Cyberpunk isn't Dead
The original Deus Ex has a fond place in my heart. The large amount of choice and intriguing dialogue options were a new experience for me, in a time when few games had (at least succesfully) done so before. Although I still enjoyed it, the second game in the series failed to capture that same feeling of wonder. With Deux Ex: Human Revolution, I was entrapped in a way not experienced since the original game. Deus Ex was back and better than ever.
In 2027 (the year in which the game occurs), mechanical human augmentation is becoming increasingly popular due to the promises of increased strength, speed, cognitive abilities, concentration, etc. that they promise. This has resulted in a social divide between those who feel that the humanity is playing god with augmentations and thus wish for them to be abolished, and people who embrace augmentations as the next stage in human revolution.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you play as Adam Jensen: newly appointed chief of security at Sarif Industries. Early in the story, a tragic incident occurs, which leaves Adam fatally wounded. Heavy augmentation surgery is performed to save his life, essentially making him half man and half machine. Soon after recovery, Adam performs a mission which leads him on a long, and twisty road filled with themes of conspiracy and morals coming to the forefront.
As a whole, the story in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is fantastic. Many interesting characters with contrasting personalities help to keep the player interested and emotionally involved in the next act, which is propelled by an interesting setting and atmosphere. The game makes you care about the characters, while at the same time throwing enough curve balls that you're never really sure about who exactly is a good guy or not. And in some ways, no one is. Characters have noticeable flaws which remove the aura of invincibility which many games seem to place on the shoulders of the designated "good guys".
In addition to this, the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is very immersive. Outside of the main goals, there are side-quests to undertake and a large amount of information which can be obtained from computers, newspapers, ebooks and other sources. Much of this information has absolutely nothing to do with the main story at hand and instead simply intends to portray the world as "real", which it succeeds in doing. There are many easter eggs as well, pointing fun at Nigerian 419 scams, or referencing Megadeth. The game succeeds in being serious, with a sense of humour. There are also several subtle tie-ins to the original game in the series, which explain the early goings on of events leading to Deus Ex.
Deus Ex displays a very renaissance-esque contrasting of gold and black visuals to a stunning effect, and is one of the major selling points which keep the player invested in the world they're exploring. Displaying the traditional cyberpunk visuals of "high society and low life", large corporations are noticeably high class, while streets are quite the opposite. Eidos Montreal has done a fantastic job of showing the Deus Ex universe the way that people would expect to see it.
The music in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, assists greatly in enhancing the story and cyberpunk feel to the game. Consisting mostly of electronic music (although not the kind you would hear in a dance club) , it helps to bring the world of Deus Ex to life. The soundtrack varies from dramatic, to suspenseful, to depressing, all fitting of the location and scenario in question.
One of the great things about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, is the ability to play the game in one of several ways. You can initiate a firefight and play the game like a traditional shooter. You can play stealthy by sneaking about, hacking doors and finding alternative routes through vents or climbing scaffolding. Or you can play somewhere in the middle, by taking the direct route, but instead eliminating enemies with close range takedowns while their back is turned and then hiding the body so others won't see your handy work. For the majority of the game, I played a combination of the latter 2, and it was extremely thrilling and satisfying every time I performed a takedown. In the last few hours of the game, I decided to take the more full frontal approach since the heavy assault rifle in my inventory was just too tempting. It was also very satisfying, and many of the death-dealing weapons definitely succeed in catering to those just wishing to deal death without all this sneaking around business. Very little manages to make a person feel like a badass more than unloading a combat rifle into someone as you run at them, and then punch their friend in the face, knocking them out instantly.
Playing the game in the stealthy way, performing non-lethal takedowns on enemies provides the most experience, although to be fair, it is also the most difficult way to play the game. The difference can be large per enemy (a non-lethal takedown rewards 50 experience, while shooting an enemy to death will only reward 10), however it never really feels unfair at any point. There were a few locations, where after spending a large amount of time trying to sneak around 2 enemies with little success, I simply shot them in 2 seconds and was on my way. It felt like a fitting trade off.
The combat system in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is very intuitive, yet controls are comfortable enough that making a choice to do a quick takedown on someone will occur as soon as you think about it. Fumbling around for the proper keys was a problem I rarely encountered. In many games with cover mechanics, "sticking" to a wall when you need to move quickly, or not being able to stick fast enough are common problems. This is definitely not the case in DX:HR. Holding the right mouse button allows the player to press against a wall, and releasing the button will instantly remove Adam from this position, allowing for a surprising level of fluidity in movement, which is especially noticeable when trying to play as a stealth character or sneaking up on someone for takedowns.
Takedowns play a large role in the overall gaming experience. If the player decides to go the stealth route, it will be their primary form of combat since it generates no noise and allows the player to instantly hide the body. Even when playing in Duke Nukem mode however, takedowns have a very critical and valuable role. If an enemy sneaks up on you from behind or you manage to get close to an enemy, takedowns will instantly resolve the problem, regardless of how heavily armored the opponent is (something especially important when fighting heavily armored enemies that require a large number of rounds to kill). When taking an enemy down, you have the option of doing a lethal or non-lethal takedown, both of which have multiple extremely satisfying animations. Choosing between lethal and non-lethal is as simple as deciding between pressing or holding the takedown key when in range. Although I was apprehensive at first, since I was afraid I would accidentally perform a lethal takedown when I didn't want to, I was pleasantly surprised that this never occurred. Takedowns require a bar of energy to perform, which is something that recharges over time and can be enhanced through augmentations.
Hacking makes a return in DX: HR. In the original Deus Ex, hacking was one of the few areas which I felt could be improved. It was simply a matter of waiting until the hack was finished with no real interaction at all. Improving your hacking skill didn't make any real change to the interaction. Human Revolution has created a very fun and interesting hacking mini-game, which not only requires user interaction, but some luck and risk versus reward as well. You must move from node to node, trying to either get to the circular data center you're looking for, or to shut down the anti-hacking node. Based on your hacking ability and the level of the node, some nodes are easier or more difficult to hack. You may also fortify already owned nodes to slow down the anti-hacking software if they discover you're there. Some nodes also contain rewards, such as experience, cash or beneficial viruses to aid in hacking, and others assist you in preventing capture. All around, it is a very fun and interactive mini-game that I thoroughly enjoyed through my entire playthrough and I felt it added a lot to the experience.
Augmentations are one of the key elements in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and not only drive the plot, but enhance the character as well. Augmentations provide various forms of passive or manually activated bonuses to Adam Jensen in various ways. Praxis points are used to obtain or enhance augmentations, and can be obtained by finding or buying praxis kits, and through obtaining experience. None of the augmentations are required to beat the game, although many do feel far more useful than others. Putting points into hacking expertise or the stealth cloak feel like a wise investment which will immediately pay off, while spending 2 points on the ability to perform a dual takedown with only a small number of opportunities in the game feels far less so. Certain augmentations definitely exist to help a certain play-style over others. For example, enhancing dermal armor or reducing recoil are only useful for the assault approach, while stealth cloak and silencing footsteps are great for someone wishing to sneak through the game like solid Snake.
That being said, it is still quite possible to play the game a certain way with no beneficial augmentations whatsoever! I didn't obtain any recoil reduction or armor until very late in the game and I still handled myself well in a firefight when they occurred, it just required a bit more strategy than it would have otherwise, and I died more than I probably would have if I hadn't bypassed those augmentations. That's how augmentations are meant to be portrayed in this game: As something which can assist the player in performing a task as opposed to doing it for them. The one exception to this rule are the hacking upgrades. You are unable to hack higher level terminals without the proper augmentations to do so. However, you do not need to hack them at all. Most passwords can be located through computer terminals or through intel obtained from looting enemies or searching rooms.
There are some minor flaws with the game, of which I feel none take away from the experience in any real noticeable fashion. First of all, some of the boss fights (particularly the first) feel a little short and uninspired. Although this may seem like a major issue, I didn't feel this to be the case at all (well, except for that first boss once again). The envionments where you fight bosses are among the most visually appealing of all the sights in the game, and the game does such a great job of building up suspense for the boss fights, that they still manage to be a fun and enjoyable experience, with the feeling that something is on the line prevalent in all of them. The environmental impact was so strong for the 2nd boss fight for example, that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences in the entire game for me.
A lot of people have been complaining about loading times from what I have seen. I will admit that loading times in this game can be a bit frustrating sometimes, especially when you're in an area where you die multiple times and have to wait 7 tedious seconds before loading back in. However, I did not find them so bad as to hamper the experience at all. The longest load times I experienced were less than 20 seconds, and most significantly shorter than that. With the exception of dying, you encounter few enough loading screens that it's a moot point unless you're an incredibly impatient person.
All things considered, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an incredible game, and is without a doubt one of the best gaming experiences I've had in years. If you are a fan of the original, or of first person shooters/RPGs in general, I would highly recommend picking it up. Eidos Montreal has done an amazing job of bringing cyberpunk to life in the best way possible, and has created a truly immersive experience.