30 September 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution [PC game review]

Over the past week I spent a some 25+ hours playing through this new and pretty hyped game called "Deus Ex:Human Revolution" which is supposed to be a prequel to the two other Deus Ex games released roughly 10 years ago. I remember playing the second one but have very faint memories of whether it was good or bad. So I pretty much base my judgment of this game as a standalone product rather than a part of the series.

First of all the game plays like a mix between Splinter Cell and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Games I really like. This is a RPG like game, though the number of quests is very limited. You don't create your character but you can upgrade him with something called "praxis kits" which are rewarded whenever you "level up". You can also find these praxis kits hidden in various spots in the city and during missions. Just like in Splinter Cell and VtM:B you have the option to complete a task using heads on guns blazing approach or stealth where you covertly take out the enemies with non lethal methods, hack computers and take control over cameras etc. The game rewards a sneaky non lethal "ninja" approach by awarding you with more experience points when you take down enemies.

The story of the game is that in the near future, humanity has found a way to merge human tissue with implants and cyborg limbs. "Much better prosthetic limbs" was the justification of the research but it has also been used to enhance military projects. In the game most of the people have some sort of "augmentation", be it a metal arm or some sort of implant to make them think faster or be more social. There are even so called "Limb clinics" where you can pop in and enhance yourself with additional augmentations, pretty much the plastic surgery of the future but much more useful and potent. You play as this guy Adam Jensen who is head of security at Sarif industries, one of the leading manufacturers of these augmentations and prosthetic limbs. Your wife is one of the head scientists working there as well and as the game begins the scientists are on their way to Washington to sway the politicians opinions about the new technology. The industry complex is attacked by an unknown force led by heavily augmented troops who kill lots of staff and blow shit up. Technology is lost, your wife is killed, you yourself become mortally injured and have to be augmented to stay alive.

After that the game plays like a conspiracy thriller movie, you are out for answers about the attack, "pro human" terrorists are attacking the augmentation industry, you are sent on missions and start to uncover some serious stuff about yourself and this new technology. Meanwhile the public opinion about augmentations is causing protests and riots. The game creates a great atmosphere that makes you really feel that you are at the boiling point of events unfolding. The quests are divided into the main quest and side quests, the main quest moves the story along while the side quests are very few in number but are often rewarding to complete as they often lead to a deeper understanding about the world and yourself. More importantly there are no basic "fetch" quests that just revolve around you going from point A to point B to grab an item and return it for a simple monetary reward. You often have to make a moral choice through interaction with key characters - and the interaction part of the game is pretty well made and clever. You are often assumed to convince people using their own personal traits in your favor to subdue their will, and it works really well.

Another RPG element to the game is the inventory which limits how much you can carry around based on inventory size rather than weight (I much prefer this), and the already mentioned upgrades to your own person which is quite accessible and easy to understand. You won't be able to pick all upgrades on the skill tree in one play through and it may be difficult to judge which augmentations are important to get in what order in the beginning. Augmentations will open up additional routes during your gameplay by making you jump higher, move heavy objects, drop from any height without being killed thanks to some sort of magnetic field, augmentation to your lungs preventing suffocation from gas, immunity to EMP and electrical damage, adding more slots to your inventory, enhancing your hacking possibilities and much more.

The voice acting is solid, but I should mention the music which is outstanding and really atmospheric. Check out the soundtrack on youtube!

The game is also similar to Vampire the Masquerade:Bloodlines in that the game world is divided into city "hubs". These are pretty open ended but at the same time these hubs are severely more limited than a free roaming game like GTA. In the end this is perhaps for the better as navigating in these hubs can be a bit disorienting at first.

Now there are sadly a couple of things that make this game a flawed gem. Some of these complaints are minor and won't affect the game itself but others can greatly impact your opinion about it.

The game, just like VtM:B has city hubs that are rather "static". By that I mean you have people wandering about and such - but you never see any cars in motion. Only parked ones. This takes away a bit of the realism in the game.

The game also features boss battles that you cannot resolve in any other way than through brutal firefights. They can be frustrating as hell, and feel out of place and very "old" compared to how the rest of the game plays. It is a satisfaction to actually get to take out the bad guys, but I wish there were other ways of doing so. There were boss battles in VtM:B as well but I had hoped the gaming industry would have progressed further in the years that had passed. Especially taking into consideration that this is NOT a FPS.

For a stealth game you would think you'd be able to put out the lights in rooms or shoot lamps to pieces to enhance your cover. This game does not use a "hide in the shadows" system like in Splinter Cell or the Thief games. Instead it relies on direct line of sight to and from your enemies. It would have been nice to enhance the stealth approach a bit more.

The ending(s). Oh my god.  There won't be any spoilers as to content only about how it is done. Anything up to this point I could live with. But the game starts to fall apart in the late part of act 3. In the end you are faced with 4 options, each resulting in a different ending. The good thing about these endings is that there are "no bad endings", meaning that whatever you choice is the outcome is highly philosophical and subjective. That I liked. However, none of these endings have to do with ANYTHING you did up to this point in the game which makes an ending with multiple choices completely useless. Furthermore you can save before making the choice, you should not really be able to do that with a game ending like this - but at least it gives you the chance to compare all the crappy endings without replaying the game. The ending cinematics themselves, are such a cheap ass ripoff that they could be best described as "youtube tribute videos". Instead of giving you a CGI cinematic, or even a game engine based cut scene you are fed with random clips of protests, famine, violence, forests and stuff from the real world that between the 4 ending videos have 5% to do with this game and what you have done up to this point! It completely ruins the entire ending and leaves you pretty much going "WTF!?".

Despite those flaws, and the complete bullshit ending, I still recommend this game based on a number of things.

Soundtrack is awesome.
World atmosphere is excellent. Be it snippets of news playing on a tv telling about the global situation, to character interaction, architecture, and a general "Blade Runner" feel to the game.
Quests feel important and are very varied.
Gameplay is solid and very satisfying no matter if you use the environment to your advantage, sneak around or shoot your way through the game. Though you will enjoy the stealth approach more.
Upgrades really feel rewarding and handy, there are but a few "increase %" upgrades thrown in the skill tree. Most of the upgrades actually give you a game altering enhancement. And that you cannot max out on everything is also good because it makes choosing  upgrades harder and the feeling of reward stronger once you get your "praxis kits".
Hacking minigame actually makes sense and feels innovative.

And your character looks absolutely badass, which is never a bad thing.

And despite the shitty ending and frustrating boss battles, I recently started a second game, this time on the hardest difficulty to try to make things differently. I probably won't stick around to the end of the 3rd act, but I will enjoy the game up till then.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, I played the original and enjoyed it but I think more could have been done with this considering how far tech has come in the last few years.


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