Review: Deus Ex Human Revolution

Deus Ex - Human RevolutionI always had a bit of a soft spot for the original Deus Ex back in the day – a first-person shooter that was more than a little inspired by the best in role-playing games with a cool cyberpunk twist.

Step forward a number of years and, finally, I turn my attention to the sequel to the sequel which is actually a prequel: Human Revolution. The premise of this game is the advent of the technology that is common-place in the original Deus Ex and provides a ton of backstory and nods to what’s to come.

I really  appreciated the nods to the original game which has, quite rightly been revered as possibly the best PC game of all time – these certainly rewarded loyal fans and showed that Square Enix had put some thought into this game. Human Revolution definitely sets the scene for the original Deus Ex game with nods of varying subtlety that fans can enjoy recognising. However, while largely enjoyable, Human Revolution no contender for the “best PC Game ever” crown.

Initially I found the controls clunky and unintuitive – and resulting in a number of easy deaths. However, in a positive light, I found myself encouraged to use more stealthy means to accomplish my goals and felt I gained skills over time, going from “worst secret agent of all time” to, well… I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Characters encountered all felt pretty well fleshed out, with motives and interests all of their own. I appreciated the inclusion of a Mass Effect-style branched conversation system and  dialog mini games that added to the realism. It was good to use persuasion and charisma to win the day where brute force would have maybe been a bit too… lacking in finesse. Randomisation of the latter gives Deus Ex Human Revolution added replayability value to boot – you can’t simply memorise the sequence of responses to triumph, you must actually pay attention.

The heads-up display was a refreshed homage to the simple interface of the original game, with a few modern flourishes – portrayed as a projection on the inside of a pair of suitably-badass cyber-glasses, it bobbed up and down with movement. However, I felt there was a needless over-simplification in terms of health (whereas, in the original Deus Ex game, different areas of the body could take damage and affect performance, you just got a % of health in the new game) and bio-energy for augmentations (instead of a meter, you got a series of battery icons). I also found the augmentation system almost forgettable – hidden on the right side of the screen I often forgot about augmentations that could’ve aided me, which was frustrating. However, a great improvement from the classic game was the hacking minigame, which was far more interactive – and definitely suspenseful! Hacking software coming in consumable “copies” stretched plausibility a little but as a gameplay mechanic worked out.

Graphically, Human Revolution was rather impressive, and I even grew fond of the (in)famous “gold” overlay, which worked well in bringing about a distinct sense of atmosphere. There was a few instances of sloppiness, most notably the fact that in 2027 the world has agreed on a universal manufacturer of air ducts and vents for crawling through.

I suppose an undercurrent of the Deus Ex Human Revolution experience is that it’s been a bit… underwhelming. Unwittingly, I own the original “vanilla” version of the game with it’s completely unfair boss battles – a curious inclusion indeed, and each was so unsatisfying that they were very nearly game-breakers for me. I’ve also pretty much gotten as far as I want to with the game without experiencing the ending – this is due to two factors. One, it’s fallen into the “trap” of Deus Ex by having the player become nothing more than a puppet for a number of interests to seek to use for their own ends, which is a bit frustrating; second, the final area has proved to be devoid of any soul or enjoyable challenges bar avoiding Splicers crazy workers.

To conclude, while a bit of a mixed bag, I enjoyed most of Deus Ex Human Revolution and I’m looking forward to playing more games of it’s ilk – stealth-oriented role-playing games – However, I do feel I’ve achieved as much of the plot as I care to, though I’m looking forward to giving it a replay to see if I can improve upon my skills. Deus Ex Human Revolution is a flawed but ultimately enjoyable game, and certainly a worthy successor to it’s namesake from 14 years ago.

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