Please don’t take away my gamer cred card for this (though I’m not sure why you would want it, I made it myself out of construction paper and glitter glue) but I have never played the Deus Ex games. Oh I own them both. They’re right there, I can actually see them in the Steam window next to this document. I could very easily click out of this and fire them up, and yet I don’t seem to be doing that. Human Revolution is my first exposure to the series and if the previous 2 are even parallel with this level of quality (which apparently the second one most definitely is not) you can sign me up because I am completely on board with this franchise now.
In Human Revolution you play as Adam Jensen, a security office who sounds like Christian Bale Batman and who works for Sarif Industries. Sarif Industries is behind augmentations, which are implants that allow people to enhance themselves and essentially gain superhero like abilities. There are people who support this whole-heartedly, and another group that is adamantly opposed to the idea of augments, feeling that it goes against our humanity. Within the opening section of the game Adam is injured during an attack on the company and in true Robocop fashion, is loaded up with augments in order to save his life. This is the real jumping off point for the game.
Keeping in mind that I was not at all familiar with the franchise, I went in expecting a full-on FPS with an open-world to run around in. Needless to say that ended up not being the case, although should you wish to turn this into an FPS the option is there. This is the route I went initially, gunning down everybody in my path during the first mission. It didn’t pan out terribly well for me. I died frequently and also discovered what I felt was the weakest aspect of Human Revolution – the shooting itself.
If you’re using the cover system it’s not too bad. You can hide behind objects and the view will zoom out to a third person perspective. From here you can pop out of cover and take guys down fairly easily. My issue is when you try to take someone out either with blind fire or in close combat. No matter how well you think you’re aiming, 90 percent of the time it seems you never connect with your target. On many occasions I would fire directly at the enemy, only to have every shot fired go completely wild. And ammo can be relatively sparse in this game, so when I waste 10 bullets trying to hit a guy who is 4 feet away and yet is apparently made of pure energy and can’t be taken down, it’s an actual problem.
Primarily as a result of this, I chose to stick with stealth for the majority of the game. Thankfully aside from boss fights, it is entirely possible to make it through the entire game without having to engage an enemy. There’s even achievements for doing it, which I will never ever ever ever get. Although it seems occasionally you have no choice but to sneak through the large room full of patrolling guards, there is almost always another way around it. Whether this involves climbing through air ducts or hacking through a back door, usually a quick exploration run around the area will reveal several alternate routes.
To get the other negative out of the way now, whether you go the sneaky route or the murder everything in your path route, the AI can be troublesome in either scenario. For every moment where you snap a guy’s neck 2 feet away from his oblivious partner, there’s another where an enemy will spot you from across the room while you’re hiding behind a box. They’re also a bunch of quitters. Many times an enemy would spot me so I would simply run back around the corner of the hallway. He stands there, yells “I’m gonna get you” a few times, and then eventually decides, “I guess we lost him” and goes back to his regular patrol route. I suppose it’s better than the alternative of being spotted and killed, but it takes some of the magic away when you’re dealing with enemies who can’t come to the conclusion that maybe they should turn the corner where they saw you run to. You can also often fall back on the classic routine of shooting guys one by one as they individually come to investigate the sounds of their partners being killed. Granted maybe when you crank this up to the hardest difficulty they become real motherfuckers, I can’t say. But this was my experience.
The aforementioned augments act as your skill tree here, allowing you to implement standard upgrades such as increasing your inventory or reducing the amount of damage you take. You can also obtain abilities such as resistance to electricity, no damage when jumping from any height, jumping super high, smashing through damaged walls, etc. Many of these determine the route you will play through the game. For example if you’re trying to get to a certain area and you find a hallway where the floor is covered with electric wires, you aren’t getting through there without the electricity immunity. However you might be able to journey down a different path where the ability to jump high will launch you over a fence to reach this same area. This was one of my favourite aspects of Deus Ex – the options you have in terms of path finding. There are often several ways to accomplish the same goal and it makes a second playthrough almost inevitable.
My actual favourite part is the story itself, along with the characters and the world they inhabit. If you’re like me you’ll spend a lot of time trying to do every side quest and digesting every email, newspaper and log you can find to get as much information as you can. You really will miss a lot if you stick to the main story. It pays to take your time, talk to everyone and listen to the conversations being had around you. It’s such a well realized universe that it would be a damn shame to simply stick with the main story path, which for the record will still net you around 20 hours of game play time.
I may have some issues with the AI and the shooting, but these quibbles (first use of the word quibbles on this site!) pale in comparison to the enjoyment I got out of the Deus Ex experience as a whole. Exploring the environment, interacting with the characters and discovering the different ways to accomplish tasks was addicting and immensely satisfying. Having not played the original I can’t say whether this is the return to form that so many people were looking for, but if you’re at all curious about this franchise, or if you’re just starved for a quality game after the Summer drought, this is the way to go.