Deus Ex: HumΔn Revolution – Review

05 Sep

No worries, I won’t be turning this into a gaming blog, but a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution deserves a review here, given the unique topics and nature of the game.

To begin, I was intrigued by the initial reviews this game received, and the hybridization of gaming genres that was promised. Opting to give it a chance, I picked it up and sank into the world of augmentation and dystopian culture. Sitting down in front of the game, the initial tutorials were helpful and informative for the most part, giving me a sense of how to do most of the important elements. Crouching, sneaking, takedowns, combat, and such. What struck me as very unusual is that they gave no real information with respect to handling mines (which didn’t play a role at the beginning of the game, but deserved a ‘tutorial’ later on). I didn’t realize that mines could even be disarmed until I got blown up a few times.

That said, I will honestly say that the game was built to tell a story, and a compelling one at that. The moral significance of allowing the human body to be altered or evolved is a question that definitely still sits unresolved with me. Being an open-minded person, I saw points in what everyone was saying in the game, which probably made the ending much more… difficult? I often found myself with my heart in my throat at turns in the gameplay that caused me to question my motives, my employers, and the cause I was sticking to. The gameplay is fantastic, allowing a fair amount of variety and different methods of interaction, which I think definitely allows for some re-playability.

Unfortunately, my list of criticisms is slightly longer and more specific.

For a game of this generation, the CGI movies were fantastic, but the actual gameplay detail felt like clay instead of the cutscenes’ marble. Less significant characters looked much more poorly put together than the main character and his colleagues. The disparity made the switch from the video to the gameplay very significant. The gameplay is definitely good, but it could have used more… detail focus? The spikes of Jensen’s hair (which I became intimately familiar with) were all solidly in place as if he had bathed in hair gel, and a little bit of effort into the detail of something that will always be fixed would be much appreciated.

Socially, it was refreshing that we were thrown head-first into a different culture in that of Hengsha, but the offer of this seemed to pale by the end of the game in that you got your fill of the cultures of Hengsha and Detroit… and nowhere else. Even when moving to the few other locations, there was no cultural interaction, and much less in the later parts of the game with the actual people of the city than I would have liked. A personal criticism, really, and not an overall bad thing.

The biggest issue I had was that this was toted to be a game of choice. Many of the elements of the game fly directly in the face of this:

  • Without hacking skills of some degree, it’s very difficult to proceed in many areas. Even once you get past a room’s defenses and into its interior, you’re still faced with computer encryption and safe cracking in order to capture some spoils. I think this may be because I played as a hacker / stealth expert first time through and found the difference… unnerving when playing a luddite soldier.
  • The skills themselves begin preset as soon as you gain control over them. For being given choice, you’re given no choice about how Jensen is configured at the start. He’s a security specialist, and has a few select skills to suit this. I would have preferred that these skills came standard and weren’t even listed as having a portion of a tree ‘complete’, because I’m given the perception that my choices have already been spent.
  • The inventory system was interesting. I imagine my tendency to play stealth / hack meant that the big weapons lost all their appeal, but even so I fear having played a character choice that would have made good use of them. Everything is… big, and there isn’t much space to carry it all. Ammo for the larger weapons is somewhat plentiful, but ammo in general is lacking. Good, because it makes the player play smart, not hard. Minor issues like a bottle of painkillers giving the player a +25 HP boost, regardless of what level they’re at (even 100%), and being 1 bottle / use. Because that’s how we all know we need to take painkillers.
  • With a nod to Penny Arcade, I too was in a similar situation with the first boss. I made my choices, and now I have no useful way to use them? I suppose this is because, overall, Jensen is a soldier, even if he abandons all physical augmentations beyond stealth.
  • The communication tree was sorely underdeveloped, compared to games like Mass Effect 2, and even then, we should be improving on the past. I felt like, regardless of what choices I made as far as method, the results turned out the same. I placated a man to get access to a room he was effectively guarding on one playthrough, and he caved to my kind words. The next playthrough I yelled at him to the same effect, only that he felt miserable about himself (sort of) and gave the same end line before granting me access. I was prepared to take an alternative approach to the infiltration, but suddenly I find the communication options to have… fallen flat.
  • The game’s ending. No spoilers here, but the entire ending comes down to a selection of 4 choices. Doesn’t matter how you played the game, or what choices you made in the game, or how you treated people, or how ruthless or pacifistic you played, it gave you the same 4 choices. The same 4 video cutscenes. One could easily quicksave or open their saved game right before the last choice and easily see all 4 endings on a single playthrough. Honestly, this completely guts any replay interest that the average gamer may have in this.
Overall, I felt the game had an excellent feel to it, and a great concept. The story was stunning and the gameplay, overall, was excellent. There were a lot of big issues as far as I’m concerned as far as choice is concerned, and if the game hadn’t been toted as a choice-fest, I would have been perfectly fine with a single ending and linear gameplay. Will I play it again? Maybe.
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