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Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC [Reviewed], Playstation 3, Xbox 360, OnLive)
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre(s): Action-Adventure
Released: August 23, 2011
ESRB Rating: M – Mature

I’m reviewing the PC version of this game but make no mistake: You get a high quality experience on whichever platform you can get this one and you should as soon as possible. Upfront I will say that you should prepare to play the best game you’ve played this year thus far at least.

If you have the hardware, the PC opens the door up for some potential DiretX11 eye candy, a little higher resolution in some spots, and keyboard and mouse play which is far and away my preference for any first person game.
GRAPHICS:

The graphics can tend to be a little inconsistent even though the overall game really looks good and there are times where it looks outright stunning. An easy example of that is when you walk into Jensen’s apartment for that very first time after the game cuts you loose. The effect of the light shining in through the windows is outstanding.

Where the graphics become more inconsistent is with fairly obvious lower rez cut scenes and textures of any number of things in the game could have stood some more detail in the texture department. I’m nitpicking. I’m trying to balance this review out as much as I can vs. simply gushing over all the things this game does right to give you all something to chew on.

In my fantasy world I wish they’d put out a big juicy high resolution texture pack like was done for Crysis 2 on the PC.

Don’t take me the wrong way: Overall, the game looks gorgeous and runs great and on PCs scales great. The PC version of this game maxed out like I’m running it will and does look appreciably better than its console counterparts and is the way to go if you have the option.

AUDIO:

One word: Immersive. Followed by another word: Cohesive. Closing out with: Outstanding.

The sound design comes together perfectly in this to create a unique world.
I fully expect to see this game nominated for several awards in the sound department and not the least of which will be for the outstanding ambient and Blade Runner-esque musical score from Michael McMann of http://www.behaviormusic.com/ whose previous works include Splinter Cell Double Agent and Tom Clancy’s Endwar among others. I had not paid too close attention to this composer before but after this I know I’m one of a number of many new fans he’s made now. The voice acting is excellent and the world’s sounds ranging from gun fire, sirens, to computer sound effects in the background of offices are all excellent and sound right. Another nitpick: I wouldn’t have minded some of the guns sounds to have a little more oomph and authority, especially if you’re not silencing some of the bigger ones like the Heavy Rifle and Combat Assault Rifles but they’re hardly anemic.

This is a game that you will want to crank your audio and appreciate it all.


GAMEPLAY:

Let’s talk about the most important aspect of any game and that’s the gameplay.

For those of you who are veterans of this series let me make it short and sweet: It’s Deus Ex. You don’t have to read any further. Just make sure you go into Gameplay Options and turn off ALL the hand holding assist and max out the difficulty and you’re good to go.

Believe it or not, that’s my recommendation even for people completely new to this. That’s what Deus Ex is about. Free choice, tough consequences, not having your hand held, and getting your butt kicked if you do something the way you want and maybe it isn’t exactly the best way to do it. You’ll thank me later.

The gameplay in this is superb but may throw some people off if they come in expecting “traditional” first person shooter feel. The gunplay is solid but it’s almost like an RPG in the sense that you feel like it almost is determined by an unseen dice roll. The dice in this case being if you build up the relevant augs to make you go from being a decent shooter to someone who can drop people with headshots left and right like I can with a tricked out, lasered, and silenced 10mm.

The cover system is excellent. It’s basically a refined version of the cover system from the two Rainbow Six Vegas games. It will save your life many times and you will become addicted to hitting that headshot from cover just right. One will not survive long or succeed well in this game without learning to love the cover system quickly.
Augs are your friends. Aug is short for Augmentation.

Running and gunning is a recipe for quick deaths and failure. Write it off. Don’t do it.

Even though Jensen ends up auged he is not the Terminator. If you play the game at highest difficulty, and I recommend it for the full experience, you can expect well placed headshots to take you down fast.

The AI is very good in this game. Again, I recommend highest difficulty so you can see it and appreciate it at its best. They’ll flank you. They’ll find you and they’ll come at you hard. They’ll actually implement some real strategy and work as squads and teams should.

Deus Ex means wide open free choice. Now you’re not in an open world like Grand Theft Auto game but you end up in a variety of fairly large areas with plenty to do, plenty to explore, plenty of secrets to uncovers, and lots of sidequests which I heartily recommend you not skip. It’s to your benefit to do as much as you can and find and discover as much as you can. It’s all fun and satisfying.

The great thing about Deus Ex is there is no black and white whether its player decisions or the story itself.

For people who remember the previous games and especially part one fondly, I can assure the glowing feedback from the “leaked” betas and the glowing reviews you’ve seen since then are all on the money. This is a very good game and thus far my personal Game of the Year.

An example of the kind of freedom the gameplay gives you shows up immediately in your first mission. Do you go in lethal or non lethal? Do you stay stealthy sneaky and quiet or do you go loud? Do you come in from the rooftops or just barge in through the front door? Long range or short range choice of weapons?

As you progress in the game you gain what’s called Praxis points that allow you improve on your various augmentations. They range from social skill enhancer which is a mixed bag IMO. The dialog system in this game is very compelling. Think of a refine and arguably more sophisticated Mass Effect setup. I really wish they’d spent a little more time to develop this more because I think they’re on to something very special here and possibly even ground breaking potentially.

The social enhancer aug lets you get through it quicker to a guaranteed outcome in your favor but what you lose is the nuances and the enjoyment of the actual dialog while reading character’s facial expressions and mannerisms. You gain expediency but lose some of the compelling aspect and I found that I deliberately avoided using the social aug just so I could work away at and marvel at how organic the dialog between Jensen and the other character was at that time. It’s also incredibly satisfying when you are talking with a character and you can TELL that you’re succeeding with your arguments. You can tell by facial expression, body language, and a readout that Jensen’s augs let him see that give him a personality profile of the character as a ballpark frame of reference. I’m not doing it justice. It’s brilliant. It’s intuitive, clean, and easy to get in to.

The rest of your augs range from head to toe. Enhanced vision, heat, see through walls. Boost your arms and sudden recoil on weapons is no longer a problem and you can punch through weakened walls. Boost your legs and you can jump higher and ultimately land on your feet safely from just about any height thanks to the Icarus System.

Another aug is called the Typhoon System. Basically this is a “group attack” mod and it’s one that goes a long ways to getting you through the annoying boss fights. I’d recommend having it in your back pocket. I never used it except for the boss fights so that’s something worth considering.

One of the most important skills in this thing that I highly recommend people make top priority is hacking skills.

If you want access to more great weapons and ammo, disable annoying security, have security bots and turrets on YOUR side, and gain all kinds of story detail and background I can’t emphasize enough how important hacking is. It’s the most important skill in the game in my opinion. There’s so much bounty and great things in this game that hinge on having a good hacking skill to get to it.

But that’s all up to you. That’s the beauty of it. You are thrown into some incredibly complicated situations where innocent lives can be on the line and sure, you can do it however you want but there WILL be consequences. You have to think things out, plot it out, pace it out, and be smart. That’s what I love about this game. It rewards you for being smart and punishes you for being dumb.

The story itself is a mishmash of conspiracy theory and a rather compelling and all too relevant moral dilemma over biotechnology advancements and just how far should things go? Where do you finally draw the line and what do you do and how do you do it? Your character ultimately finds himself dead in the center of all of that along with corporate espionage, sabotage, and a secret plan from no less than the famed Illuminati themselves.

COMPLAINTS:

It pains me to have to do this because this game does so many good things and does them right but it’s not perfect so here we go:

1.)The Boss fights. They belong in a different game. The game is about discovery, choice, freedom, and using your brains and the boss fights mandate being lethal, run and gun, and using your augs. The boss fights basically get in the way. Thankfully there are only four of them.

2.) Uneven storytelling. Later levels but especially the last level in particular pretty much all but demands that you go lethal even if you don’t want to and I personally found all four of the endings to be disappointing BUT: Stay past the end credits.

3.)The story itself needed a little more time in the drawing room and better plotting.

The original Deus Ex was a masterpiece of putting a very complicated, detailed, and multilayered story into a very compelling gameplay world and unfolding it as you went along. I don’t think it’s ever been done better.

This game does not achieve those heights but if I were to grade Deus Ex on a scale of 1-10 on story concept and execution it would get a strong 9 at least and this game would get a 7.


GAME LENGTH/REPLAY VALUE:

About as good as it gets. There’s a LOT in this game. Lots to see. Lots to do. Lots to accomplish and lots of different ways to do it which immediately assures a high replay value.

As a frame of reference, on my first playthrough I racked up 45 hours and was fairly thorough.

I immediately replayed it a second time, did a bunch of things differently, found some things I hadn’t before, and I was north of 30 hours on that replay.

This is a special game that people are going to be playing and talking about for a long time.

This is the next game you should buy. More than likely, this will be the best game you’ve played this year and it go on your Game of the Year shortlist. Buy Deus Ex: Human Revolution from Amazon today.

4stars

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Comments

  1. Hell yes. I just played through and reviewed this myself, and I pretty much agree with everything you said. This is an awesome game, and I loved how you can play it any way you want. I was pleased to be able to switch between stealth tactics and Rambo-like warfare without being forced to go one way or the other. The story is engrossing and there is just so much to see and explore. Easy GOTY contender.

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  2. http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/09/23/dxhr-the-missing-link-dlc-hands-on-preview/

    PC Gamer previewed the forthcoming DLC due in October. Looks good!

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  3. The Missing Link was exceptional DLC that takes place during the time in the main game when Adam travels from Heng Sha to Singapore. It’s stand alone accessible via the main menu. You “star over” in the DLC with your stats and ability distribution. I wouldn’t have minded an option to allow incorporation into the main game but it probably would have been too complicated.

    I’m bitterly disappointed at the idea that this is the only additional content this game is going to see. That’s a true shame and a waste if that’s the case because there’s plenty more that can be done here. I hope the developers haven’t walked away from this game completely.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] In more recent years we’ve seen the Bioshock games attempt to bring that back (from the folks that gave us System Shock) and then last year saw the return of the Deus Ex series in the form of the outstanding Human Revolution which I gave a glowing review to here. [...]

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