Is Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DEHR) all it’s been hyped up to be? Many game critics are head-over-heels in love with it. I wonder if that isn’t in part to their loyalty as fanboys to the series since 2000. As a new participant in the Deus Ex world, I think I can give you a pretty objective idea of what to expect in this third installment, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly — and trust me, there’s plenty of each.
Our antagonist, Adam Jensen, is thrust into action within minutes of putting the disk into your preferred console. The lab where he works is attacked by an unknown military force, and he is left near death. Lucky for Jensen, his employer, Sarif Industries, is one of the world’s leading biotechnology firms specializing in human augmentation research. Fast forward 6 months, and Jensen has been recreated as a half-man half-machine, highly capable super soldier for his boss (and founder of Sarif Industries), David Sarif.
Throughout the rest of the story, Jensen must travel all over the world to hunt down those responsible for the attack, and learn some interesting truths and cover-ups along the way. The story has multiple twists and turns, and overall the pace of the story is quite agreeable. There are plenty of side missions that can be done at any time to lengthen your playing time, as well as earn much needed money and XP rewards. While I understand that the Deus Ex world draws heavily on cyberpunk inspirations like Blade Runner and modern day conspiracy theories, the addition of the Illuminati as a major player in the DEHR storyline felt a little more like an after thought. It seemed fairly unnecessary, given how many other groups are involved; it was if someone decided that to keep in touch with the rest of the series, they needed to add this elitist group in on top of them all. If anything, it actually detracts from the rest of the story. But I digress…
Graphically, there isn’t anything special about DEHR. The backdrops are expansive, letting you feel like the current map you’re moving around in is huge, while the actual space you’re confined to truly isn’t that big. It’s nice to have the backgrounds to look at, but I would have preferred a little more maneuverability and bigger maps. Almost all of your missions happen within sewers or buildings that are attached to cities that you must travel through to reach the different destinations. Like Halo: ODST, these city areas can be a little drab, offering you no more than a mild puzzle concerning how to reach said destinations. Almost every city has blockades set up that make it damn near impossible to easily traverse to and fro. I spent more time just trying to reach a building on the other side of the map in order to start a mission, than I did actually playing the mission itself.
What I found especially disheartening about the graphics was that the opening introduction to the game begins with a cutscene. The scene was actually quite vivid and beautiful, which wasn’t the issue. It was the actual in-game graphics that were terribly disappointing. It looked like something I would expect to be made with the Quake 3 engine. It was that jarring contrast that actually took me out of the game a little. I understand that pre-rendered always look better than in-game engine graphics, but the drastic difference between the two was more than I expected. The cutscenes were dark and shadowy, and the actual game is a fair amount brighter, regardless of your brightness settings. Switching between the two genuinely takes you out of the moment. What the game lacked graphically, Eidos tried to make up for with atmosphere and mood. Bots litter the city, some allowed to mill around and others attached to specific areas and tasks, creating the idea that you are in a real city. It was a decent attempt, but still fell a little short.
The emphasis of Deus Ex has been about player choice. Not having played the two previous games, I wasn’t sure how much freedom I would be allowed. From the beginning, you are asked to make choices — the first of which allows you to chose to play a mission either stealthily or blasting the firepower. Your choice decides what gun you will be given to start with. Other than your choice of weapon, the rest of the mission is completely unaffected by your decision. You can pick up enemy weapons and use them instead if you like. Throughout the game, there are many directions you can take to reach your objectives. If you want to play stealthy, you can cautiously seek out ventilation ducts that act as tunnels from room to room. You can also choose to hit each mission with guns blazing, and though you may get through the missions quicker, you also have to think fast. Jensen can quickly die by only taking a couple of hits. Regardless of your approach, you can open locked doors by hacking their security pads. This comes in handy for both playing styles, allowing you to enter a “Security Room,” hack a computer inside and deactivating turrets, robots, and security cameras. This makes life much easier, giving you a little breathing room as you tackle the baddies. What I found worked best was to do a combination of stealth and run-and-gun, picking and choosing my tactics based on the obstacles before me. Though this was by far the most superior style to get through the game, it is unfortunately difficult to build your character’s attributes up effectively to support it.
DEHR allows you to earn XP for virtually everything you do. These experience points build up into augmentation points, which you use to unlock different abilities that Jensen can use to his advantage. The menu may seem a little intimidating at first, but it is actually well laid out and easy to use. There are all kinds of options to choose from, and as soon as you choose a new ability, you automatically get a perk to go along with it which serves as the first level. Depending on how you want to play, you can mix an match the augments how you please. I will say, it will be a good idea to have at least one augment point in each category. This will allow you ways to navigate through maps more easily. Since hacking is such an important part of the game, it’s also a good idea to level those augments up as fast as possible.
It seems like these options would make the game customizable according to your preferences, but frankly that’s just not true. There are certain areas of maps that are littered with enemies, making it almost impossible to either blast your way through or only try to sneak around. That is, unless you want to spend hours on a single mission, getting killed over and over, and having to restart at your last save repeatedly. Let me just take this time to say SAVE FREQUENTLY. Sneak past a couple guards and make it to a corridor? SAVE. About to attempt a level 5 security hack? SAVE. Trust me, I found this out the hard way. Some of the boss battles can be fairly trying if you don’t have the correct augments to match. This is not to say that you are necessarily punished for choosing certain augments, just that it will take many more tries and a lot of strategy to defeat them.
Overall the controls are pretty sharp. There isn’t anything I can really complain about here. Sometimes it’s a pain to see around corners, but there’s usually another place you can take cover from to get a better look. You are given an inventory box for all the items you come across, which can be enlarged through your augmentation menu. You have to have room in your inventory to carry items around with you. At first I was a little upset about this, wanting to use certain guns now and save others for later. The I realized how great it is to just find a couple of weapons that you like and upgrade them into effective tools of destruction. DEHR isn’t a game that you need to carry everything under the sun with you. What is important is ammunition. It’s fairly hard to come by, so take every usable box you can find. In a lot of ways, the inventory reminds me of Resident Evil 5. You’re only allowed so many slots to carry equipment, ammo is scarce, and there’s a quick-key inventory. Luckily, using this quick menu also pauses the game instead of leaving you susceptible to enemy fire. The cover system works like it should, allowing you to creep around corners and tumble to other cover spots undetected.
While the controls are smooth and crisp, the enemy AI is inconsistent at best. There were times when the enemy clearly should have been able to see me behind cover, but miraculously passed me by. Other times it didn’t matter how sneaky I was, the enemies knew where I was and I ended up shooting and saving my way through an entire level of a building. There were certain bots that would go down with a single shot, and others that were covered in so much armor that only the biggest of guns could kill them, all the while alerting every other enemy of my location. However, these tough guys can be either killed or knocked out by simply running up close enough to them to perform an animated action at the press of a button. That is, if you have the balls to run up on them. Usually they are equipped with light machine guns — and considering how quickly you die, it makes that task just a little annoying.
One of the coolest features of DEHR is that there are key moments during the game where you can use your abilities of persuasion to talk characters into doing what you want. Now, these are scripted events, but if you’ve upgraded your persuasion augmentation, your are given features that help you figure out what kind of responses you should use to affect your target. It really is fun, and there are achievements attached to completing the persuasion, but achieving the persuasion doesn’t actually do anything to affect your game. The only consequences if you fail is that you may have to hack a hard door to progress in your mission, rather than using the key code that you could persuade the target to give you. I was surprised at the lack of effort put forth to make the actual story customizable.
The most disappointing aspect about Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the lack of consequential decision making for the player. From what I had seen in trailers and sneak peaks, I was led to believe that DEHR would be like a lighter version of Mass Effect. You can choose to play a certain way, decide what side missions you want to play, have influence over certain characters, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. DEHR touts that you can have multiple endings, and even gives you an achievement for choosing each one, but this can be achieved easily if you know where to save. The endings are decided by pressing one of four buttons, which can totally negate the choices you’ve made in the game up to that point. You aren’t tied to an ending based on how you play. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just lazy.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a solid game if you’re looking for one that combines elements of Splinter Cell, Metal Gear, and Blade Runner. There will be moments you’ll love and moments you’ll hate, and be prepared to be severely annoyed. This may be one that you should rent first and buy later.
I give Deus Ex: Human Revolution 3.5 “Energy Bars” out of 5.