Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the prequel to the highly acclaimed game Deus Ex, which was released in 2000. The events in Human Revolution (abbreviated as DX:HR) take place in 2027–25 years before the events in Deus Ex. These events follow Adam Jensen, a security chief for one of the game’s most powerful corporations: Sarif Industries. This is a world in which corporations have overshadowed world governments. As such, they have become targets for less savory individuals desiring simple destruction, or power and control. After a devastating attack on Sarif Industries, Adam Jensen is forced to undergo life-saving surgery and is infused with mechanical augmentations–a highly advanced and experimental form of biotechnology capable of granting individuals amazing strength and abilities beyond those of mortal men. Following the aftermath of the attack, Adam Jensen takes up the search for those responsible.
The game’s development started in 2007 and was developed by Eidos Montreal. DX:HR is the first game to be released from the Eidos Montreal game development studio. Since primary development for the game would be for the console and since the developers didn’t want the game just to be just another lackluster console port for the PC, they gave the PC edition special attention by partnering with Nixxes Software to develop the PC edition of DX:HR in the final year of the game’s development. The game’s engine was based on the Crystal game engine used built by Crystal Dynamics, which was originally used in a 2006 release of Tomb Raider. It was modified and updated for use in DX:HR. DX:HR was published by Square Enix.
DX:HR is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PCs, and coming Winter 2011, on OS X.
There are a few things to take into account before getting into the core of the review:
- It’s hard for a self-respecting gamer to say this, but I never played the original game. Since this is a prequel to the original Deus Ex, playing the original is technically not required. However, some easter eggs, gags, and references which lead up to Deus Ex will then be entirely missed.
- There is a point in the game where you can choose a starting gameplay style: lethal or non-lethal with short-range or long-range weaponry. I chose non-lethal and long-range. This choice only affects the weapon you start with.
- Medium difficulty. I expect most gamers who have played other shooters or RPG action games would select this level of difficulty.
- This is the PC edition of the game. There are differences between the console edition and PC edition, but they are largely cosmetic in nature and don’t affect content or gameplay.
The Good Things
- Multiple styles of gameplay were possible. If you wanted to be Rambo, you could do that. If you wanted to be stealthy, you could do that too. If you wanted knock everyone out instead of killing them, you could also take that approach (though it was certainly more challenging, considering that non-lethal ammo was very scarce). If you wanted to explore every corner of the environment, you could, and if you didn’t, gameplay didn’t suffer too much (although you would’ve missed out on some hidden goodies). Lastly, you weren’t forced to play to any one style. You could be stealthy in one area and go in with guns blazing in the next. It was very fluid. Certain areas of the game made it more challenging to take one approach over another, but never impossible. There was always more than one avenue for success.
- Hidden goodies were everywhere (weapons, ammo, miscellaneous items).
- The detail. There was a lot of detail. Plot detail. Level detail. Character detail. Technical details. The world of Deus Ex was also chock full of gags and easter eggs if you paid attention and looked hard enough–from big signs down to little post-it notes. For instance, similar to email accounts in the real world, even email accounts in Deus Ex were hit by Nigerian spam.
- In terms of style, everything fits. Everything follows a consistent theme. Because of this, cities look and feel like cities. Offices look and feel like offices. Props which can be used for cover blend right in to the surrounding environment like they are supposed to be there. Very little blatantly stands out and interrupts the game or its environment.
- Good weapon variety beyond the standard pistols, machine guns, and shotgun.
- Long play time. Instead of the typical 6-10 hour game length, expect 25-30 hours easily, especially if you follow through on all the side missions and explore a little bit. Double that if you decide to play through the game for a second time.
- Regenerating health. While it was a little annoying to have to wait for heath to regenerate, it was a good tradeoff between that and having to interrupt the game to backtrack and scrounge for health packs.
- While combat mode was in first-person, the cover system switched to third-person fairly seamlessly with a minimal number of glitches. The third-person view offers the a wider field of view, minimizes the issue of wacky camera motions which usually comes with using a third-person view, and allows you to aim a weapon or wildly shoot over your shoulder from cover.
- The hacking puzzle mini-games didn’t detract from the overall game, unlike the pipe mania puzzles found in the Bioshock game series. DX:HR’s hacking puzzles tended to vary more and offer rewards for taking risks. Hacking also didn’t halt the environment around you, so on occasion, you could be attacked while attempting to hack a door or safe.
- Some decisions or actions you take in some of the missions had consequences or rewards later into the game, depending on how you completed them.
- If you defeat enemies using non-lethal methods, you gain more experience points than by using lethal methods (since employing non-lethal methods are typically more challenging).
- When enemies are defeated, you have to move the body out of the line of sight of cameras or other enemies. Otherwise, they may see the body and trigger an alarm. If an enemy is only unconscious, his cohorts will then help revive him. This is an interesting game mechanic which adds a bit more depth and challenge to the game.
- Certain upgrades (or augmentations) can affect your style of gameplay and grant access to hidden rooms, passages, and treasures that would otherwise be inaccessible without the upgrade(s). Since not everything can be fully upgraded, careful consideration of what to upgrade and how it fits into your gameplay style must be made.
- The sound effects and music were seamless.
- Certain cutting edge graphics features were present, such as tessellation, HDR, Depth-of-Field, and multi-monitor support.
The Bad Things
- Load times weren’t great. There was enough time to get up, use the bathroom, get a drink, fix a snack, come back and sit down and still wait a few moments for the game to load (I exaggerate slightly. But not much). After a level would load and finally allow you to interact with the environment, the first 5 seconds stuttered horribly as if the level didn’t actually yet finish loading. However, from the looks of it, a recent update may have addressed these issues.
- The game still has some annoying bugs in it:
- When a mission requires you to read something, it doesn’t always register as being completed after reading it.
- In rare instances, your weapons would stop responding to the firing button/key and wouldn’t fire again until you reloaded a save point.
- A few exit points in levels are indicated as the next destination in missions, however, the navigation compass points to exits which are actually inaccessible. The mission descriptions do not indicate that you need to exit the current level and to go to a different one. This led to a lot of wasted time backtracking and looking for hidden pathways. An alternate exit must be located instead.
- While more amusing than annoying, the bodies of defeated enemies occasionally got stuck in walls or shoved down through floors when trampled by other living enemies. These displaced bodies continued to jerk around and make noise.
- Exits/doors to other levels weren’t clearly labeled as a level exit, which would trigger the loading screen. It may have been better to have these special doors indicated in a different highlighted color or pattern, rather than just by the tiny label that appears after a second or two.
- The inventory system was limiting, considering weapons took up so much space and grenades each used up one slot/block, rather than being grouped together like other items. It wasn’t clear which items or how many of them could to be grouped in a single slot/block, since they tended to vary between different types of items.
- Ammo was rare and tended to be used up fast, especially when facing armored enemies with heavy rifles. Available ammo wasn’t consistent for weapon types, so you needed to keep multiple weapons in the inventory. Dropping weapons would also mean losing their upgrades, so you would have to hang on to them, as upgrades were somewhat rare. Then, of course, the size of the inventory was limiting, as mentioned before. But, this is probably just what happens when combining RPG game elements into a FPS game; it leads to granular inventory management. If there was a single area that hindered the game the most it was inventory management and limited ammo.
- There was no quicksave/quickload hotkey. To save/load a point in the game, the menu system needed to be used. This became tedious, especially if you like to quicksave before entering new areas or before facing new enemies.
- Some cutscenes were pre-rendered, while others used in-game mechanics and graphics. The pre-rendered cutscenes didn’t seem to offer any graphics better than what was already present in-game. The pre-rendered cutscenes tended to interrupt the flow of the game, especially since they eliminated some potential action from gameplay. They were highly compressed and pixilated, so there was a significant and jarring visual difference between the game and the cutscene.
- The graphics engine of the game did not look modern when compared to other games released this year or in years prior. DX:HR used low resolution textures with high resolution rendering, which led to an odd visual combination. Games released prior to DX:HR seemed to offer a higher degree of polish and immersive realism, such as Crysis, Left4Dead, Doom3, Unreal Tournament 3, and Dead Space. But to be fair–most of these blockbuster games had more recent game engines to build upon, had larger budgets, and had a development studio with more than one game release under their belt.
- The skyboxes meant to display sprawling vistas were just flat, pixelated images. It was surprising to see such a primitive skybox technique in use when compared to the other cutting edge technologies present in the game.
- Most of the characters look like they were built from a collection of shapes, rather than offer the illusion of representing an individual (a fault of the dated graphics engine the game was based upon, most likely). Facial expressions appeared to be fairly limited beyond the basic phoneme animations.
- There is little feedback based on your gameplay style. If you choose a non-lethal path and eliminate enemies without shedding blood, there is no comment made about it. If you choose a lethal gameplay style, and start taking out enemies, hostages, and civilians, there are no consequences. Civilians will typically duck and raise their hands if you start a firefight in public, but that is about the extent of the reaction in the wake of the horrors in a path of destruction.
- There aren’t enough ways to approach boss fights. The only techniques which seem to work are to run, hide, and attack. And if you could stun with either grenades or the stun gun, that would help a bit. The bottom line is that you had to be carrying a small arsenal and use up a lot of ammo in order to defeat any of the bosses. A game should lead up to a boss fight so a player can apply all that they have learned in order to defeat a boss. This was not the case here. Any of the other playstyles which were learned earlier in the game were completely ineffective. Lastly, a non-lethal approach was impossible in boss fights, as game itself does not allow this approach with bosses.
- While there isn’t much of a story, there is certainly a lot in terms of plot which propels the game forward. Plot is just the progression of events. Story uses plot to express an idea, or show change in an idea or character. The protagonist in this game doesn’t change or evolve as a character–he just delivers his lines in the same deadpan manner throughout the entire game. The idea that augmentation is bad doesn’t change throughout the game (or maybe that’s the point?). The plot (or “series of assorted accidents”) fails to build upon anything. After a while, tension falls flat because of the predictable succession of encountering quest after quest. The plot is just a linear progression of overcomplicated events which overwhelm and suffocate what little there is of a story.
- (Spoiler!) Final battle of the game seemed really out of place and didn’t fit into the narrative being told up to that point. It seemed rushed, didn’t flow well, and was much less challenging than the boss fights offered earlier in the game. However, it did allow for slightly more flexibility with different gameplay styles.
- (Spoiler!) The final point before the ending cutscene essentially allowed you to choose how the game ended, rather than lead to an ending based on your decisions and actions made throughout the course of the game.
- If you want to play DX: HR again, you will have to start from scratch. Comparatively, the game “Borderlands” allowed a second playthrough, which increased the difficulty and allowed the player to keep all their weapons and upgrades.
- Approaching the end of the game, characters tended to be very vocal about their views about augmentation, or rather, views that would reflect the real-world fields of genetic engineering, bioengineering, and biotechnology. In the game, these technological advancements were primarily portrayed in a very negative light and that it was spiraling out of control. These views seemed very pushy, especially for being inside a video game.
The Last Word
Overall, DX:HR is a fun, engaging, and entertaining game which almost begs you to play it a second time. This is one of the few games that has made me quickly consider another playthrough. Most of the good things about this game are very good. Many of the bad things could be considered nitpicky criticisms. Yes, DX:HR has flaws, but it’s extremely rare for a game not to. None of the flaws are show-stoppers and don’t detract from enjoying the gaming experience as a whole.
If you do play it a second time, take a look at some walkthroughs and hint guides so you don’t miss a thing. A good, concise guide can be found over at IGN and a more in-depth wiki guide can be found on wikia.
A DLC is planned for release in October, but pricing has yet to be announced. This DLC will continue the adventures of Adam Jensen from a point within the story of DX:HR.