Game of the Month, August 2011

A mature Cyberpunk stealth/shooter and another piece of delicious weirdness from Japan take the cake this month

Winner: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I could harp on about the original Deus Ex, how great it was, its legacy and all that, but I already did that in my review. Instead I’ll focus on what makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution this month’s winner. DX:HR lets you figure out how you want to play the game, a huge departure from the endless hand-holding corridor slogs that compose a frighteningly large portion of the current gaming landscape. There’s a lot of stuff in DX:HR you won’t see on your first time through, and the way the story shifts and secrets get revealed according to how you play will bring you back again and again.

While a semi-stealth approach is the easiest way, DX:HR gives you a lot of options to play around with. You can: Pave the road with corpses and chuck a grenade into a room full of hostages, or slink through yet another convenient 4 foot tall air duct and successfully talk a man down from committing suicide. If you’re feeling less pedestrian, you could hack a turret, throw it at a guy’s head, turn invisible and then shoot a huge explosion out of your chest at someone who looks like an extra from the The Matrix circa the 1600s.

Above: "Adam we'll find your contact lens! Please!"

While messing about is good fun, DX:HR’s plot is immensely rewarding, taking an even-handed, adult look at human modification, on both practical and moral levels. If you liked Blade Runner’s take on AI, humanity and where both of those things begin and end, you’ll fall in love with Human Revolution. You: “Mike that’s boring, you’re boring.” Fine, the plot is cool because you can frag dudes and if you go into the ladies restroom, the IT guy totally knows about it later and calls you a perv.

DX:HR’s voice acting, beautiful design and excellent synth soundtrack really help draw you into the game, even if its dystopian world does fall into rote Cyberpunk trappings at times. So much grit! So many trenchcoats! Do you like Metal Gear Solid? Of course you do. Do you like Mass Effect? Who doesn’t? Therefore everyone on Earth will like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and you should go play it immediately.

Runner-up: El Shaddai

Other games have had tighter controls than El Shaddai, and most titles are easier on you than Shaddai, but few are ever as special. The artistic merit of the game, with some of the most singularly stunning levels we’ve ever seen, overcomes almost all of its faults. Even if some of the platforming let us down, the deeper-than-expected combat was a real treat, though some more enemy variety wouldn’t have been so bad. We celebrate that El Shaddai is something special, a rare gem of a Japanese-developed game, the type of title that is becoming increasingly infrequent.

Sept 1, 2011

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