Be more human than the human
I've read many articles about "games that need a sequel" and they usually involve long forgotten franchises or great games that never got a follow-up thanks to lack of sales or just simply because it would be cool to get a new game. So when Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third game in a franchise where the previous title was in 2003, not only were expectations high but skepticism was likely on par. With one of the most important games of the last decade with one of the most polarizing, Human Revolution could've gone either way: from an absolute triumph and worthy of the first game's legacy or a big budget failure that unfortunately wasn't as good as its promise. As someone who's never played either of the 2 other titles, I'm in a weird position in that I have to judge this game strictly on its own merits and not compare it to anything else. That being said, how is it? When it has its issues, it's problematic and potentially even frustrating but when it's on, dude it's on.
Taking place in the year 2027, roughly 25 years prior to the events of the original, you play as Adam Jensen, a former cop turned security officer for Sarif Industries. The company is one of the leaders in working with augmentations, cybernetic implants that give humans previously impossible abilities though there is concern within the public whether this is unethical and "ruining" a human's life. So when an attack on the company leaves many dead and Adam so gravely injured he's forced to undergo augmentation procedures lest he die, the investigation is on as Adam tries to find out who led the attack on the company, what were their motives and how deep does it go.
One thing that the game does well with its narrative is right from the start give you that sense of intrigue and mystery and like a good conspiracy thriller, the more you dig deep the more gets revealed and you'll find out how wide that event reached. Eidos did such a stellar job with just filling in the world with detail and while it might seem insignificant, it almost feels like there's mini-stories and anecdotes you can uncover through emails or just listening to people in the streets that helps fill it in. The one downside of the plot is oddly Adam himself since his journey is an interesting one (saving lives where augmentations were needed yet they also make one feel less "human") but it's either not delved into on a personal character level or his Batman/Stone Cold Steve Austin-wannabe voice makes him seem almost caricature-ish.
Like Bioware and Bethesda, Eidos seems to feel the big thing with gaming now is the sense of choice and making the kind of character you want. And one of the game's strengths and potential weaknesses is that it really does feel designed to take any character path to heart and there's no real "right" way to play the game. Guarantee you'll find hidden passageways and secret areas you never found before if you do things differently. However the game does tend to favor stealthier options since not only do you get more points but bullets are scarce and without armor upgrades, Adam dies shockingly fast. This could lead to situations where death can happen way too quick and the long load times don't help either. Granted I didn't have a ton of upgrades to armor since I favored hacking and stealth but when I did get caught, death came quite fast.
The upgrades, which you get from praxis points by leveling up or randomly being found, can range from essential to neat to just plain useless. And while there's a use for each one, some of them you end up using more often than not so while a landing system upgrade can prevent death from a high height, protection against electrified floors was so infrequent I just never bothered. Again, since leveling up via XP seems oddly infrequent (at least to me in my playthrough), picking upgrades were more about necessity then making a "build". This meant I couldn't make a complete stealth character since inevitably combat would happen (such as the meh boss fights) and make it even more of a struggle.
One of the more vital things to upgrade is your hacking which involves a mini-game. The basics of it are quite simple: you're to get from your starting point to the end green sphere point by capturing nodes along a grid. Some lead to another and some only go one way as capturing one allows interacting with the next as long as the lines are doubled or arrows point to it. The annoyance comes in the probability you'll be found out since even at the start, the countdown timer ended up being faster than my hacking. So if you don't have items that give you free captures or a way to stop the clock, being found out on the very first node which means an alert and 30 seconds of lockdown from the system is a pain in the ass.
One thing that is undeniable about Human Revolution is that it has a really gorgeous and unique art style. With predominant colors of black and gold with the occasional green through in during one city visit, this game definitely looks like a lot of attention was paid to its world. Its cool Blade Runner-esque sci-fi world makes for some great imagery and backgrounds and its cinematics are appropriately moody with minimal lighting and great use of camera. That is until it transitions back to in-game footage where the lighting difference is incredibly noticeable, character models and especially faces and lip sync aren't up to snuff and I'm not sure if it's just my Xbox or what but items that can be interacted with are highlighted (such as doors or crates) yet there was this almost grid-like texture on the object which got really distracting but maybe it was just me. Music as well is perfect for the game with its ambient tones, synthesized beats and melodies and for some reason,it reminds me of the soundtracks for Mass Effect.
With sidequests galore and secrets to be found, there's certainly a great deal of length and content to be found in the game though I'm not sure if some will do second playthroughs right away. As somebody who made more of a reactionary build rather than a specific type (combat vs stealth), I wouldn't really want to go through the game again so soon and make a pure combat build but there's a lot to see and explore in the game so whether you find it a GOTY nominee or just a great game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution does indeed warrant a playthrough and kicks off the busy Fall season in style.