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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG/ First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of two games coming out this year I absolutely dread having to write about. Though a great game, Human Revolution is so packed with player-driven choices and consequences - leading to wildly different play experiences - I'm not completely sure I can fully communicate everything in just a few words.

I suppose it is best to begin with the most visual option - presentation. Human Revolution looks and sounds incredible. The visuals paint a bleak, Blade Runner-inspired picture of the future. There's a sleek, futuristic look to everything, but with a fine layer of dirty grime. Although no one aspect really stands out (thought the soundtrack is really, really good), everything manages to come together in a nice package, creating an incredible sense of atmosphere.

As great a job as the game does at building atmosphere, some elements are reminders you are still playing a game. Maps look like functioning areas, but are still laid out like game levels. NPCs also stand around with little to do and rarely seem to care what you're doing (unless you're firing a gun). There's something wrong with being able to duck behind a shop's counter and steal money from his vault while he is standing there.

Voicework will rub a few people the wrong way. Adam has a gruff, gravelly voice that walks the line between cool and laughably cheesy. The supporting cast is much better.


Gameplay:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution's gameplay is a lot of things. I supposed the best descriptor would be Action RPG, though depending on how you choose to work your way through the game, it can either be a harrowingly tight FPS or a tense game of stealth. At it's very core, however, Human Revolution is an adventure in storytelling, though being a great storyteller isn't its greatest feat - at least in the sense of the embedded narrative arc.

It's the near future and Augmentations (technology literally grafted into humans to allow for enhanced skills) are all the rage. One of the biggest suppliers to Augmentations is Sarif Industries. Not everyone is big on the idea of humans implanting themselves with computers to improve their natural abilities. You play as Adam Jensen, head of security of Sarif, who is pulled into a giant conspiracy involving anti-Augmentation groups and rival corporations following an attack on the Sarif building.

Although Human Revolution's story is entertaining and features plenty of cool plot twists and great writing, it tends to get bogged down within itself. Given the focus on player choice, I thought Human Revolution was better when it focused on Adam coping with his "rebirth" as an Augmented super-cop rather than the political nonsense that creeps in and nearly dominates the latter half of the game.

Human Revolution is better at allowing players the ability to move within its bigger story. Much of the story is built on player choice, which leads to a couple of unexpected plot points. Early on, I failed to save a hostage. A few minutes later, I was asked to talk to the hostage's husband and explain what happened. The death was completely my fault, so having to confess was a really powerful moment. There are a few other moments like this scattered throughout the game - some of which you may never see based on how you choose to conduct your personal business - though, again, I really wish the narrative backbone helped place a little more emphasis on this.


Difficulty:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution forces you to make tough choices and, even harder, live with them. Although you can always return to a previous save if you don't like how an event played out, outcomes aren't always apparent and may take a few hours to really play out. Besides, constantly reloading isn't the best way to experience the game and is counter-intuitive to what Human Revolution is trying to accomplish. Though some outcomes are less desirable than others, there isn't a "correct" way of doing anything.

Regardless of how you choose to go through the game, the A.I. isn't incredibly bright. They sometimes show incredible perception (sometimes seeing you from way down the hallway), though they show little awareness of their environment. For example, I was able to win a couple of shootouts by hiding in an air duct. Every enemy in the area would crowd around the duct, but no one had the sense to shoot inside. Instead, they waded around, yelling taunts and watching the bodies pile up. Enemies would even drop alert status, allowing me time to sneak out and replenish my ammo.

Boss fights are the only time I remember tossing my controller in disgust. Although the game is built on playing how you want, most boss fights seem to push you into very narrow play styles. I have a feeling the very first big boss fight will be a "make-or-break" period for most players. He's tough, but if you can push though, the payoff is worth it.


Game Mechanics:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is, again, a huge mix of play styles and mechanics. In addition to combat and stealth options, there are also social and hacking elements at play and choosing the right Augments (player abilities) go a long way towards defining your experience.

You'll have to decide early on how you want to proceed through Human Revolution. You can choose between difficulty levels, though even on the easiest setting, you need to figure out what sort of character you want. Are you a stealthy character, or more of a run and gunner? Either option works and comes with its own inherent difficulties.

Gunplay is tight, though you run the risk of running out of ammo or being overwhelmed by guards. It is possible to shoot your way out of every situation, though you can't charge through with reckless abandon. Hitting the shoulder button while next to cover drops you into cover. From here, you can engage in cover-based gunplay, though the button configuration will take some adjustment. The two shoulder buttons are assigned to firing your weapon and dropping in-and-out of cover, so trying to iron sight enemies (assigned to a click of the right stick) is tricky. Dropping out of cover to quickly pop off a few shots will take practice.

You can bypass a lot of tough areas using stealth, though you aren't as resistant to damage and will need patience. Although I'm usually a more aggressive player, I ended up sticking more towards stealth. Sneaking around and finding alternate paths is incredibly satisfying and reminiscent of the Thief series. It requires a lot of patience and planning, but when it works, it is a lot of fun.

The key problem with stealth is that enemies are sometimes a little too perceptive and will spot you even when they shouldn't be able to. This was especially problematic while trying to hack consoles. Hacking is a cool mini-game where you find the right file path to the CPU's core. Thing is, some files will trigger alarms while others take longer to scan based on your Hacking skill. Even at a high skill, this takes a while and I was sometimes spotted during the game - even when crouched behind the terminal. Several times, this disrupted the bonus of shutting down cameras or reprogramming turrets/ robots - both big parts of stealthy play.

The social aspects are fun and could teach Mass Effect a thing or two about engaging players with conversations. During conversations you have a branching dialogue tree, though you can purchase Augments that further enhance the trees by showing personality read-outs. These offer new pieces of dialogue and new quest-completing options.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a few rough patches, but is an otherwise remarkable game.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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