Tuesday 13 September 2011

Game Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Formats: (PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX).

Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells the story of a futuristic world struggling to come to terms with new mechanical body augmentations becoming freely available in society. Humans are beginning to pay for enhancements in strength, intelligence and an era of Cyborg-humans is quickly becoming the norm. You play as head of Serif security Adam Jensen, who has augmentations forced upon him after life threatening injuries during an attack on Serif. It is up to Adam to discover who attacked Serif, their reasoning, while at the same time unraveling a plethora of intriguing side missions and quests that will lead you to a number of different endings, all satisfying in their own unique way.

At its core Human Revolution is a blend of action-adventure, role-play, first-person shooting and stealth, so there’s definitely plenty of ways to sink your teeth into this game. In fact that is precisely what developers Eidos Montreal were going for, allowing gamers the opportunity to choose how they want to create their own experience. This comes down to things like killing enemies and going in gun-crazy, or silently immobilizing a threat and sneaking through a back door or vent. But things become a little bit more interesting when you are given different ways to interact with fascinating characters throughout your adventure. Your actions, what you say and the manner in which you speak all seem to have life-like consequences upon the world and inevitably on the result you are looking for.

Human Revolution continues to put the emphasis upon each individual gamer by allowing you to choose what augmentations you power up and activate. These range hugely from being able to hack technology quicker, silent footsteps, super strength, stronger interaction skills, even the ability to jump higher and hold your breath longer. This is implemented well and you can clearly feel the game is offering you freedom to play in any way you choose, but unfortunately some times a lack of guidance can hinder your experience. This is largely due to set-piece segments throughout Deus Ex that will either force you to use stealth, make you hack consecutively, or put you head-to-head with an enemy; in these situations it would be reasonable to allow movement of your augmentation points (Praxis Points) onto other abilities to help you deal with the situation at hand. This becomes especially prevalent in boss battles where boring patterns are easily identifiable and can potentially spoil the atmosphere and ambiance you’ve been working so hard to create. Nevertheless, Human Revolution screams the issue of consequence and you have to play with the choices you made and the skills you have or have not obtained.

For a very open-ended adventure, Human Revolution does a fantastic job ensuring you know pretty much exactly what you have to do at any given time. A handy pocket secretary keeps logs of all the information you come across throughout your exploration and then arranges it into levels of importance. Main quests come up as yellow icons in the world, while optional side quests are blue. It’s really your choice whether you want to help a fellow colleague get out of a drug scandal he’s caught up in, or break into someone’s home to clear a friend’s name – the world gives you these choices and it’s up to your conscience to decide what course of action is the most appropriate. You can even choose to do such missions for a reward, or for free because you’re a nice guy, it all depends on how the story, objective and even the character moves you. Of course the bulk of the main quests you must carry out, but even these have key moments where the story might diverge as characters change loyalties or meet an untimely demise.

To accomplish these quests you will find that you have two options, the stealth approach, or the lethal approach. This is emphasized early on in the first mission where you get to choose between a machine gun, stun gun and a tranquilizer rifle. The stealth approach is certainly the more engaging way to tackle Human Revolution because it makes the game harder. Adam has the ability to knock out enemies using various takedowns, which are limited and can only be used when your battery gauge is replenished (otherwise the game would be too easy). This, accompanied by your stun weapons and stealth augmentations, all make trying to get around enemy complexes without being seen a whole load of fun. It even has a Metal Gear Solid vibe about it once you activate augmentations that show you enemies’ field of vision, the amount of time they will be on alert and then there’s more abilities that let you see enemies through walls or highlight certain foes to keep track of them easier. All of this versatility provides a much more engaging experience than picking up a machine gun and just gunning down room after room of enemies. The latter method is by no means an easy one either; enemies come at you in large groups and without a lot of health and armour upgrades you will find yourself dying almost instantly. So perhaps the best choice is to find a code for a side-door, jump over a fence or push debris out of the way to get to your goal rather than getting involved in a firefight.

This course brings us back to Human Revolution’s guidance issue as at times you will find yourself in a position where your hacking skills aren’t advanced enough, you’re not strong enough to move an obstacle or can’t jump high enough to use that particular mode of entry. While there’s certainly always a different way to approach the situation, you wish at times that your skills were slightly more balanced to give you some variety in gameplay. Speaking of hacking, that in itself is an entirely different mini-game. Taking after other games like Bioshock who implemented fun little ways to hack, Human Revolution forces you to try and infiltrate a network by capturing nodes and moving through to the source of information. Each time you capture a node there’s risk of you being compromised, which activates a countdown forcing you to complete your hack as quickly as possible. If you’re able to go around and capture all the nodes you gain bonus experience points but without high hacking skills, this becomes tricky with more advanced locks and terminals. Nevertheless, it is an engaging way to make what could have been a very tedious process, rather enjoyable.

While you engage with your surroundings and characters in Human Revolution, you will find that Deus Ex isn’t the prettiest game, both in texture and character models, but it certainly has plenty of character. The cyberpunk theme the series is so famous for is portrayed in a beautiful manner. The futuristic Detroit is full of dull colours, poverty, destruction, all masked in a golden ambience that brings a shed of hope that there might be a positive outcome for this society. Adam’s voice actor can be a little irritating as he rasps his way through every conversation without a shed of emotion, but for the most part, conversations are believable and you will want to listen to what those around you have to say. Ultimately, the art design and dialogue take centre stage over quite dated graphics and voice acting, but this is by no means a problem, especially considering how well the former is executed.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not the best shooting game, it’s not the best role-play game, nor is it the best stealth game, but it intertwines them all to a very good standard and it is this consistency that makes the third installment in the series well worth your money. There’s plenty on offer here, a multitude of ways to accomplish your goals and the game screams for you to replay to find all the endings. Deus Ex: Human Revolution brings you into a fascinating sci-fi world, which is full of intrigue and mystery and is an absolute must for gamers looking to become engrossed in a new adventure.

8.0 | Gameplay |
Stealth gameplay is definitely the more entertaining and exciting way to play Human Revolution, but going gun-crazy can have it’s fun moments too. Lots of different ways to accomplish your tasks ensures your choices matter, but once you opt for a particular path e.g. hacker; you will find that you’ll have no choice but to use those skills.

8.5 | Presentation |
A beautiful artistic design creates a stunning cyberpunk world and great narrative engrosses you. The game does have a dull colour palette at times and character models could have been a little better.

9.5 | Replay Value |
You will definitely play Human Revolution at least twice, once using stealth and then with weapons. However, once you get engrossed in the story, the lure of alternate endings should have you back for more.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
Deus Ex: Human Revolution does justice to an iconic franchise; it brings together some excellent styles of gameplay and intertwines them to form an engaging, exciting and intense adventure that you simply must go on.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.
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