Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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Click for availability and more information Deus Ex: Human Revolution, developed by Eidos Montreal, published by Square Enix
Sarif Industries logoThe year is 2027 and you are Adam Jensen, in-house security specialist for Sarif Industries, a company on the leading edge of augmentation technology for the repair and enhancement of human beings. When you and your company suddenly fall prey to a vicious attack perpetrated by a lethally efficient group of augmented assailants, you do your best to counter the attack--hopelessly outmatched as you are--and wind up broken, bleeding, and left for dead. But, as it turns out, there are some perks included when you work for a major biotechnology company, Sarif's awesome health benefits package being one of them.
Sarif Industries.Sarif Industries
Sarif rescues you from the brink of death, at the same time outfitting you with some of the most advanced military-grade augmentations available. Armed with a veritable arsenal of weapons and abilities befitting a modern-day super-soldier, you vow to hunt down and serve justice upon those responsible for mutilating you and murdering your co-workers.
Opinions: everybody's got one.opinions: everyone's got one

Like its award-winning predecessor, 2000's Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Human Revolution draws heavily upon themes of social equality, disruptive technology, conspiracy theories, international intrigue, and the ever-popular motif of man vs. machine and what it really means to be "human".
L.I.M.B. clinic.L.I.M.B. clinic
You are bound to recognize nods to various cyberpunk mythos in popular culture (Neuromancer, Blade Runner, The Matrix, to name just a few). However, as interesting as all of this may be, none of it would matter very much if the gameplay itself wasn't compelling, right?

Well, this game is fun to play, and like the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution's main appeal lies in its adherence to the principle of offering the player options on how to proceed through the game. And I'm not talking about just
Even super-spies occasionally need someone to pull their bacon out of the fire.Faridah Malik
getting to choose between playing a "good guy" a "bad guy", or even a "morally ambiguous" type (although these choices are there for many situations, however subjective they might be in context), but like some of the better role-playing games out there you can choose different strategies in your approach to achieving a given mission's objectives.
Game-play tip: don't break cover like this unless you don't mind getting shot at.sneaking around
You can skulk around unseen by your adversaries, plow through them like the Grim Reaper, hack security terminals to open doors and disable electronic obstacles, smash through walls, talk your way into or out of various situations, and many combinations thereof and more. Your play style is enhanced by your character's skills, which are accumulated in the form of augmentations that you choose to enable as your character gains experience and earns "Praxis" points.
Augmentation menu.augmentation menu

Multiple Praxis points can be invested in most augmentations, raising those augmentations' effectiveness. For the most part you can play through the game with whatever style appeals to you at any given time, though it should be noted that there are situations where you won't be given much choice on how to proceed. For example, the "boss battles" typically require that you have enabled some of the combat-oriented augmentations (Typhoon, Dermal Armor, etc) and/or that you are carrying a lethal weapon of some kind;
Invest in some combat augs if you ever want to reach this screen.Yelena meets her maker
unfortunately Square Enix farmed out the boss battle sequences to another developer who didn't give much thought to allowing for multiple options for defeating each boss, so if, for example, you had distributed all your Praxis points among stealth and hacking augmentations, you're going to find the first boss battle quite difficult to get through, and the second boss battle all but impossible (though the difficulty setting you have chosen for the game will also affect this--I played it on "Give Me Deus Ex" and I ended up playing each of the first two boss battles dozens of times before I figured out how to defeat them). But such imbalanced portions of the game are few, and can be accommodated for with some foreknowledge as given here and elsewhere online.

Click!remote control

I personally found the game most enjoyable and challenging as played through with a "stealth" philosophy, avoiding direct confrontation whenever possible, taking out adversaries via non-lethal means (tranquilizer darts, stun guns),
Using cover.cover
utilizing the game's terrific cover system to sneak along walls, diving and rolling between cover, figuring out the patrol patterns of my adversaries and slipping through the gaps of their perception. The enemy AI is fairly intelligent, certainly more so than in the first game, but like the original Deus Ex there are some unintentional AI quirks that can actually add to the enjoyment of strategizing. For example, prior to one of the aforementioned boss battles I found myself in need of more Praxis points so that I could enable a hitherto-ignored-by-me combat augmentation, the Typhoon.
Adam Jensen: Lord of the Dance. He calls this one 'The Typhoon'.Typhoon 1

Typhoon 2

Typhoon 3
Not yet having enough experience points to acquire the augmentation, I decided to scour the level for any and all experience-earning opportunities I had overlooked or purposely ignored (due to my play style).
Computer terminal

Alarm panel.alarm panel
After hacking a swath of computer terminals and alarm panels I still needed more experience to gain another Praxis, and all I had left for experience point opportunities were the enemies in the level that I had initially ducked past, so I decided to take them down (non-lethally, of course). I attempted to take on a room full of hyper-vigilant mercenaries but soon concluded that there was no way I was going to accomplish this head-on unless I was willing to kill them all (even then a tough prospect) which went against the play style I had decided upon. But while running through various permutations of attempting to stun each mercenary one-by-one, I discovered something interesting and unexpected about their behavior: while they would all be quickly alerted to my presence and inevitably find my hiding spot were I to subdue one of them (because of their close proximity to one another), I realized they could be distracted from homing in on me if they spotted one of their fallen comrades, in which case they would move to revive them if they hadn't actually seen me yet. So like any good and sneaky super-agent, I devised a trap. I found a doorway at the side of the room that could act as a bottleneck and was out of the direct line-of-sight of the mercenaries patrolling the room. Then I dragged an unconscious mercenary (that I had stunned earlier outside of the room) in front of the doorway on my side of the wall and positioned him on the floor at an angle so that anyone entering the doorway after spotting him would end up with their back to me as they approached him. With my trap set, I lobbed a flash mine into the room--being careful to avoid being seen--and one of the patrolling guards set it off, putting them all into an alarmed state (but not into "hostile" mode, as they hadn't actually seen me). That got their attention, but wasn't quite enough to motivate them to search very far for me and come within sight of their unconscious comrade. Another flash mine lobbed into the room raised their interest however, and one by one they began closing in on my exact location (since they hadn't actually seen me, the accuracy of their search seemed due to an AI quirk of omniscience).
Peek-a-boo, I see you!x-ray vision
At this point I activated my "See Through Walls" augmentation, allowing me to track their movements while staying out of sight. The first mercenary drew near the doorway and I readied my stun gun. Then the merc spotted his fallen buddy, just like I'd intended, and with his attention temporarily diverted from hunting me he crossed the threshold of the doorway, angled with his back to me, and as he was about to begin reviving the other mercenary I snuck up from behind and zapped him with the stun gun.
The perils of a freshly-waxed floor...pile of unconscious mercs
Then I darted back to my hiding place near the door just as the next mercenary arrived. With his attention zeroed in on the two fallen mercs, I repeated the tactic, which also worked on the next six mercenaries, clearing the room and earning me the experience points I needed. So despite the enemy mercs' apparent quirk of omniscience, I was able to likewise find another quirk in their behavior and exploit both against them. I find it's these little moments of discovery and reward that really add to my enjoyment of the game.

The Icarus Landing System in action.Icarus landing system

I do have a few very minor quibbles with some of the gameplay, however.
Air duct.air duct
One is the preponderance of air ducts that just happen to offer safe passage to rooms and areas that would otherwise require directly dealing with enemies or electronic countermeasures; I feel this "bypass" option was too artificially convenient at times, and evidently in at least one location so did the developers, as they saw fit to add a laser field to one of these overly-convenient ducts (the only place in the game I recall encountering one in the ductwork). Also, given the narrowness of the ducts, how exactly does someone with shoulders as wide as Adam's even manage to fit into them, let alone scurry around through them at speed (see Dead Space 2 for an example of a game that took a much more realistic approach to this)? And sometimes there are ducts that are visible but are entirely inaccessible for no other reason than they aren't meant to lead anywhere. Seems logical on the surface, except that it then becomes blatantly obvious that anytime you happen across one that is accessible that it must lead somewhere important enough that you might as well take it. Wouldn't it have been better to include passages that lead nowhere in particular, at least for the purposes of keeping up appearances, or even offering alternate routes to... wherever? The same kind of artificial convenience applies to the number of "pocket secretaries" you'll find lying around just about everywhere. The majority of them contain passwords to computers and locked doors, offering an alternative means of access for players who don't invest in their hacking skills; I found it difficult to believe that anyone would be so lax about security (especially, for example, a security-oriented organization like Belltower) as to allow passwords to be left lying around like that. Another quibble I found a little annoying was the "glass ceiling" typically found in outdoor areas. Traveling the rooftops is an option (and often a requirement), but climb too high in the wrong places and you'll butt up against an invisible barrier.
Climb all you want...climbing a ladder

...but you can't get there from here.rooftops
I saw higher rooftops that could have offered alternate routes of access to other areas, or at least around or over places I wanted to avoid, but no matter how crafty I was in jumping from windowsills, air conditioners and ledges to reach what looked like a reachable rooftop, I'd inevitably bounce off the glass ceiling. Somewhat disappointing after spending the time carefully making a vertical ascent up the side of a building only to be rewarded with a faceful of fail. In games like Eidos' own Thief series, or Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series, if you could see a structure, you could typically climb to the top of it, and Human Revolution would be even that much better of a game if it found a way to follow suit. But, again, these are minor quibbles, and overall fairly forgivable given the game's many strengths.

Subtle.Picus corporate art

Tai Yong Medical.Tai Yong Medical
Human Revolution features a strong sense of atmosphere and immersion. Adam's world is mostly industrial, urban and dark. Bystanders are just as likely to get snippy with you as they are to engage you in conversation about worrisome current events.
Adam's apartment.apartment
Moody background music and some baroque architecture at times lend a wistful note that made me think of a declining world that has seen its best days long behind it. Graphically-speaking, the game was several years in the making, and for some the graphics engine seems a little out of date, but frankly I didn't really notice (but then again, I played the PC version with all graphics effects cranked up to the max on a higher-end video card and monitor).
You know what they say about the best-laid plans.Panchaea
The game looks good, and I didn't come across any graphical glitches to speak of. Some folks aren't fans of the slight amber tint placed over the game world, but I chalk it up to seeing it filtered through the color of Adam's mirrorshades, and apart from noticing it I didn't find it annoying or distracting in any way. The game's art and character models look good, character animations are fluid and natural-looking, and the sound engineering is top-notch. I especially enjoyed some of the character voice-work, such as Jensen's smooth growl, or the timbre of David Sarif's voice that sounds to me exactly what a well-meaning but somewhat brash CEO would sound like.

And you thought he spent those three days napping?hibernation pod
I didn't experience any technical glitches with the game apart from some minor stutters during a few cut-scenes, but be sure to patch it anyway after you install it so you can skip past the opening splash screens (an option conspicuously absent upon the game's initial release). Solid production values, an interesting plot, existential themes and the open-ended nature of its gameplay all make Deus Ex: Human Revolution the best game I've played this year and I highly recommend it. You may also want to pick up some of the additional downloadable content, the first of which, The Missing Link, is out as of this writing, and having played through it myself, I'm sure you'll find it entertaining as well.
a ghost in the machine

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This page contains a single entry published on October 31, 2011 1:26 PM.

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