Few games ever achieve the iconic status of the original Deus Ex. There are arguably only a handful of games, throughout the entire course of video game history, that have obtained the prestige and accolades of the 2000 PC classic. Ion Storm’s cyber punk classic is often heralded as the greatest PC, if not overall, video game of all time. While an accolade such as that is commendable for a development studio and one hell of a bullet point to have on your resume, it also becomes sort of a curse. How do you follow up something like Deus Ex? Can that success ever be achieved again?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is usually “no”. Let’s take the original sequel to the game, Invisible War, which launched a few years after the original. Invisible War is largely classified as being a bad game and not because of its individual merit. If you look at the reviews of the title, it doesn’t appear to be that bad of a game game until you compare it to the original title. A decade later; Ion Storm, is no more and Eidos Interactive has decided to pick up the reigns of the series that once ruled the industry. Can Eidos, or more specifically their development team at Eidos Montreal, do the impossible and deliver the true sequel Deus Ex fans have been craving for more than a decade. Yes they can.
Set in the no-so-distant future of the year 2027, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR) puts you into the shoes of Adam Jensen. As head of Sarif Industries security force, you are in charge of keeping the the company executives safe as they push the limits of social tolerance with cutting edge technology revolving around human augmentation. Jensen himself is indifferent to the moral issues surrounding the topic of augmentation, choosing to set his personal feelings aside in order to ensure that he does his job to the fullest of his abilities. Just as the game begins, on the eve of a monumental congressional hearing that could effectively alter the course of human history in terms of the government taking an official stand on the technology, Sarif Industries falls victim to a violent terrorist attack at its headquarters. In the wake of the events, Adam Jensen is left for dead, a fate which many of the top researchers of the company met. This happens to include Dr. Megan Reed, someone very near and dear to Adam. There is a huge difference between being dead and being left for dead, as Jensen is about to find out.
In order to save the life of his trusted head of security, Sarif Industries CEO David Sarif utilizes all of the the technology at his hands and outfits Jensen with a wide variety of augmentations. This not only saves his life, but also happens to turn him into a deadly killing machine. Jensen is now half human and half “aug”, but unfortunately he has to deal with all of the problems that come along with both. The time for indifference is over and Adam must now come to terms with how he truly feels about human augmentation. This is where you come in; the decisions and reactions that stem from this life altering evolution are your’s to make and will ultimately shape the course of the game that follows. What will you / Adam do with these newfound powers? Do you embrace the machine that you have become or do you cling to the last bits of humanity that remain in you?
This is about as far as I am going to go in terms of revealing the story to you because that would take a way a huge part of the experience; this is a game that you will want to experience for yourself, not have spelled out for you in a random review.
Regardless of the path that you choose, the resulting game(s) is incredible regardless of the direction that you choose to go. This is the charm of DX:HR; in a world fill with seemingly endless choices, the results are always desirable and enjoyable. There is no wrong path... there isn’t even a “right" path. This is all thanks to the ingenious design of the world which encompasses the game which is as detailed as it is interesting. The game starts off in a crumbling Detroit but will branch out to areas all across the globe. Each locale is presented with a rich and detailed design that, while futuristic, is completely believable. This future seems attainable and ultimately, very likely considering the evolution of medical technology in our world. This creates an incredible atmosphere that engulfs the player. Even though you are suspending reality by entering into the world, you still feel rooted in the real world because it is easy to relate to the moral dilemmas put before you. When you combine that with the detailed backgrounds which you can explore at your leisure at almost any given time, with above-standard voice acting, and a deep story... it just completely sucks you into the created universe. It doesn’t have to worry about letting you go because you will likely not want to leave.
Players are given a fairly open world to explore. Both primary and secondary missions are thrown at you in droves, but it is ultimately up to you when and how you will pursue them. While the primary storyline and missions are laid out for you, you will be given numerous optional avenues to pursue throughout the game. If you agree to accept these missions, you can set them to active or inactive at any given time within one of the game’s numerous option screens which are accessible at any given time. These side-stories provide just as much content and substance to the DX:HR world as the main tale, and often more so. The moral war regarding human augmentation is spread across four different plains: public, government, corporate, and media. Each one will present its case to you in some form or another and you will need to tread in the waters of all four in order to survive. It is very hard “not” to take a stand on the subject but you need to be mindful of the results of such a decision. Because of this, the game begs players to come back again and again, not only for the further advancement of your character but for multiple play-throughs in order to allow you to experience the gamut of events that will result.
It is in your best interest to explore the secondary missions though in order to ensure the evolution of your character. The primary gameplay mechanic of the game relies on players evolving the augmentations of Jensen. This is done through the acquisition of praxis points, which can be alloted to your various traits, both expanding and strengthening them. There are a ton of options for players to consider in evolving their augmentations. Do you focus on physically powering Jensen up with offensive muscle or perhaps do you focus on his intellect and computer hacking abilities? Is it more important for you to be able to relate to and “read” people in conversations than it is to physically coerce them into doing you bidding. You will have to make decisions like these over and over throughout the game because the game doesn’t just hand out the points like candy. DX:HR is actually pretty “stingy” with its upgrade / praxis points; when you decide to allot one to a given ability, you are limiting the options available to you in the form of completing missions at that time.
For example, early on the natural inclination is to pour praxis points into traits that will allow you to mow through the competition; however, doing this will limit you ability to easily (and I use that term lightly) different areas because you lack the skills to hack security doors or perhaps bypass security systems. Then again, focusing on those traits early on could leave you lacking desired firepower when you run up against a squad of well-armed enemies or even a boss fight. The good things is that the experience is designed to offer you solutions to your problems given all of the tools at your disposal. It is up to you to find the suitable solution to your situations given your current set of abilities. Maybe you don’t have the firepower to burn through the well-guarded warehouse in front of you, but perhaps you have the traits that will allow you to sneak through the vents and shadows undetected in order to achieve your ultimate goal. It is this choice, and the fact that it exists at almost every level of the game, that makes DX:HR so incredible.
What makes DX:HR so good is the fact that the entire game is more than the sum of a bunch of parts. DX:HR tries to be many things throughout the experience; at times it appears to be a shooter, game, others a stealth, and even at others an espionage experience, and it occasionally just tries to tell you a good story. It does all of these things adequately and better than 95% of the competition in each of the individual categories. What makes it so great is that it does almost all of these simultaneously. It is only when you critique any one of the various gameplay elements included in the game on their own that you begin to see weaknesses; as long as they are all being presented to you, which is 99% of the time, the results are amazing. There is that other 1% which you will have to experience where the weaknesses are highlighted and really stand out.
The most noticeable of these is the occasional boss fight that occurs. You will ultimately end up in showdowns with some of the biggest and baddest augs that you will run across in the game but instead of focusing on the above-par gameplay elements thrown at you simultaneously like the rest of the game, it devolves into a sub-par run and gun shooter. That is a problem that exists because DX:HR is the “jack of all trades but ace of none”. It does a lot, and I mean A LOT, of good things really well but no one singular trait or aspect is done exceptionally. When you are multitasking all of these quality traits, the resulting experience is phenomenal, but when you focus in on a singular one, it appears just “okay”. These boss fights, for example, focus on old-school strafe and fire gameplay, using a slightly above average shooting-gameplay system. If you were truly putting all of your powers to use and using a variety of tactics against the boss enemies, it would shine, but unfortunately the spotlight shines solely on your firearms in these instances, which makes it appear as simply average.
If there is one “weak” aspect to the game it is the enemy AI. While it doesn’t show its faults all of the time, there will be numerous occasions during the game where you will be left simply shaking your head asking “why”. The enemies will usually engage you with ruthless aggression and relentless intent, aiming to take you down at all costs. They do a great job or pursuing you around obstacles and make every effort imaginable to reach your position once you are spotted. For some reason however, they fail to notice you crouching within that wide-open vent a couple of inches in front of them or rolling between objects for cover plainly within their line of sight. Once you trigger their “engagement” it is very clear how deep it can be, but during the times leading up to that, it often falls flat.
Nearly every other facet of the game that I can think of is either adequate or above average. Eidos Montreal has done an excellent job at creating a wide variety of gameplay elements, all of which are better than most of the comparable competition. This includes, but is not limited to strategic inventory management, weapon upgrades and enhancement, cover-based shooting, interactive cut-scenes and extended dialog, and even computer hacking / puzzle solving. As I have said before, none of these elements are worth crowing about individually, but collectively they form one hell of a gaming experience that sticks with you long after you are done.
And did I mention that the game is fun? If you have ever read any of my reviews, you will know that “fun factor” is one of the most important aspects of a game in my book. “Fun” is an element that is nearly impossible to measure but you just know when it is there and DX:HR has it in spades. The game moves along at a steady pace and always keeps you involved and interested in the events that are unfolding. That fun factor ramps up though as soon as you enter into combat scenarios. Words cannot describe the satisfying feeling that comes from bursting through a wall and taking down and enemy by surprise; it is a feeling that never gets old.
It may have taken them 10+ years, but Ubisoft has finally delivered the true sequel to Deus Ex that fans have been waiting for. Human Revolution may not be as ground-breaking as the original game was in terms of its gameplay elements, but it does an excellent job extending on the firm foundation of the original and delivers a gaming experience that is as enjoyable as it is memorable. The game is simply quality, through and through, from nearly ever angle. There is no doubt that this will be considered one of t he best games of the year, and possibly of the console generation. What are you waiting for? Get out there and get yourself a copy...