I’ve had the itch for a new game to sink into lately, and while I’m salivating for the release of Mass Effect 3, I’ve had my eye on Deus Ex: Human Revolution for a while now, so I decided to pick it up. I’ve only played through a few hours so far, but what I’d like to do is review the game progressively as I play through it. I’m not sure how many parts this will end up being, but it should be a fun way to look at the game. My Verdict will come with whatever the final part is, so be sure to check back for that.
Play time: Approx. 4 hours
Human Revolution is a prequel to the original Deus Ex (which I haven’t played), and is set about 20 years in the future. Thematically, the game is set around the idea human augmentation, or the idea that the human species might be able to improve upon its natural abilities though what are essentially high-tech prostheses. So people might be able to have telescopic vision through implants, or super-strong robotic arms in place of their own. At it’s most extreme, think Iron Man, except instead of it being a suit, it’s actually someone’s body. This is actually an issue that is right on the horizon (and fast approaching) for modern society, and Human Revolution jumps forward to drop the player in the middle of the debate surrounding this issue. The world of Human Revolution is divided along two main fronts: Economic and Philosophical. Augmentation technology can greatly enhance physical capacity (as evidenced by the thrashing the main character takes at the beginning of the game), but due to its expense, it is reserved for the upper classes. It exacerbates the division between the rich and the poor, providing an always visible sign for the haves and the have-nots. Philosophically, there are people adverse to the very idea of augmentation, believing it is dangerous, evil, and a violation of the human body. Within the game world, there are characters who fall along both of these spectra. Adam Jensen, the game’s protagonist, is augmented without his consent, in part to save his life.
What’s really interesting so far is the way the idea of augmentation permeates the setting of the game. Playing as Adam, I’ve already had a couple conversations with NPC’s where I was invited to project my own opinion on the character. There are compelling arguments to both sides, and the divisiveness is apparent everywhere. The issue of augmentation (at least so far) is only an aspect of setting which contributes to the story, rather than the focus of the main story arc itself, but the world invites the player to consider the various effects of augmentation on society. For example, you go into a clinic and overhear a doctor discussing the prosthesis options to a patient missing an arm, or you hear people scream at you to get away because of Adam’s own augmentations. The character may not know what they or for or what they do, but the very sight of them is repulsive. The best way to describe it is as an atmosphere. In Human Revolution, the world is in the middle of considerable change, and everyone is forced to try to sort out the ramifications that are coming. It’s both philosophically intriguing and experientially unifying.
The game’s aesthetic also contributes strongly to the feel that the game world is real unified. Most everything is cast in dark tones with orange-gold tints. The world is at once one that is familiar and alien, close enough to present reality to easily imagine the jump into the future, while being just different enough to sell the idea of augmentations. It isn’t the prettiest game around just in terms of raw graphical horsepower, but everything is fairly detailed, and the cohesiveness of all the art in the game covers any technical shortcomings that might exist.
And with that, I’ll turn to gameplay. The world is set up in hubs. Currently, the only one I can go to is Detroit, but I know there are more to come later. Detroit is fairly large, but not overwhelmingly so. There are plenty of buildings to go in and explore, NPC’s to interact with, and side quests to discover. There is a waypoint system in which active quests automatically display the next place of interest both on-screen in the form of a small arrow and on the map. These waypoints are visually unobtrusive and can be toggled on and off easily from the quest log. They do a good job of directing the player without telling the player how to do the next step of the quest. For example, I needed to break into an area of the city controlled by a gang. On my map, I could see where I needed to go, but guards blocked my way down the only street that led there.
Which leads me to the next big point: choice in gameplay. In the above situation, I had the option to pull out my gun and start a firefight in the middle of the street. But there were also other ways in. A little exploration of the nearby block revealed an entrance to the sewer systems which I could sneak in by. The way I chose was to climb to the roof of a nearby apartment building and take out the guards in the street so I could waltz through the my previously obstructed path down below. This idea of multiple valid paths is a feature thus far. Generally speaking, it’s broken down to sneak or shoot my way in, but both can work.
As I mentioned earlier, Adam, the protagonist you play as, is augmented. This translates into a number of skill trees you can unlock abilities in as you gain experience for completing missions. The focus on multiple methods of gameplay is reflected here as well. There are augmentation which aid in computer hacking or that can make Adam temporarily invisible, for example, if you’re a fan of sneaking around, but there are also augmentations that bump up your health or weapons skill if you want to play the game as a shooter. As a shooter, the game plays pretty well, using environmental cover mechanics like those in the Mass Effect and Gears of War series, as well as a number of other recent shooters. Targeting was a little finicky, but that may be because I hadn’t spent any skill points towards advanced weapon skill. While most of the time, you control Adam from a 1st person perspective, when clipped into cover, it shifts to a 3rd person view. The game does this fairly seamlessly, and disorientation from the first couple times you do this goes away quickly. It is a little curious that the game does this at all; there’s nothing wrong with the first person view, exactly, but as cool as Adam looks , and seeing as you’re going to spend half the game in the third person perspective anyways, it may have made more sense to just stick with one perspective. That’s not really a big deal, though, and I suppose is really a matter of opinion.
Playing as more of a stealthy character doesn’t change this, as you’ll still spend a lot of time dashing from cover to cover in 3rd person. Adam can use his augmentations to incapacitate or kill roving guards one at a time. Played this way, the game reminded me a lot of Arkham Asylum, but without the zipping around the ceiling.
So far, the voice acting and writing have been fine, but aren’t standouts. Adam sounds really cool, but some of the other characters are a little wooden. It’s not game breaking, by any means, and the game does such a good job of pulling you into its world by other methods that the odd line doesn’t even do much harm to the suspension of disbelief. I’m interested to see where the main story goes, and although I haven’t done much in the way of side quests yet, by their description the couple I’ve picked up should do a good job of reinforcing both the world of the game and the conflict surrounding the main quest.
I suppose that’s all for now. Human Revolution has been exciting, thought provoking, and a lot of fun so far. Check back soon for Part 2.