‘At a time when scientific advancements are turning athletes, soldiers and spies into super enhanced beings, someone is working very hard to ensure mankind’s evolution follows a particular path.‘
If any game of 2011 had big shoes to fill, it was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. With the first Deus Ex holding a high (if not the top) place on many gamer’s top ten lists and a sequel (Invisible War) that is remembered for being such a disappointment, it was anyone’s guess as to whether Ion Storm’s new game would reinvigorate the franchise, or kill it for good.
Thankfully, Ion Storm have delivered a game that might not live up to people’s memory of the original (it’s doubtful that anything could live up to that many years of nostalgia), but is a fantastic game in its own right. The first thing that struck me about Human Revolution was the great world that the developers have created. Taking place well before the original game, Human Revolution throws you into a near future world that is struggling with questions about what it means to be human.
There are so many things contributing to this great immersive world, from news reports in the background, various e-mails you can read on people’s computers, conversations that you will hear as walking down the street etc. None of the detail is shoved in your face, but it’s there if you want to go looking at it. The world is such an important part of an RPG; your character can be the most interesting guy on the planet but if the only world he has to explore is the local supermarket than your game is going to be pretty dull. Right throughout the game I was pulled into the world, and became Adam Jensen, not just some guy watching what he was doing. This level of involvement with the game can make you overlook so many things, like reused models and conversations, because they’re only minor annoyances.
The graphics in the game aren’t groundbreaking, but they certainly aren’t bad either, there wasn’t really any points where I found the visuals pulling me out of the experience, and that’s all you can really ask for from a game I think. All the pretty visuals and visual tricks in the world won’t make your game interesting if the story and game-play aren’t there to support them. One graphical annoyance I had though was the compressed cut scenes. I realise that the developers had to shrink things down to fit the game on a single DVD for console users, but surely they could have had higher resolution versions for the PC edition. After the amazing cut scene footage shown in all the trailers, it was really disappointing to see the lower quality versions in the game itself.
Storywise, Human Revolution works very well. While I saw most of the twists coming, the story was very well paced, full of interesting characters and ethical dilemmas. I particularly liked how the story worked my play-style choices into the dialogue for the multiple endings. It really made me feel as if the way that I chose to tackle the obstacles thrown in front of me really made a difference in the end. Since having multiple ways to tackle objectives is one of the major draw-cards for the game, having the choices that you make actually impact the story is a perfect way to get the player thinking about the reasons behind they’re play choices rather than just going for the easiest route.
Throughout the game, virtually every situation you come across can be tackled in a variety of ways. You can go in guns blazing like 99% of other shooter games, or you can use stealth to take enemies out one by one (lethally or non-lethally), you can try to avoid enemy contact all-together, and you can sometimes even talk your way through obstacles. This bevy of choices makes the game far more engaging than it would be if you were told how to approach every situation. I took a non-lethal stealth approach to most situations, not because it was easier than any other route, but because that felt in character for my version of Adam. I often found myself reaching an objective only to spot a route that would have been much easier to take, but rather than irritating me, it just made me look for similar approaches in future encounters
One big exception to the multiple approach design was the boss battles. These felt really out-of-place in the game, and punished you for taking non-combat augmentation options. The battles felt like they were in the game only because boss battles are the ‘done thing’ these days. I wouldn’t have a problem with them being in there if I’d had other ways to take the boss down, but every single battle came down to shooting the other guy until he fell down. This was a big immersion breaker, which is a big problem in a role-playing game. Thankfully these battles are few and far between, but I think some thought needs to go into the design of any future DLC to avoid punishing non-combat players.
I could go on about the details of Human Revolution at some length, but at the end of the day it’s really something that you have to experience for yourself. This is definitely one of the must play games of 2011, if you’re a fan of the series you’ll be thanking the powers that be for not producing another Invisible War, if you’re a newbie to the series than this is a perfect place to start.
If you want me to go into any more detail, or cover some of the areas I left out of the review, feel free to leave a comment below.
What I Liked – Immersive world. Interesting story. Tied play-style choices into the ending(s). Choosing your own way to approach a situation.
What I Didn’t Like – Boss battles forcing combat choices. Map was a bit cumbersome. World felt smaller than expected. Cinematic compression.
Rating – 4.5 out of 5 (Extremely Enjoyable)