Reviewing a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution is tricky. How exactly do you review a game in which your experience can differ wildly from that of other people? Is it even possible to give a definitive answer on how you felt about the game when even somebody playing in the same room might make completely different decisions, and react entirely in their own way to those? Of course, I’m just being facetious but what’s obvious from the outset of the long awaited three-quel to one of the most loved PC games of all time is that it’s a game that’s not purely about the choice of your actions, but dealing with the consequences.
Let’s start with the mechanical – You’re Adam Jensen, head of security at Augmentation firm Sarif Industries, who finds himself forcibly augmented with robotic enhancements after an attack on his workplace which acts as your tutorial to basic movement and combat. Soon enough, Adam is pulled into a complex web of intrigue, conspiracy and shady deals. The main game itself opens with a tense hostage situation in a warehouse, which immediately showcases some of the many options available to you throughout the majority of missions throughout the game. If you want to blast your way through, shooting through enemies and leaving a trail of destruction, you can do that. If you’d rather stealth your way through, avoiding as many guards as you can and killing absolutely no-one, you can do that. And then of course you can go for the path that lies in between, say hiding until you’re spotted and then going lethal, or using stealth but lethally executing your enemies. All these options are open and available to you from the get go.
Your choices are helped by the augmentations found in the game. Various activities grant you XP points, which allow you to level up and in turn gain Piraxis points which can be spent on various Augs from letting you turn invisible, the ability to run faster, better hacking capabilities, turning turrets and robots to your side – and all of these options are available to you whenever you level up. If you suddenly decide you want better armour for the next mission you can go right ahead and start putting your next Piraxis points into the more physically orientated augmentations, it’s completely up to you.
THERE IS A FLAW IN THE GAME, HOWEVER, IN THE REGULAR APPEARANCE OF THE BOSS ENCOUNTERS. GRANTED THEY DON’T HAPPEN FREQUENTLY BUT WHEN THEY DO THEY SEEM OUT OF PLACE, AND COMPLETELY AT ODDS TO WHAT YOU’VE DONE SO FAR.
But wherever you decide to place your augmentations, it’s clear that it is not a game about choice – plenty of games have offered that before and surely will in the future. No, Deus Ex Human Revolution is a game of consequences. You can make all the choices you want but where it shines is in making you deal with the repercussions of those choices – and it’s not just a binary outcome either. Fine, you may choose to talk your way into a specific location or building you need to access, but later on you might encounter that character again, your choice having effected him in some way – and you have to deal with those consequences. You may alternatively have chosen to sneak in and avoid the front desk altogether – then you have to deal with the consequences of being an unauthorised presence within the building and must avoid detection from both staff and the security measures in place within said building. As a result choices have gravitas – and it may not always be entirely obvious as to what the consequences are.
The game world, though smaller than the original Deus Ex – which was an achievement for itself at the time – has really been put together with this player choice in mind, with so many different possible points of entry to each objective. Admittedly, most of them can be boiled down to hack a door or a crawl through a vent, but they never seem arbitrarily placed just to give the option for the sake of it, and there’s a genuine sense of smugness for you when you find one, almost as if you feel like you’ve outsmarted the developers themselves. Of course, looking too closely does point out some flaws in the AI – such as them occasionally not being able to see you despite being a hair’s breath away because you’re crouched behind some very close cover, but these moments are rare enough not to tar the experience as a whole.
THE REAL TRAGEDY WITH THESE BOSS BATTLES IS THAT THEY RENDER YOUR PREVIOUS CHOICES MOOT. YOU MAY HAVE BEEN BUILDING A STEALTH ORIENTATED, NON LETHAL CHARACTER, AND THEN YOU’RE LOCKED IN A SMALL ARENA WITH THESE BOSSES AND FORCED TO BATTLE THEM. IT’S A SMALL MARK ON AN OTHERWISE FANTASTIC GAME BUT IT REALLY FEELS LIKE AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT, MORE ‘STANDARD’ FPS TYPE GAME FUDGED INTO THE MIDDLE OF AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GAME.
The main thing that Human Revolution gets right in terms of being a worthy holder of the Deus Ex name is it’s ability to be a melting point for player-led stories, watercooler moments that never quite play out the same way twice. As you probably saw on this very site we’ve already got our own stories about our experiences with the game, and there’s plenty of little incidental touches that are easy to miss that facilitate these moments.
My own moment came from the time I was snooping around the offices of Sarif Industries for the third time in the game – as the head of security I had been receiving e-mails from members of staff complaining about an ‘Office Thief’ who was breaking into the offices and stealing their property, and a colleague had entrusted me with their door code in order to investigate. Of course, the thief was in fact me, and armed with this latest code I walked in to see what I could grab. There wasn’t a lot around so I decided to have a look at their computer – the only problem was, it was locked. So of course, I wanted to decide whether to hack it or not and I did take about fifteen minutes agonising over whether to do so or not, and whether to spend the Piraxis point I had in upgrading my hacking skill to do so.In the end, I decided against it, but as I closed down the computer and started to walk back out of the office, I noticed a post-it stuck to the side of the monitor. Which said “PASSWORD:” and the password. My palm slapped my forehead in the same instant – I’d been so caught up in relying on my Augs up to this point in the game I completely neglected to consider human error. It was a fantastic touch that I nearly all too easily missed.
From start to finish, Deus Ex Human Revolution is a fantastic game. Yes, there are some minor AI issues. Yes, it’s not quite as big as the original and yes the boss battles are a particular sticking point. But Human Revolution is definitely a game that everybody needs to play once – your own experiences define it and it’s a game that’s as big on its consequences – if not more so – than its choices.
Verdict: Red Mist
Platforms available: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Version reviewed: PC
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