Deus Ex: Human Revolution

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on October 12, 2010 in

I have a soft spot for PC games from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Deus Ex, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. So much so that I just couldn’t bear to part with the manual. It’s a very special game that turns me into a pack rat. Like the original, Deus Ex: Human Revolution boasts player choice. Like the original, this prequel tries to tell an interesting story.

The year is 2027, 25 years before the events of the first Deus Ex. It’s a world where corporations have replaced governments as world powers. One of those corporations is Sarif Industries, one of the world’s most cutting edge companies specializing in human augmentation. In the way some people are against cosmetic enhancements today, the people in the world of Deus Ex or torn. While some are in favor of prosthetic enhancement, and in some cases, replacement of body parts, others are against it. Unlike today, the two opposing sides have become violent.  Our hero, Adam Jensen, security chief of Sarif Industries, becomes caught in the middle of this rift when Sarif HQ is attacked by persons unknown. As a result of the attack, Adam is forced to undergo lifesaving limb replacement and augmentation. The main story starts with a search for those responsible. The investigation begins in Detroit, but quickly escalates to an adventure taking Adam to locales like Montreal, Shanghai and Singapore.

 

On a technical level, visual fidelity gets the job done, but only just. Other than some face models that would make me cringe if I saw them in real life, everything from the textures to the animation are only good enough. In other words, it doesn’t excel enough to impress. It also isn’t so ugly that is detracts from the core of the game. On the contrary, if Deus Ex: Human Revolution is ugly at all, it’s only in the technical department, but not in any game breaking way.

As a counterbalance the game’s artistic style does an excellent job of taking up the visual slack. The color palette is themed in black and gold hues that give the game a visual flair, setting it apart from other games. Even the design of the clothing lends a touch of the exotic. Apparently, a Deus Ex future is one where Victorian era floral print and high collars are the new ‘retro’. Also, strewn about every location are e-books and digital pads that offer a peak into the workings of the Deus Ex universe.  Mix that with high tech guns, augmented limbs and quadrapedal robots and you have a memorable setting.

The other part of the setting is the sound. There isn’t any licensed music that I can remember. There is however, a musical score with accenting tones playing in higher octaves, helping create an ambiance of the futuristic without sounding like a made for TV science fiction serial from the 70’s. It’s a credit to the sound team that the music never became overtly repetitive and transitioned nicely between down and up tempo at just the appropriate times.

Sound effects were equally appropriate. Gun sounds had the right amount of thump to them and the *piff* of the tranquilizer rifle was just enough audio cue that a dart had left the barrel. Ambient noise added the necessary background sound to environment to keep it from sounding sterile and unrealistic.  Overall, in terms of audio design, there is very little to complain about.

Even the voice acting was good. Admittedly, some of the performances teetered on edge of overacting, but I would qualify that complaint as minor. My only substantial complaint is the voice acting of our protagonist. Adam Jensen takes the gravelly voice of stereotypical video game bad ass-ery to another level by somehow sounding even dryer than say, a Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid or Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. In fact, each time Adam speaks, I have the sudden urge to gulp down some water or pop a throat lozenge or two or three. Although it’s a superficial complaint, I found it a bit distracting.

 

No points taken off for vocal dryness though, because there’s more to dialogue than healthy levels of vocal chord hydration. Conversation trees offer branching options with key characters. Do you reply aggressively? Do you go for appeasement or empathy? Depending the your responses, the character you’re interacting with can become agitated.  Or they can be convinced to see things your way.

This, I believe, is the greatest strength of the game: choice. Of course, other games have done something similar. But I think it does it well. Level design, for example, while not as free and open like Grand Theft Auto IV or The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers multiple paths to accommodate your particular play style. Do you walk straight into the fray and gun down all the bad guys first person shooter style? You certainly can. There are enough guns and explosives to be scavenged or bought. Traditional FPS controls are solid enough to make the act of shooting a very viable way to deal with a situation.

One alternative is to find a sewer or air vent entrance and sneak past. Maybe if you level up enough, you can punch through walls to discover even more alternate paths. Perhaps take cover behind cover or use a cloaking power. And when you do cross paths with an enemy, you can either execute him outright with blades that emerge from cybernetic arms or employ a choke hold until he the bad guy slumps to the ground unconscious. If keeping at a distance is your preference, replace traditional assault rifles and pistols with non-lethal tranquilizer rifles, stun guns and gas grenades.

Lethal or non-lethal, any weapon can be upgraded with kits such as laser sights, silencers, increased ammo capacity and enhanced damage. Since Adam Jensen has cybernetic enhancements a la RoboCop, he can be upgraded as well. Allow him to run silently or install dermal plating to protect against damage or increase his proficiency with hacking. These and other abilities can be purchased and upgraded with praxis kits. These kits can be earned by either purchasing them from clinics or earning one with each new level.

Luckily, the game gives you plenty of things to do to earn experience points. Battle, of course, is one way. But so is achieving story objectives.  In addition to the main story arc, each location has several optional side quests.  Completing them not only helps flesh out the setting, they also offer great opportunity to stock up on experience points.  Experience points are also doled out for finding alternate paths to a location and hacking computers.

 

The original Deus Ex had a story known for its moral conundrums and conspiracy theories. Back in 2000, these concepts executed within the context of a game were revolutionary and sparked the imagination. Fast forward to 2011, and popular authors like Dan Brown of DaVinci Code fame and well-known games like Assassin’s Creed have rendered the notion of conspiracy theories almost commonplace. Without giving too much away, revelations in Deus Ex: Human Revolution regarding the global machinations of some shadow organization was interesting, but didn’t leave a big impact.

The same can be said of moral choices. We’ve seen games from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to Fable to Infamous that give you points toward a good or bad character development, and even provide story-based consequences for your decisions. The me from 2000 would have been fascinated with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The me now, was casually intrigued, but not nearly as enthralled.

Another thing that didn’t seem to fit was the inclusion of boss battles. For all the elements of choice that Deus Ex does so well, having boss battles where the only option was to kill seemed out of place, not only narratively, but mechanically as well. Stealth was never an effective strategy because stealth kills were not possible. Stun guns and tranquilizer darts were useless. Conventional weapons never seemed to do enough damage. Even when I figured out the trick to defeating the first boss, the ones following seemed too easy when using a special area effect uber-weapon that you acquire early on in the game.

Despite the boss battles and middle-of-the-road story, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was able to create a sense of time and place that made the entirety of my play time worthwhile. Aesthetically, the game has a unique look and feel. The balance between freedom and scripted events created the illusion that my decisions were effecting the story. On top of that, the RPG-like leveling instilled a sense of ownership in the character and investment in what happened to him. When considering the whole package, the faults, while jarring at times, were minor. Fans of the original will recognize the spirit of the original Deus Ex in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Newcomers to the series will find an enjoyable game well worth their time.

 

A copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution was given to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: John Catuira View all posts by

Leave A Response