Archive for the ‘Deus Ex’ Category

As reported at this morning, Eidos-Montreal made a haul at the 2012 Canadian Video Game Awards with “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, including Best Console Game, Best Audio, Best Game Design, Best Writing and Best New Character, although it lost out to “FIFA Soccer 12” from EA for Game of the Year.

The Canadian Video Game Awards recognize Canadian game designers, and there was some serious competition in there this year. Deus Ex beat out “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” for all of its awards except Best New Character. AC:R won in the Best Visual Arts category. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to do the judging. Both are very strong games, as were many of the other nominees.

Kudos all around to the Eidos-Montreal and Ubisoft teams.

If you’ve been reading forum postings at Steam or possibly the Deus Ex Wiki you’ve seen a few of my tidbits here and there. After two weeks of trying to get a feel for the game, I finally finished the first boss battle and have moved on through Hengsha and Montreal and am now back in Detroit. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few things that seem worth passing on and this is probably as good of a place as any to do it. I don’t think any of this is earth-shattering new stuff and is probably available from other sources, but a long weekend is as good a time as any to take a break from gaming, maintenance, and other daily life things and put it down on “paper”.

Mega-Credits: there are two weapons dealers available to you in Detroit. One is in the gas station near the L.I.M.B. clinic and the other is in a third-floor apartment near the basketball court. If you’re playing a “Ghost” walkthrough, this won’t be too helpful since you won’t be collecting many weapons except for those that are laying around. But for the rest, almost every opponent (except Barrett and most civilians) will drop weapons when you take them down. If you pick up those weapons and already have one of the same kind in your inventory, you’ll get some ammo. If you don’t and have space, then the weapon will be added to your inventory. If you’re doing a combat-oriented playthrough you might need that ammo, but most players probably don’t.

Those weapons are worth some creds, folks: anywhere from 750 for a Shotgun, down to 120 or so for a 10mm. Rather than picking up the weapon, leave them until  later and sell them. It will involve a lot of running back and forth and it does kind of break story immersion, but you’ll never be hurting for credits if you do. I’d recommend stashing one of each type of weapon at your apartment, but the rest are for selling. Granted, there are some areas where you do not have access to a dealer and you don’t have any other choice than to pick up the 10mm pistol and get one crummy round of ammo, but for those areas where you can, do so.

The ammo is also worth credits, but I’ve noticed that it’s a diminishing returns situation. The more ammo you sell, the lower the price goes. You could always stash it, I suppose, but if it’s for a weapon that you don’t plan on using much, even 5 credits is more than you had before.

Derelict Row Ballers: Detective Alexander will have a “Cloak and Daggers” quest for you if you talk to her (she’ll call you by name as you pass her, so she’s kind of hard to miss). Part of the quest involves finding a weapons stash in their territory, but you need to find it without being spotted. If you’re not good at sneaking or lack the patience, you’ll blow that part of her quest pretty quickly. However, the “being spotted” trigger is only operational while that quest is running. If you simply wander into Derelict Row and take out the Ballers BEFORE talking to her, then getting to the weapons stash will simply be a matter of going there and clicking on it because there won’t be anyone left to see you. OK, it’s not proper role-playing, but it works and is worth an extra 500 XPs for the “Ghost”.

Earning Achievements: there are mutually exclusive achievements for many of the side quests. For example, you cannot both keep Megan’s bracelet and give it to her mother; you cannot both accept O’Malley’s bribe and arrest him. The solution is called a saved game. Save your game before completing a side quest. Take one choice to get the achievement, then reload, take the other and keep rolling. Alternatively, you could play through the game again and simply take the other choices, but my memory being the shoddy thing that it is, I’d probably overlook something and spend the rest of the decade trying to remember where it was that I dropped the ball.

Get All of Those XPs (Part I): for those who do not want to spend Praxis points on upgrading your hacking skills, you’re missing out on a boatload of XPs. For example, at Milwaukee Junction you’ll have to pass through a room that has about 10 desktop computers in it. They’re all level 1 security, so they’re hackable even by those who do not upgrade. Most of the passwords are on pocket secretaries in opponent inventories or laying around elsewhere, but why bother? After clearing the room (I assume you’re not playing Ghost-style), just hack them all for an extra 250 or so XPs. The same goes in Montreal, but those are all Level 2 and Level 3 hacks and worth more XPs. Hack those wall panels. Hack those safes. If it’s electronic, hack it. I don’t have any hard numbers to back it up, but it takes 20,000 XP to take your hacking up to Level 5, but I’d bet that there are more than that many XPs available through hacking so it’s a long-run win.

Get All of Those XPs (Part II): explore everything. Go everywhere that you can go. There are air ducts, ladders, boxes to stack and climb, you name it. You get XPs for finding most of these routes and hidden locations. Don’t leave them unclaimed. Nothing says that you have to do it immediately, but after clearing an area, go explore before moving to the next.

I’ve Got a Name: talk to everyone. There are a lot of NPCs out there. Most are generic names, like “Civilian,” “Police Officer,” or “Punk” and they probably don’t have much in the way of useful information. But people with names almost always have something useful. Talk to them. For example, Leticia is digging around in a trashcan on a corner. For the cost of four Beers (you don’t have to give them all at once), she’ll give you an access code. For the some credits she’ll give you other information. But you won’t get it if you don’t talk to her and pay attention to the dialogue options.

Quick-Save Often: I do not know if this is available on the consoles, but <F5> is the default hotkey for a quick-save on the PC. Use it. Don’t rely on it exclusively (I believe the PC supports 99 regular save slots), but use it often.  I use it frequently when I’m trying something that is likely to backfire on me. Again, it’s not strict role-playing, but it WILL save your bacon often enough to make it worth your while.

Hack FTW: in addition to my previous comments about hacking, I stumbled on a little useful tidbit in the hacking mini-game. Those little diagnostic subroutines work just like nodes and can be captured. When you capture them, the hack is complete and you get all of the goodies stashed in data stores, whether you captured them or not. So in those situations where you can get to it easily, capture them. I’m still working on getting a complete verify on the goodies part, but completing the hack is definitely the case.

To get off my soapbox about Steam and back onto something a bit more constructive, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” is out and it’s a winner.

My rig: AMD quad-core 3.4GHz (per core) CPU, 6GB dual channel DDR3 RAM, dual GeForce 9800GTs (275.33 driver package), ASUS mobo with n750 chipset, standard integrated sound. This is the hardware bed for 32-bit Vista, which means I’ve only got 4GB of RAM to work with (the dual channel was on sale and 6GB was cheaper than the same stuff in a 4GB pack).

  • Graphics: there is nothing ground-breaking here, but it’s a unified presentation where all of the pieces mesh together very well in support of the overall story and vision – excellently done
  • Gameplay: very good; some logical/moral issues regarding the choices available to you at times (as in “none”), but you are mostly free to play within your character vision
  • Sound: very good; voice-acting is a bit off and stiff at times, but the musical soundtrack rocks, even through my decidedly low-end sound card
  • Story: very good; this is definitely a Deus Ex game
  • Replayability: very good (keep in mind that this is a prequel, so endings must come out a certain way so as to not violate the canon of the original)
  • Overall: 9 out of 10

It has been about 11 years since Deus Ex was released. Almost every “Top 25/50/100 Games” list for PC that I’ve read/seen has included it. By today’s standards its graphics are dated with really low poly counts, but they were more than decent for the time. What set it apart, I think, from the rest of the pack was an outstanding story with multiple ways to complete it.

The game world wasn’t completely open-ended, but it was close enough that you couldn’t call it a corridor-shooter and, although the story was linear, the developers provided multiple ways to approach and solve almost every situation you encountered. If you were a run-and-gun player, you could do that. If you were a ghost’s shadow stealth player, you could do that, too. Or you could mix and match. Or you could cheat your way through if you were so inclined (and see the not-so-subtle “Cheats Enabled” logo on every saved game). The game relied on a combination of cybernetic augmentations and skills to get you through, so you had to pick and choose very carefully.

Its sequel (“Deus Ex: Invisible War”) was less than fondly received by the fan-base upon its release in 2005. I’m being tactful about that because on many forums, one of the quickest ways to start a flame war is to say that you liked “Invisible War.” Leaving that aside, Invisible War tried to keep the things that made DX great, but the developers didn’t pull it off as well. The setting didn’t feel as open as DX’s. The story was more obviously linear and much more “out there” in a sci-fi sense. There were still multiple endings, but they were mostly unsatisfying endings. And, to add insult to injury (so to speak), the developers opted for an interface and gameplay that felt more like a console (the less said about the PS2 port of DX, the better – it really sucked).

So with great fan anticipation, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” was announced in 2007 and released this past Tuesday. The major theme in fan discussions had been whether it would be more like the original or more like the sequel. I’m happy to be able to report that this is much more like the original.

The overriding story question revolves around the development of cybernetic augmentations to enhance human abilities. The answer to that question from a story standpoint is that this must be allowed to happen so that the original Deus Ex can happen (Human Revolution is a prequel, after all). I think the deeper question, and the one which each player must work out for themselves, is whether these augmentations will create a world in which there are two species of humans, normal and augmented, and whether one is or should be superior to the other in political, social and economic terms.

Like both of the other games, you will play a predetermined character, Adam Jensen. Jensen is a former member of Detroit’s SWAT team. He left the force after an incident resulting in the death of a 15-year-old and is now the chief of security for Sarif Industries, a leader in the development of the augmentations so central to the story. Jensen begins the game with normal human abilities. After an attack on a Sarif research facility leaves him maimed and crippled, he is involuntarily augmented at the order of his boss, David Sarif. Surprisingly, you do not have the ability to be anything other than a white male with a set appearance. The other two DX games gave you a little flexibility in this area (IW even let you play as a female character), but HR does not. This is, in part, why Gameplay receives only a "Very Good” mark. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in my mind it violates the concept of player choice. It probably costs an arm-and-a-leg (which Sarif kindly replaced for you) to do the main character dialogs multiple times with different voice actors, so it’s understandable, but still…

DXHR went back to the original’s inventory and hotkey system where you have a set amount of inventory space and can carry whatever you’d like as long as it fits within that space.  Some items stack quite nicely, while other items (like grenades) don’t. This moves your choice of what to carry and what to leave behind a bit higher on the priority list, so don’t walk into this thinking you can just pick up any loot.  You must decide what’s going to be useful and what isn’t. It’s more realistic, but can be a huge frustration at times.

Like “Invisible War”, the skills system of the original has been scrapped in favor of doing everything through your augmentations. There are about 65 augmentations available for you to use. You install or upgrade your augmentations through Praxis kits/points. Each augmentation costs either 1 or 2 Praxis points. There will be 2 Praxis kits available for purchase through LIMB clinics in each of the five city hubs, 6 or 7 that you can pick up as loot or receive as a quest reward and the remainder are earned through XPs (1 Praxis per 5000 XPs). Depending upon your playing style and approach, you may or may not be able to install and fully upgrade all of the augmentations you want. For example, you will not be able to hack Level 5 computers until you have expended the Praxis points to be able to hack Level 2, 3, and 4 computers first (Level 1 hacking is part of your basic kit). Consequently, you’ll want to maximize your XP gains whenever possible, so always look for solutions that do not involve a frontal assault.

As a gameplay tip, keep in mind that picking up a weapon that you already have in your inventory will scrap the weapon and add a few rounds of ammo. A Combat Rifle, for example, can be sold in a city hub for a nice chunk of credits. You’ll need to decide whether the immediate gain of a few rounds of ammo is worth the 630 credits you could get for the weapon if you were to wait until you’ve finished the mission to carry it to the dealer. Be sure to stash your regular weapons first and gather loot AFTER you have completely cleared an area. It might take several trips, but it will maximize your credit gains.

As a second gameplay tip, DXHR rewards stealth more than it rewards frontal assaults. In some cases this can be double or triple the XPs. Consequently, you should take the time to scout out the area as much as possible to find those hidden routes (like ventilation shafts hiding behind boxes and movable crates), use non-lethal means whenever possible and always avoid detection. There is even an achievement for completing the game without killing anyone other than bosses.

Which leads me to the second (and biggest) gameplay problem: the bosses. Even if you find yourself agreeing with their goals and positions, you MUST kill these folks. To my way of thinking, if the developers are going to present you with a morally ambiguous situation and allow you to choose your position, then they need to allow you the freedom to support whichever side you wish. I will grant that this makes the story progression much more complicated and would probably exponentially increase the amount of code needed to make it work, but it strikes me as wrong to say “choose your outcome, except here, here and here where we will choose for you”. I suspect that most players will not have a problem with this approach, but it does kind of grate on me. But it’s my review, so I get to say what I like and don’t like and you can take it for what it’s worth.

New to the series is an active cover system, allowing you to scrunch up against walls, boxes, crates and other objects in order to remain unseen and/or protected. You must actively use cover, as opposed to games like “Mass Effect” which kind of put you into cover even when you don’t want to be. Hopping from cover to cover or navigating around it is very simple and straightforward. It works very well. Keep in mind that the game also include destructible environment, so you probably don’t want to be hiding behind cardboard boxes while the bad guys are trying to pump you full of lead. It makes stealth and combat much more interesting and I’m fairly sure you’ll enjoy it.

In summary, Deus Ex is pretty much back with a vengeance. Graphically and story-wise the world works as a unified whole and will suck you in with true Deus Ex style. NPC interactions are believable and well done, keeping in mind that the voice acting can be a bit off in places. The soundtrack is outstandingly well-done, even through my cheap-ass speakers. Player controls are fairly uncomplicated and the inventory system should please even the most die-hard DX fam. The new cover system works very well, making this much more of a stealth and strategy game than the first two. If you’re one of those “gotta get every achievement” folks, you’ll need to play through at least twice, but this is a game you’ll want to come back to a few times just to see how you might have done something differently. I do not have a console version, but am given to understand that there is a 20-save limit. This is not the case with the PC version, so save take advantage of the capability.

Final assessment: Get it; you’ll like it.