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Jeremy Jastrzab
04 Sep, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

360 Review | Viva la Revolution.
With sequels and remakes being all the rage, it’s almost as surprising to see a franchise revival, as it is to see a new IP. Mind you, franchise revivals can be quite tricky, as trying to balance modernity, new ideas and the vision of old can be mighty tricky. Just take a look at what Bioshock was to System Shock. While a soulless sequel almost put the nail into the coffin of one of the most revered first-person experiences for the last decade, Deus Ex has been revived. Deus Ex: Human Revolution not only successfully revives the spirit of the original title, but brings it into the modern world with a style of play that separates it from most titles out there – be they ‘linear’ or ‘open’.

Now the story itself isn’t where all the revolutions are happening. The setting of the world though, transcends this. Set in the year 2027 (twenty-five years before the original), humanity is at the cusp of harnessing technology ‘augmentations’ to assist people – starting with the disabled and war veterans. Eventually, things look to be leading towards "there’s an aug for that" path… In any case, it’s the ethical dilemmas and interpersonal tensions portrayed in the game world that are much more fascinating than anything offered in the story. The depth of this portrayal is a credit to the team as well.

The story itself is rather rudimentary – probably just better than a B-grade action flick - but made all the more worthwhile by the world that you’re playing in. You play as Adam Jensen, the Chief of Security at Sarif Industries; one of the front-runners in human augmentation technology. One fine day, while on the cusp of a breakthrough, Sarif headquarters is decimated by mercenaries, while Jensen is left for dead and his former lover is missing. He didn’t ask for it, but to save his life, he was implanted with the very augmentation technology that he was meant to protect. Now he job is to find out who was out to take them down, which will take him through futuristic Detroit, Hengsha, Montreal and a few others.

Adam Jensen, before the Revolution.

Adam Jensen, before the Revolution.
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As a game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a remarkably impressive application of the term ‘open’, while successfully managing to retain the spirit of the original title. Despite most of the game taking part in corridors and side streets, it’s remarkable how well the developers have managed to create a proper sense of openness. It’s not really sandbox open. No, rather it challenges the player with the consideration of consequence. Instead of holding the player’s hand and leading them down a particular path, while feigning the possibility of taking other paths, the game really makes you think about the choices you make, as you’ll reach many a crossroad and often find that a choice you made earlier will allow you to take a path or force you to take another one.

It truly purveys a sense of openness, in that it’s a rare title that has either ‘path’ being (almost) equally rewarding and that it really allows you to stick with the path you picked. Something like Fable originally purported this, but the final product failed. The thing to remember though, once you start down one path, you’re best off continuing down it. With the developers having divided up to gameplay into four pillars (combat, stealth, hacking and exploration), it’s remarkable to see how they all intertwine to give you a real banquet of choice. The thing to remember with any banquet though, if you fill up on the roast duck, you’re not going to have room for the wagyu steak…

At a core level, you can pick between ‘combat’ and ‘stealth’. It could be argued that stealth is slightly more encouraged, as it’s the easiest to flip into, but in any case you’re still forced to be smart about things. Ammo is limited, and enemy cycles leave little room for error, so you’re still challenged to play well, regardless of your path. ‘Hacking’ and ‘exploration’ are fairly optional and affect the game in a wide variety of ways. At times they’ll make your life easier, while at others they’ll seem like a distraction. Either, nothing feels like it has to be done, but it caters to the style of the player. If you want to race through, you won’t feel like you’re missing much. While the more conscientious player will feel vindicated when they find the secret passage into the locked room where their hacking skills weren’t proficient enough.

You just HAD to trigger the alarm, did you?

You just HAD to trigger the alarm, did you?
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A big part of the open feeling in Human Revolution stems from the progression of your augmentation. And all the augmentation options stem from the aforementioned gameplay pillars. Upgrading them with ‘Praxis Points’ is an arduous task, meaning every time you earn one, players will often be forced into making tough choices as to which ability to upgrade next. Would you be better off by increasing your scope for hacking? Or do you expect that you’ll need the ability to lift heavier objects? Or should you upgrade your stealth capabilities? Or improve your aim? The choices are there, and yours to make. However, it’s a huge credit to the design team that your choices are never wrong. There is always a way with the path that you choose. You just have to be willing to find it. There is always some sort of secret entrance if the lock is too heavily guarded. Or you could try to bluff your way in…

Speaking of which, the augmentations and ‘social’ aspects of the game definitely lift Human Revolution into the realm of FPS and RPG mixy-mix. It just adds another string to the game’s impressive bow, as the facts you find will be used in a few NPC interactions. A successful interaction could mean the difference between getting in the front door and trawling through the sewer. These are quite underused, but very well implemented when done. Take note, your actions will often affect how you're viewed – be it correctly weeding out information from someone or how your boss reacts to your mission ‘success’. Furthermore, the game is uncanny in throwing around clues and pointers into how you can tackle situations – whether it's an errant email from a hacked machine, or overhearing a conversation as you pass by. For the completionists and those lost in the title’s immersion, there are a heap of side missions that will take you to various quarters and do a fantastic job of mixing up the variety in the gameplay.

In the end, you have a title that easily eclipses the twenty hour mark, with many more hours if you’re willing to put in the time, as well as subsequent play throughs to see how your different choices would have played out. Finally, the most heartening aspect of the game is how well it manages to meld the modern paradigms with the spirit of the old school. Mechanically, everything works just as it should, from the cover mechanics to getting around stealthily. And as mentioned above, the design is sublime, where it allows you to do just about everything you need to and the limitations only serve to further encourage you to think about how to move forward. This, along with the lack of hand holding and open nature rekindle the spirit of the original title. Oh, and to complete it, turn off the highlighting. It sucks.

Can't decide which one to take out? Do both!

Can't decide which one to take out? Do both!
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For all that’s good about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it’s unfortunately rough around the edges. And in some cases, quite rough. The biggest breaker to the immersion is the enemy A.I., which oscillates between inconsistent, too predictable and often nonsensical. Guards seem to have no issue with you creating piles of crates in front of them, or leaving doors open. This breaks the original feeling that you may have of needing to be thorough in your actions. The pacing of the game is off at times too, often tricking you into knowing just how much is left in a particular section or stringing one too many set pieces together. And in a lengthy game, it can make long play sessions weary. Boss battles feel really out of place, and while some allow you to get out of it without confrontation, it often feels like they could have been done better, or at least afforded more options. In all, it's a heap of small but clumsily implemented ideas that prevent the game from reaching absolute greatness.

While the PC players will be relieved to see the care put into the game’s visuals, the console players will have to settle for a game that is stylistically remarkable. The flavour afforded to the visuals paints a delightfully ambiguous and contemplative future, not too far from the iconic Blade Runner. It runs well enough, but the exceedingly long load times (slightly improved with an install) are a testament what’s been sacrificed. The soundtrack is very impressive, as it fits the tone of the game down to a tee. Aside from Adam Jensen and a few of the other main characters, the voicing does leave a little to be desired. Many come across as amateur and caricatured, either trivialising the setting or taking itself too seriously.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an experience completely unto itself, as it manages to successfully marry modern sensitivities and the spirit of the original. It’s the very best games that make you wonder, “Why hasn’t this been done more often?” Some players may need to tune their expectations properly, as it’s not the conventional sense of openness, while others will be put off by the rough edges (namely those known as ‘noobs’). Still, backed by impeccable design, endearing consequences, genuine choices, subtle ethical considerations in the background, striking style and a completely unique style of play, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is kind of game that anyone considering themselves a core gamer must owe it to themselves to check it out.
The Score
Outside of the rough edges, Deus Ex: Human Revolution manages to truly realise the concepts of openness, choice and consequence, while wrapping them in a unique, faithful and wholly excellent gameplay package. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Deus Ex: Human Revolution Content

8 Comments
2 years ago
It's certainly a great game, but some of the flaws really stand out. AI and boss battles are the biggest gripes but I'm starting to think the skill system is lacklustre too.

I think I'm around halfway through the game now and I've unlocked most of the interesting skills. I'm kind of wishing there was more depth to the skill tree. There's a handful of useful things and the rest are 'improve something by a small margin' skills. A few I'm not even sure why you would bother unlocking fully: fortify, mark and trace, sprint. There just seems to be little room to use these.

That's another thing, the environments all feel so small and closed in. You barely ever encounter more than 1 or 2 enemies at a time in an area, making them really easy to dispatch. That could just be part of the early game though... hopefully it ramps up soon for me.
2 years ago
I don't know, it's refreshing to play a game where you can avoid a lot of confrontation, instead of having a horde of enemies run at you in one hit while you gun them down with massive chainguns. That, or having set piece after set piece like COD has become. If anything, this is the way Splinter Cell should be.
2 years ago
Watching a vid of the gameplay, it reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid. Options for stealth, and multiple ways through a level, it's familiar. I'm rather torn as to whether it's worth buying or not. The fact that I can compare it to MGS is definitely a good thing, but I can't help but feel that it might come off as a weaker experience (like Alpha Protocol is to Mass Effect).
2 years ago
Everyone should play Human Revolution.
2 years ago
admeister wrote
he fact that I can compare it to MGS is definitely a good thing, but I can't help but feel that it might come off as a weaker experience (like Alpha Protocol is to Mass Effect).
Nope. Trust me, this game is superior to MGS in every way. What you should have said is 'watching a vid of the gameplay reminds me of the original Deus Ex'...
2 years ago
Jarrod wrote
Everyone should play Human Revolution.
Hell yeah. I had no interest in this until I watched one and only one vid and because everyone was talking about it.

I'm damn glad I bought it as it's a GOTY contender in my eyes.
2 years ago
Anyone who recognizes my name will know that i hate what square enix has done to established game series they have inherited from square and square soft. And i see no reason to stop viewing them that way.

BUT......

This game is awesome! There Jarrod i said it, i confirm that i 'marked your words'.

Now that said i give all credit to EIDOS Montreal for taking the style and atmosphere from the original and giving it the 'honor' it was due whilst bringing the visuals and mechanics an overhaul.

Like all the reviews out there, i had to get used to the yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow yellow and black visuals. And the fairly predictable tenchu style AI enemies. And graphics that looked at home say 5 or 6 years ago. In fact it almost looked like the 1st game with newer skins like a mod.

But it truly shines for all the completionists out there who love to look in every nook and cranny for an opportunity to get XP. I spent my entire playthrough taking out enemies getting the 'ghost' and 'smooth operator' a game style i adore (netting more xp that way too) and it was nice to hear the same vocals for Adam Jensen as well (at least it sounded like him)

So yes a great game and the only credit i give to SE is that at last they did their job as a publisher properly. See? was that so hard Squinix?
2 years ago
just finished playing, probably one of the greatest PC games ever, will enjoy finishing this multiple times. Like the skill tree, level design, all put together nicely, you don't have to worry about being stuck without a particular skill. Combat makes you play smart. Hope the DLC really brings alot of content such as new city hubs. Chame theres no new game plus though. that would be fun.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  28/2/2011 (PreLoaded)
Publisher:
  Namco Bandai Partners (Atari)
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2008

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