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SummaryThe pinnacle of "meh"
The GoodThe story and characters are top notch.
Hacking involves a fun mini-game.
The BadToo much reading to get any context.
Gameplay is not as enjoyable as previous entries.
Level-design straight from the Doom mapmaker.
The Bottom LineStory:
The plot in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is centered around a moral question, which it explores from all possible angles. The question is “should humanity control its own evolution” and it’s an issue that we might have to deal with ourselves very soon. People can already replace parts of their body with artificial ones, but how long will it take before we can not only replace, but also improve?
At the start of the game we are in an office and we learn about Sarif Industries. The protagonist is Adam Jensen, a security officer for the corporation and a very regular person. The company is about to present the latest developments in technology to a congress when augmented mercenaries attack the building and destroy most of it, including Adam. The character is restored over the course of six months, which involves implanting a number of mechanical parts in his body. When Adam returns he is send out to discover what happened to the science team and how to get their company back on track.
The plot itself is rather intriguing and the pace is very fantastic, so you are constantly discovering new secrets and plot-threads as you play. Each character you meet is also fairly interesting and has his or her own ideas about the main question that hovers over the story. What makes this work, though, is that the game never forces an opinion on you and instead allows you to come to your own conclusions. It could be used to indoctrinate the audience, but instead serves as an informative tool that presents us with a very plausible future. There were a few moments where the game felt a little too much like Syndicate to me (i.e. having me run errands for a global corporation), but it will definitely keep you interested more than the sometimes easily-distracted original Deus Ex.
The main feature of the franchise has always been the premise of been able to resolve each issue in different ways, the core mechanics been sneaking, hacking and fighting. If you need to get inside a building, for example, then it’s possible to do so by killing soldiers for a key, hacking the terminal next to the door or finding a secret entrance. This means that you can freely invest in any set of skills and never truly get stuck on anything, but I do fear that this entry misses the point somewhat. While moving through the levels, the old formula applies perfectly, but a number of boss-fights will instantly force you into fighting. The original would also contain boss-fights, but it was easily possible to sneak past most of them, run away or even persuade them into becoming friendly. No such luck this time around.
Combat itself is about what you’d expect from a decent first-person shooter and thus not terribly interesting. Each weapon can be upgraded with certain kits, though, so you can make some really overpowered toys for yourself. Sneaking is largely cover-based and functions by holding the right mouse-button when close to any kind of wall, from this position you can then poke your head out for some tactical overview, move around and even roll to cover distances between walls. There is however a lack of execution moves that you can perform from in cover, so in order to get rid of approaching guards, you’ll have to kneel down manually and hope the random AI doesn’t detect you too early. Hacking is done with a little mini-game that has you making your way through a network by capturing virtual nodes. I found this to be the most interesting approach, since there are extras to pick up and it can be really challenging when you are detected too early and quickly need to capture the right points.
On the more negative side, lock-picking has been removed entirely, as well the spy drone and some other features. Instead of the very limited and focused set of skills you would get in the original, you know get to choose any upgrade after each level up or by finding special items. This is such a fast progress that you’ll pretty much end up been able to handle any situation in every way, which makes it both less challenging and less worthwhile. It’s also a slow process to clear out an area, hack every stupid computer, move through every vent and then finish you’re actual mission just to get all the upgrade points. There was a point at which I just stopped upgrading because I had almost everything that was useful already; this point was two hours before the final mission even started.
This part of the game left me rather stumped, because I now feel like I am completely missing out on something. People have called this game beautiful and stunning, but all I see is a decently looking modern game that occasionally pisses itself. The focus on yellow is somewhat interesting, but often the game uses blocky imagery (probably on purpose), which is severely out-of-place in an otherwise realistic game. During some conversations with female characters, the upper-body also seemed unfinished. I did enjoy the fact that Jensen always wears sunglasses in order to display the HUD, it’s a simple touch, but it fit the game well and made for some entertaining scenes where his sensors got jammed.
Voice-acting has always been a big miss with the franchise, but this one pulls it off relatively well. Actors give another layer of personality to the characters they are voicing and put in genuine effort to make even the smaller characters come to life. Adam himself is a bit of a boring twat, though, which neatly resembles the level-design. Each area is made through a checklist, which makes sure each section has enough chest-high walls surrounding the flanks and a few vents that lead the player around enemies. The presentation is shaky at best and aggravating at worst.
Deus Ex is typically a game that simply ends after the last mission, but this one has some points that make it worth replaying. For one: it’s entertaining to see how different choices throughout the game can change the dialogue and events you run into. Some choices also ascend past the binary “good” or “bad” choices, which fits well with the game’s focus on morality. That doesn’t mean I didn't instantly uninstall the game after finishing it once, though, so replays are optional for the die-hard fans and financially weak.
You play Human Revolution for the story and atmosphere, but the lacking gameplay does show up a little too often. A lot of players will find themselves getting stuck on bosses even when playing on Easy, which goes directly against the premise of the game. If you can find this game on sale or at about 15 euros/20 dollars, then it’s worth a purchase for the plotline alone. Veterans of the franchise will probably feel a little betrayed, though.