Deus Ex Human Revolution Review

A part of me feels more than a little awkward for bringing up a game that is 15 months old, the right amount of time for the game to be forgotten, and not necessarily looked back on by most.  However, part of the creation of this blog was to organize my thoughts on pretty much every game I currently own, something that I am bound to regret when I need to do some the lengthy RPGs I have lying around.  But I had the DLC for this, and due to an odd decision plan, it was either this or Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, a sixty hour game.  So, not even acknowledging the original Deus Ex, here’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, one of the more conflicting games I’ve played in recent memory.

Deus Ex Human Revolution Review
Release Date: 23/08/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC, Mac OSX
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix

Paraphrasing time-a-go-go!  Deus Ex Human Revolution is set in an alternate 2027, where individuals have developed robotic limbs, mental enhancements, and things not short of super powers, known as Augmentations.  Which are considered to be the second coming of humanity by their creators and the 4% who possess the income to afford them, while being viewed as “immoral” by those who either cannot, or do not wish to get a chip in their eyes that lets humans see through walls, and get metal hands that allow individuals to punch through them.

You enter the shoes of Adam Jensen, the head of security for one of the manufacturers of these Augmentations, Sarif Industries, which suffers an attack that leaves most of the scientists missing, and Adam Jensen as someone more machine than man.  Hell, they even gave him sunglasses that are imbedded into his face in order to justify having a HUD.  From here, he needs to follow several markers in a first person stealthy kind of way, because despite being covered with metal, bullets can still mess him up.

The general setup is actually very well done, with tons of lore being tossed in everywhere via computers you are able to hack, lots of people you are able to talk to, and a relatively large amount of things to explore.  However, There are two major problems with this game’s narrative, let’s start with the the anti-Augmentation crowd.  First of all, ethics, morals, and “not being the right thing to do” are the most prevalent arguments against Augmentations, when those are not solid arguments.

Not to spill the metaphorical beans, but the Augmentations do mess people up, because they are computer parts in the brain, that could possibly be controlled from an outside source.  Now being able to have you mind attacked in some way from an outside source, seems like a good argument to not do something, doesn’t it?  Or how the Augmentations do not mesh well with some people, who then become addicted to a drug that helps out the implant rejection.  Or, my favorite, how they could easily turn people themselves into weapons with the ability to have blades hidden in their arms.

On top of that, I also found it difficult to get very invested in the plot of this game.  There are a ton of characters who just vanish after a scene or two, often with me not remembering what their purpose was by the time I got there.  Yes, you have a lot of additional text to describe it, but I can’t help but feel like the writers should have taken advantage of how Jensen was out of commision for half a year, by having him be a bit confused about what exactly is going on.  It is just that it is a lot easier to get engrossed in a world if you are following someone who is still not sure about what most things are.  It provides a narrative reason for exposition, and does not make you feel like a guy trying to fumble his way through a conversation, not knowing what your friends are talking about, but not wanting to break their flow.

However, I think I just lose interest when they talk about corporations trying to control everyone, and it was all due to the Illuminati.  It just leaves a very sour taste in my mouth, seeing as how you are fighting against a faceless entity in some final battle where you need to fight a character who I do not think was mentioned a single time, before selecting which of the four endings you desire, not really being able to express Mr. Jensen as a character, as much as he decides who out of the three characters you had to search out beforehand was right, and whether or not you just want to make things go pop.  Granted, I love the look and atmosphere, but it terms of a plot, I think it could have been better constructed.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the game is a first person stealth title.  Some might say it is a strategic FPS, but I think it crumbles before I even start describing it, because there is no in-game reason to not use stealth.  Let me explain something, when you are rewarded for doing something by being given points, money, or anything the player have a reason to view as a reward, the only thing preventing a player from pursuing that action is either time or morals.  Here, you have the ability to knock out individuals via CQC that utilizes a recharging stamina bar that you can upgrade via EXP.  And in order to get EXP, you need to either complete missions, hack computers, or bring down guards.

At the same time, there are bonuses that you get for certain things.  For taking out people with your non-lethal CQC, you get 50 EXP.  For just shooting them with a gun you get 10, with an extra 10 if you get a headshot.  On top of that, you are given an extra 500 EXP if you beat a section without getting seen, and 250 if you do not set off an alarm.  Granted, you still need 5,000 EXP in order to get a level up and an upgrade for a new ability, but the method of picking them off while setting alarms, and only getting a measly amount of EXP, seems like a far more flawed strategy.  And due to the fact that you are allowed to save at any time, there is little to no risk by sneaking up on a foe, dragging away his body, because women cannot be security guards.  I mean, this is the future, but not THAT far into the future so that we are able to design female enemy models in addition to the civilian models.

Although, you could make the argument that by the end, you will have more upgrades than you know what to do with, which is entirely true.  At the end of the game, I had every upgrade I would want, avoiding the ultimate silencer , and radar that makes it a pain to see the enemies, who are pretty pathetic since you are able to pinpoint where they are looking from the first real mission.  Now, it very well could be the fact that I just have more patience and diligence than the average player.  Seeing as how I attempted a no kill, no alarm run, the former of which the game did not register due to… Something that I cannot tell, because the game does not have any statistics like that for you to look up, even though the game keeps track internally… Great design right there!

However, I must admit that even though I do not consider going through this game with anything more than maybe a stun gun or a bunch of energy bars to refill the meter for your CQC, to be a sensical run, I did have a lot of fun.  There is something appealing about needing to sneak up on someone, punch them in the face, and then hide the ragdolled body in a vent, along with his five other friend, all of whom could be woken up by being shaken by an ally, yet being dragged up stairs by some guy who, despite being able to lift and toss lethal vending machines, can only drag them up stairs.  By one limb.

That, and I love exploring in games, and not only is there a ton of it here, the game actively rewards you by giving you even more EXP for doing so, along with the bonus goodies you are sure to find.  Especially with the two hub worlds that you use to access side missions, there is a lot to see.  Granted, this is hardly enough sand to build a castle when you realize how, even though you can do something in this game, it does not mean that you should.  I am only talking about this in game logic, but it is only natural for players to try and find the most convenient way to play through a title.  And being able to avoid most conflict via knocking out some guys, and fulfilling the ever present goal of getting the most points possible in a game, I can not find a reason to even have guns other than for people who just lack the patience.  Which I do find to be bassackwards, but I can say the same thing about games that you do not dedicate yourself to beating.

Speaking of beating things and traditional gaming tropes, there was a lot of criticism regarding the quartet of bosses in the game.  Where you have to abandon your stealth and shoot through three people who, like Jensen, are more machine than man.  And, if you’d been paying attention, I would probably hate these bosses.  However, I actually do really like them.  You see, there is this thing in games that I’ll refer to as, “The engagement of discomfort” or to provide and example, people like the disempowerment in things like the original Silent Hill quartet, the classic Resident Evil games, and modern horror titles like Slender and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

I am not saying that this is a scary title, this game is as tense as crap, and it erupts at a feverish pitch when the bosses arrive.  Even if you did not get a ton of extra level up points and hold onto them, there are items around to help you out with them, enhancing the tension more than anything.  Especially during the third battle, where your HUD can be scrambled if you do something that reeks of bad news.  I will not say they are well designed, in fact getting right down to it, they are very formulaic, and would be a pain without saving every thirty seconds, but I like to think of it as a slap on the bum.  Telling you to play the game properly after your first encounter with a big baddie, who is nothing when you realize that there are barrels of explosives and poisonous gas everywhere.

However, those are only one type of boss, there are still the ones where you need to have a debate with individuals, with the bigger ones being exclusively with rich white males.  I would compare the idea of the combat to be strategic analysis, deciding on the individual’s personality type, and choosing which of three options you think would persuade them the best.  However, it suffers from the same problem as L.A. Noire.  Why would you not just reload and try every option until you succeed?  No good reason.  Or if you can do that, why not just confirm your answers online, since you can not skip or save during the dialog?  No good reason.  Admittedly, I found them to be pretty enjoyable, yet it amount to just taking a multiple choice test with infinite retries.  With the main gameplay, you have at least more than three choices for every situation, thanks to the ever presence of being able to plan routes through the area.

Also, going back to the main areas of sneaking around, why exactly are these guards so dumb?  I am not complaining about the patterns or anything, I just want to know why they do not respond to how their friend is missing.  They just seem so unreal, because humans are curious creatures, and the guards you punch in the face could have their job done by robots with no problem.  When you knock them out, there is no radio to notify that someone had been taken out by the agent they were expecting, which is fine with gangs members, but for the Chinese military?  No freaking way!  Instead they need to press a hackable alarm in order to get anything done.

I admittedly played on the normal setting, “Give Me A Challenge”, and understand that games can’t be too advanced, or they won’t be fun, but every encounter with every grunt could be made moot by letting him hear your footsteps, or throwing around a box.  So if Jensen could do something as complex at hit a wall a bit, the game would lose all tension outside of boss battles.

Okay, I think that was everything I really wanted to bring up, other than Hacking being too luck based.  Onto the next category in another sloppy transition!  I would classify myself as a love of nearly every genre that you could put in front of the word, “punk”.  So I naturally like a sleek looking future with a lot of prominence on certain color, and bright-eyed optimism of how sweet the world of tomorrow would look.  Even if that does also make it a semi-dystopia, which is pretty optimistic for Detroit, the main hub city.  With a nifty sleazy underworld of China being the other.

I am not entirely sure how to describe the art direction, although “Unrealistic portrayal of the not too distant future in a very slick looking world with a limited orange-centric color palette.  Yet is still plausible looking within its own universe.”  What, with well set out environments that do indeed feel like real places.  Granted, it is not necessarily relatable, assuming you don’t pile boxes in your bland apartment.   And above all else, this game looks, pardon me for using such a simplistic word, cool.

Although, I have encountered some weird shadow effects with the models, not every texture is great, and there were point where, due to the environment layout, I could not take down an enemy because they half asleep on a couch.  I also felt like the game could use some more objects to interact with, because all you can touch are some boxes and glowing items.  I understand save file size, and how a ton of objects have such a low texture and poly count, they would look awful if you picked them up.  It just feels weird that they’d let you not pick up some boxes, yet you can try shooting a basketball, only to realize the physics are so wonky, that you need to build a tower of boxes, and then drop it into a hoop.

Oh, and the music?  It is ambiance to the point where I was humming the Jet Set Radio soundtrack in order to make the world feel less dead.  I am not angry that it is atmospheric, I just think it was done to the point where it was a bit silly.  I dunno, since Jensen would probably be tired of knocking out the twenty-fifth guy this evening and want to have some soft beats vibrating his ears until his tech guy has some news to tell him as he sounds like he is vomiting smugness, even as he is being serious.

You know, I think this game’s biggest issue is actually rather simple, it is all about business and being serious  Yes, there is humor if you look for it, but it is serious to the point where I ended up addressing problems more than I praised what the game does well.  I know I should shut up about this already, but Berserk at least interrupted a fight with the main character telling a giant monster to not “pop a boner on his head”.  Also, the adorable retarded woman and naked mermaids, those helped.  Here, there are a few condescending lines, but Jensen in himself does not show any real appeal, to the point where I preferred imagining him as a completely different character.  Namely a seventeen-year-old girl who was given robotic limbs after being in a coma induced by a car crash a year ago, and is just happy to be alive.  Spouting lines that pertain to the situation and getting bonuses for being stylish with taking down guards.

And despite the tone, the game suffers from the same problem of the first two Bioshock games, growing too powerful by the end.  About ten of the thirty hours in, you are pretty much set.  The variation feels unneeded, because there is literally no in-game reason to do it.  Sure, sneaking around is fun, but the set pieces repeat themselves, and fear of getting caught is defanged by the very nice ability to save whenever you want.  There are indeed moments in this neat looking adventure, that do feel instance, like fighting the physical boss encounters and avoiding the Metal Gea- I mean walking tanks!  However it has enough ideas for a game of about half its length, with everything dragging when you simultaneously go from three infiltration areas in a row.  The game is by no means bad, in fact I still find it to be well worth playing, but the title containing Deus, Latin for god, feels more than a smidgen misplaced.

31/40
Good
It’s held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

Have a positive or negative response?  Please leave one below, it’s the only way I’ll improve.

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