Deus Ex: Human Revolution review
Human Revolution extends the Deus Ex prophesy of a dystopian future that is bleak at best, depressingly believable at its worst. Where the elite rule above the deprived and human augmentation has split the human race ethically in two. The year is 2027; just a decade and a half from where we stand now, but Eidos spins a story that shows how the elite are elevated even further and the poor slide further down the social ladder.
The emerging big business is Human Augmentation, modifying the human body through cybernetic advancement. The argument for and against is relevant to today, the obvious benefits for victims who have lost limbs in trauma or military veterans is obvious, but the dark side painted here is the forcing of such trans-human modification where it’s done for profit, or without the persons consent. This has split humanity into two regarding said augmentation, one half – more notably the profiteers such as the big corporations, but also the government and socially elite class – see it as the next step in human evolution, whilst the other side see it as acts of pure desecration.
The plot is extremely well written and executed and never for a moment absurd, echoing current relevant issues regarding pushing boundaries on what is acceptable and the effects on society. Politically driven but never to the extent that it preaches, the storyline is delivered both through the main narrative, but also subtly left in the forms of readable digital media. Newspapers and ebooks are scattered convincingly around, filling in the gaps and fleshing out the world that is Deus Ex, rewarding collectors with an abundance of reading material on everything from local history on augmentation, historical game events and culture, to of course how the media report on the repercussions caused to you – Adam Jensen.
Jensen becomes embroiled in finding out the truth behind an attack that leaves him for dead and through which he becomes augmented to save his life. Expertly voice acted – even if he does sound a little like Christian Bale’s Batman with a chip on his shoulder, with a hint of the morose Neo (every response to NPC’s is often delivered with perpetual misery) – the majority will still warm to him and his cause regardless, and the other main characters are a bigger delight. The derisive and sarcastic systems specialist Pritchard is your main point of contact in the field, and the banter between him and Jensen is both comical and believable. You reach each destination via a private helicopter piloted by the tomboy-like Malik who is boisterous yet feminine, and holds her own quest for vengeance that eventually entwines Jensen. Heading up the Sarif cooperation you are security manager for is David Sarif; a typical CEO that straight shoots but is not averse to holding secrets for personal gain. His and Sarif Industries influence in Human Augmentation is at the forefront of research and development in the field, and is the pivot point for the story arc.
Even NPC’s are brilliantly realised. During one encounter with a plot development we witness a janitor clean every table at a cafeteria, expecting him to recycle his efforts indefinitely – a chuckle arose when he moved onto the windows. It’s the small details that counts and Human Revolution is almost perfect in realising a believable, living, breathing city in its two visited city hubs; Detroit and Heng Sha Island. Whilst the action takes place in perpetual darkness, under neon city lights or artificially lit hallways in both modern and aging architecture, it never grinds to be a servant of the night, it only serves to highlight the brilliant lighting engine and seems to be a wise decision to hold the game nocturnally to suit stealthy infiltrations.
Choice is indeed what separates us from lesser species, at least the ability to decide a course of action different from what is expected by normal conventions, designed from keeping us from getting to our objective. An approach involving indiscriminate slaughter may be possible, but limited ammunition in the field (fallen enemies usually only cough up a round or two) rewards players that opt to take a more lateral and indirect route. Vents hidden behind crates at the back of buildings provide unsupervised points of entry, but often drop you right into the proverbial fire, requiring even more stealth and subterfuge to remain undetected now that all sentries are still awake/alive. Cameras are quick to ascertain that you are up to no good, though these, robot sentries and turrets can be deactivated provided passwords gleaned from dropped digital diaries are discovered, or if augmented hacking attempts are successful.
The hacking minigames may be a little clumsy to play, involving triggers that need to be held down while capturing program nodes and while under pressure from a trace program looking to find the digital intruder.
To enable the ability to hack into higher end programs Jensen has the ability to ‘unlock’ his higher functions, the reasoning that as it’s a short time since the incident that left him for dead, it would be unwise medically to expose his body and brain to everything that was implanted. Ergo the further you get the more the body can withstand the implications of augmentation and the more abilities you unlock. Aside from the typical hacking protocols, dermal implants to absorb damage and weapon recoil dampeners, stand out abilities include the ability to go invisible though light bending, punching through walls, the Icarus system and the ability to fall any distance without sustaining damage which is useful for the clumsy explorer – at the very least save and install the augmentation just to witness once the super cool way it deploys.
This choice of augmentation is echoed in dialogue choices with character interactions. Decisions have far reaching rippling effects, both morally and consequently. Side missions are easily sacrificed through poor decision making and a multitude of endings is possible due to the narrative branching possible through your actions. It’s this style of gameplay that provides the big draw with Human Revolution. Knowing that every action you take is meaningful to the big picture, that you may feel the watered down consequences of a decision you actively made several hours ago provides a fresh experience that has been lacking in every other scripted FPS for several years.
Deus Ex Human Revolution was announced in 2007 so has been gestating in a long development cycle. Rather than being hampered by real world economic strife and suffering from change of developers like some IP’s, DE has benefited from such a long production time. Brilliant storytelling, bug free play (no mandatory update is needed to iron out glitches) and the concentration on single player gameplay (no multiplayer), results in a must play experience for fans of the franchise and those who have not heard of the Deus Ex world.