Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Version played: PC
Also available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Mac OS X
Producer: Eidos Montreal/Nixxes Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Year released: 2011
Time played by reviewer: Single player; 49 hours

I think it’s fair to say that I’m in awe of this title.
The Bladerunner-esque atmosphere is something I hunger for in all futuristic titles. It’s a life I would expect to see in the not too distant future and a life that I wouldn’t mind being around to see.
There are elements of neo-Tokyo in an area called Hengsha but the over-riding experience is certainly more industrial.

Warning, spoilers follow!

As is quite common these days you are guided through the control mechanism in the opening sequence which also fills you in with some of the back story.
It’s not overly complex a story which is accessible and caters for all levels/ages of gamers although there are parts in Hengsha which I wouldn’t deem suitable for younger children.
After the initial setup you’re introduced to the augmentation lifestyle that appears to be common place in the dystopian future landscape of Human Revolution and is the basis for most of the plot and side missions that you need to undertake.

Playing as the head of security, Adam Jensen survives a terrorist attack on Sarif Industries, his employer, only to be rescued by dramatic surgery that enhance him with these high-tech prostheses.
Augmentations in this bout of Deus Ex are bio-tech improvements that increase your speed, strength, mental capabilities and also upgrade your normal human traits to include the ability to hack computer terminals and scan your surroundings. It pushes the notion of transhumanism where the use of technology is used to improve the abilities of a human being beyond what what would be considered normal.
They’re mechanical not nanotechnology based like the other two games in the series. Praxis kits form the basis of increasing the potential of all of your augmentations, and can be found or bought throughout the game, although you can effectively ‘level-up’ by gaining additional experience points. Spend those points wisely as the augmentations and upgrades you choose will give you different options and change the path you take.
You can spend a huge amount of time exploring all the nooks of every room and it does pay off. Searching through all the desk draws will give you credits, food, ammo and pocket secretaries which are little PDA’s with information on your surroundings usually with passwords for a nearby console or terminal.
My advice is to not bother with the passwords and just hack everything. You’ll get more experience points and it’s also a lot of fun. If only someone would turn the hacking element in to a stand-alone mobile app (HINT, HINT!!! Eidos are you listening?).

Although this story is set 25 years before the original title, those of you familiar with the past series will notice that everything has been upgraded.

The graphics are the first thing you notice and they have to be impressive to deliver on a title of this magnitude. Everything seems to have a golden hue to it suggesting that the future will always have a rosy outcome. Maybe I had the Anti-Aliasing up too high? Whether this is an intentionally subliminal message by the Eidos Montreal team or an accurate portrayal of what the future holds is anyone’s guess. The textures for the models and buildings are superb and help you to believe that the landscape you’re immersing yourself in is indeed real. I found myself looking out across the streets and hitting ‘Print Screen’ on numerous occasions.
There are, however, a few drawbacks that I found which I’m not so impressed with. The streets and buildings are divided into sections separated by ‘gateways’ that reside in subway stations and walkways between zones in the cities. I don’t like that. I must admit that I was expecting to have a completely ‘open-world’ experience more on a par with the freedom that I’ve had in the more recent GTA games or the original Far-Cry title. With any luck we won’t see the end of Deus Ex and such a title could be delivered in the future.
This fencing in of ‘sections’ has resulted in the skinning of the outside of an area in a single texture that has obviously been worked on to be highly detailed but is lacking depth and loses touch with the visceral quality we see everywhere else. To be fair to the developers you can only see this once you are higher up in the levels. At street level, or whilst inside, this isn’t a concern and doesn’t really detract from the overall quality.

There is a slight problem with the animation of the individual models. On occasion they just seem to be a little too rigid and were a bit too waxy in their facial expressions.
The cut sequences are very well done and hide the flawed movements of the characters, but then this could be seen as intentional on the basis that these characters are part mechanical. Convenient.
I guess I just expected it to be “more human than human”!
It’s otherwise smooth and Adam Jensen’s fighting and augmentation enhanced moves are impressive. The ‘Icarus’ mod never fails to amaze me when I jump off a building and there is a wealth of detail in all his actions.

To help the experience along we have to mention the effects and soundtrack that has noticeably had a lot of time spent on it.
The effects are crisp and have a suitable technological feel to them and help to maintain the eerie futuristic atmosphere.
The background soundtrack that accompanies the story is calming and helps to add a film-like quality to the game. I know that there are many parallels between cinema and gaming and this is no exception. This felt like I was playing an interactive movie, with an incredible set design, only I got to choose the path the lead character took.

It’s worth saving often as the conversations you have can affect the outcome of the side mission you’re on and prevent you from getting those lovely achievements. It’s also worth trying out all the different options when confronting someone to get the most out of your investigations in to what appears to be a big conspiracy.

The game mechanic allows you to choose from three main styles of interaction when freely confronting a foe. You can jump in with bullets flying, take enemies down tactfully through stealth, or circumvent them completely. There is also a ‘social’ aspect that will gain you more knowledge about your area and more access but a little investment of time is needed if you have the patience.
I didn’t and was quite prepared to jump in and start firing away with the guns that I’d become quite attached to. As you progress you can upgrade the reload speed, accuracy and fire power of each of the weapons you’re able to carry which makes them more valuable and less likely to be sold on due to your investment in them and as they improve they do ‘feel’ like they handle better.

There are achievements for not killing a single character whether by direct or indirect actions. Good luck with that if you attempt it.
Thankfully the boss fights, in which you had to use lethal force, didn’t affect the outcome of this achievement, but this brings us on to possibly the biggest issue.
The boss fights were outsourced to a separate studio, GRIP Entertainment, and were crap as a result. Square Enix realised this mistake and went some way to correcting it for The Missing Link DLC where they did everything in-house, but the damage was done. The boss sequences in the main title felt completely out-of-place compared to the flow of the rest of the game and didn’t adhere to giving the player an option in how they approached the enemy.

In Conclusion

Human Revolution is a great game to play if you can look past the minor flaws in some of the graphics and the poorly developed bosses.
The story is engaging enough for you to immerse yourself in and to feel like you are Adam Jensen on a mission to uncover the truth beneath Sarif Industries. If I was ever given the option to augment an ability of mine in the same manner as Human Revolution I think I would be tempted.

Initially, when I started playing as Adam I would have hands down given this title a ten out of ten rating as I was giddy with excitement but this has changed since completion and when I think more carefully about the parts that disappointed me I find it hard to justify a full score here.
There’s room for improvement in this great title, which I enjoyed and will still recommend to anyone that asks, but I expect a future version to be upgraded.


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