Initial Release Date: August 23, 2011
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS3, WiiU, Xbox 360
Publishers: Square Enix
Deus Ex: Human Revolution weaves several styles of gameplay into one cohesive, interesting tale of futurist biomechnical augmentation. Stealth, run-and-gun, diplomatic – its all possible. With the reveal of more of the new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I decided to delve into the last addition of the long running series.
Deus Ex develops a great dystopian tale of the excesses of technological development. You star as Adam Jensen, the top security chief for corporate monolith David Sarif. Sarif’s pride and joy, Sarif Industries, is on the bleeding edge of biomechanical augmentations of humans.
The game begins in Sarif Industries, with the scientists on the cusp of a great discovery involving human augmentation. Of course, this rubs a multitude of groups the wrong way, including terrorists, multinationals, protestors, and other even less savory shadow forces. Jensen is brutally injured, but is saved by Sarif’s intervention with expensive augmentations. Half man, half robot, Jensen then embarks on a journey across the globe to uncover the forces at work, and ultimately find the scientists kidnapped in the original attack.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, as the story does weave an interesting tale of technology, powerful outside forces, science, and morality. Given the context above, Jensen does travel across the globe to different location hubs in his pursuit of the scientists. This adds some new environments to explore, but often the oppressive futurist vision is the same bland, industrial colors with a different layout.
The characters Jensen meets, fights, or befriends are generally interesting, and do build up a personality throughout the tale. Your relationship with each pivotal character is developed through dialogue, missions, and cut scenes. The side missions also give a deep dive into some characters.
Despite the knock on the lack of color of the environments, the worlds are fun to explore, which adds a special touch to the gameplay. Given that the game has multiple solutions to any one problem, exploration is rewarded with unique opportunities depending on your style of playthrough. Playing through as a stealth-based build will take you through a much different path than the ol’ run-and-gun.
World building is also present in the NPCs walking about, some of which will add amusing snippets of info. More importantly, Jensen can read eBooks and PDAs he finds littered about, that not only give background material, but may also give passwords, codes, or hints that will be helpful in navigating future missions.
Without spoiling too much, Deus Ex did fall a little flat on the whole “shadowy greater conspiracy” alluded to earlier. The development of what exact role this is suppose to take was opaque at best (perhaps thats the point?) and did not really gel with the flow and explanation the rest of the story supported. However, the game delivers in the variety of endings you can achieve, which are partially affected by gameplay decisions, and does wrap up some of the loose threads. Overall, a very solid narrative and storyline that will motivate players to seek a resolution.
Many games tout the ability to complete levels in a variety of ways, allowing the player to “tailor their preferred gameplay style” to the challenges of the game. Well, Deus Ex manages to take a pretty good crack and reaching this ideal.
Open playground, social, exploration, stealth, gunplay, hacking — Deus Ex manages to straddle all of these elements while minimizing disjointedness. This is quite the feat, especially given Deus Ex is now an older game.
The basic loop consists of Jensen seeking out different characters as quest hubs. You have full freedom to move about the locale you are currently in, visiting a LIMB clinic to upgrade your augmentations, slinking through back alleys or sewers looking for collectibles or weapons, or busting into apartments. There is a nice balance of freedom of exploration without being too shallow.
On any particular main or side quest, you are normally given a goal, say, intimidate a certain person for information. At this juncture, you now have the ability to maneuver freely in reaching the goal.
You can try to talk or bribe your way through guards. Perhaps your previous exploring revealed an air duct in the roof that accesses the security room of the target building. Get in and shut off the cameras via a quick hack of the terminal. Maybe turn the turrets on the enemy. Maybe you don’t care and just want to go in guns blazin’ trying to rack up headshots. There really is a wide degree of freedom in choosing what you want (some are harder than others however). You can beat the whole game without killing any goons, a popular achievement to hunt for on Steam.
How are all these playstyles built into the game? Augmentations. “Augs” are built up through Praxis points, which are in turn found and/or earned through experience points. The game rewards a stealthy playstyle more (due to the higher difficulty), but augmentations cover all types of playing.
You can upgrade hacking to make the most of getting into terminals, gaining passwords for doors or cameras. You can upgrade your armor and recoil on weapons if gunplay is your thing. Full stealth players can opt for a temporary full invisibility augmentation, which quickly depletes your “energy” resource, therefore promoting a Praxis dump into that augmentation. Some of the augmentations are not really worth a point, such as silent footsteps when running, but you will not be penalized for a “misused” point.
The basic variety of gun armaments are available. There are a couple unique pieces such as a tranquilizer gun, stun gun, and laser. Weapons can be upgraded with upgrades strewn about the world. Inventory management is another big part of the game, with a limited cache available at any point in time, including slots required for ammunition. Efficiency is encouraged.
Enemy AI has the usual quirks, with not noticing you scuttling quite close to them during stealth portions, or taking strange pot shots at you during firefights. However, health in general is quite scarce, and a couple shots can down you quickly.
Slightly out of pace for the game, but nonetheless cool, are the boss battles. A couple of the bigger baddies end with a prototypical boss fight, with a cut scene introducing some unique environmental factor that can be used against them. Certain bosses can be quite easy depending on the loadout of the player, and the “Director’s Cut” edition of the game attempted to remedy stealth or nonlethal builds having trouble downing bosses in direct fights.
In addition to the edited Boss fights, the Director’s Cut adds the full Missing Link DLC directly into the game. This is a nice touch, as the DLC actually takes places in the middle of the story, so playing it separate would be hard to immediately place into the story. However, the DLC was probably my least favorite part of the entire game. It really, really hurt the pacing for me as, for story reasons, you lose all of your inventory and augmentations. This irked me as I had meticulous built up what I liked and had to start over (you do get stuff back, but slowly and disjointedly). There are mods that can alleivate this problem however.
The sound was actually a bit off for me during the playthrough. Some of the voice acting seemed strange or, at least, not natural. This can quickly break immersion during some of the dialogue scenes.
Graphically, the game is perfectly fine. I was not blown away by anything the game threw my way, and as mentioned, some of the color schemes were quite drab. The game is slightly aged at this point, but nothing that stood out as terrible or horribly dated.
Replayability is a key component for Deus Ex. With all the ways to solve the different missions, its likely you will be tempted to find alternatives. The endings are each unique, and players will likely try each one out (or YouTube them if nothing else). Trying to go for a nonlethal playthrough once you have beaten the game once is also a noble goal.
Mods can further enhance the experience, and examples can be found here.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution does a lot right. The game gives great breadth in choosing a playstyle, without tunneling players into any optimal builds. The story is motivating, and the themes (heavy security, genetic/biological science) is as pertinent today as it was when the game released. With big discounts early and often on Steam, and a highly anticipated sequel on the radar, Deus Ex is worth your time.
+Variety of playstyles
-Reptitive color palette
Total Score: 7.9/10