to people, and by (my favorite) hacking computer terminals to read
other people’s e-mail. All in all, this use of scattered story elements, while nothing new, is a welcome device that tells me the people working on this game really care about the world and story.
This game has Square Enix’s scent all over it. They pretty much knock you over the head with their presence with many different elements in the game. For instance, on several walls throughout the game I found a Final Fantasy poster. I had to fight a character named Barrett who had a machine gun for an arm, much like a character from FFVII. Also, one of my favorite moments in the game is when you fly to China to find a city above a city with much resemblance to Midgar also from Final Fantasy VII. I’m sure there are many more “throw-ins” for the fans if you look hard enough, but those are just a few.
While I can prattle on about how in-depth the story is and how Square Enix’s influence makes a great addition to the series, let’s talk about gameplay. At it’s heart, Human Revolution is a first person shooter. However, like the original, it’s also an RPG. You gain experience points and are able to customize your character’s development based on your playing style. You can pretty much play as a guns blazing super Rambo, choosing to upgrade your shooting ability and armor bonuses; OR you can play as a sneaky sneak guy, dumping your points into upgrades that make you less noticeable to the eyes and ears. While these two paths are pretty cut and dry you aren’t locked into any one of them, and may change your style at any time. The game is also great about catering to either path. You can usually walk right through the front doors of a guarded stronghold (guns blazing) or you can just walk around the corner and find the giant air vent to crawl through undetected (sneaky sneak). For the purposes of this review, I will talk about my experience playing as the sneaky sneak. I pretty much went through the game piling up sleeping enemies in store rooms and offices. Now this is somewhat different for me, as I usually play as the guns blazing type of guy. Honestly, I wouldn’t have gone the stealth route if the enemies woke up after a while on their own. What? Yeah after you knock an enemy out they stay out forever unless woken up by their friends. So in the end, unless their buddy finds them, they’re pretty much dead anyway. Here’s a pro tip: find a room next to a hallway, throw a box into the hall and wait for a guard to come by. Knock em out and drag into room. Repeat until all guards are piled up, soundly sleeping on top of each other. Seriously though, while the game makes it pretty easy to sneak your way through, and a little silly at times, it doesn’t make it any less legitimate. In fact, you often receive bonus exp for completing an area undetected, or finding a route that’s a little less then obvious.
The upgrade system in the game is pretty standard, which is a good thing. You gain experience points, and after enough points you can unlock new augmentations. Augmentations work like skill trees. For example, if you choose to unlock the arm augmentation you start by first “opening” that tree. Next you must spend points on the new ability, which could be storage capacity, being able to lift and throw heavier objects, or my favorite, being able to punch through walls. The same goes for all other augmentations. There are augmentations that are specifically designed for different play types as well. You can choose to augment your eyes so you can see through walls, or you may choose to augment your skin so you receive less damage. While the system works pretty well, I felt that it was a little unbalanced. By the time I reached the middle of the game, I was able to acquire almost every augmentation. This meant I was pretty much a super soldier being able to sneak up on enemies or just wreck shop.
An important part of the gameplay I should mention is hacking. Hacking lets you gain access to many secured doorways and locked terminals. Whether you go the sneak route or the more direct route, you will be hacking something at some point. Hacking takes the form of a mini-game in which you attempt to capture nodes and create a path to the end node before you are discovered by the system. It sounds much more complicated then it actually is. The mini-game is by no means hard and you can even select augmentations that will make the whole process easier. Performing a successful hack will not only gain you access to the system or door, but you may also receive exp bonuses, money and items. With that being said, I found it very hard to pass up terminals and the like, so much of my time was spent hacking everything.
One of the other gameplay elements that makes Deus Ex a unique FPS is the conversation and choices you must make. When you talk to other characters in the game you will often have to ability to choose how you would like to respond. Choosing certain responses will cause the current situation to sway one way or another. For example, I was faced with a terrorist who had a hostage and, based on my conversation and responses, I was able to either fight, talk him down, or let him take the hostage away with him. You can also use your conversation skills to gain access to secured areas and gain information. This just adds another level of depth to the gameplay, usually not found in First Person Shooters.
Ok let me give my final thoughts to this game and put this thing to bed. Overall, I think Eidos and Square Enix have teamed up to create an awesome game. With its in-depth story and unique gameplay style, I think Deus Ex: Human Revolution stands out as one of the best action RPGs of 2011. While I would usually lean towards renting a game like this, I’m going to go ahead and say this is a buy. There is just way too much to this game and you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth. The graphics and sound are above par, but not spectacular. This in no way takes anything away from the game, however. In fact, the game looks amazing. The controls are excellent; all movements are well refined and I’m sure it plays just as well on the PC with a mouse and keyboard, as it does with a controller. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is available on the PC, PS3 and XBOX 360.