Saturday, 17 September 2011

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Following up the original Deus Ex is a tough job for anyone, but when the sequel to the 2000 hit came out in 2004 with Deus Ex: Invisible War, many felt that the game had fallen completely flat. It was what many saw as the perfect example of “dumbing down” a game for the console market. Imagine the challenge then for Eidos Montreal, trying to follow up a game that was seen by many to be bad and live up to the original. Well I can gladly say that this challenge has been met, though not perfectly.

Set 25 years before the original Deus Ex, In the game, you play as Adam Jensen, an ex-cop turned head of security for Sarif Industries, a company involved in augmenting humans with robotic parts. On the verge of a major breakthrough in augmented technology, Sarif's main headquarters is attacked by a terrorist group, killing the entire science team responsible for the research and nearly killing Jensen. After a 6 million dollar man-esque sequence, in which 6 months pass, Adam finds himself alive and with a whole heap of robotic parts inside him, ready to get to the bottom of the attack.

The gameplay is a combination of RPG and FPS. At its most basic, the game is a standard FPS with third person cover mechanics, however you can approach missions in whatever way you want. You can choose to sneak past enemies and play it as a stealth game, you could try hacking computers and turn any turrets or robots against your enemies or you could just go in guns blazing and shoot anything that moves. This kind of choice is available for pretty much every mission given to you and it really helps add to the variety.

In addition to the missions, there is an underlying RPG mechanic. Every action nets you some experience points, enough experience grants you a praxis point which can be put towards upgrading your augmentations. These include upgrading your hacking ability, faster sprinting, cloaking and even the ability to punch through weak walls. These abilities add even more variety to the way you can handle missions.

In between the main missions, you are left in what is essentially a hub area. These hub areas offer the chance to explore and to catch any side missions in the game. It is in these areas that you will actually play any side missions which can earn you money, experience or even new weapons. Not only are there side missions, but the hub areas a so full of things to find and do. Nearly every apartment can be broken into, every computer can be hacked and have it's emails read. There are even lockers, safes, and garages that hold all sorts of interesting rewards for anyone looking. Never have I seen a game reward exploration so well.

The story, is ok if a little bit hammy. It's mostly told through cutscenes or dialogue trees with no real choice of action. That being said, there are some situations where it is your objective to convince someone to carry out an action, such as negotiating with a hostage taker, or convincing someone to let you through security. These can fail and, while the main story is unaffected by such events, you can find yourself with a dead character or some extra help in your next mission. While that part is cool, none of your previous choices are taken into account with the ending. Without spoiling too much, after the final boss, you are literally moved into a room where you choose what the ending is going to be, with none of them being at all satisfying.

Graphically, this game leaves a lot to be desired. While there is a nice gold filter all the time, which is a really cool visual effect, almost all the character models are pretty bad. Nearly everyone in the game looks really weird with mouths that don't quite seem to move enough for the words they are saying, with the exception of Adam Jensen, everyone looks straight out of an old Xbox or PS2 game. This makes for a weird contrast because the textures look quite nice.

While the gameplay is certainly the strong point of Deus Ex, there are some areas where it falters too. The enemy AI can be really dumb at times, when being stealthy, I could often kill one and then just wait for the rest of them to investigate the area and pick them off one by one, with not a single one of them thinking to take cover and call for help. They also seem to not really want to b through in searching or quick about it. If one enemy thinks he sees something, he will slowly walk up, on his own and briefly look in the general direction, he won't search around corners, nor will he get someone to help him.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game with ambition, there are many things that it gets perfectly right like rewarding exploration so well and letting you chose how you want to take on any mission. However, it still has it's failings with dumb AI, graphics that a a little too much hit and miss and no ending really being at all satisfying. While it is a great game by many regards, it's not perfect, which is a shame because it really feels like it could have been.


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