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.