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Review

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Trust no one.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a role-playing, first-person-shooting stealth thriller set in the year 2027. You play the role of Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT cop turned security specialist for Sarif Industries. The game begins on the eve of a historical government hearing which will be presented by Megan Reed, a scientist who also happens to be your girlfriend. Of course, things go wrong and the Sarif building is invaded by terrorists who kill the scientists and almost wipe out our protagonist.

Six months later and Jensen is now equipped with an array of cybernetic implants which can be upgraded depending on how you want to play the game.

If you want arcade action then upgrade Jensen’s legs so you can jump nine metres in the air and pair that with the wonderful Icarus landing system which creates a spectacular glowing energy field around our hero before he hits the ground, allowing him to jump off buildings. If you want to fight, upgrade your arms to steady your aim and pair that with dermal armour. Perhaps you want to sweet-talk your way through the game? In which case, implant a Social Enhancer which analyses other characters and allows you to emit pheromones to help you get what you want. Those who like to head into the shadows will find a cloaking system and hacking skills available.


Takedowns are brutal and stylish affairs.
You may think this vast array of choices could be overwhelming but your choices are what make Human Revolution special. Who you talk to, how you solve a puzzle and how you complete a mission all have a subtle effect on the story. For example, at the end of the first mission you get to talk to your target. If you shoot him that’s the mission finished, but you also have the option to let him escape. By doing so you’ll incur the wrath of your boss, David Sarif, but later on in the game the escapee might show up with some interesting news which leads the plot in a slightly different direction.

The structure of the story is created in a similar way to Heavy Rain in that you can take different paths but you always finish with the Deus Ex equivalent of a kid stuck in a drain. My first play through took almost twenty hours and, judging by my trophy count, I had completed about 25% of the side quests. There is no multiplayer option, which is a shame as the level design and augmentation mechanic could be perfect for some online action but as you can replay the game many times over, using different augmentations, it still seems to offer great value for money.

The plot twists and turns. The raid on Sarif Industries is just the starting point for a tale of conspiracy, espionage and murder. You never know who to trust and it’s not always clear just who the bad guys are. As one character says: “Remember, everybody lies.”

Side missions expand on the backgrounds of characters (there is a particularly sad email for Jensen) and these don’t shy away from serious topics. In one, a prostitute explained how the younger girls we being forced to get augmentations for “customers’ pleasure” and later on in the game the story takes a very dark turn.

The main character, Adam Jensen, may be half robot but his personality is that of an average Joe and it’s nice to find this kind of character who — just for once — isn’t voiced by Nolan North. He also has a very dry sense of humour and this, combined with the excellent voice acting, creates a believable character.

As mentioned previously, there are a number of ways to play the game. Although those who favour stealth, crawling through vents and silently taking down enemies, are treated to more experience points than those who go in with all guns blazing. All the missions have multiple solutions and it takes a while to get used to this multifaceted approach to level design.


It's a near future world oozing believability.
At one point I had to hack a terminal but it was out of reach. Obviously, I needed the bionic leg implants to allow me to leap up. I had spent my experience points on hacking, so how could I get to it? It seemed impossible at first but that’s because I was still thinking there was only one solution. In the end, I found an apartment, hacked the door, casually stole someone’s fridge and used it as a step to reach the terminal.

When you are drawn into a fire fight, the cover mechanic works very smoothly and weapons can be quickly selected using a weapon wheel. All the weapons can be upgraded and you can create some really interesting combinations, my favourite was a Combat Rifle that I had upgraded so it functioned much like the Bulls-eye gun from the Resistance franchise.

Jensen and his cybernetic enhancements are the star of the show but coming a close second is the world of Deus Ex. Taking its cues from Blade Runner and the old Bullfrog game, Syndicate, it mixes neon-lit buildings with renaissance themes and the gold and black colour palette is rather unique. It’s not just the massive cityscapes in the background that set the tone, there are a multitude of small details that bring the world to life.

On one hacked terminal I found a riff on the Nigerian bank scam email. Another message I read contained typos with the word ‘the’ typed as ‘teh’. It’s a little thing but, as I regularly make that mistake myself, it made the world seem more believable. When the game moves to China, any locals you encounter will speak in Chinese but the game displays English subtitles. Another nice touch.

I could go on for hours about the little things that make the world of Human Revolution come alive. I had some hands on time with RAGE recently and, like Fallout, when you talk to a character they just stand still. In Deus Ex they move about and use their hands to express themselves which makes a huge difference to how natural it all feels.

As well as sumptuous graphics, Human Revolution has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard in a game. Composer, Michael McCann, has done for Human Revolution what Vangelis did for Blade Runner. The moment the slow, orchestral chords strike up on the menu screen it immediately evokes the film and sets the whole tone of near future conspiracies and cybernetics.

Check out the UK TV advert for the game.
In compliment to the music, we also have some of the best sound design since Dead Space. There must be hours of incidental dialogue which you can hear as you walk past members of the public and it’s worth eavesdropping now and then as they can reveal the location of secret passageways or information relevant to a side mission. Once again, it’s the little things that make a difference. For example, a bystander sneezed at one point and in other games it would probably mean he had a biological super weapon up his sleeve. In Human Revolution, he had sneezed because people occasionally have colds.

There are a few issues with Deus Ex Human Revolution but they really are minor annoyances rather than game breakers. The facial animation is rather stiff, making certain characters look like Thunderbird puppets and, at one point, I encountered a small bug when a mech dropped from a helicopter and the graphics engine couldn’t decide where the robot hand landed so it flickered about a bit.

My biggest problem with the game concerns the ending, specifically the last level. It feels a little barren and seems to reuse locations from earlier in the game. It seems as though it was intended to feel unnerving due to the isolation but in practice, the emptiness just made it feel slightly unfinished. I also found it far too easy to defeat the final boss but that was more to do with the way I approached it than any real flaws in design. As with the rest of Human Revolution, the final boss can be approached in a number of different ways. That said, the final monologue is punctuated with real video footage from famines, wars and riots and this makes for an incredibly moving finale.

Pros:

  • A sumptuous, believable near future world to immerse yourself in.
  • Excellent plot and acting.
  • Can be replayed many times.
  • RPG, FPS and stealth all in one game.

Cons:

  • Stiff facial animations.
  • Ammo and energy supplies are rather sparse.
  • Boss battles unbalanced, either way to easy or very hard.

It’s obvious how much time Eidos Montreal has spent on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and behind the wonderful design is a solid game with a plot that will keep you guessing. This is a quality product in the same class as Dead Space 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and I’m sure it will be in many of the 2011 awards lists.

Score: 9/10

Reviewed from the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

64 Comments
  1. e8
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    Just when i think my wishlist couldn’t get any bigger.
    thumbs up^ for the review.

    Comment posted on 26/08/2011 at 00:17.
  2. gaffers101
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Great review. Just got back from hols and about to put this on.

    Comment posted on 26/08/2011 at 20:22.
  3. Nylon_Crash
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    just starting playing this and about ten hours in now and really enjoying it, I have it as a rental but think I will b buying it after

    Comment posted on 01/09/2011 at 16:12.

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