What kind of future do you envision? Ask anyone that question and you’ll receive a variety of answers. Some will be realistic, others idealistic. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has its own vision. Here, advancements in science and technology have allowed humans to become one with metal attachments. Augmented humans they are called. You, as Adam Jensen, through a bloody incident, become one of these people. Not out of choice, but out of necessity to survive.
This is how the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution begins. If you didn’t know, Human Revolution is a prequel to the original Deus Ex released in the year 2000. The original Deus Ex is a great game in its own right. Most notably, its mixture of RPG and FPS/TPS elements was a breath of fresh air that still shines to this day. Human Revolution looks to follow in its footsteps and for all intents and purposes, it does a great job.
The element of choice is embarrassingly abundant in Human Revolution. From gameplay to story elements, you have a bevy of choices to make that suit your playstyle. The first and main choice provided to you from a gameplay perspective is whether you prefer to go into a mission with guns a blazing or would you prefer to operate from the shadows and avoid unnecessary confrontation. The best aspect of this choice is that you are free to swap between the two as you please, whether using different styles for different missions, or using both styles within a particular mission itself. On top of that, there are always various ways for you to reach a checkpoint/goal, whether it be through an air vent, by hacking through doors, climbing high-rises or by just going in direct. This freedom of choice is one of the most satisfying elements provided within the game.
Augmentations play an important role too. As you level up, you earn the ability to add augmented abilities to your body. These are done through praxis points/kits, which can also be purchased at clinics throughout the game. Upgrading your abilities is simple enough, you just enter the augments menu and choose which you desire. There are various augments that you can get and the majority of them are definitely useful. Sadly a few do seem useless and unnecessary. Choosing your augments is important as they also complement your playstyle. The good thing about the augment upgrade is that you tend to level up fairly quickly, where after a third of the game you might have all the basic abilities you want that suit your playstyle. This allows you to experiment as you level up further with other abilities you might not have thought useful.
The gameplay does have its drawbacks however. The first is more an issue with the console versions, which are the controls. In this day and age, players should be given the freedom to adjust the controls on their gamepad to suit how they play. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you can’t. The most obvious issue from this is that scoping and panning the camera are cumbersome. The majority of FPSs on consoles don’t have this issue for good reason. This forces you to either hip-fire (which isn’t all that bad to be honest) or to constantly aim from behind cover. The other example of this is during hacking segments. The issue here is that because hacking can be a race against time, you’ll often find yourself moving quickly from one hack node to the next to complete the whole segment. As such, you’ll often not capture a node because you lifted off the left analog stick a mini-second too early before pressing enter. This can be very annoying as you might get confused and if time does run out, the alarm raised from a failed hack could spell death. Fortunately, the PC version doesn’t suffer from these issues.
The other gameplay drawback however is universal to all versions. The AI within the game can be laughable at times. Enemies that are woken up after being knocked unconscious don’t seem to remember that you hit them in the first place, quickly returning to their post as if nothing happened At other times the AI wanders around aimlessly when firing, never looking to take advantage of various cover spots they could use. It breaks the feel of immersion from the game, but isn’t game breaking on its own.
The boss fights within the game have issues too. There is no freedom to choose whether you can kill or simply incapacitate them. It is unfortunate that said choice is missing, especially since the rest of the game provides plenty of freedom elsewhere. At least the fights tend to vary between bosses and your various augment abilities can be used within those fights rather well. They present different challenges too, which is good. The fights however tend to be rather fast, as the bosses don’t have a lot of health to deplete. These fights end up not being a highlight of the game, and that is a shame.
Human Revolution has a gritty cyberpunk feel to it. The artistic style of the game brings its own form of identity. The dark, gloomy feel of the cities you visit emphasises the political and moral intrigue the world is facing. It is immersive, and draws you into the world wanting to know how it came to be and what the future could hold. On the technical-side however, Human Revolution has its fair share of issues. The graphics aren’t pushing the hardware and the animations can be very stiff. The cities you visit are never the big sprawling environments you see during cutscenes, but rather a small section that you can traverse. There are also many loading screens when you enter a building or a different area of the city. These aren’t all that long however and are bearable. Animation issues, especially facial animation, are mostly evident during character interaction as Jensen and those around him converse in a stoic manner. It is unfortunate that the graphics aren’t up to par from a technical standpoint, but the artistic direction still makes the game visually enjoyable.
The story of Deus Ex: Human Revolution spans the globe and pits you, as Adam Jensen, against mysterious opponents working behind-the-scenes, in various high profile positions, at a time when augmentation technology looks to be the future for humankind. Human Revolution initially sets itself up to weave a political, moral and emotional story however, only the political aspect shines through. The main story is slow for the first half of the game, picking up in the second half without ever reaching lofty heights.
The various conflicts of interest provide the political backdrop for the story, and through your exploits, you get to meet the main players who wield the power to change humanity’s future. Their agendas are the game’s strong point. From a moral perspective, you do get to make a lot of moral choices however, their impact on the main story is minimal. Most of your choices in-game (whether motivated by morals or not) only have an immediate effect whilst a few others have after effects. These effects are slightly trivial, from a small purchasing discount to a hacking code. They don’t really effect the main story aside from gaining a better understanding of the various political viewpoints. At least the choices themselves are interesting within the scope of the missions themselves. Moral choices are a mainstay of the side-quests though. There are various instances where your choices determine the outcome for the side-quests, and there is a sense of satisfaction at convincing people to believe in your morals.
Sadly, there is little emotional attachment to the story of Human Revolution. This is down to the fact that most of the characters you meet aren’t fleshed out in the game. You don’t form any emotional attachment to those around you nor do you feel any attachment to Jensen’s personal issues. The latter is mostly due to how these issues aren’t really touched upon and aren’t resolved properly. Even the bosses that you fight may as well have been nameless enemies as you gain no background or insight into their character. The only exception to all of this, and hence the only character you may bond with, is your pilot Faridah Malik. Your interactions with her are probably some of the best in the game, even though it’s never really a main story point.
The story does highlight what is probably the best aspect of Human Revolution though, and that is the character interactions or conversation mechanics. Stoic animations aside, almost all of the characters convey their emotions through their voices well and express themselves fluidly. This is most obvious with Jensen himself. Whilst his voice is more controlled than the rest of the cast, you can always make out the slight tinge of anger, frustration or sympathy that he conveys in his speech. This is both due to the dialogue and voice acting. The fluidity of the dialogue is probably the best of any RPG game. Jensen never says something you didn’t intend him to, and always makes his points clear and concise. A lot of RPGs fail to be fluid, especially when multiple choices are presented. This is further enhanced by the social enhancer augmentation called C.A.S.I.E.. This again is one of the better persuasion skills in an RPG, since it requires attention to the conversation and doesn’t automatically help you out (ie you can fail to persuade).
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that mixes up various gaming genres well, but never does any particular one great. The gameplay and story are above average, but never excellent. The visuals are a mixture of good artistic style with average technical graphics. The music and sounds aren’t wholly memorable but, never detract from the experience. Its most excellent feature is the conversation mechanics and thankfully you get to experience that a lot throughout the game. Replay value is also unquestionable. Of note, the PC version does provide a better experience. Overall, it is a great game that gaming enthusiast should be able to enjoy.
Score: PC – 8.5/10 ; PS3/Xbox360 – 8/10