Posted Fri 10th Feb 2012 2:15pm by Ashley Martin
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review
Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers up more than your average shooter title. It's an exploration into the ethics of technological advancement, an examination of the relationship between man and machine. Through its near-future setting and resonant themes, this first-person RPG weaves a heady yarn, though you'll have to use your head as well as your trigger finger if you want to progress.
As Adam Jensen, players are eased gently into the story, beginning with a short tutorial section at biotechnical facility Sarif Industries. Sarif is just one of the companies at the forefront of a new wave of 'enhancement' technology, a morally grey science which allows human beings to be spliced with machines. As Sarif's chief of security, you are responsible for keeping the company's assets in check, but after the building is attacked, it becomes clear the job isn't as black and white as it seems. In possession of new 'augmented' abilities, Jensen sets out on a quest for truth, that will not only test his physicality, but his mental strength as well.
With the exposition out of the way, players are free to explore the neo-noir styling of 2027 Detroit. From the off, the game oozes a gloomy cool, combining a slick electronic score with cyberpunk visuals. Although this and other locales in the game can feel claustrophobic with regards to bigger open-world spans, this isolated approach helps further the game's bleak tone. What's more, multi-path level design ensures we are not left crawling down the same corridors over again. Provided you have the sufficient skills, Jensen can prize open concealed paths with brute strength, hack security-protected doorways or even drop himself 20ft in order to reach his objective.
This is achieved through Praxis, the game's upgrade system. These perks vary in usefulness and can be combined in a number of interesting ways. Personally, I opted for the stealth approach, maxing out the duration of my cloaking ability and increasing my energy stash, enabling me to remain hidden for longer. Although this made me more vulnerable during boss encounters, I felt a true sense of power being able to flit past security cameras unnoticed before bursting out of cover to take down my enemies.
And this is one of things Human Revolution gets so right. The feeling of being a deadly force, an artificially-enhanced killing machine. But that's not to say developer Eidos Montreal has made things easy - far from it. At times a single shot in the wrong direction can lead to your untimely death. Planning your strategy and dissecting enemy patrol patterns is all part and parcel of your success as a player. Choose to ignore these aspects and you'll often find yourself in a compromising position, fighting head-on against rooms full of ruthless mercenaries. This not only improved the game's challenge, but provided Jensen with a refreshing sense of vulnerability uncommon to modern action heroes.
The hacking minigame was another area which intrigued, as it can benefit the player in many different ways. On a basic level, it's used to unlock security doors and safe deposits, but later you'll find you can take control of robots, disengage security systems and even turn enemy turrets on their own forces. When ammo reserves are running low, hacking becomes more tactical, and at times, it's often wiser to avoid getting your hands dirty at all.
Though the combat engaged me for the most part and the first to third person cover system worked well, I did find myself frustrated during the later stages of the game. Enemies such as the brutal, chain-gun wielding Harvesters, could only be silenced using the most lethal of weapons and ammo packs were not as readily available as I would have liked. This can be particularly irritating when you are close to completing your objective, but lack the firepower to clear the last room of enemies. I'd find myself swapping out items I wanted to keep just to clear enough space in my load-out for a stray ammo box.
Weapons vendors are also few and far between, so you'll often need to go backtracking in order to stock up on guns and ammo. You can increase your inventory size through praxis points, but you'll need to be conservative with your bullets in order to stay the distance. Perhaps more annoying is the fact that any upgrade applied to your weapon is specific to that piece of equipment - toss it out and you'll have to purchase the upgrade again. While this might have been implemented to push the strategic element of the game, it limited the amount of weapon experimentation.
But to lambast Human Revolution for such a small area of its design would be unjustified. For me, the sheer detail displayed in its narrative was enough to make me want to progress. Through virtual ebooks, pdas and newspapers, I was able to keep track of the goings on in the Deus Ex world, with my own actions shaping the headlines. Sure, this exposition can be ignored completely, but a bit of detective work can be beneficial to the player in other ways too. Discovering a door code or safe combination through a misplaced pocket computer can feel like finding buried treasure, while digging through a person's personal email will often help you fill in blanks in the story that you'd have otherwise missed.
With Deus Ex: Human Revolution Eidos Montreal has managed to bring an aged brand bang up to date, with a third person cover system and slick AAA presentation that just wasn't possible eleven years ago. Through its dystopian setting, ambient soundtrack and sleek art direction this game provides a consistent feeling of futuristic cool that is only in part let down by some combat issues. Whether you choose to cling to its surface or scratch beneath its many layers, Human Revolution spins a tale of corruption, subterfuge and betrayal that's simply too good to miss.
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