Thursday, September 1, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

What a ride it's been, but you Canadian developers have done an excellent job. Yes, I may have just strongly hinted at what my finale score of this game will be, but that's not going to stop me from trying to go into every detail that I can wrap my tiny mind around. First off, basic details.

Basic Info
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Game Type: First Person Shooter Role Playing Game
Unique Features: A very strong story, fully voiced, large futuristic city hubs, lengthy gameplay, four endings, good mix of FPS and RPG, augments, great sci-fi soundtrack and many choices to every situation.
Releases Date: August 23rd, 2011
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Price Tag: $49.99 - $59.99

Let's start with the story. Mostly the story is fantastic, except when it came to bosses. They give you the illusion of choice when it comes to boss fights. You can use non-lethal weapons on them or shoot them with lethal weapons, but no matter what you do you get the same cut scene and the boss dies. There is even one boss fight where someone asks Jensen if he will save said boss, but nope, he makes the choice for you. Other than bosses, the story gives you a plethora of choices at every turn and makes the harder choices feel significant, plus the harder choices often reward you in some way for making a tough choice or sticking to one philosophy. The main character is Adam Jensen, an ex-swat officer who is now the head of security for Sarif Industries, the leader in the augment industry in the United States. Sarif Industries is in Detroit, so that is where you start, but later on you go to China (which is the other city hub). The story starts out with you, Jensen, being a normal human, but in the first five minutes of the game that changes and you become augmented. Throughout the game you are presented with this future of 2027 where augmented people are "stealing" jobs from normal people and the world is trying to deal with augmentation research, government regulation and how augments affect morality. You choose how to face these issues, especially since they crop up everywhere. Your choices matter and it will affect how you choose the ending. Most of the characters in Human Revolution feel real and relate able, but it helps that they have some excellent voice actors and animations.

This game takes place 25 years before the original Deus Ex and it does tie into the original with some factions (Illuminati anyone?), names and places. I have played both of the other Deus Ex games and even though it has been quite a long time since I've played them, Human Revolution still kept the setting alive and fresh without deviating from it's source material. In other words, this still feels like a Deus Ex game in every way. The game has a lot of artistic flair to it; many of the characters have an Renaissance look, especially with clothing. Much of the world has a distinct color palette and many of the neutral characters, like ordinary citizens, tend to stay near the gray scheme. One of the main themes is cyberpunk and I can't claim to know much about that topic, but it sure felt like the game was focused on high amounts of technology in a world filled with poverty and common people stuck in awful situations.
All of the side stories throughout the game don't feel like insignificant extra additions, they feel just as flushed out and fully realized as the main quest/story. There are many side quests/side stories available to you throughout the game and they are all of course optional, but they reward you with plenty of experience, money and unique items, so they are always worth it. Each time you enter a city hub in a new chapter, you will usually have one main quest and anywhere from 2-4 side quests to find. Some are very easy to find, you can hear the person talking or doing something loudly and purposely attracting attention, but other side quests are actually fairly hidden and you have to explore the city to find them. To anyone who knows me, you know I love exploring, so as far as I can tell I found every side quest except for one. All together you visit each city hub, of which there are two, twice each, so there is roughly 10-16 side quests. Almost all of which have several parts and are lengthy.
Augments are a major part of this game. Of course they are one of the main proponents of the story, but they are also skills and the only reason for which you gain experience. When you get enough experience you essentially level up and it gives you a praxis point, which you use to level up any of the various options. You can also purchase a limited amount of praxis points from Limb Clinics, but they are the most expensive item in the game (or close to it). You may also find praxis points through exploration, but even with all these options to acquire praxis you still cannot upgrade every augment in one playthrough. I won't list all the augments, there are too many, but some of the augment upgrades are: seeing through walls, falling any height without damage, sprinting longer, stabilizing your aim, cloaking, hacking (several different hacking augments), increasing your energy capacity (up to 5), increasing your armor, protecting yourself from gas and many other augments. Augments don't just feel like skills, it as if the developers took all the normal character stats, skills and attributes from a typical role playing game and put them into the creation of augments.

I will attempt to keep this Gameplay section short, but no promises. Gameplay breaks down into stealth, hacking, combat or exploration. Exploration awards you with experience, items and all kinds of different routes to an objective. Throughout the game little *rewards* will pop up on your screen when you do something special. For instance, each time you successfully hack you will get something like Script Kiddie, Black Hat, Grey Hat or Master Hacker and all of these come with an experience amount shown in parenthesis. When you explore it tracks how much you have explored an area and gives you rewards like explorer or traveler. Each of which give you different experience amounts. Exploration alone can give you a pretty decent amount of experience. The main way of getting experience, other than quests/missions, is from these kinds of rewards, especially for the bigger mission rewards. For example, if you go through a main story area without setting off an alarm you get a big bonus of experience. Exploring is quite a bit of fun, especially when you unlock the augment that allows you to fall without getting hurt or the one that lets you punch through frail walls, both of which give you access to areas that you might not otherwise get to. My favorite experience exploring was jumping down a large circular silo, a silo that looked like it was going to drop me into the ocean, and landing in the middle of a bunch of enemies, which stunned them and then I knocked them both out with a two person take down. One big draw to exploring is that you may find praxis points in various places, like desk drawers, and the only way to find them is by being an excessive explorer/looter.
Stealth not only applies to movement, but also hacking. There is a whole augment tree about stealth and hacking. Stealth hacking makes it easier to get through nodes without setting off the alarm, but I must first explain hacking. Hacking is everywhere in this game, it's fun, rewarding and difficult. You hack anything from computers to alarm systems, all of which present you with this mini game that displays a grid of various different nodes. Each node has a level and scrolling over a node will tell you the chance of an alarm going off. Your goal is to get to a green node, once you get to that node you have bypass the security, but there are also nodes that give you items and they are usually hard to get to or high level. There are other types of nodes that affect the grid by changing the level of nodes for better or worse. Each time you try to hack something it tells you what level you need in hacking to access it, max level is five and you start at level one. If you set off an alarm there is enemy security node that will spread a virus through the grid that goes specifically after your original starting node and if that is taken you lose. So, back to stealth. You can get stealth hacking to make it easier to get through the grid and if you manage to get to the enemy security node you automatically collect all reward nodes on the grid. Needless to say, if you are going to hack a lot, and there is not reason you shouldn't, you are going to want stealth hacking. I have to say, I am guilty of hacking terminals and computers just for the rewards, even when I had the passcodes to bypass hacking.
Actual stealth in combat works pretty much how you would think, except there are many augmentations that make stealth a lot easier and more interesting. There are augments that allow you to see enemies scope of visions, or augments that allow you to cloak for a limited period of time or augments that make it so you footsteps make no sound. There are plenty of augments to modify stealth and the game rewards you for stealth if you go to that option, especially if you go the non-lethal route. Not killing enemies is the best way to get experience in combat, if you just go around killing everyone in open combat you will get very minimal experience rewards, but if you use non-lethal means you get quite a bit of experience through rewards. Stealth is complemented by non-lethal weapons, like stun guns, pulse shotguns, gas grenades/mines and dart rifles. If you are doing a main story mission you will get a hefty amount of bonus experience by not being seen by anyone, or not setting of any alarms or not killing anyone. Human Revolution rewards you for actively trying to be stealthy and it is usually is more difficult to be stealthy than to just kill everyone, so it feels appropriate and balanced. With all the ways you can modify stealth you can make yourself a super effective silent killer, or you can do the opposite and just sneak by everything. The big problem with sneaking by everything is that you aren't doing any exploring, most likely, and that can't be that fun...can it?

Despite all the RPG elements infused into Human Revolution, there is a strong first person shooter underneath. Sure this game feels more like an action rpg than a fps, but the FPS is so well done and enjoyable that it's hard to deny that it's one of the main characteristics. Depending on your computer and how well it decides to run the game, the first person controls are smooth, fluid and easy to learn. Anything you don't like can be remapped and everything starts in familiar default keys, well it would be familiar to anyone who has played a few first person shooters. Their is a cover system in Deus Ex that is fantastic. You can easily move from cover to cover, or around corners and you can easily pop up of cover to take a shot. The cover system really needs to be seen in action, so check out this video from one of the later sections in the game. Skip to 3:00 to see combat and the cover system. This video also shows off hacking, turrets and takedowns.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Late Game Gameplay

If you watched the video you may have seen that the assault rifle was modified with a laser and a silencer. All of the weapons in the game can be upgraded with many different upgrades. There are generic upgrades that can be applied to most weapons, like increased damage or reload speed, but then there are specific ones that change the appearance of the weapon, like armor piercing bullets and burst fire. Many of these upgrades are hard to find and require a lot of exploring, or you can buy them from merchants. Between weapon upgrades and augments, there is a lot to find and upgrade; I never even managed to get one weapon fully upgraded in a twenty five hour playthrough.
I could keep going on about Deus Ex: Human Revolution and all of it's customization's, choices and intricacies, but no more of that. To come back to the story, one last time, the ending of this game is quite excellent. The music, the choices and the setting are damn near perfect and I appreciate all of the little touches that went into making four different endings feel quite a bit different. The voice acting in the last area of the game is at it's finest and it's very easy to be sold by these voice actors. Every time I thought this game was going to end, it didn't and I was anything but disappointed. The amount of extra detail put into this game really shows with every single environment. Eidos Montreal worked hard to fill this world with life and one of the ways they did that was with emails and datapads, giving you insist into peoples lives that you will never met. Through emails and datapads you may find various people to be personable and easy to emphasize with. They also put in a good deal of time into optional story lines, like Jensen's origins. Anyone who loves, or likes, role playing games will enjoy this game, as long as you like first person shooters, at least a little. There hasn't been anything like Deus Ex in such a long time, maybe since the first Deus Ex. It respects it's audience, it tells you that you have choices and that your choices matter. Unlike many other games with seemingly lofty and important choices, Human Revolution will show you that your choices are many and that they all add up in the end.
Jim and Dwayne (Dwight) eh?

Score Breakdown
Presentation - 9.5 (only thing bringing this down is the lack of options with boss battles. If you let it, the story can draw you in significantly and make you care about this troubled world.)
Graphics - 8.5 (a dated graphic engine that still shows how breathtaking it can be at times. The world is incredibly detailed and full of little touches.)
Sound - 9.5 (voice actors are generally fantastic. sound effects are spot on as is the music.)
Gameplay - 9 (could be smoother, but for the most part everything meshes well and works great. Combat is impressive for a game that isn't just a FPS.)
Length of Play - 9 (A lot to do, find, upgrade and four endings to return for. 15-30 hour playthrough.)

Violent Score: 9.5 (out of 10)
-Despite any shortcomings, Human Revolution is bound to leave you happy and fulfilled, that's worth everything and makes up for most shortcomings.

-Written by Sean Cargle


  1. TravisSep 2, 2011 09:44 PM
    Can't put this game down... One of the better games I have played in some time...