Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that I’ve been waiting to be released for a long time. The prequel to Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War, the game is a scifi shooter/RPG set in a 2027 where the power of corporations is on the rise, as augmentation technology offers the prospect of self-controlled evolution. It’s a world of have and have-nots, with the gap between rich and poor starkly obvious. It’s also a world where violent protest towards augmented ‘cogs’ and the companies that offer those technologies is on the rise.
It’s a beautiful looking game. Its look ranges from the luxurious and comfortable to the seedy and tatty, and all within a few feet of one another. The design is reminiscent of Blade Runner (which is set eight years previously – and in a different continuity), with its dark city skies, immense buildings and innumerable neon signs, but without the gothic feel to the buildings that were part of Blade Runner’s iconic look. The graphics that make up the world are well thought out and produced and, whilst there are other games that rival Deus Ex in terms of quality, there is variety in the layout of the game spaces and their textures that puts a lot of other shooters to shame. This is a Square Enix game at their visual best and, whilst the PS3 and 360 versions of the game are notably lower in visual quality than a version running on a high-end PC gaming rig, they are still a treat and utterly absorbing.
Graphics alone don’t make a good game, though, so what about the gameplay itself?
The game offers little in the way of something new, but that’s not a bad thing – especially if the game does what it sets out to achieve and uses well established mechanics, tropes and set pieces to good effect. I don’t want to give anything about the game’s story away, but it’s engaging and well paced and plotted. I can’t help but feel that a number of action and scifi films that I’ve seen in the last year could learn from Deus Ex; not all games transfer well into movies or TV, but Deus Ex has a well grounded background mythology (which I’m always a sucker for) and characters that have been crafted well with their own obvious motivations and idiosyncracies.
The gameplay mechanics are easy to follow and fun, with a great set of video tutorials (that, importantly, can be skipped if desired) that pop up and guide you through actions and menus without complication. Weapons are varied and are great and for the most part customisable, with a few notable exceptions. The Stun Gun, for example, lacks a cross hair when aiming towards a target from behind cover; a little frustrating, and I’ve no doubt it will outright annoy some players, but it does serve to make the game more challenging and I didn’t find my own annoyance detracting from my enjoyment of the game.
The game spaces are multi-levelled mazes, where a clear path towards your objective is not always clear, but that encourages the player to explore and there are plenty of items and XP bonuses to be had from creeping through air ducts, scurrying down side corridors and seeing where the odd ladder will lead you. It feels open, and there is some freedom as to how you reach your objective, but the world is not truly open and, if anything, it heightened the sense of urgency and the danger of being caught. The mechanics encourage stealth over outright confrontation and it can get tense at times. I’ve no doubt a seasoned shooter-player could storm their way through most of the levels with ease, but bonuses are granted for not being detected in several missions, and it’s fun to play hide and seek with the guards…
I even found myself tilting my head to see round corners. My monitor isn’t 3D in any sense of the label.
Battle is hard… but not unforgiving so. I decided to play the game through on its normal setting (whereas I’d normally do my first play-through on easy), and I died… quite a lot at first. Part of this is due to the way in which character abilities are unlocked; as with the level design, this appears quite open, but some missions are harder if the right upgrades aren’t bought for them. I’m only part way through the game, and this doesn’t appear to lock any missions completely out should you choose the ‘wrong’ upgrade; but if you increase your hacking skills over your armour or reaction stats for the bounty that can give you access to, you might find yourself dying more often.
The hacking mini-game, required to successfully access many computers and doors within the game, is good fun and can be a race against time. The NPCs will chat with you to varying degrees and, sometimes, useful information comes out of those exchanges. It’s nice to be playing a game that, whilst it is sometimes difficult, treats the player with respect and doesn’t talk down to you… if you read any of the many eBooks lying around the game world, you’ll quickly see what I mean, and see how much effort the designers have put into making a ‘complete’ world for the player to explore.
Comparing Deus Ex to other games isn’t necessarily fair, but I can’t help but think that Fallout: New Vegas was decidedly poor compared to it. It’s worth saying that I’m enjoying Fallout:NV immensely, but with its dated graphics engine, game crashes, troublesome controls and lag (why is it so hard to bring up my Pip Boy to change a weapon and recharge my health when I’m in the middle of a battle?), Fallout: NV can be a decidedly frustrating experience. All the big problems that Fallout: NV has just don’t appear in Deus Ex, and that alone makes this game much more enjoyable.
If you want a good scifi RPG romp, and like games such as Splinter Cell and FEAR, then this is one for you. There’s a well painted world to explore, with plenty of gun-totting action to be had and an excellent score by Michael McCann to keep you immersed. Highly recommended.