Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution review

Apologies for the appalling picture quality; this comic was a rush job, and I still haven't gotten used to using a Mac yet.
Name: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Players: 1
Type: Shooter/Role Play
Genre: Sci-Fi
Platform: Xbox 360/Playstation 3/Windows PC/Mac

Despite the game coming out in August, I only just got the new Deus Ex game two weeks ago. Before then, I had barely heard of the Deus Ex series, my knowledge of the series limited to last year’s E3 trailer and a handful of reviews. Having just defeated the game, I can say that I’ve been immediately hooked, and for good reason.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the previous installments in the Deus Ex series-set approximately 25 years ahead of the first game-and sees you playing as Adam Jenson, an ex-SWAT officer and current Head of Security at Sarif Industries. By the year 2027, human Augmentation has become a dominating and unregulated business; whether to benefit crippled patients or to get a competitive edge in the industry, human beings are having prosthetic limbs and organs installed. This industry, however, also runs into opposition: anti-augmentation groups such as the Humanity Front and Purity First desperately protest against unregulated human augmentation-sometimes with violent results.

The game opens with Adam Jensen and girlfriend Megan Reed working at Sarif Industries. Megan is on the verge of making a breakthrough in Augmentation technology, having discovered a method of preventing Augmentations from being rejected from the human body (thus removing patient dependency on Neuropozyne, a drug that prevents this rejection). Only minutes later, the building comes under attack from a group of heavily augmented mercenaries, and Adam Jenson, attempting to rescue Megan, is severely injured by the merc leader Jaron Namir.

Six months later, Adam Jenson, now heavily augmented by Sarif in order to save his life, returns to work to deal with an attack on one of Sarif Industries manufacturing plants. Throughout the course of the game, Adam is sent around the globe, chasing down leads and becoming ever-increasingly immersed in a conspiracy surrounding the human augmentation movement and uncovers the truth behind the attack on Sarif Industries.

Consequently, it’s easy to find yourself becoming more and more involved in the story and it’s overarching mystery. Though occasionally predictable, the story takes several twists and turns that immerses you in the experience, and I found myself unable to pull away from the game right up to its satisfying conclusion, craving to learn more and more with each mission. There are also multiple side missions to carry out in the Detroit and Hengsha city hubs that add to a long yet addictive experience, and several have multiple outcomes for you to choose from. Assuming you play through these side missions, a single playthrough can easily take a week to complete, and there’s good reason to come back and play a second time round. The main story has multiple endings, though a well-timed save beforehand means you can see each without necessarily having to play the game again. The final act has several literary allusions (a rare trait to find in video games) that compares the plot to both Greek mythology and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, cleverly written even though they only show themselves near the end of the game. After defeating the main story, I found myself eagerly looking up the previous installments of the Deus Ex story and discovering multiple and surprising references scattered throughout Human Revolution’s story arc. Even so, Human Revolution can be enjoyed whether or not you’ve played any of the previous Deus Ex games.

The concept of what it means to be human in the face of technological advancement is raised throughout the story, and both sides of the augmentation argument have convincing ideas as to what the answer is. It can be hard to choose one side or the other, and at times it feels like you’ve been caught in the middle of this intellectual conflict. This isn’t a bad thing either; much of the game is about choice, and Human Revolution gives you equal opportunity to make your own judgement about the issue.

Adam Jenson has multiple powers (Augmentations) for you to choose from, and it’s near-impossible to acquire them all during a single playthrough. Thus, it is up to you to choose which powers to prioritise and use to build your own character; perhaps you prefer a stealthier character as opposed to a more physically powerful one? Maybe you’ll specialize in computer hacking to turn turrets and robots against your enemies? The choice is yours to make, and rarely will any two players choose the same loadout of Augmentations.

Combat has its few hits and misses; cover is utilized by holding down the left trigger against a wall and you lean out of this cover with the left stick. Furthermore, moving across or around cover is handled by pressing or holding the A button, and I occasionally found this system frustrating to learn. Still, cover is essential to a stealth-based player and I eventually got the hand of cover-based combat. Jenson has the opportunity to become either a lethal or non-lethal combatant, and it is entirely possible to complete the game without killing any of the enemies (excluding boss fights). Either approach rewards you similarly, but slightly changes the game’s final outcome. Hacking is handled by a mini-game that at times can be either incredibly easy or frustratingly hard (depending of course on how much experience you’ve invested in the Hacking Augmentations), but rewards you with either pieces of back story, access to enemy security devices, or else codes to access other computers, doors or safes.

There are a handful of moments where you interact with the defining characters on both sides of the augmentation conflict, and your choices of dialogue can either sway them to your cause and avoid conflict or else make some missions more difficult for you. These moments test your intelligence in a way few games accomplish.

I had a bizarre experience with the game’s Boss fights. The first fight took a couple of tries to understand, but was otherwise surprisingly easy. The second fight suffered a glitch which left my adversary frozen in place whilst I pummeled her with chaingun fire, and the fourth and final boss fight, though a challenge, only took a single try to defeat thanks to the Augmentations I happened to have invested in. Only the third fight proved to be particularly difficult, and this was thanks to a bad decision (against my better judgement) during my second visit to Hengsha. Otherwise, assuming you’ve invested in your health point augmentations, boss fights are relatively simple; pummel the target with enough bullets until the boss dies, the only major difference being the abilities your adversary has.

The world of Human Revolution has it’s own distinct appearance. Pro-augmentation citizens commonly wear Renaissance-esque collars and suits, whilst their anti-augmentation counterparts wear clothes more akin to our present day (usually, these individuals also represent the lower-class members of society). Character faces and lip-synching are handled well, even if some character models and movements are recycled across the game. Much of the game is set during nighttime hours-a style retained from previous Deus Ex games-and city hubs are lit by a myriad of neon lights and advertisements. There are a handful of moments when the cityscape can be seen below you and the sheer size and scope of the manmade environment can be seen in full view, well worth taking a moment to admire before returning to gameplay. The game’s soundtrack combines haunting orchestral tones and vocalists with synthetic, techo-like music that accompanies the theme of humanity and technological advancement well.

Though not necessarily be a groundbreaking game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is intelligently written to an extent I’ve rarely ever encountered in a game. The story is well-worth getting involved with, gameplay can be approached in multiple ways, and there’s usually good incentive to come back and give the game a second or even a third playthrough. Overall, the game is a satisfying and addictive experience, whether you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer to the franchise.

The Verdict (marked out of 2, added towards final score)

Story: 2.0
Gameplay: 1.5
Visuals: 1.5
Sound: 1.5
Replayability: 1.5

Final Score: 8.0/10

1 comment:

  1. Well, you've convinced me to play it. I'll get on that over the holidays (screw what the Rod says).

    Awesome review, cheers. :)