Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Genre: FPS Action Role-Play
Developer: Eidos Montreal, Nixxes Software (PC)
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Score: Game of the year 2011

Let’s do some word association.

Prequels:                               Shit.
Square Enix Games:               Shit.
A Deus Ex Sequel:                  Invisible Shit.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution:   Amazing.

That last one might not seem to follow, but after playing four short hours of it I found myself asking aloud, “Other games: are you even trying?”

It began with logos flashing on the screen to sullen techno music and futuristic, sexy menus. Going forward, “Tell Me a Story” is a disarming euphemism for easy mode. It got me thinking. You’re right Human Revolution, I do enjoy video games that tell a story. This one combines Blade Runner, RoboCop, and forced ethical quandaries.  It fills that space with subdued characters that are both realistic and believable.  Now, HR isn’t the epic future quest Mass Effect is.  You aren’t the King of Human Kind, just a low-key Batman.  The intrigue starts small and builds slowly.  You’re a pawn, doing mostly what you’re told while trying to reverse engineer what is actually going on.

In Human Revolution, story is also game play. It is as important and extensive as you want it to be.  You can take time reading emails, exploring, doing side quests, and talking to NPCs.  If you do, the story grows the way it’s meant to – conversations become your boss fights, the information you’ve gathered your arsenal.  Choices you make actually affect the story; a feature that is always solid gold in video games.

The game play itself is robust and multifaceted.  The level design is impressive.  Areas are large with many routes to take to any one goal.  You can hack your way in, find a vent, sometimes talk your way through, and, of course, three loud ways to brute force it.  There’s much to explore and most maps have an adequate amount of life – unlike today, future Detroit is an up and coming industry city – populated by human beings.  Eidos went the extra mile on immersion and exploration.  Spam emails with typos, radio news, very entertaining Easter Eggs, and interesting NPC banter add depth and often humor.

Subdued electronic beats help maintain the atmosphere – with the occasional break to high adrenaline “time to fight” tracks.  The voice acting is excellent.  At some point you go to China – the Chinese spoken therein is delivered by people who actually speak Chinese. The ‘English’ they speak then has the correct accent. This is more noteworthy than one might think. After enduring the tenth hour of embarrassing Italian imitations in Assassin’s Creed 2 I was ready to claw my ears off. It was like watching a terrible New Jersey cooking show mixed with all the quality acting of a daytime Mexican TV drama. In fact, the dialogue is almost unnecessarily impressive in Human Revolution.  Remember those conversational boss fights I mentioned earlier?  I reloaded after one to try and win the argument. I chose the same 1st option. The motherfucker said a different sentence with different words. This one was more convincing than the last. Eidos paid an actor to read an entire alternative cohesive thought and then spent money to have both implemented – not once, but in several conversations throughout the game. I was stunned. It was so awesome.

Rant inc.
This can only be from SE throwing money at Eidos until they playfully begged them to stop, giggling. It proves something I’ve been yelling at Square-Enix for several years now (from my window): Just publish games, don’t make them.  Do we really need another overproduced FF title where you can’t control your party?
End of Rant.

To survive the futuristic corporate intrigue, you’ll need a character who is equal parts Snake Plissken and Bruce Wayne.  Enter Adam Jensen. The tutorial is mostly just his ass being thoroughly handed to him by a full conversion ‘borg.  He’s thrown through plate glass, has every bone broken, and gets shot in the forehead.  Science makes him robot superman and now the real game begins.

The ultimate success of Human Revolution is the balance and execution of its game play.  Eidos manages to perfectly blend combat, stealth, hacking, and social interactions.  Each aspect is fully developed and fun.  In a way, you get to choose your own type of enjoyment while playing.  If your idea of fun is to commando-style assault every enemy you come across with grenades and full auto machine guns and explosive revolver rounds, have at it.  You get less XP this way, but you also need less. Skip over the two dozen hacking and stealth augs for dermal plating, inventory space, aim stabilizers, and the typhoon room-sweeper.  Favor the stealth route?  You can become a silent Predator that has radar and can see through walls. Like story and exploration? Get them hacking skills. As an aside, if you are a fiend for XP and Praxis (the currency you buy augs with) by doing everything, you get enough of them to buy almost everything. Careful, though; there are no re-specs, only reloads.

I personally went the stealth hacker route.  I can’t help it – if the game has a stealth system, then I am taking advantage of it. HR doesn’t disappoint. You have more incentive to knock people out in hand to hand combat than shoot them from afar, and the enemy AI isn’t completely handicapped.  If they see a guy knocked out they’ll trigger an alarm and blow your stealth XP bonus – or come looking for you.  I found myself methodically picking apart enemy patrols and loving it.  Enemy LOS was truly impressive.  Their cones of vision are amongst some of the most realistic I’ve encountered in a game – watching their patterns and being aware of an actual human visual spectrum was just damn good design.

The best part was that the game never punished me for not going the shooter style. Every huge battle mech had a console to hack to disable it, a way to sneak past, or at least an EMP grenade in a locker nearby – sometimes all three. Hell, before the first boss fight, in case you’d been going the nonlethal ninja route, HR was considerate enough to leave a rocket launcher sitting on a silver platter with a sign above it reading, HINT: BOSS FIGHT SOON. It came with three rockets and he went down smoothly in what could’ve been a sudden brick wall to 2/3rds of the play styles. Eidos showed good foresight by dodging a potential gripe.

Cover will be essential to both combat and stealth.  I tend to not like cover based combat but must admit I was impressed with how HR handled it. This isn’t brown and bloom chest-high wall land that every modern shooter seems to live in – the level design is too good for that.  Sensical objects of varying height and distance apart decorate the terrain.  You hold right-click to move up against an object and the camera switches to a third person view.  The strafe keys move you left or right respectively, while pushing up will pop your head out of cover and allow you to aim with your mouse.  Tap space bar to dive to the next bit of cover or hold it to shimmy around the edge.  It takes a bit to get used to, but once you do it runs like a dream and ranks high on my list of cover systems.

I did have a few minor problems with the game.  The forced ethical debate of whether or not to give crippled people robotic prosthetics was kinda thin. Yes, I understand there will always be people who refuse to understand an issue before choosing a side based solely on misplaced emotion (how else would hot-button politics  work?), but still. Having enough inventory space was a continual struggle even with the upgrades. No respec option. The actual NPC boss fights, while visually cool, leave a bit to be desired and the same strategy – rockets to the face – works for all of them.  Most upsetting is that there’s no New Game+ option to maintain equipment and upgrades from a previous play through.

Any complaints are minor compared to the success of the Deus Ex prequel published by Square-Enix in the year 2011. Wow. Just never thought I’d ever type that.

This is a great game, meant to be played by great people.

This game was reviewed on PC.