The year is 2027 and in a jaundice-tinged future, cybernetically enhanced humans have become commonplace. Advancements in technology have allowed mankind to improve their God-given attributes with mechanical limbs, nanotechnology, and biotechnology to make us faster, stronger, and smarter. Sort of like the Six Million Dollar Man but without the terrible haircut and red tracksuit. However, not all of mankind has embraced this growing trend of cybernetics. Several groups of activists known as the Purists (those without any tech-implants) have sworn to bring down the multi-million dollar corporations behind the craze. One such corporation is Sarif Industries, where we meet Adam Jensen - the head of Sarif’s security team - who resembles Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction crossed with Gordon Freeman from Half-Life… but with a gravelly Clint Eastwood voice.
When Sarif Industries becomes the victim of a catastrophic terrorist attack, Jensen suffers horrific injuries that nearly kill him. Without his authorization, Jensen’s employer brings him back from the brink of death with the help of mechanical augmentations to almost his entire body. Waking up to find himself more machine than human, Jensen sets about trying to hunt down those responsible for the attack (and his resulting current condition). Along the way, he becomes embroiled in a global government conspiracy that goes far beyond the petty protests of the Purists...
Deus Ex: Human Revolution plays out as a prequel to the award-winning original game that was released on PC back in 2000. Set 25 years before Deus Ex, this cyperpunk action-thriller paints a terrifyingly realistic vision of the future. Using the same grim palette as movies like Bladerunner and Dark City, players will be able to explore five locales including Detroit, Shanghai, and Montreal. Thankfully every environment in the game is a work of art, as exploring and investigating every nook and cranny is paramount to completing the game fully. Players will also need to interact with and interrogate dozens of in-game characters to start piecing together the game’s intriguing storyline.
It’s at this point that Human Revolution is a difficult game to classify. Although most of the gameplay is first-person shooter, the amount of role-playing, puzzle-solving, and exploration required throws this game into a whole new genre (a RPFPS?). The game also asks you to make constant decisions throughout, each that change the way you play as well as the final outcome. For example you may choose to play through the game in a stealthy manner, crawling through vents, keeping to the shadows and only subduing enemies when forced to. Or you can pick up a machine gun and grenades in an attempt to plough your way through waves of bad-guys. Deus Ex doesn’t penalize you for doing either and the player is free to change up their tactics whenever they want.
On top of this decision-making process are the social outcomes of your actions as well. For example, how you interact with and talk to non-playing characters will change their relationship towards you. Some of the time, the outcome of your conversation will make little difference, but at other times it might mean the difference between life and death. You may need to negotiate a delicate hostage situation or extract information like a code from an enemy. How you go about the process will have an impact on future events; you can save a hostage and earn a valuable ally, or fail to extract information and you’ll need to spend extra time finding a code or password via other means.
The end result makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution a thought-provoking, sometimes strenuous game. But one that constantly rewards the player with a mix of a compelling plot, well thought-out map designs, a suitable upgrade system and most of all, impressive visuals. In fact, graphically, it’s hard to fault Human Revolution. The presentation throughout is top-notch and the only area it falls short is in the character animations when conversing with them. Occasionally the NPCs twitch uncomfortably (although this is sometimes intentional), but all of their facial expressions are unfortunately lacklustre. Nearly every character in the game only has four or five mouth animations and their constant deadpan expressions, regardless of what they are talking about, is a shame considering the amount of detail allocated to the rest of the game.
Due to the shear breadth of gameplay features (shooting, stealth, hacking into computers, puzzle-solving, etc), the game has a comprehensive build-up of tutorials to ensure novice gamers don’t get lost. At first the number of things to keep track of can be daunting, but with time all these elements build toward a rich gaming experience. Traditional FPS fans will roll their eyes at the idea of hacking into computers, but the concept is well executed here and offers a great change of pace without being too frustrating. It can essentially be broken down into a mini-game where the player must get a flow of information from point A to B along the same lines as a pipe and flowing liquid-type game. But because Deus Ex never treats the player like an idiot, the simple concept is made more realistic and challenging by adding in obstacles like worms, API’s, nukes and timed lock-outs to keep you on your toes.
Human Revolution also has three different difficulties, with the easiest one letting players focus on the storyline rather than have to worry about being filled with bullet-holes at every corner. Trust us though, the hardest difficulty will certainly challenge hardcore gamers and produce a longevity not seen in many games in this genre. Not to mention that there is almost an infinite number of ways you can chose to play through the game, with every decision you make and every tech tree upgrade resulting in a different experience every time.
There is no question that Deus Ex is very well thought-out game. The flaws are few and far between, such as the decision to include a few cliché big boss battles between chapters. Although I have no problem with boss battles, those players opting to play through like a ninja, upgrading their stealth and leaving their offensive at a minimum will struggle as ‘hide and evade’ won’t help here. Also some of the AI in the game seems to vary dramatically from ‘Chuck Norris’ (deadly and can kill you from 100m away) to ‘Stephen Merchant’ (will be completely oblivious and sometimes run away from a cardboard box). However both these quirks are barely noticeable when looking at the big picture.
In fact it’s hard not to recommend this game to nearly everyone. Fans of Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid and of course, the original Deus Ex, will certainly enjoy this latest offering. With around 25 hours of solid gameplay in one sitting and a huge replay value to try out new endings and character developments, this game deserves a proper outing. Don’t expect to sit down and blast your way from start to finish – because although it might be possible to do so, you’ll definitely be missing what Deus Ex has on offer if you do.