Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Over ten years ago, the gaming world was rocked by a game of superlative brilliance, the likes of which had rarely been even imagined.
That gem was Deus Ex, a game which ingeniously melded elements of the standard first person shooters and roleplaying games along with a vast and intelligent plot which let the player immerse themselves to as deep or shallow a level as they wished. A decade and more on and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR) has returned to the market with a prequel story that hopes to recapture the brilliance of the original title as well as updating it to the modern market.
While the original game was a blend of influences from games of the time such as Thief, System Shock and Half Life; it’s plain that the inspirations behind DX:HR are current titles, there’s a dash of Mass Effect in the conversations, stealth is straight out of Metal Gear Solid and the cover-based shooting system has nods toward everything from Rainbow Six to Gears of War. What’s more these ideas have been seamlessly integrated into a game that feels every inch as if the original Deus Ex had somehow been given a new lick of digital paint. Which is both it’s greatest asset and biggest downfall.
Stepping into the shoes of Adam Jensen, Security Chief at Sarif Industries, and following his quest to find the terrorists — who mutilated him and forced him into life as an augmented cyborg — will feel hugely familiar to any devotee of the series. The locations and even the game engine have an aesthetic, which, put simply, makes you feel at home, even nostalgic, despite the years of graphical enhancements in games. Sometimes it actually feels too old school and makes you wonder if the game has gone too far in trying to mimic the old games. The original sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, while well received critically, suffered from blatantly being dumbed down for the console versions. In a lot of ways Human Revolution suffers the same. There are many computers but the hacking mode feels like a iPhone app; fun yet insubstantial, and despite options toward modifying Jensen into a Supersoldier, the game is skewed far more heavily towards using stealth and hacking.
Thankfully Jensen’s rampant curiosity and status as grey-area adventurer and ex-cop for hire ensures that the game never lacks for missions and excitement. What’s more, there are layers of plot aplenty, with newspapers that reflect plot events, ebooks to find all over the place and every hackable computer giving up emails that broaden the world and it’s narrative. Even if it’s just finding spam messages from a Nigerian Prince with money issues, it’s a flavour for the realism that makes the game more encapsulating. Human interactions are less well done, with countless NPCs who add little to the game. Although it does add a nicely human element as Adam isn’t universally liked; there are office tensions, political affiliations and moral conundrums all around which make the game’s outcomes less black and white than most.
This is before touching on the game’s labyrinthine locations, the dozens of side-missions that can be approached in various ways, or the fact that the entire game can be completed without killing a single person. Combat isn’t easy in DX:HR at the best of times, with death only a few bullets away, but it is both rewarding and possible as an avoidable last resort. That is, sadly, apart from with the Bosses. While some people genuinely enjoy Boss battles, the ones in DX:HR stick out like a sore thumb. If you’ve been sensible and built Jensen into a stealthy hacker with few combat or defence augs, then expect to spend a frustrating hour on each one until you luck into doing enough damage and finishing each of the four ‘Big Bads’.
It’s a strange thing to say, but DX:HR is itself a revolution. It’s a near perfect recreation of all the best aspects and familiar styles of a classic game, seamlessly joined with all of the flavours of current modern games. It’s not entirely perfect and some people will find the aesthetic ugly and old fashioned but beneath the surface lies a game that is the truest sense Deus Ex.