Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution + DLC
Recommended price: $25
Metacritic Score: 89
Completion Time: ~38 hours
Buy If You Like: A (more) cyberpunk Metal Gear Solid

I would be “Alarmed” too.

The thing to understand right from the start is that Deus Ex: Human Revolution (hereafter DX:HR) is three separate things. The first is a prequel to the original groundbreaking Deus Ex released in 2000. The second is a genre showcase of cyberpunk sensibilities. And the last? The actual game.

The distinction between the three is extremely important because it is easy for someone to write off the entire game because it does not live up to the Deus Ex heritage. Or for someone else to watch trailers like these and fall so deep in love of the cyberpunk spirit of the game that the actual mechanics becomes irrelevant. Or in my specific case, struggle within the dichotomy of loving the setting so much that it (almost) washes away all the sins of not being Deus Ex: New and Improved, while the game bits themselves simply show up to work and get the job done.

One of the defining characteristics of the original Deus Ex was the multiple ways in which the player could progress through the game. Want to treat the game like a normal FPS? You could do that. Want to sneak through the air vents, hack into the computer systems, and bypass all security measures without firing a shot? You could do that too. DX:HR does its best to live up to that open-choice legacy, without really understanding how the original maintained a level of coherency: limited, metered choices. In DX:HR, 100% of the augmentations are available to the player right at the beginning of the game; the choice simply comes down to which ones you want to unlock in which order. What this means in gameplay terms is that since all of the choices are available, the designers included ways in which all of the choices are useful.

For example, about a third of the way through the game you will be tasked to get past a locked lab door. Your options include:

  1. Kill the guards (personally or via hacked security bots), loot the key.
  2. Hack the lab door.
  3. Grab an extra pass in the security room, present to guard.
  4. Sneak through ventilation.
  5. Use the Strength augment to move a vending machine, climb on top and jump to 2nd floor balcony.

While it felt liberating to know there were so many different ways to progress at first, it also meant that none of the ways you did progress felt particularly clever. The natural inclination to explore all the rooms to make sure you didn’t leave behind valuable items (despite none ever really existing), quickly reveals how many paths lead to the same outcome. Considering all 5 of the different paths occur within 30 feet of each other, you begin to question whether the choices actually matter. And that answer is, unfortunately, “No.”

But that is the rub. Had this been any other other FPS title, I would have been praising it for its Deus Ex-qualities instead of damning it for the same. Compared to the generic FPS flair of games like Singularity, DX:HR blows them out of the water. Indeed, DX:HR feels more coherent than even open-world titles like the STALKER and Far Cry series, insofar as the latter games mostly present “options” in the form of exploiting AI than necessarily discreet choices.

This Midgar-looking city makes me want a FF7 remake soooooo bad.

Legacy issues aside, DX:HR as a game within itself is a rather brilliant experience. Someone looking for a challenging run-n-gun cover-based shooter will find DX-HR an acceptable challenge. The stealth mechanics do not feel tacked on like so many other FPS titles (Far Cry, etc). While the augmentation choices might not matter in a metagame sense, they are useful in making you better at whatever playstyle you are accustomed. The oft-maligned boss battles do indeed feel a bit out of place, although I would be more disappointed if they were handled entirely in cut scenes or if I, say, was able to one-shot them in a takedown move or whatever. The visuals and vistas are top-notch, and the soundtrack is one of the best I have ever heard.

As a final note, I would be remiss if I did not mention the horrible, horrible technical issues I had with the game. With a four-month old game being played on a $1300 gaming rig bought a month ago, I experienced complete Crashes-To-Desktop (C2D) roughly every ~20 minutes for the entire 38 hours I played. Sometimes it would C2D within 3 minutes, sometimes I would actually go a full, uninterrupted hour. Two of the big plot-twisting cinematics were completely unwatchable in that it would C2D at a certain point 100% of the time, and I was never able to watch any of the various ending cinematics in their entirety; in all such cases, I skipped them in-game and Alt-Tabbed to watch them on Youtube in order to proceed. While it could be entirely Nvidia’s fault, or user-error for that matter, it is something to keep in mind.

And honestly, the fact that I endured hundreds of C2Ds over the span of 38 hours to reach the game’s conclusion is perhaps the highest endorsement I can give. Whether it was because of the zeitgeist of the cyberpunk setting, or the ghosts of Deus Ex past, or if it came down to the gameplay itself, all I know for sure is how I felt at the very end:

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Human Revolution DLC Review:

Missing Link ($14.99) – To be honest, the Missing Link DLC to Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of the first DLCs I have ever played which felt like a legitimate “deleted scene” from the main game. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it feels like a relatively seamless addition despite being on its own 2gb installer and featuring the vastly overused (gaming) trope of the hero losing all of his/her powers. Bad in that, well, most deleted scenes are deleted for a reason.

Taking place in the middle of a fade-to-black scene change in the middle of the original game, Missing Link does not add anything of plot value to the game proper aside from, well, around four more hours of gameplay. While you end up getting access to most of the weapons/augments from the main game, I definitely experienced a mental disconnect between the choices I was making, knowing that none of it mattered since no data was going to be transferred. Want to explore every nook and cranny? Okay… but why? No data, no XP, no weapons, no credits, nothing will endure past the final encounter. Which, incidentally, takes the form of how all the boss battles in Human Revolution should have played out.

Aside from that, and a frustrating amount of pointless backtracking past a 20-30 second in-game “loading screen,” Missing Link is a good enough dessert to the main course that was the original game. Provided, of course, you can snag it for less than the outrageous $15 retail price. Less than $5 or included in a Game of the Year edition would be ideal.

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Posted on December 27, 2011, in Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You loved Deus Ex too, huh.

    The above was just about the most useful review of DX:HR that I have read so far, because the legacy thing is huge to me. I expect I’ll still pick it up (once my available gaming time isn’t all devoted to that thing with the glowsticks) but I feel better about deferring the experience.

    “Bravery is not a function of firepower.”

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    • Yeah, there are unfortunately no “kill Agent Navarre in the airplane” out-of-the-box moments in DX:HR that made Deus Ex groundbreaking for its time (or really, all time). The fact that not only was that possible, but that there was dialog for it still boggles my mind.

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