It’s an age defining moment when you discover that you’ll have had your hands on the original Deus Ex over a decade ago. Ten years have passed since we had control of JC Denton, and the freedom filled fun of all the UNATCO based business. An incredible amount of time, and yet the first title to be ambitious enough to even just match that fondly remembered title is the latest in its own series.
Set prior to the events of the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution takes place within a world in a state of flux. Augmentations have split the people between those who admire the potential of self-evolution that augmentations bring, and those who believe in the sanctity of the human form. As Adam Jensen, you play an augmented individual who works for one of the major players in the development of these divisive developments.
The story itself as it plays out over the entire game will undoubtedly disappoint most. Though there has been obvious time and effort put in to populate the game world with incidental information that can draw you right in to this new world, it’s unfortunately not quite as interesting as it should be. There’s so much potential there with a world right on the verge of so much change, that you can’t help but feel a touch disappointed as you trudge through quite generic fetch and carry quests.
It’s not the missions themselves that are the downfall – we’ll talk about the gameplay shortly – or the exposition offered by the hefty number of NPC’s that can be questioned. But the overarching tale that so many times promises to ramp up to a deafening crescendo, but stays firmly muted. We weren’t expecting something rivalling a Hollywood blockbuster with storyline swerves every half hour, but it feels like an opportunity missed. Yet it’s still a cut above a good 98% of gaming fare, so it may be our heightened expectations due to the Deus Ex name which are at fault.
Once you start the game early signs are admittedly quite disappointing. The initial hour of play is strictly linear, and forces you to push down a particularly combat heavy route. It does a good job at combining tutorial and initial story exposition, but it does keep the training wheels on perhaps a little too long for our liking. Once the world begins to open up a touch, things start to become a little more exciting. Although the various areas you’ll traverse aren’t exactly jam packed with things to do, and getting from one mission to another halfway across a map due to various obstacles can become a real annoyance, it’s believably Deus Ex.
The game itself is split. At times you’ll find yourself in a centralised hub area, with various story specific missions and some secondary additional tasks available to complete as and when you see fit. These are the sections that feel particularly close to the original Deus Ex ethos, with progression and exploration left down to each gamer. Usually you’ll find yourself chatting to various characters, with the opportunity to question some in order to gain the information you require to progress.
At other times you’ll find yourself in more basic ‘levels’ with a specific single goal to achieve. These are usually populated with various goons, turrets, and cameras, all there to be in between you and your on map marker. Again, how you progress is usually down to you, with typically a variety of options available for selection.
How you’ll decide to progress will depend on what augmentations you decide to purchase and upgrade. As you gain more Praxis points to spend on upgrades, you’ll shape Adam Jensen in exactly the image you desire. There are options to heighten your hacking ability, strength, weapon aiming, breathing, and various other options which will help you progress. Obviously the more you spend on stealth upgrades, getting caught out in the open becomes even more of a disaster. Decide to spend all your points on physical upgrades and while you’ll be a much more difficult to kill, chances are you’ll be spotted by your enemies more often than not.
Basically stealth is the way to go. The combat is functional, but certainly not to the kind of level that makes Deus Ex Human Revolution truly a game catering to all tastes. Fans solely of the basic FPS thrills found in the Call of Duty/Battlefield series need not apply. Spending your upgrade points on hacking and stealth abilities early on makes progression drastically easier, and much more enjoyable.
As a stealth focussed action title, Human Revolution is a definite top of the range experience. Enemy AI is impressive enough to be realistically believable when they catch a fleeting glimpse of you (though they still haven’t discovered quite how to enter airducts they know you’re in) and the control system is impressive enough to never cause any awkward discoveries when Jensen did something different to what you’d attempted.
While the meat of the game is impressive enough to be great fun, the appearance of boss battles turn down the enjoyment factor to essentially zero. After developing a stealthy, silenced pistol wielding character and spending no points on physical aspects of our character, the first few boss battles were absolutely hellish. Each of these are basically tests of physical strength, with plenty of weaponry required and health boosters needed. But as these boss battles aren’t particularly well signposted, there’s no real reason that you won’t find yourself stumbling into them with little to no real damage making weaponry. If you’re going for pure stealth, make sure you’re using a multi-tiered save system so you can drop back a short while in order to collect some guns and ammo. They’re a real shame, as there’s obviously been no real proviso for the reality that most Deus Ex fans will want to create a stealth loving character.
Another disappointment is how everything seems to have been ever so slightly dumbed down. Gone is the limb based health system, as is lock picking. The hacking mini-game is relatively fun, but once you’ve bought the top tier of the hacking augmentations (which will probably be within the first half a dozen hours) they become almost no challenge.
If we seem a little down on a few aspects of Human Revolution, it’s only because we’d hoped for so much. It is, obviously, an outstanding title. It’s more than deserving of both your time and cash, and will undoubtedly entertain the vast majority. But there’s little doubt that the aspects that have been either omitted, not fully fleshed out, or included with a lack of forethought, do drag things down a touch. It’s way better than the travesty that was Invisible War, but it sadly can’t hit the heights of the original. An excellent attempt, but it just misses that lofty mark.
Rating: Excellent Review policy
Deus Ex is out now, you can order the Collector’s Edition (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) Augmented Edition (PS3, PC, Xbox 360) or Explosive Edition (PS3, PC, Xbox 360) by clicking the relevant link.