Play Time: Completed

I’ve finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so I’ll offer some final thoughts before giving my verdict.

First and foremost, the boss fights really suck, and they got progressively worse as I went through the game. There are four encounters I’d call boss fights. The first two I’ve already commented on, but I’ll mention them again: the first isn’t too bad, the second is obnoxious, but there’s enough of a pattern that it doesn’t feel unfair. Ah, but the third. In the third boss fight, you face one of the main antagonists of the game, a man who is augmented similarly to Adam. This fight just felt cheap. I died within ten seconds at least five or ten times. The guy you have to face is effectively invisible for most of the fight and his weapons are likely to kill you in just a hit or two. Although Adam isn’t ever supposed to be the most extremely augmented person around, he is a badass. But this fight made me feel like I was a little leaguer facing a major league pitcher. It took me probably twenty tries to beat this fight, and when I finally did, it felt like it came from a fluke, not something I’d actually done. Then there’s the final boss fight. In that one, you don’t face a particular person as with the others, but rather are fighting to shut down a machine. It actually wasn’t too bad until about halfway through, but at that point there ceased to be any direction as to what I was supposed to do, and an electrocuted floor led to a series of cheap and maddening deaths. It wasn’t a fun fight. It was a chore, with my only reward being to see the ending of the game.

And speaking off, the ending was underwhelming. Most of the story did a great job if building a sense of personal intrigue among the principle characters that was playing out on a grand scale. But somewhere towards the end, all that was lost. Without spoiling it too much, I’ll just say that there were some personal interactions for Adam that should have carried much more weight than they did. The relationships that were at the core of most of the game, and should have been there at the end, too, were either glossed over or almost entirely neglected. Furthermore, the player is completely insulated from the choices he makes at the end of the game. The virtue of choice is consequence; if the player experiences no consequence, the choice is fairly pointless. This doesn’t mean there needs to be a ten minute cinematic at the end, but perhaps if the game had allowed Adam to continue wandering the cities accomplishing side quests after the main story line concluded the player might be able to see tangible change in the world as a result of actions taken.

I made some mention of side quests in Part 2 of this review, specifically with respect to the gameplay in them. While I still feel that was a bit hit-or-miss, the stories in the few that I completed did a great job of supplementing the main quest storyline. None of the side quests I encountered seemed tacked on for the sake of adding gameplay hours. They all felt as though they were organic to the game world and the issues of human augmentation that were at the forefront of the story.

The game’s thematic focus did continue to be a highlight for me, and the ending is slightly redeemable for at least maintaining that focus. The world of Human Revolution begs the player to question what would happen if prostheses were able to at least rival the functionality of organic limbs, and the game repeatedly reminds the player that such a future might not be so far away. For example, among the books scattered across the world are several that reference “historical” events from our own time. These are made up, but frequently reference real technologies, such as external cameras which can be neurologically connected to the human brain and offer blind people very rudimentary sight. The ethical questions of Human Revolution are ones that are poignant today.

A final bit of minutia before my verdict. I grew annoyed by the inventory system. Adam is able to carry a set number of items as determined by a grid menu. Bigger items take more space on the grid. One of the augmentation trees can open more space, but this is still frequently not enough. The inventory system does not limit you to just a few items that you have to pick from carefully; it allows a fairly large number, so when it does limit you it feels very limiting. I think the game would have been better served by allowing unlimited inventory. If Adam can already carry four large guns, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to carry a fifth. There were some interesting weapons that I never got to explore the full use of because I discarded them for more familiar guns I knew could get done what I wanted done.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a very good game that is a lot of fun to play. Despite its underwhelming ending, the story is very good. Cut scenes are beautifully rendered, snappy, and a pleasure to watch without interrupting the gameplay unduly. The writing isn’t always a standout, but is always serviceable and avoids ever breaking the player out of the game experience. Boss battles to hurt the experience, but fortunately are few and far between. The rest of the gameplay is fun and varied, with multiple paths to nearly every objective. Conversations are competently handled and choices, for the most part, have a tangible effect on the way events play out. The game has a beautiful, moody aesthetic that is consistent and unifying, and the game world is similarly unified thematically through the ideas of transhumanism and human augmentation. In fact, this perhaps overshadows some underdeveloped character relationships, but never to the point that the player  loses interest in the story. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has its faults, to be sure, but all told, it is a resounding success.