Deus Ex: Human Revolution has captured the imagination of a few of us here at The Reticule, whenever I boot up Steam I always see a handful of us madly playing away. So, I called the troops together to share some of our thoughts on the game. Beware of minor plot and mechanical spoilers.
I have been utterly blown away by what I have seen in Deus Ex so far, Steam is saying I have played 15 hours, if that is right, then it has taken me that long just to complete Detroit, the first city. I can’t think of any other game from the past couple of years which has hooked me quite so much. I didn’t want to leave Detroit, but after running out of computers to hack, I moved on to the intricately designed Heng-Sha.
I’m not going to go so far as to say it is the best game I have ever played, but it is certainly going to be a Game of the Year contender. I do have some issues with it, which if I don’t get off my chest right now, I will probably end up ranting about at length at a later date. First is the bosses, I have only fought the first, but I can already tell that they really don’t fit in with the way the game plays. A pitched one-on-one battle against a foe with a hell of lot of health. I wasn’t expecting this to turn into Painkiller. The word that best sums up the inclusion of the bosses, jarring.
Another problem is the city hub, it is just a bit dead outside of the people giving you missions. In a world of games like Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto, the lack of background action is disconcerting. Give me people milling around talking about random crap. Like the bosses though, it doesn’t ruin the game, but it irks me somewhat.
There are two moments which have really made Human Revolution stand out for me, and it is telling that they are the small things which have really made me sit back and go wow. While I was wandering around the Sarif building I stumbled into the ladies toilets, I didn’t think anything of it until a bit later I was talking to tech guru and general jackass Pritchard. After a few digs about causing the hostages to die in the first mission he blames their death on my exploration of the ladies toilets. For a character to bring up such a trivial detail was really quite impressive.
The other moment lay behind a locked door in one of the apartment complexes. It required a level 5 hack, so I was only able to get in there towards the end of my time in Detroit. I wasn’t expecting much when I opened the door, but I walked in to find an apartment which had been turned into a mini-surgery for black market, shady augmentation operations. I was utterly astounded to see the operating table and assorted gizmos hiding behind a door in one of the run-down apartment complexes that dominate the Detroit landscape. I actually said ‘holy fuck’ in a seriously shocked manner when I saw that apartment.
Like half the planet I’d been anticipating this. I wanted to do a non-lethal, stealth-driven playthrough… which worked out great come the day of release, but the narrative kept throwing situations at me where that seemed less and less defensible. That is, even though creeping around unseen remained a viable option, the situation had escalated to the point that I felt like killing things. Shit got real! And eventually tranquilisers and stun darts gave way to brain-popping armour-piercing headshots. Jensen was just that pissed off.
Definitely something I appreciated. Sure the boss fights are jarring and sometimes you do some very silly things in cutscenes… but for the most part it’s quintessential Deus Ex. I got lost in the story. And sometimes in Detroit, but that’s because I can’t read maps properly.
It may not be perfect (and there’s an empty disclaimer if ever I’ve seen one) but it’s already established itself as a firm favourite of mine. For better or worse it reminds me of Bloodlines in some respects— the way the city hubs are laid out, the way NPCs are positioned, the way some characters have comedy accents. But most of all it reminds me of the very first Deus Ex game, and I mean that as high praise indeed.
Infiltrating an office (cartographical incompetence notwithstanding), I stumbled upon an armed guard. As you do. I punched him out, ruining a computer monitor in the process, but my desecration of corporate property hadn’t gone unnoticed. One of his buddies sounded the alarm and before I know it I could hear the trundling of a security bot.
I rounded the corner and tranq’d the offending guard, only to see said robot coming down the corridor. I darted back inside the office before its gun could spin up and examined my options, such as they were. Persuading it that the unconscious guards were having a lie down of their own accord seemed unlikely; killer robots are great judges of character, it would know I was lying.
I ran to the adjacent cubicle, hoping to find a vent to hide in or sufficient ammunition to finish the damn thing off. Instead I found a security computer— a sign! All of twenty minutes ago I’d purchased an augmentation that would allow me to hijack robots.
Except that just this once I’d decided to be terrible at hacking. I’d had no problems before now but I felt the robot’s cold breath at the back of my neck and knew I was in trouble. Not that they breathe, but that was the thing; this variety of robot wasn’t talkative, and didn’t feel the need to constantly announce its presence like humans were wont to do. I was panicking, I was inefficient. I wasted depletable software as the robot’s motors grew louder and the computer’s trace program grew closer. It had me cornered. It didn’t even have the decency to brag about it, because it was a goddamned robot.
I gained access to the security hub with 2.1 seconds left on the alarm timer. I hurriedly navigated to the right screen and flipped the robot’s allegiance; closing the security interface and turning around to find that the tank-tracked sentry was quite literally right behind me, to the point that it had jostled a swivel chair in its eagerness to get up close. It looked at me for a bit and then drove away, confident that I was one of the good guys.
There was no one left for it to fight but I felt mighty smug ransacking the rest of that office, rifling through drawers while my mechanical buddy endlessly patrolled the perimeter.
But on the next playthrough? We’ll be mortal enemies. I think I’ll blow it up, or throw a vending machine at it.
Hands down, the best thing about Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the Social Enhancing augmentation. Much of the game allows you to feel unstoppable, particularly when you start ramping up the augmentations, but nothing made me feel more powerful than reading people in conversations and guiding the outcome to my advantage. As I decided to play the game in the most passive way, I wanted to use speech and hacking more than violence.
One early mission sees you needing to get into the police station, a daunting task it must be said. But not when playing as a silver tongued devil. There I am, stood at the desk and reading the Alpha, Beta and Omega and hitting the correct responses. The subject is sweating and I’m as cool as a cucumber when he waves me through. The power of speech is a powerful weapon, indeed.
This style of play is what makes Human Revolution such a stand out title. In a world where many games rely heavily on action and shooting, this is a breath of fresh air. Of course if the mood takes you, you can play completely differently, but until Sam Fisher is back on form, Adam Jenson provides the best stealth gameplay around.
As a newcomer to the series, I was unsure of what to expect. Sure, the trailers looked impressive but I remained skeptical – surely at best this game would be some kind of Hitman/Mass Effect mashup? Wrong. After only a few hours it became clear to me that this was so much more. Deus Ex demands to be played seriously, it requires players to consider the story just as much as their approach to the action. I love the look and feel of the Blade Runner-esque world; it’s a detailed, carefully constructed universe that complements the gameplay brilliantly. Even the slightly rougher graphics of the Xbox 360 version [You have failed us – Editor] I’m playing can’t detract from the deep atmosphere (Heng-Sha is amazing, and I can’t wait to see what Eidos have done with Montreal!)
So far, the characters I have come into contact with have not managed to capture my imagination in quite the same way, but there is much still to be played and after such a great start I am eager to continue!
Human Revolution is a class act, and Eidos Interactive clearly know it. They’ve been talking the talk for a while now, but even something as small as naming the game’s easy setting ‘Tell me a Story’ just fills you with confidence. Mind you, until you’re in the Detroit hub, it feels a little touch and go. The game just about eases you in, but the third person cover-switching takes some getting used to (whilst being a completely satisfactory answer to questions that FPS stealth games should have been asking a long time ago). Jensen rolls between cover in a brilliant, hyper drammatic way only rivalled by the cartwheeling antics of Raiden in MGS2. They definitely have common inspirations.
Shame all the animation time went into Jensen and the not especially welcome FMVs (I guess Square-Enix has to do something with all that Final Fantasy CGI R&D). The idling animations are really off-putting, shared between completely different personalities, or in the case of women, Wendolene from Wallace & Gromit. But the world they inhabit hits the Deus Ex notes perfectly. Those city hubs are beautiful, the mundanity of apartments and factories and alleyways precisely what made Deus Ex feel so special all those years ago.
The weapons are precisely what weapons in Deus Ex have never been. I’m enjoying the Augmented Edition’s double barreled shotgun, but I’d been itching to get a hold of the revolver for a fair few hours. It goes off just as satisfyingly as the one in Half-Life 2, which is saying something. Having an old fashioned gun just feels like a kind of badass counterpoint to the bizarre tech pasted all over the game (Ok, so not to read something into every little thing, but Ghost in the Shell is an influence, and the exact same thing turns up as a character motif in that).
Did I miss a melee button? It feels strange that I can’t break boxes without shotgunning them. Actually, that’s kind of a problem with the combat. The whole point of playing a melee character is surely to ‘get up close and personal’, yet in Human Revolution, no other attack takes you further from the action. Shotgun it is, then. Hold a few grenades back for those rubbish boss battles (the AI is so clunky, these feel like mercy killings rather than climatic struggles).
Not that anything this game can do gameplay wise can take me out of the moment. Story-wise, I’ve only just jetted off from Detroit (a genuinely inspired choice of setting, though it doesn’t remind me specifically of the landmarks I’ve seen in ever-biased documentaries). Excited to see how it develops from here, and the secondary thread, the whole augmentation debate is excuted well (and those augmentation slots are very exciting!) But then it follows up on the pantomime villainy of the same debate in Invisible War, so I guess that was always a given.
But hey, Deus Ex is back, for real this time. And that’s all that really matters.
Our Verdict will be coming soon via Ben, but before then, what do you all think about Human Revolution?