To say the 2000 release of Deus Ex changed the
face of gaming might sound hyperbolic if it weren’t true. Warren Spector’s
cyberpunk effort followed in the footsteps of his equally worthy System Shock
series, smoothly melding the visceral feel of the first person shooter with the
character progression and customization elements of role-playing games. At the
time, these genres were oil and water, and this successful hybridization set
the stage for games like Bioshock and even Modern Warfare. Deus Ex: Human
Revolution clearly has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Eidos Montreal has
delivered on all fronts.
Above: El Dorado
Unlike 2003’s unfortunate DX: Invisible War, DX:HR
is as unapologetically cerebral as the original, and immediately throws the
player into a world in conflict. You play as Adam Jensen head of security at
Sarif Industries, a corporation that sells human augmentations (robotic arms,
x-ray eyes, and the like). They're on the verge of an incredible breakthrough,
when the lab is attacked by mercenaries who kill the company’s leading
scientists and leave Adam for dead. Left with no choice, Sarif’s CEO authorizes
the use of extensive augmentations to save Adam's life, bringing him back to
find out who was responsible for the attacks.
Like its predecessor, a large part of DX:HR’s
appeal is in its well written, intelligent story. The Deus Ex franchise has
always been a series in the Metal Gear vein, focusing on corrupt shadow
governments and corporate espionage, though its main focus is on Transhumanism,
the ethical concerns raised when man mixes with machine. You may think a robot
arm would be totally badass at first, but when you realize you’ll need an
expensive drug for the rest of your life to keep your body from rejecting it,
you might be more hesitant. There’s also the more philosophical issue of where
humanity ends and machine begins, and how expensive upgrades reinforce the
class system. If this all sounds a little highbrow, well, that’s because it is.
Above: Human Revolution is just as filled with conspiracies as the original
Make no mistake, DX:HR relies heavily on its
story to compel players forward. It's well written, expertly voice-acted, and
presents two sides to every story, letting the player make up their own mind.
If you're the kind of player that enjoys reading all of the lore and flavor
text (found primarily in emails and e-books scattered around the world), you'll
love the level of detail that DX:HR has lavished on everything. That said,
players who habitually skip every cutscene and prefer to spend their time
fragging noobs will probably find DX:HR to be an excessively wordy slog.
Once augmented, you're given a vast array of
upgrade options to choose from. Some directly increase your strength and health
while others offer temporary invisibility or an increased ability to hack into
computers. While the game can be played as a straight FPS if you upgrade Adam
appropriately, the core mechanics slightly favor cover and stealth over the
guns-blazing method. Even so, the game is designed to reward every type of
approach in its own way; knockouts and kills award experience, but so does
finding secret stealth paths to avoid confrontations.
Above: The less subtle approach
DX:HR's gunplay is good, bolstered by fairly
intelligent AI that puts pressure on you, but knows when to turtle and flush
you out with grenades. If you haven't upgraded any of your combat augmentations
though, even the lowliest soldiers will make short work of Adam, especially
towards the beginning. Every weapon can be upgraded with faster reload speeds,
increased damage and additional ammo capacity though there are rarer weapon-specific
upgrades that dramatically increase your firepower. While DX:HR’s boss fights
are entirely combat-based, the game does a nice job of providing options for
non-combat players, and there's generally a large cache of weapons in the room
if you're the type that typically only packs a stun gun.
There are some issues with the combat though.
The controls while Adam’s in cover can sometimes be finicky, and it's too easy
to accidentally peak out and aim you weapon when you're trying to creep alongside
a barrier, alerting enemy guards when you're trying to be stealth. And while
enemy AI is solid, they’re easily foiled by hiding in vents, and their inability
to use ladders makes escaping too easy in some cases.