Deus Ex was a title that should have spawned a new class of games. This title, along with the likes of System Shock 2 forged a perfect meld between first person shooter (FPS) and role-playing game (RPG). Unfortunately, this type of game did not catch on until the recent success of Bioshock. At the time, Deus Ex was incredible. Years before it’s time and clearly worthy of another title. The spawn of Deus Ex’s sequel was basically equivalent to seeing the movie Jurassic Park and wanting more. The movie was amazing. It was clearly worthy of a follow up. Then The Lost World comes out. Metacritic puts the first one at 68% with the Lost World netting 59%. Not a significant drop but just think of how you rate those two movies. That’s the equivalence of how of lot of fans think about Deus Ex compared to Deus Ex 2. If you force yourself to be objective, it was a competent title, but it didn’t carry the spirit that made Deus Ex great. Now over 7 years later, a prequel arrives. It had one of the most epic trailers in recent memory. Can Deus Ex: Human Revolution deliver on its pedigree and promise or will it cave under the pressure?
The story takes place in the near-future where mechanical augmentations are starting to become immensely popular. You play Adam Jenson, the head of security at a biotech company called Sarif Industries. A group of scientists at this firm are nearing a breakthrough that will open up the possibility for everyone to get these augmentations and are prepping to showcase it to Washington. Unfortunately, before they have a chance to leave, the building is attacked and you’re in critical condition. To save your life, you undergo significant augmentation and are called upon again after six months where another Sarif facility is under attack. It’s up to you to uncover the truth of why your company is under attack. The story is well told and layered. On its surface, it’s pretty good but if you want to read a little bit, you can delve deeper and add breadth to the scope of the story. Some of the characters could have had some more exposition but it doesn’t significantly undermine the story. It does put it a notch below the original title but that was a unique gem, not likely to be repeated. The story is still a lot better than what we’re currently getting in a lot of games these days, especially those of the first-person shooter variety.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution follows in the footsteps of its predecessors. The game is a fusion of first-person shooter and role-playing genres. The game is played mostly from a first-person perspective but occasionally when you go into cover or execute a takedown; it pulls out to third-person similar to Rainbow Six Vegas earlier this generation. Initially this caused controversy in the online crowd but it is well implemented and adds to the game. The guns in the game run the gambit from stun guns to rocket launchers. There are even some futuristic ones to find along the way. The gun-play is very satisfying with headshots typically being lethal. Similarly though, you are not godlike and will die quickly if you decide to run and gun. To the dismay of some, there is a regenerating health system in this title but it regenerates so slowly that it doesn’t feel cheap. If you don’t like guns, you can execute takedowns. If you are merciful, you can just knock them out. If you like death, you can kill them but will cause more noise. If still that is not how you wish you play, you can be the diplomat and try to talk your way out of certain situations, which is particularly well done as well. The only issue with the combat system is the occasional boss fights. These almost break everything you’ve learned up to them because it changes from a cover-based action game to run and gun. Like most RPGs, you have an inventory system and bigger items take up more space. Therefore you won’t be able to carry everything you find in the world. You will have to choose. The inventory system is pretty smart so you will never have to sit around and jostle items around to fit something new. It will automatically make the space if it’s available. The only thing you will have to do is make the choice to drop anything to make more space.
Certain aspects of your character, such as inventory space, can be increased through the use of praxis points. You acquire these naturally once you accumulate enough experience points, purchase them from stores, or find them hidden in the world. You use these points to either unlock new abilities, or improve the ones you already have. These abilities are called augmentations or augs for short. Some augs give you added agility and speed. Others enhance your ability to stealth and vision. Some of the augs use your energy while others are just automatic. Refilling your energy is accomplished via eating energy bars. Similarly to the original though, some of the augs do not feel particularly useful and when given the option, you will always choose some over others. To a novice gamer, these augs may help with certain play styles they wish to play but for most they are pointless. And by the end of the title, while you won’t be a master of all, you will be a master of what you want to be proficient in and have enough praxis points left over to dabble in other avenues. It’s not a perfect system but the charm of Deus Ex is still there and the useful skills are a lot of fun to play around with.
One of the ways to gather more information or find alternate ways through situations is through hacking of doors and computers. This is done through a wonderful hacking minigame where you capture and fortify nodes to get to one or more datastores. Each node has a certain chance of being detected and fortifying the node slows down security. There are also special nodes that give you bonuses like experience points or consumable hacks that allow you to take over a node unnoticed or slow down the security. Other nodes, once unlocked, will give you perks for hacking that particular system such as reducing node ratings or slowing down security. Once you’re detected, the security system will attempt to find your access point. If you have fortified the nodes you captured, it will take the system longer to find you. If you so choose, you can put praxis points into hacking higher level targets, decreasing your chance of being detected, or increasing the fortification of your nodes. It may sound complex, but its not particularly hard, just strategic. And since you can never reduce the risk of detection to zero, every hack has the chance of being interesting. It’s an enjoyable addition to this title.
A major part of the game, if you so choose to do so, is stealth. Depending on your taste, you may find it extremely well done or limited by the artificial intelligence (AI). All the NPCs have set patterns. If you startle them, they will look for you but other than that they will stick to their set paths. This creates a puzzle-like stealth experience. It can be challenging but it’s predictable. If you get caught, it’s your own fault. Along the way, you’ll also have cameras and laser beams to traverse through. Sometimes if you open a door and the AI doesn’t see anyone come through, they will investigate. Other times, they will seem as dumb as a doornail if you pick off their friend and they don’t wonder why he is missing. It feels like a good balance between intelligence and predictability which makes it fun. Each level has an abundant of different ways to traverse. Using different aug abilities, you can even find different paths through levels. It completely lends itself to multiple playthroughs in just the gameplay system alone.
The gameplay is fantastic and doesn’t go stale. The variety of ways to play and explore the world created here is amazing. While it doesn’t have the dichotomous way of playing good and bad like Mass Effect and other titles, there is still plenty to experience on subsequent passes. Depending on your actions, subtle effects will change your story in ways you did not anticipate. This way of story-telling is truly a step ahead as it feels natural and more immersive. Eidos Montreal did an amazing job and crafting a gameplay experience that stays true to the Deus Ex formula but also get updated to the times and have a nice flair of their own will.
This game oozes style and class in its visual style. They’ve created a futuristic persona that shines at every location you will visit. The game also has a unique amber hue to it which gives it a nice signature style similar to the movie Minority Report’s blue. It works really well. The levels are designed quite well. Chances are you won’t experience everything on your first time through. You will miss things. There will be secret passageways you didn’t know existed. The world is truly one that you’d expect from Deus Ex. Technically, the characters and the lip-syncing are not that great but history has indicated that art triumphs over technical. This is the same here. Looking at screenshots or focusing in on certain elements may make it seem not up to par but what the developers created here is awesome once it all comes together.
Part of creating an immersive environment is the sound design and they succeeded in doing so here. The world sounds alive. One of the simple pleasures in this title is the sound of a silenced pistol sound. It sounds so damn good. The orchestrated score is amazing. It has a futuristic feel and elicits feeling of emotion very well. It’s a bit different than what was in the original Deus Ex but that music was not forgotten. Familiar themes are littered around the game world in radios and subtle queues in the ambient music. The one aspect that can get a little muddy is the voice choices. The main character, Adam, has a gravelly voice. Other characters also have similarly odd voice choices. The voice acting itself is great. I initially wasn’t a fan of Adam’s voice but over the course of the game I warmed up to it but I am sure not all will. Overall, the sound design is amazing and depending on your opinion, some voice choices may not be that great.
The team at Eidos Montreal has succeeded in capturing the spirit that made Deus Ex so great. While it is not a perfect title, never was the original. The story is well told, the atmosphere is top notch, and the gameplay varied and open. It’s everything we expect of a Deus Ex. The graphics ooze with a futuristic style imbued in a unique amber hue. The sound design is amazing. Some may think some voice choices are a bit weird but most will hopefully warm up to them. If you were a fan of the original, you won’t be disappointed. If you like games, you won’t be disappointed. I may be a little biased because of my love of the original but this is a genuinely great game that everyone who’s even the slightest interested should give a try.
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