August 29, 2011 by Paul Curtin
After eleven years since the release of the first game that is considered by many to be one of the greatest PC games of all time, the Deus Ex series is back with a prequel to the original. Deus Ex: Human Revolution goes back to the series’ roots by combining elements from many different gaming genres and as a result creating another amazing first-person shooter / role-playing game mash-up with many new features to keep the series relevant in today’s gaming scene. So does Human Revolution live up to the hype created by eleven years of waiting and one of the most impressive video game trailers of all time, or does the actual gameplay fall short of the jaw-dropping visuals teased in 2010’s pre-rendered CGI trailer?
Set in the year 2027, Human Revolution‘s plot deals with a time of great innovation and technological advancement in human history where humans have the ability to receive cybernetic augmentations to make themselves superior in almost every way. Due to the moral issues surrounding human augmentation and the corporations who manufacture said augmentations seeming to have more power than any of the world’s governments, society is split and on the verge of a revolution. Players will assume the role of Adam Jensen, a security officer for the Detroit-based manufacture Sarif Industries who after a terrorist attack is rebuilt with augmentations in order to keep him alive. Months after the attack on Sarif, Jensen must now must uncover the truth behind the mysterious event that’s left him half-man half-machine and determine if he’s fighting for the right side — think Robocop meets Blade Runner.
The concept of free will and choice is what made the original such a hit over a decade ago, so with big-budget shooter/role-playing game mash-ups like Mass Effect and Fallout now dominating the market, it’s no surprise that the series that invented the genre is back and better than ever. Human Revolution plays a lot more like Mass Effect and even uses the same Blade Runner/Tron Evolution style of music to set its epic futuristic cyberpunk tone. Each level is built around a very realistic approach that allows the player to choose at any time what type of character they want Jensen to be and how they want him to approach each individual situation. There is no one way that is required to get from point A to point B in each level; instead, there is a starting point and an ending point with a handful of alternative routes that the player can discover based on their style of play and which abilities they’ve unlocked to help them overcome certain obstacles.
Say for example you want to play like Robocop; there’s the option to play Human Revolution like any other shooter and just charge into each level in a linear fashion, blasting your way through enemies and making sure that everyone in a mile radius is aware of your presence. But you can also take the Solid Snake approach and sneak behind every enemy like a ghost by using certain elements of the environment like vents, ceiling pipes, and sewers in order to take routes where you’ll never alert a single guard, yet still reach the end of each level. There’s even the option when taking down enemies to do so in a lethal or non-lethal way, knocking guards out will silently take them out of the equation while killing them will cause more noise that can alert other guards who are close enough to hear. The takedowns trigger canned cinematic animations each time performed, which slightly disrupt the fluidness of gameplay and could have ruined the gameplay if it were not for the smooth transitions from canned cutscenes back into first-person view.
Even if you choose to play one way or another, the game always awards you for your actions. However, the game does tend to try to encourage players to choose a stealthier approach by making ammo a lot more scarce than in other popular shooters and rewarding more points for non-lethal takedowns. But just because you chose to mow everyone down and ran out of ammo doesn’t mean that you can’t switch up your game plan on the fly and duck into a vent and take on the rest of a level in the shadows; or vice versa, when you don’t want to waste 10-20 minutes searching for a hidden route to get behind enemy lines, you can always just take out everyone guarding an entrance. And that’s what makes Human Revolution‘s gameplay so exciting and enjoyable: you never know if your original plan is going to work and when you might have to go to Plan B, or sometimes even Plan C or D.
But choosing which way to go during each mission isn’t the only choice you’ll have in Human Revolution. There is a whole talent tree full of abilities to aid how you want to build Jensen to fit your playstyle. If you picked the Robocop playstyle there are abilities like extra armor, weapon stability, and the ability to punch through walls to gain quicker access to areas. However, if you wanted to be more like Solid Snake you could put your points into abilities like seeing through walls, temporary invisibility, and silent footsteps. There’s even the option to make the interactions similar to L.A. Noire by putting points into a skill that allows you to read the characters you’re having conversations with better and help persuade them based on if their personality type is Alpha, Beta, or Omega — an option I made sure to invest in after a hostage situation went bad early on in the game due to my poor choices.
Like other RPGs, the sheer amount of content is more than worth the $60 price tag and you can spend days exploring every corner of multi-level cities searching for secret stashes of money, upgrades, and computers to hack. As you make your way around Detroit, Shanghai, Montreal, and Singapore completing quests in the main storyline, you’ll run into many unique personalities who will offer side quests that involve multiple objectives where you’ll be doing quests within quests that can add hours, if not days, of extra play time to the game’s overall length, which clocks in around 30+ hours. Most of the extra quests are just as enjoyable and detailed as the main quests and are worth the time as they reward Jensen with experience, money, and other items which can prove very valuable and go towards purchasing more upgrades.
Almost every room has a door, camera, turret, or computer that can be unlocked by finding the code somewhere else or by playing a hacking mini-game. The hacking is more complex than most other games’ and starts off fun, but can get annoying when the difficulty increases — it’s a feature that you’ll either love or hate (if you hate it, you can always add points to the hacking skills to make it easier). After successfully hacking computers you can turn off security cams, turn robots against your foes, and gain access to emails. The emails really show how much detail Eidos has put into the game with hundreds of computers to hack and subjects ranging from comical references to other games and movies to emails from Nigerian scammers asking for money to secret conversations among employees about their own personal lives and events regarding the story — again, you can waste hours just hacking computers and reading emails, but everything is somewhat relevant to the story and helps immerse you more into the world that Eidos has created.
Although Human Revolution‘s gameplay and storytelling is brilliant, there are a few minor flaws that keep the game from a true revolution in the gaming industry. The A.I. is indeed intelligent, especially when playing on harder difficulties, but they can at times act like blind referees with the memory span of a goldfish. Once when I was in a lab filled with scientists and patrol guards, one of the scientists spotted me and ran over to a nearby security system on the wall and sounded the alarm to call security, which I found pretty impressive. After I killed all of the security that came after me, the scientist went right back to work as normal, despite there being dead bodies lying all over the floor. Another time a very similar event happened when I was at a club and ended up in a massive shootout with the bodyguards. Right outside the club manager’s office (door still open), I killed all ten of the club’s bodyguards, most with a grenade that caused a huge explosion, yet the manager just sat there lifeless and afterwards when I went back to talk to him, he just repeated the last thing he said before I killed his entire staff. Again, despite there being dead bodies lying all over the club after the shootout was over, all the people went back to dancing as normal. It’s nothing game-breaking, but a feature that had it been more realistic would have nudged Human Revolution even closer to perfection.
The only other flaws with Revolution are its boss fights and multiple endings. The overall gameplay is so enjoyable and unique that when you get to the boss fights, they don’t feel anywhere near as epic as they should and the bosses themselves have almost zero character development. Not only are the boss fights very generic, which consist of Jensen having to run away while pumping as many bullets as he can into them, but the overall design is a letdown and goes back on the idea of freedom and creativity by forcing players who have built their Jensen to play in a stealth style to all of the sudden have to go bullet to bullet with bigger, stronger, and faster enemies. It doesn’t help that early on in the game the controls can be a bit weird when trying to learn how to properly transition in and out of cover and switch between first and third-person view.
Similar to the boss fights, the ending just doesn’t seem to have been done right whether it was due to lack of time, resources, or just a bad decision by Eidos. Story-wise the ending is fine and the ability to pick from multiple endings is great; however, the use of stock imagery during the final scenes doesn’t fit the game’s overall design and takes you out of the story that the game spends so many hours working hard to create. I would have much rather preferred seeing the final scenes of the game with more character interaction and less voice-over. It would have been way better if the developers had just used pre-rendered scenes with far superior graphics like in the original trailer and would have helped create a far more lasting impression. There is an extra scene after the credits that does help link Human Revolution to the original and allows the game to end on a better note.
Despite some generic boss fights and an ending that could have been produced better, the overall gameplay is so immersive and enjoyable that you’ll feel more than satisfied with this worthy prequel that in many ways surpasses the original. Its unique cyberpunk theme with elements of the Renaissance is an experience you won’t find anywhere else and the freedom of choice when taking on each level warrants multiple playthroughs, whether just for fun or to discover secret items, paths, and quests you might have missed the first time. In the end, Human Revolution doesn’t live up to the hype that its first CGI trailer created, but it comes damn close and makes for one of the most enjoyable and well made games in a long time. Deus Ex: Human Revolution gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).
- Very immersive story that clocks in around 25+ hours depending on exploration and side-missions
- Level designs are very complex with multiple ways to take on each area
- Tons on player and weapon customization let you build Jensen how you want to play him
- Multiple choices during conversations allow for different outcomes
- Good graphics and even better looking cutscenes
- A.I. can sometimes be ridiculously dumb and unrealistic
- The transition between gameplay and better looking cutscenes isn’t smooth with too many loading screens
- Controls can at times be awkward and make combat difficult until you get used to them
- Certain interactions like melee maneuvers force canned cutscenes every time they’re performed
- Boss fights and the multiple endings aren’t as impressive as the rest of the game