A thunderous affair.
My memory of the original Deus Ex is sketchy to say the least. Not even a teenager when it was released, my spectrum of gaming releases up until that point was limited to the few second-hand, cardboard box-based games bargained for at the local computer fair. Deus Ex was different though. Brand new, still in the plastic wrapper, accompanied with that fresh game smell, it was my first ever first-hand game. Having rid the then much-loved box of that pesky see-through constraint, and then waited the what was probably lengthy time to install a game that would now fit onto an SD card the weight of half a gram, it was a revelation.
The blend of an unknown genre in the form of an RPG and my beloved shooter was astounding. It was a cornerstone in my gaming history; a game that not only received universal acclaim, but one that changed my tastes of games, opened my eyes to a broader spectrum of gaming goodness, and even to some degree, kick-started my passion of gaming.
Now, eleven years on, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third in the series, does the same thing all over again. It is a gripping, thoroughly enjoyable journey from start to finish, making you question the boundaries of morality with probably the most engaging universe since Mass Effect. Very rarely do games make you feel as though your decisions and actions will have an impact far beyond the immediate present. It’s not a perfect game as there are a few niggles, but Human Revolution excels on almost every front.
Given that so much time has passed, it’s unsurprising that a lot has changed in respect to the actual gameplay mechanics of Deus Ex. It would be strange if they hadn’t to be fair, given the advancements in games over the past decade. Regenerating health, snap-to-cover and down-the-sight shooting are all staples of modern games that will seem alien to those harping for a perfect recreation of the Deus Ex of old. Luckily however, the updated approach to the classic PC title paid off.
“It is a gripping, thoroughly enjoyable journey from start to finish, making you question the boundaries of morality with probably the most engaging universe since Mass Effect.”
Set in the year 2027, twenty-five years prior to the original, biomechanical augmentations are current place and the main protagonist, Adam Jensen, is square in the middle of the ongoing debate about the morality of human augmentations. The level of thought and detail that not only went into the creation of Human Revolution, but also it’s the delivery is what ensures the story – and back-story – are superb. You’re absorbed into the universe, which is even more powerful by the realistic possibilities of its occurrence and similarities to events from years gone by.
It’s not just a full-steam ahead ride either. There’s a variety of side-missions to complete at your own leisure, as well as a vast array of options to choose that will have consequences on events further down the line. They not only earn you more experience – to then unlock more augmentations, but also expand the plot further and can even drastically change the path of the main story arc. You are also given the choice of several responses when conversing with other characters, which divert you down different paths of discussion, some leading to the results you want, others getting you into trouble. Gunplay is responsive and satisfying, with a diverse range of standard pistols, to pulse rifles and crossbows.
Let’s get the niggles out-of-the-way. Lip-syncing is awful, and often ruins an emotional bond between you and those you engage with. Skewed, delayed and lifeless are certainly apt descriptions of what is probably the game’s biggest flaw; especially as it’s not just poor in animation sense, but even the actual timing. It’s a shame as, at times, the voice acting holds up reasonably well. Granted there are the occasional poor samples, but on the whole it’s a solid affair.
In fact, most of the issues revolve around the A.I. and their lack of life and intelligence. Aside from the poor facial animations, general body movement is wooden and enemy soldiers lack any real intelligence. If you’re spotted, they will come to investigate the area, but people searching for their keys do it with more precision – which is laughable given that the guards are apparently securing a high-valued facility. That said, it’s possible that anything more complex and the difficulty would’ve sky-rocketed. Even just the illusion of sophistication would be an improvement over a guard searching through a pile of papers for half an hour. When engaged in combat, however, your foes will flank and out-maneuver you unless you’re well positioned, usually resulting in your untimely death due to their un-grunt like accuracy with a weapon.
“Unlike the poor lip-syncing and sufficient vocal work, the Vitaliy Zavadskyy composed soundtrack is extraordinary.”
The boss fights, whilst not necessarily bad in their implementation, are poorly placed and ruin the ebb and flow of general gameplay. It’s even more frustrating if you’re attempting to complete the game without killing an anyone, as you are forced to change your style of play for the boss fights. Their difficulty can also be far too high if this is the case, as all of your weapons and augmentations are focused towards a stealthy approach.
It’s often said that a style is far more important than graphical fidelity. Never has a truer word been spoken in regards to Human Revolution’s visuals. Whilst it’s certainly no slouch in the graphics department, it fails to match up to several recent releases. However, the consistent art style is far more powerful. With the yellow hues and softened tones, what you see has a huge impact on what you think and feel when moving around the vibrant city. The variety of environments are brilliant and the attention to detail in each one is clear.
Unlike the poor lip-syncing and sufficient vocal work, the Vitaliy Zavadskyy composed soundtrack is extraordinary. The powerful orchestral accompaniment to the futuristic melodies help maintain a sense of self throughout the world, whilst their emotive qualities are striking.
“Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a few kinks but is a thunderous experience from the off.”
Gameplay is built upon four “pillars” – Combat, Stealth, Hacking and Exploration. The switching between the quartet is key to Human Revolution’s superb pacing and refreshing variety. At no point does anything become tedious, repetitive or mundane; it’s consistently exciting and engaging. With the ability to earn and unlock augmentations – in a rich and well-integrated system, you’re playing style is up to you. Avoid being seen with assistance of cloaking augmentations, air ducts and the snap-to-cover system, or go guns blazing using armour and the Typhoon rocket augmentation. A mix of the two is often the sweet spot, but it’s all down to you. The hacking component is a surprisingly addictive and clever puzzle game, where you must capture nodes as quickly as possible, whilst choosing an optimal route. Capture the target node before the computer reaches your I/O node and thus detects your presence and you’ll unlock whatever you were hacking, fail and you risk setting off an alarm.
The final pillar of Exploration showcases the multiple variations of ways to complete tasks and missions. For almost every section of an assignment, there will be at least three or four ways of proceeding, depending on what augmentations you have, where you’ve looked and how skilled you are. You may have hacked a computer to reveal a pass code, quizzed a guard for information on the ‘air-conditioning’, or perhaps you’re able to breathe toxic gas in safely and thus progress through an otherwise restricted location.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a few kinks but is a thunderous experience from the off. With thirty or forty hours of playtime in a single playthrough, there’s plenty of content on show but it’s quality is what impresses the most. Metal Gear Solid-esque is certainly high praise, but also perfectly suitable for this effulgent title. The mixture of tactical stealth, enjoyable combat, encouraged exploration and a story and setting to beat most, Human Revolution is not just the sequel we were all hoping for, it made me fall in love with gaming all over again.