Great? Certainly. But a revolution? Not quite.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is unlike most games you may have played in the last few years. Part shooter, part RPG and decidedly stealth heavy, here is a game that sometimes struggles to find its identity while other times completely nails it. Fortunately the latter occurs far more often then the former. But before I go any further let me say that I have never completed the original Deus Ex nor have i played any similar titles with a blend of shooting and RPG in recent times unless one considers Bioshock as something similar to Deus Ex. Therefore I write this review without any preconceived notions of what this game should or shouldn't do to earn your praise.
You play as Adam Jensen, former SWAT member, now chief of security at Sarif Industries, one of the leading corporation in the domain of human augmentations. The year is 2027 and the atmosphere is one of civil unrest as the science of artificial human modification progress, bringing with it its share of moral and ethical dilemma. Conflicts between augmentations development firms, governments and pro-human groups are rapidly escalating until a brutal attack against Sarif Industries leaves the company's offices in shambles, a number of employees dead or missing and an Adam Jensen crippled barely holding onto life. Fast forward 6 months, Sarif Industries has been rebuilt while conflicts continues and Adam returns to work sporting an array of state of the art augmentations which saved his life following the events of the attack.
The story, while not entirely original, does a great job of presenting this world and dealing with themes of human evolution and corporate conspiracies in a believable fashion. While this is a game filled with choices and opportunity as to how to tackle each situations you are presented with, you will have very little impact on how the major story events play out. The Story evolves in a very traditional fashion, through cinematics and face to face conversations not unlike those seen in Mass Effect for example. The cinematics are pre-rendered using the in-game engine but are unfortunately poorly implemented. Visually they are much darker then the rest of the game and the transition between cinematic and real-time gameplay can be jarring. They are also badly compressed, diminishing the visual quality further. The game would have gained from having every cinematic rendered in real-time and thus having a more consistent look.
Voice acting is another contentious aspect. Some performance are adequate for what the character demands while others are just terrible. Adam's voice in particular will never achieve unanimity. Some will like it, others will hate it. The character is certainly lacking in the emotions department and decidedly sounds more machine than human. If anything he never really sounds like a brooding douchebag asking himself ''Why did this happened to me?'' every five minutes. Also let go of the “I never asked for this” meme people, its already old.
As mentioned previously Deus Ex is part shooter, part RPG. The game plays most of the time from a first person perspective, switching to third person when taking cover or to give some cinematic flair to actions such as performing takedowns or jumping from high places. Cover is very well implemented with everything you would expect from any cover based shooter like peeking, blind-firing and rolling quickly to other nearby cover. The game even adds the ability to circle around all side of an object or the corner of a wall without having to leave cover, something that to my knowledge even games such as Uncharted or Gears of War, where cover is much more prominent, do not allow.
The shooting is competent but never truly feels as if the game was designed in a way that shooting your way through most situations was a viable way to play. You have access to a wide variety of firearms. Pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns are all here and accounted for. Ammunition however is scarce and you will run out quickly during intense firefights. The weapons themselves do not feel particularly powerful with a few notable exceptions. Revolver with explosive bullets anyone? All things considered, shooting doesn't seem like the intended way to play this game and limited ammunition and firepower along with other aspects to be detailed next reinforce this notion. But in a worst case scenario where you happen to trigger an alarm in the middle of a room filled with twelve armed guards, your trusty assault rifle and quick reflexes will allow you to prevail.
If shooting your way through doesn't seem like the best approach to this game, sneaking your way through certainly is. For every open room filled with guards, automated gun turrets and surveillance robots, the game also gives you multiple alternative ways to proceed. For all of you air ducts enthusiasts know that this is the game for you! If you choose to avoid conflict and find a more discreet way around enemy territory, opportunities will be numerous. Of course crawling through air vents is only the tip of the iceberg here. With the proper augmentations you will be able to jump higher, reaching routes otherwise inaccessible, hack doors, opening new paths or the much less subtle tactic of punching through a concrete wall if the nearby door is out of reach of your current hacking skills.
This brings us to the meat of the game, augmentations. At the start of the game you will be this ordinary man with no more capabilities than most of us. As you progress and complete missions and other feats you earn experience points which in turn awards you praxis kits. These praxis kits will allow you to unlock new augmentations or improve ones you already possess. These cover every aspect of the game. Some like improved damage resistance and reduced recoil will be sought after the more impatient among you who prefer a more combat heavy approach. Others like stealth enhancements which reduce the amount of noise Adam makes and improved hacking skills will make sneaking your way around easier. Some of these augmentations are definitely more useful then others. As it is entirely possible to complete the game without killing a single enemy, save for bosses, and considering the enormous amount of doors and computers just waiting to be hacked it is advisable to invest into improved hacking skills before thinking about combat early on into the game. In truth, every augmentations that improve the stealth aspect of the game just makes the game more interesting. Better hacking skills, the ability to jump higher or lift heavier objects all open more paths that would be otherwise closed, giving you more choices and variety. This reinforce further the notion that this is truly a stealth action game and not a shooter. Patience is a virtue.
All of these augmentations and skills will be put to good use exploring the many environments of the game. Through the course of your mission you will explore the streets of Detroit and Hengsha, infiltrate laboratories and military installations and even pay a short visit to a state of the art TV broadcast station in Montreal in my home province of Quebec. All of these locations share the same black and gold color scheme so prevalent throughout the game and the action takes place almost exclusively at night but nevertheless the team at Eidos Montreal made an excellent job of capturing the look and atmosphere that one would expect from these locations' real world counterpart. Things like having most local citizens in Hengsha actually speak Chinese or browsing through emails in Montreal and seeing as most of them are in French with an abundance of English words throughout are nice little touches.
Visually the game offers a solid package. It is easy to quickly dismiss the technology behind it as dated and unimpressive and it certainly is no Uncharted or Crysis but the team created a whole where no one element stands out from the rest and offers a game with a consistent look. Looking past the somewhat blocky character models, lower texture resolution, and some stiff animations, the game's environments are incredibly detailed. They are filled with all manner of props for you to interact with and the environment themselves are large and open ended. A game of this size with this many possible paths will always have to sacrifice some level of visual fidelity and this one certainly does not look bad. On the PC the game support all the latest technologies like DirectX 11, Tesselation and of course a higher framerate should your computer be powerful enough. The game does not appear to be particularly demanding but does take advantage of a quad core processor. I played it on a computer sporting a Core i5 760 processor, 4GB of Ram and a GTX 460 1GB video card and was easily able to max everything out at 1080p with the game running smoothly most of the time. Well except for that occasional stuttering which seems to affect a fair number of people and doesn't seem related to any specific configuration. Its unfortunate but its not a deal breaker. Also note that you may want to turn V-Sync off if you suffer from severe mouse lag.
If you are among those who usually will not invest into a game which is either too short or does not come with some sort of multiplayer, fear not. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is lengthy. Very lengthy in fact. My first playthrough clocked in at just a little over 20 hours. That was a playthrough where I did not complete even half the side quests you can take on will exploring one of the two main mission hubs, Detroit and Hengsha, a playthrough where I also spent little time actually reading emails and ebooks littered around every location and where I adopted a much more combat heavy approach in the later stages of the game. I wouldn't be surprised to see that total play time jump to over 40 hours for someone with the intention of exploring every nook and cranny, completing every side quests and reading everything there is to read. This a game that rewards patience and thorough exploration and if you do you will definitely get your money's worth out of your purchase.
The game has its imperfections but also qualities that far outweigh them. If you jump in expecting Call of Duty meets Fallout you might end up disappointed, but jump in looking for a deep stealth action game with a good story, a beautiful musical score by Michael McCaan and an incredible cyberpunk world and you are in for a treat. As it stands now this game is merely great and not absolutely fantastic. If Eidos Montreal can use this as the foundation for future games in the franchise, then the future is a bright one indeed.