Was Deus Ex: Human Revolution (HR) worth the wait? Yes, one hundred times yes.
Even though I’m a Deus Ex fanboy, even after I turned off that part of my brain and saw Deus Ex: Human Revolution as just a game – not the long-awaited sequel to my favourite game of all time – it still deserves this really, really high score.
This game is brilliant. It’s 20 hours of well-scripted, intense play, shot through with plenty of open-world gameplay, little nods to the fanbase and a wonderful re-playbility that made me want to restart the game as soon as I finished it.
It’s everything a sequel to Deus Ex should be.
Let’s start with the story: set in 2027, 25 years before the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution charts the globetrotting adventures of Adam Jenson, a security chief for a major corporation. It is a world filled with chaos and corruption as humanity stands on the fulcrum of evolution, and it’s all thanks to one thing – augmentation.
By replacing parts of your body, through injury or choice, a new genus of humans are emerging – augmented men and women who can jump higher, see further (and sometimes produce a chaingun from their arm).
With the world in a state of flux, and corporations and individuals alike seeking to exploit the brewing chaos, the player finds himself unceremoniously shoved into the midst of the action, chasing down leads from Canada to China to America, hunting in the shadows for the group who (early on) take away everything that matters to you in one fell swoop.
Finding himself augmented by fate, instead of choice, Adam has to hunt through the dark spaces of the world to discover the truth behind the chaos – and it’s up to the player as to how you do it.
While Adam has a whole suite of augmentations built into his cyborg body, the early game finds the player facing a wide choice as to how you customise the unlucky agent.
Of course, if cornered, the weapon upgrade system would allow me to turn a revolver into an armour-piercing, explosive handcannon of death – provided I’d found or bought the weapon add-ons.
This freedom is exactly what Deus Ex is all about, and it is plain to see that the developers’ focus on the core tenets of gameplay – social, combat, hacking and stealth – allow for any number of approaches to a given situation.
The environments the game takes you to – ranging from the dirty streets of Detroit to the sterile laboratories of big corporations – allow this freedom a focus that keep you playing, and rewards exploration. Hacking computers and doors, reading stolen emails and books, rifling through filing cabinets – it all turns up loot – as well as adding more and more insight into the world of HR, and the men and women behind the events of the game.
While the story, which is brilliantly written – and wonderfully morally grey – can be followed by someone out to just shoot things, reading the information lying around, watching the Picus newsfeed and listening to conversations helps to flesh out the experience, and makes it all the more intense at the finale.
While some Deus Ex purists were annoyed by HR’s addition of a cover system – similar to Gears of War – and a regenerative health system (which you will need… trust me), I found them to be a worthy addition to the game, making combat all the more fun, as you roll from cover to cover, blind-firing and ducking bullets.
Though the gunplay is pretty solid, the close combat is a little bit of a bugbear. Unlike the previous game, taking down an opponent is less about hitting them on the back of the neck with a club, and all about the animation.
Every time you take someone out close up – be it lethally, with the blades built into Adam’s arms, or non-lethally – the game plays an animation. Granted, these are cool, but the fact that this is the only way to take someone out hand-to-hand – and that it takes one of your batteries to do it – got on my wick somewhat, especially as only one of the batteries ever recharges all the way – the rest you need to top up with special energy bars, which are often few and far between.
While this forces you to play conservatively, using your head rather than your fists, it does annoy you somewhat – especially given how eagle-eyed and clever the bad guys are this time around.
Aside from this minor bugbear, the game’s presentation is excellent. Set in a post-modern, renaissance world of big coats and long dresses, the game is shot in a film-noir style, but with a yellow/orange tint to the environments, giving everything a slightly washed-out hue.
While not as sharp as some of the new-release games out there, HR more than manages to present its world in clear, exciting designs.
The score is also excellent, mixing orchestral strings with techno beats perfectly, and underscores the dramatic moments with the kind of music that sticks in your mind for days afterwards.
In a word, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is excellent, and I mean really excellent. Despite the couple of minor bugbears that niggled me somewhat, I found this long-awaited prequel to be a fantastic return to the tortured world of Deus Ex’s murky shenanigans, as well as a damn good game in its own right. From the start, the game immerses you in the gritty action and endless grey morals of a world on the fulcrum of change, and tasks the player with figuring out what’s right, and what’s wrong. In the words of Adam Jensen: “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
Excellent plot, 20+ hours of play
Brilliantly realised moral and multiple-choice career path
Plenty to see and do, loads of side missions
Not so good stuff:
Animations for close combat get old
Long load times