Tuesday 20 September 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Review

Deus Ex thrusts you into a near future where human augmentation is the new getting a hair transplant.  You are Adam Jenson, augmented to the max and ready take on the bad guys in one gun toting mission after the next.  If that sounds cool, Adam's initial assets (which he acquires following an attack on his place of work and the loss of a few limbs) are all completely upgradeable.  What to get first?  The wipe out everyone nearby thing or the hold the gun a bit steadier thing?

If you think that all sounds a bit gung ho and not very first person RPG, well you'd be right.  But Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes all that stuff and blends in more, oh so much more.  Right from the off, as you try and stem the afore mentioned attack, it's clear this game is about way more than just gunplay.  Stealth plays a huge part, indeed you can play the whole of it and not kill a soul bar the boss fights.  You play as you choose to play.  Shoot your way out?  Sneak your way through?  Combine both elements?  It's James Bond for the cyberpunk generation.

The upgrade system is slow to get going and deliberately so.  Apparently it's impossible to max out all of Adam's abilities, but you decide what gets upgraded and when, so his arsenal is in your hands.

The environments centre around two large(ish) city hubs set in Detroit and Hengsha.  You travel about both on foot, exploring every nook and cranny, seeking out side quests in order to gain experience.  They are suitably dark and foreboding although their inhabitants are a bit 'mannequin' at times, lacking some of the characterisation you might expect.

One of the surprise joys of the game is the brilliantly addictive hacking system.  Walk up to a locked door and you'll be given the option to hack it.  The screen then changes and your presented with a grid like system to crack.  Capture nodes between your entry point on the system and the one that hosts the system.  Again augmentations can give you the upper hand here and early on most of my upgrades focused on this.

Deus Ex gives players some freedom to grow their character and in some ways it's the freedom, as great as that is, which distracts from the story.  At times I was just hacking into my colleagues offices, reading their emails and stealing credits from their desk drawers.  Is that what the moral Adam Jenson would have done?  Probably not.

Graphically at times it's breathtaking, at others it's above average at best.  But at all times it's an atmospheric journey.  Sneaking around, creeping up on guards and knocking them out with a double take down is enormous fun.  The story is absorbing enough: you want to know how it all ends although the final scene, where you decide on one of four endings, feels like a bit of a cop out after all that's gone before.  What a shame that my earlier choices hadn't had more impact on the outcome.  Ho hum, it's a small gripe.

Where I do have a beef is with the boss battles which feel so out of place.  They're outdated at best and here they just jar.  It's not just that the fights are hard it's that they don't sit within the framework of the game.  There's a trophy for going the whole of Deus Ex without killing anyone but in a boss fight that option is denied you.  It's a pity Edios didn't find another way to move their game along without relying on such a cliche.

For the most part though Deus Ex: Human Revolution shines.  There's so much to do, so much to get sucked in by, that the thirty hours plus of game play zip by in a blur of upgrades, hacking and sneaking.  The boss battles are a pain but they don't detract from this excellent title.

There's almost something old fashioned about it.  More than once I was reminded of that first trip to Shadow Moses and although there's nothing as groundbreaking here, there's much to admire.

Play it as a bad ass or play it as a stealthy super human.  Whichever you choose Deus Ex will still deliver a compelling tale that you feel like you played rather were told by an over reliance on cut scenes.  Take note Mr Kojima.

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