Play Time: I’ve lost track. Possibly 12-15 hours. I’m at the beginning of section 11 in the game, and I think I was at the end of section 3 at the time I wrote Part 1 of my review.
I continue to be impressed by the artistic presentation of Human Revolution. I’ve been to two city hub areas now (Detroit and Shanghai), and while the two are visually distinct from one another, they both exist within the artistic framework of the game. Lighting is important in the game, and the contrast between the light and the dark areas is striking and beautiful. This is particularly apparent in the cut scenes of the game.
I mentioned in Part 1 that while the game looked good, it wasn’t pushing graphical boundaries. This is more or less true, but I think I’ve got a better handle now on why I feel this way. When the game goes to a cut scene, it is absolutely gorgeous. Characters move with fluidity, lip syncing is good, and the dynamic, high contrast lighting that is characteristic of these scenes is positively stellar. There’s a layer of polish in the cut scenes that doesn’t exist elsewhere, and it leaves the player wanting. The in game conversations that you encounter while playing the game are competently handled, but the little things are off. Character models are a little stiff, and their lip syncing is often a little off. Conversations are framed in close up, but the fine details that make the cut scenes so dramatic are missing in-game. Again, the game doesn’t look bad, but the cut scenes reveal that perhaps everything could look just a little bit better.
A part of the presentation I don’t think I’ve discussed yet is the UI (user interface). The standard health and ammo counters are there, placed in the corners so as not to be distracting. There is no mini-map; rather, the player is directed using the way point system I talked about in Part 1. While a lot of the world around Adam Jensen is just background, there are a number of objects that can be manipulated in various ways (grates to be lifted, computers to be hacked, boxes to be moved, etc.). Any time Adam is close to an object he can interact with, the object becomes outlined by a thin bright orange-yellow line that is consistent with the light aesthetic the rest of the game (not to mention the cover) promotes. It’s not overpowering, but clearly denotes objects of interest. I do wish that the interaction command didn’t require quite the precision that it does – you must be very close to and directly pointed at most objects – but on the whole, the system is very well executed.
Most of the time I’ve spent playing has been advancing the main story, but I have put a little time into exploring some of the side quests. Unfortunately, I’ve found them somewhat lacking. From a story perspective, most of the side quests I’ve been offered have been interesting, but all too often I’ve run into a roadblock that appears insurmountable. For example, I accepted a quest to try to help a terrorized prostitute find her kidnapped friend. I went through the first several steps of the quest fine, but then I came to a point where I had to break into an apartment, and my hacking ability wasn’t upgraded enough to break the lock. I didn’t have the points available to improve my hacking augmentation, so I went back to the main quest. This sort of thing has happened a couple times: if I don’t have a particular one of the about twenty available augments, I can’t pass a point on the side quest. I looked for alternate routes in these instances, but there didn’t appear to be any.
I’ve continued to play the game more in a stealth style than a run-and-gun one, but it continues to be next to impossible to do this completely. This isn’t a completely bad thing. Sometimes I just have to run away for a while until the guards calm down, or move between two points and pick them off one at a time. But it is a little frustrating when you feel you’ve done nothing wrong and all of the sudden you find yourself in the middle of a hail of gunfire. I’m playing on the medium difficulty, and I’ve died a lot. Again, not horrible. I asked for a bit of a challenge. But frustrating from time to time, particularly when there are robots involved. Against human guards, even well-armed and armored ones, I never feel like I’m not in a fair fight. Which is good. Adam Jensen is an augmented badass. I should feel like I can take a few guards. But occasionally there are security robots that roll around. These can be destroyed, but it is very difficult to do so, and almost impossible if there are guards around, too. It’s a decent deterrent for being cavalier, but feels a tad unbalanced to me.
My last note on gameplay for this part of the review has to do with the bosses. I’ve faced two to this point in the game. These fights are contained, one-on-one affairs with another heavily augmented human. This sounds like it should be awesome, and it is, to a point. I’ll echo a number of other reviews of Human Revolution I’ve read when I say that a great part of the game is that it allows you to approach the levels in a number of different ways. There are multiple viable paths, depending on the way you’ve chosen to augment Adam. The boss battles mostly do away with this, and force you into a gun battle. Now in the first of the two fights, this wasn’t too bad. There was some cover in the room, and if you were careful you could sprint to the far end without the enemy noticing and take pot shots at him as he came after you. The second boss had a pattern to her, as well, but it proved a more frustrating fight to me. In trying to explain why without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say that her tactics felt pretty cheap and relatively indefensible, and I died a lot before I finally got the best of her.
The story to this point has continued to be compelling. It’s a bit convoluted, and takes a certain suspension of disbelief, but it has been worthwhile. I’m excited to see where it goes from here. A lot of the big plot points are told through cut scenes, but you also regularly have transmissions with NPC allies, and that does a lot to heighten the immersiveness of the story. It gives purpose to the actions you take in gameplay, and lends significance to what you do.
Stay tuned for Part 3!