Ignorance allowed me to take on Deus Ex: Human Revolution without expectations. I tried playing the original Deus Ex last year after a $5 Steam sale, but I didn’t have the patience to make it pass the intro. So it looks like Eidos Montreal’s first crack at the Deus Ex franchise will also be my first. I don’t know how well it fared in the eyes of the die hard fan, but to me it was fantastic.
Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid, and Fallout 3 — the influences I see working underneath the cyberpunk aesthetic of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s not a complete transplant of ideas, but it’s enough to make the game seem eerily familiar at times.
Inspired by the origins of Robocop, I played as “almost” dead man walking Adam Jenson. Working as head of security of Sarif Industries, a controversial biotechnology company. All throughout this fictitious 2027 Earth, the question of whether or not we should be in control of human evolution was consistently raised.
Unlike within Metal Gear Solid, nano-machines have yet to shape the world and humans. Instead, robotic arms and electronic implants were commonplace. It was easy to spot an augmented person. Despite sounding like a convincing human, there was a robotic quality to Adam Jenson’s animation — especially during conversations. I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but I’d like to think so. It’s more fitting than whatever the random NPCs were doing; their nonsensical gesturing was distracting.
The interaction between the player and the guards, on other hand, was exact opposite of nonsensical; it was regimented. The guards were just a handful of IQ points smarter than those found in Metal Gear Solid. Using one body to lure and dispatch an entire building’s worth of guards was not a problem whatsoever. It was so easy, it felt cheap, but I didn’t mind it. With patience and no desire to look like a bad ass, I could have gone through the entire game undetected and I was fine with that.
Instead of giving us the option to settle all disputes through the use of words or guns, Eidos Montreal segregated the boss fights. The psychopaths were a guns blazing affair while influential folks require a more diplomatic approach.
Some of the gun totting bosses reminded me of Metal Gear Solid’s. They weren’t as outlandish as Kojima’s creations, but they had their own defining style and characteristics. If only they weren’t just simple brutes who only yielded to the might of a bullet. All it took was an exploitation of their simple patterns. I didn’t need combat centric augmentations to achieve that.
I confronted silver tongued big wigs and politicians using a cross version of the Mass Effect conversation wheel. I sorted through the lies and pressed my opponents for the information I needed. With help from a “social augment”, I was able to see what kind of personality I was going up against and how swayed they were by Adam’s words. If things don’t go my way, I was able to release pheromones in an effort to change that.
I read that defining my own approach to objectives and molding Adam Jensen to fit my style of play is a hallmark of the franchise. I didn’t find Deus Ex: Human Revolution achieved that in a broad context. It was a stealth action game in the same way Metal Gear Solid was. Using lethal force was possible, but it wasn’t easy no matter how many Praxis (ability) points I invested into combat. There just wasn’t enough ammunition readily available to satisfy an assault through the front door. All I could muster was the lethal spy approach where I dished out carefully placed headshots with my silenced pistol.
I quickly realized that there was a preferred method of leveling up. Instead of bettering Adam in the areas of combat and stealth, I decided to improve his hacking, social and any other abilities that enabled him to access as many places as possible. I hacked a lot of terminals, stole a ton of credits and busted down many walls in an effort to uncover the truth.
I’ve rummaged through office drawers looking for passwords and passcodes before. I’ve also read my share of incriminating e-mails that not only entertain, but also expand on the fiction of this augmented future. However, unlike Fallout 3, I felt the short stories told through these e-mails were more pertinent to the world and overarching narrative.
I absolutely adored the soundtrack in this game. The opening track that leads to the main menu gets me in the mood for some Deus Ex ever single time I hear it. On the visuals front, the gold filter wasn’t a key ingredient to the atmosphere, but it does help distinguish it.
Adam didn’t visit a large number of areas, but each area was significant with many buildings to explore. My favorite “town” was Hengsha with its physical upper and lower class divide that was reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar. I also appreciated the fact that the citizens spoke Mandarin to one another and not simply English with a Chinese accent. It was also in Hengsha where I was able to spread my wings and utilize the different augments more frequently.
I was able to run this game at 1600 x 900 at close to 60 FPS. It’s not the most graphically taxing game out there thanks in part to the clean sterilized look of the world. There were research labs and factories, but even the sewers and back alleys were unusually clean.
But as stylish as things appear from afar, there were detailed oriented issues. The social augment interface, for example, got in the way of most conversations. It’s supposed to help analyze a conversation, not overwhelm it. I also found the disparity between the different NPCs distracting. Adam Jensen was fine, while others looked like they came Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2.
However, those issues were nitpicks when bugs interfere with side quest objectives. I couldn’t finish one of the first side quests because the NPC I needed to eliminate was trapped in a room that I couldn’t access. Not only did this waste one of the already limited number of side quests in the game, but it also caused me to doubt myself any time I had trouble with a quest.
I enjoyed my time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution so much that I wanted to go back in and start up another playthrough after the credits rolled. I wanted to play it again despite how they handled the ending, the annoying bugs (which they fixed after I finished the game) and the familiarity of the game. I wanted to replay the game because I enjoyed the journey. Eidos Montreal proved that not every game needs to be revolutionary to be great, but it does need to be built on solid ideas.
For more information on Deus Ex: Human Revolution, visit the official website.