When Deus Ex: Invisible War came out in 2003, it wasn’t met with the same amount of enthusiasm as the original PC classic. Ever since then fans have been waiting for a worthy successor, and this year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution finally fills that void. By retaining the player choice synonymous with the franchise and modernizing the gameplay a bit, the development team at Eidos Montreal has crafted a game that will satisfy long-time fans and newcomers alike.
Human Revolution tells the story of Adam Jensen, security chief at Sarif Industries, a mega-corp in the business of human augmentation. A prominent scientist at the company has come across an important breakthrough that will drastically alter human enhancement technology. Not everyone supports this research, though, and Sarif Industries faces a devastating attack. After undergoing some augmentation of his own to recover from life-threatening injuries, Jensen embarks on a quest to find those responsible for the attack. Much of the narrative involves a complex set of back-stories, characters, and shady organizations that can occasionally seem a bit daunting. Comparisons to Metal Gear Solid aren’t too far off, but just like that franchise, Human Revolution provides enough twists and turns to make for a compelling story. In addition, the futuristic world that the game takes place in is fascinating in its own right, providing a perfect backdrop for the intrepid plot.
Human Revolution is naturally presented in a first-person perspective, but when you take cover it switches to third-person. This is important when you need to gun down foes, but the biggest emphasis in this game is stealth. It only takes a few gunshot wounds before you’ll be seeing the reload screen, so silenty taking down enemies is, more often than not, the wiser move. When you’re close enough to an enemy you’ll be able to perform a melee takedown (which cuts to a cool-looking scene showcasing the visual beatdown), but that requires energy. Over time your energy will slowly recharge, but this means you can’t go around punching enemies left and right. That’s especially true once you have to start avoiding cameras, turrets, and other troublesome obstacles.
These basic gameplay mechanics are fairly rudimentary, but once upgrades come into play, Human Revolution really starts to shine. Technically this game is an action-RPG, so there is plenty of experience to be had. With each level you’ll earn a praxis point, which can be applied to a brand new upgrade. There’s a whole slew of upgrades to invest in, from one that grants invisibility for a brief time to one that lets you fall from any height without being injured. By the end of the game you’ll be able to acquire most of them, but the order in which you do so changes the gameplay experience quite a bit.
The upgrades also play into the game’s greatest strength: player choice. There are always numerous ways to approach each situation in the game, whether it be shooting up a whole building or sneaking into a room through a hidden vent. A perfect example of this is one level where you must hold off a bunch of enemies while you wait for an elevator to arrive. A few of the possibilities include hacking into a computer terminal and pitting a turret against the enemies, blocking the doors with huge vending machines, or facing the situation head on with a heavy rifle. The amount of possibilities is truly impressive, and it makes repeated playthroughs that much more rewarding.
This freedom of choice also applies to other aspects in the game. There are plenty of side-quests you’ll come across (ignore or accept) which can result in extra credits and experience. There are also some very important dialogue sequences that can have a significant impact on how the story will play out. Just think Mass Effect, except Jensen’s speech actually reflects your choice fairly accurately.
Unfortunately the whole player choice formula is thrown out the window during boss fights, resulting in the weakest part of the game. You’re basically forced to play these sequences like a shooter, which can be really annoying if you’ve been focusing on stealth the entire time. There is a wide selection of guns and weapon attachments throughout the game, and the shooting feels surprisingly satisfying, but it’s certainly not the game’s greatest strength. That becomes plainly obvious during the boss fights, but it’s not a huge issue since there are only a small handful.
Considering the scope of Human Revolution, it’s not surprising that the game suffers from some graphical inconsistencies. Textures could use more detail, the frame rate stutters occasionally, and the load times are too long. But it’s easier to overlook those issues considering the game’s distinct art style. Black and gold are the two big colors on display here, and it makes for a unique look that compliments the cyberpunk aesthetic quite well. Also, the different locales such as Shanghai and Montreal make for some nice environmental variety. The cyberpunk influence extends to the excellent soundtrack as well, which appropriately features plenty of synthesizers. The obvious weak link in the audiovisual department is the voice acting. The international cast is a nice touch, but sometimes the accents seem a bit forced, and Jensen’s raspy, monotone voice can be grating at times. It’s not terrible by any means, but it leaves something to be desired.
The reason for the original Deus Ex‘s success was the interesting universe and open-ended nature of the game. Eidos Montreal recognized that and did its best to replicate the proven formula with Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The result is a 25-30 hour action-RPG with an engaging story, wonderful stealth gameplay mechanics, and a refreshing emphasis on player choice. This is the game Deus Ex fans have been waiting for and one of the year’s best.