Friday, August 26, 2011

Deus Ex : Human Revolution Review

The Deus Ex games are first-person shooter RPGs that let you approach your objectives in a way that suits you: direct violence if you enjoy it, stealth if you don’t, and throwing heavy objects around if you like getting caught, beaten and shot. Despite a sequel in 2003, the first is still considered by me, this magazine, and a lot of our readers as the best game ever made. Like its predecessor, a large part of Deus Ex:Human Revolution’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. 

The main thing Human Revolution gets right is giving you options: every mission gives you a labyrinth of ways to get to your objective. The man-sized air vent is a cliché, but honestly, it never stops being satisfying to bypass a locked door or a group of enemies.
The pleasure of that freedom is that it leaves major elements like pacing, challenge and variety up to the player. If stealth gets too hard, you can find an easier route. If you’re bored of vents, you can open fire. And if your ears are still ringing from the last gunfight, you can slip through the next area quietly.

And these are just the routes the developers have planned. The soul of Deus Ex is in its systems: simple sets of rules with no scripting, no exceptions, and no accounting for what the player might do with them. If you can pick up a box and stack it to reach an alternate route on the first level, you can stack every similar box in the game and reach anywhere physically possible.
Human Revolution has that exact system – though the more cluttered levels mean it takes a while to learn which objects you can move. It makes up for that by interlocking it with other systems in entertaining ways: the slick, surprisingly natural third-person cover system lets you hide behind any vertical surface, including the ones you’ve placed there yourself. The AI in friendly areas now has a flimsy concept of suspicious behaviour, and you can build a hilariously conspicuous cardboard-box secrecy fort around a security terminal to hide your criminal hack. Even turrets are now physical objects that can be picked up, moved and thrown.
Deus Ex:Human Revolution 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 Deus Ex:Human Revolution 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.

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