The Human Revolution
Deus Ex (the original) was a ground breaking game, which blended a darkly futuristic cyberpunk story, with an RPG/shooter that let you pretty much do your own thing. The means truly did justify the end in DX. I've long been a fan of cyberpunk and its associated ideas/themes and eagerly awaited the sequel/prequel - Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
I've spent pretty much just under a week or so with this one and the bottom line: Human Revolution is a worthy successor to Deus Ex and a fine game. Just like Deus Ex, Human Revolution is a game that may be linear, but offers that much choice in how you approach your tasks, it feels non-linear as well.
Being a prequel, you don't need to play Deus Ex, or Deus Ex: Invisible War to enjoy Human Revolution either - though I recommend that you at least track down Deus Ex (even though it's an old game now).
You're cast in the role of Adam Jensen, ex-SWAT and now Chief of Security at a global biotechnology firm, Sarif Industries. On the eve of a massive breakthrough in biotech research something goes wrong, Adam is nearly killed and ends up undergoing a life saving augmentation procedure, one that comes with its own set of problems. There's anti-augmentation feeling throughout the whole game, with a human led purity group and a general dislike from many quarters, of this technology that makes you more than human.
The rest of the story is a stark cyberpunk tale that is full of conspiracy and twists and turns. The story is told through a mix of pre rendered and in-game cinematic and dialogues.
Now the story is linear and takes you across the world in the course of the tale. It is possible to miss out on side quests in the game if you don't go looking or exploring for them. Your approach to how you tackle the missions, side quests and narrative of Human Revolution however is up to you. You can go in guns blazing, you can sneak, you can adapt your tactics on the fly and it is possible (in fact there's an achievement) to go through the game and not kill anyone except bosses.
You can be as cold and detached in conversations as you want, or as welcoming and friendly. You can play the Adam Jensen you want to play and the game won't penalise you for it. That said, the social aspect of the game is quite a large one, there are social boss fights where you need to try and say the right thing to get what you want or the best outcome. These are very interesting exchanges and can have lasting effects on the late game depending on how you handle them.
There are augmentations to help with all kinds of elements of DX HR, from stealth fields, to emotional readers, such as the CASIE mod. One that literally lets you see the blush responses, pupil dilations and heart rates of NPCs. You can pick up their personality based on how you treat them in the initial stages of a conversation and use a special pheromone enhancer to influence the outcome. Pick the right tactic and you'll get them to open up and more. Some of the augmentations take energy, and you have several energy bars that can be replenished with nutrients in game. So don't think you can just stay cloaked forever.
As far as core gameplay goes, if the bullets start flying, then it's possible to hold your own. Stick to cover, play Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 style and pick your enemies off intelligently. You can adapt tactics on the fly, fade from view with the stealth 'glass-shield' aug and reposition, you can use brutal lethal takedowns or non-lethal takedowns to thin out enemies that stray too far from their position. You can basically play the game's combat like Splinter Cell: Conviction if you want.
There are lots of weapons, weapon mods and gadgets to help you out. From gas grenades, frag mines, mine templates (letting you make your own mines by combining grenades with them) to pistols, combat rifles, non-lethal tranq and stun guns. There are weapon mods that increase damage, reload speed and even allow for tracking seeker bullets that let you curve the bullets into your enemies.
The whole review could be taken up with the guns and gadgets in DX HR because there's that many.
The moment to moment gameplay, combat, raw and brutal, stealth (some of the best since Thief) and exploration are excellent. There are numerous routes, directions to go, options for you to use and ways to play that it's nearly impossible to list them all. For example, you can move small boxes to make box stairwells, you can move bigger boxes with the right upgrade and there are sections of the early game areas that can be explored if you take the time and trouble to think creatively. The camera snaps out into a 3rd person view when you go into cover, from there you can move smoothly around corners, move from cover to cover with the touch of a button and get a situational awareness of your enemies.
The game rewards exploration in the form of XP points and you need those. XP gets you Praxis and Praxis means new augmentations can be activated from Jensen's aug menu or upgraded. The hacking augmentation was the first thing that I focussed on, early on I wanted Jensen to be this hacking god and punch through walls, because I knew that exploration would net me hidden Praxis Kits and more.
I hacked everything, stole every bit of information possible, and broke into every system and room I could find. This is just one way of playing though, because there are alternate routes in the game for every possible thing you can think of. There's a large list of augs for you to buy with Praxis, ones that will make exploring so much easier, ones that make stealth something really rewarding and even an augmentation for landing without falling damage (the best aug yet).
Besides the shooting and sneaking, there's the hacking and the hacking is a tactical mini-game that brings fond memories of playing the Cyperpunk and Shadowrun RPGs back when I was younger. You begin at an entry point, on a security system that is rated 1-5. You must then capture nodes on that system, with a detection chance. There are different modifiers that can change the way the network reacts, such as clearance, which will lower storage nodes by a certain amount. Transfer, which changes the rating of connected nodes randomly and soften, which makes certain nodes easier to capture. There's also a spam node which slows down the system trace.
A diagnostic ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics) subroutine will attempt to lock you out, if you're detected. You can either use Nuke viruses to capture nodes without detection or Stop/Slow viruses to help complete the hack. If you're locked out you need to wait a while before you try again, and sometimes it will trigger alarms. Hacking is an extremely rewarding and simple experience that has a lot of tactical depth, one that brings great rewards, from programs, to money and experience bonuses.
You can also hack the red node (the detection node) if it has a two way, or one way ==>== bridge (going towards the node obviously). If you do so, you'll compromise the whole system and capture everything including data stores and so on. It's a great time saver on a system that might appear too complex to begin with.
The game is split into various city hubs, there you can get missions, explore and so side quests. There are also huge areas that make up the core story mission zones and these are once again packed with objectives and alternate routes to allow you to get through even if you don't have a particular kind of augmentation. For example, if you don't have hacking, you might be able to use the 'glass-shield' cloak aug to slip past the laser fences. Or you could find a route that lets you wall punch your way into the secret zone.
Vent ducts are a big part of the game (just like the original) and offer lots of exploratory potential.
The gameplay in DX HR is pretty much spot on, a solid set of mechanics that let you choose as a player - just how you want to do things. Why have I repeated it so many times? Because it's one of the things that really set Deus Ex (1) apart from the crowd and HR is just the same.
With intelligent checkpoint saves, and a save anywhere option, the frustration of the game is kept to a minimum on the harder difficulties - these being Normal and the downright nasty Deus Ex.
If you just want to experience the story play on Easy.
Deus Ex HR has a great cyberpunk feel, from the run-down streets of Motor City (Detroit) in 2027 to the Bladerunner-esque choking glamour of Hengsha in China. There's a particular design theme running through the graphics of the game, the colour scheme of black and gold speaks of the renaissance period of mankind and plays directly into the whole story of the game too. It's one of the very few games that graphically know what cyberpunk means, as a whole.
It shines through in every augmented human, every spike-haired bad mouthed graffiti artist in the back alleys. The mix of grungy tacky neon lights with the glitz and glamour of an augmented pop star oozes in these zones. Yet there's darkness beneath the surface, the dependence on an anti-rejection drug, corporate backroom deals and unlicensed augmentation botch jobs (ripper docs in cyberpunk terms). Johnny Silverhand or Johnny Mnemonic would not look out of place here. The graphics are great, they have their own style and everything brings the cyberpunk world to life. It echoes the old style of Deus Ex in places, but brings it all up to date with an eye-catching modern engine that runs at a solid framerate on the 360.
The animations in DX HR are excellent. There's no doubt about it, from the moment you see Jensen in cover moving smoothly from position to position, to the first of several excellently animated takedowns (lethal or non-lethal) the game oozes quality. There are no real issues to speak of here; it all does a good job of making a fun experience and one that's importantly fun to play!
There's a fair bit of physics going on here, from breakable scenery and objects, to the force of impact from weapons and physical blows. This is seen to good effect in takedowns and one in particular where Jensen taps the guy on the shoulder and facepunches him when he turns around. The sheer physical force of that move can knock the bad guy over and he reacts nicely to the hit. Explosions have a blast radius and mines are especially effective for blowing up breakable walls.
On the whole I found the AI of DX HR to be pretty decent. It wasn't terrible and it seemed to have an idea of how combat works, how cover and flanking works and most importantly it couldn't see through solid walls. Of course if you're not moving quietly and crouching then yes, it'll be able to hear you. However when it came to visual recognition, you had to be fairly close for the AI to know you were there. They would of course react to changes in the environment quite well, opened doors set them to an alarmed state and dead or unconscious bodies can cause them to set off an alarm.
Boss AI was fairly decent too. I won't go into detail here, due to spoilers.
The soundscape for the game is excellent; there is a lot of looped and spot audio that brings the whole city hub zone to life. There's a lot of work that's gone into getting authentic sounds for real world items, and making whole new sounds for things that just don't exist yet. It all comes together in a solid package that delivers an excellent audio side to the game. No glitches or missed loops either.
One of the true stars of the show, Michael McCann has crafted the score of the game to match the on-screen action and exploration perfectly. The soundtrack has a dark almost gothic/renaissance feel with the emergent technology of the new age brushing against powerful voices for the orchestral main theme Icarus. Then you have the City of Hengsha, a neo-Chinese technological nightmare that is nicely captured in McCann's score once again with a mix of tech meets traditional Chinese music. In short, the soundtrack is evocative and excellent.
There's a lot of it in Deus Ex and there are a lot of homages in the writing, there are tons of little references and in-jokes through the whole game if you know where to look. Various pointers to movers and shakers in the science fiction world, the cyberpunk genre and the first Deus Ex abound. There is also a great story, it's one that will take some understanding to get the whole picture and it's one that deserves at least a second play. There's a lot of well written script here and it changes based on the mood of the NPC in question. There have been times where I selected a response in dialogue and the NPC said something else I wasn't expecting even though I'd done that before exactly the same way.
In short, it's well written, thoughtful and a great cyberpunk tale. One that William Gibson would be proud of!
The voice cast are really having a ball with the game, you can tell. There are some great actors here that deliver their lines and Adam Jensen (the game's protagonist), voiced by veteran theatre, television and film actor Elias Toufexis has a variety of emotional responses in his performances (based on how you choose your dialogue paths). David Sarif catches the spotlight here as a thoroughly excellent and well portrayed character. Once again, there are no real problems with the voice work in the game. In short the voice work is really good!
None, DX HR is a single player game and that's that.
This is one of the best shooter/RPGs since the first Deus Ex and a worthy successor in all ways. It is highly deserving of its score and the numerous elements that make up the game work as a finely tuned augmentation. If you give this one a miss, you are seriously missing out on what could well be the Game of the Year.
We shall see though, there's time yet and a few more titles to roll out the door. Buy Human Revolution and prepare to experience the cutting- edge of 2027's cyberpunk tale.