Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Augments A-plenty, Uses Mandatory
Dues Ex, a game published in 2000, was a game that earned itself a status as a cult sci-fi game of epic proportions. Its sequel, Invisible War, earned its share of hatred and beat downs. So, of course, we ended up getting a prequel, and boy oh boy…this idea hasn’t aged well.
Don’t get me wrong, despite the excellent setting and cyberpunk ideas Deus Ex is routed in mediocrity from the get-go. You play as Adam Jensen, disgraced former SWAT cop and head of security at Serif Industries, a company that manufactures augments to better human life. The introduction is your typical ‘walk around and see the wonders of science’ gig that has been used for many opening sequences of games before it. While this isn’t bad, and gives you a chance to get used to the controls, it really only serves as a set-up for some the major plot points of the game, along with some minor sub-plot details you’ll figure out almost straight away. The company is attacked (wow, what a shocker) and Jensen is nearly killed in a fight with one of the augmented assailants. His former love interest is killed, along with the other scientists, and Jensen ends up being augmented as a result of his injuries, and so six months later, we join Jensen, newly augmented, as he begins a series of barely-legal operations that begin to uncover a deep, dark conspiracy, that threatens the progress of mankind. Basic story, not much thought put into it and characters dying that I’ve known for 10 minutes…yeah, this doesn’t earn much respect at all in the seriousness department.
The graphics are good, not amazing, the lighting can be dark and the character models can be a bit stiff at times, compressed cut-scenes lack the impact that they should have, and the game shows a kind of inferiority, at least, on the xbox version because of this, but still, the motions and surroundings of each area the player goes to will suck them into this futuristic society…right up until they are sucked into the bland, enemy-filled, confusing as hell dungeon- esque levels, as part of certain main campaign missions, and some side missions. Immediately, the creativity just dies. The world becomes less immersive and the game becomes more like a Tom Clancy game, than something original. Each area is designed to give the player complete freedom to approach them in any way they want…in theory. In reality, the player is limited by the augments they have, sometimes having to forgo paths that they worked hard to gain access to, because they are missing an augment that they didn’t believe they needed. Overall, the level design is let down by the tone of the game which was routed solely in a non-existent plot that doesn’t really have any creativity in it whatsoever.
The voice acting is probably where this game really starts showing its poor design. Adam sounds like he starts every day gargling ground-up cinder blocks, making him sound like Christian Bale from the Batman movies. NPCs can be awkward to listen to, as many of them are badly cast, and women sound like their being voiced by husky men…the kind of husky men that people don’t want around their children.
However, despite the piss-poor voice acting, the dialogues between important characters the developers actually gave a crap about are solid, offering some genuinely funny moments. There is also a kind of interrogation mode that activates among important characters, in order for the player to pry information from them. There is an augment that can be purchased which allows the player to influence the person with pheromones, which is optional (only it’s not). It’s a nice little system, and really forces the player to take stock of all the information they’ve collected and heard on a character in order to appeal to their good side, and get the information they need. It’s a more simplistic version of LA Noire’s, and much better in my opinion.
The mechanics of the game vary between areas. In some areas, the player can decide to utilise certain augments to traverse hidden sections of the level. In open world areas, the player can discover extra routes into buildings, hidden items and even weapon dealers…that are utterly useless. The game also allows the player to upgrade their weapons with kits they pick up throughout the game, usually hidden behind locked doors, or in secret areas. They allow the player to attach items such as silencers, extra ammunition, laser-aim assists and increased damage upgrades to specific weapons. The only issue with this system is that they’re only useful for specific weapons. This means that a player could pick up an upgrade kit, and not have the type of weapon that it works with. This can be irritating, as Adam suffers from Resident Evil syndrome, and can’t carry more than a predetermined number of items, that take up squares in his inventory menu. Placing points into a specific augment can upgrade the space, but in truth, most of the items picked up in the game will be thrown into Adam’s apartment, as the shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired.
Augmentations, as I’ve stated before, are a mixed bag, which contradict the very ideals the game was created on. The game boasts the ability of choice and the repercussions that result from their choices, but they ring hollow because this game is a prequel, and therefore has a set canon, which will retcon any of the ‘wrong’ choices the player makes, rendering the entire affair pointless.
Augments can be purchased through the use of Praxis points. These points are earned whenever Adam gains a level up, through earning experience. Alternatively, there are a finite number of Praxis Kits spread across the game world and also available in L.I.M.B. clinics, which can be used to get extra points to spend. These augments can range from advanced hacking skills, to extra jump height, from super-strength to the ability to slow your fall, even the ability to cloak yourself for short periods of time. You can also add extra energy bars, which are consumed whenever you use a take-down move, or ability like cloak. This forces you to think ahead, and figure out what is the most efficient way to approach your situation. Or it’s really confusing and inconsistent, especially when a trained SWAT officer can’t punch a guy in the face without using the power of his augments…it’s a big metal fist, why is it such an issue? Does he consume an energy bar when he’s wiping himself? Anyway the energy can be regenerated through eating ‘cryoboost’ foods, such as bars, larger boxes of what I assume is a cinder block, and a container of what looks like protein shake…but isn’t…
Combat and stealth are two sides of the same coin in Deus Ex. The player can opt for a stealthy, non-lethal route, using the games array of knockout weapons to take down opponents, or choose to go all out, killing as many enemies as they can throughout the levels. Unfortunately, the player will almost always find themselves opting for the path of least resistance, as they can more experience from that particular set of actions than a run-and-gun, lethal individual. There are no balancing acts between play styles either. Combat and lethality driven players will net less XP overall than stealth players, and it again stops the player from playing the way they want. This system feels dated, like many of the concepts of Deus Ex. Taking down multiple opponents at one time through a combination of take-downs and knockout weapons can be gratifying, but more often than not, the player is forced to enjoy a bullet sammich, as enemy AI is broken beyond repair. Players will notice that the enemy AI has a mixed array of line-of-sight, and distance of sight discrepancies. Sometimes, enemies will glitch through corners to see you take someone down, other times; they’ll simply know you’re there, despite taking every precaution to stick to the shadows. There are even moments where the AI fails and can’t see you, even when you’re standing in front of them. These issues are compressed by the confusing level design, the annoying enemy walking routes, designed to piss the player off, and the severe limitations placed on the player in combat, as your resistance to damage is insanely low, unless you augment the Dermal Armour…see where this augment thing is going? And even when all is said and done, the stealth option can become repetitive and stale, so interest in the game might linger in later levels. Otherwise, the game is just a glorified FPS, with cover-based stealth elements.
Boss fights get their own section, as never before have there been more annoying and badly designed bosses in a title that was marketed to the AAA standard. Bosses are not hard in Deus Ex, oh no. They’re just cheating assholes. The game will literally throw you head first into a pre-boss cutscene , only to push you into a throw down, unprepared and confused as to what the name of sweet jesus is going on. The irritating thing is that bosses can be defeated easily if you have certain augments or weapons, but as first time players will not know what’s coming up where they’ll be knocked for six. The combat with the bosses is severely lacking. Sometimes something as simple as laying down mines and emptying ammo into a boss is enough to kill them. Other times, the objective of the fight is unexplained, forcing the player to frantically look around for some way of defeating the boss, which would be fine, if these kinds of fights worked properly. The game simply lacks the creativity to come up with clever ways to fight a boss, so you can’t, once again, play your way.
The musical scores are a positive output of the game, mixing technological and swelling music, and hitting all the right notes to match whatever situations the player might be involved in. It really is a noticeable plus, as it adds to the atmosphere, and immerses the player in the technological world of Deus Ex.
However, this does not excuse one more, large issue, in the game. Side missions are few and far between, and depend solely on the section of the game the player is currently on. This is a good mechanic that allows the low number of side missions of varying importance to the main plot to span the entirety of the game. The issue is quite simple really. The game is filled with glitches right up the ass. On occasion, I couldn’t actually do a side mission because the NPC wasn’t anywhere in the level. Missions that were vague and generic in their objectives sometimes remain unfinished, as the game stubbornly refuses to help the player traverse the extremely unhelpful map it has to offer.
Overall, Deus Ex: Human Revolution attempted to offer players something that they had been seemingly denied for years: choice. Alas, the choices are artificial, and don’t hold much weight to the overall plot, usually resulting in some arbitrary short cutscene that ends with some minor information that isn’t that important to the overall plot. The game promised so much, and was viewed as a revolution, or perhaps a saving grace in gaming, as well as a throw back to the glory days, yet it fell so short of the mark that any of the good and groundbreaking/revolutionary concepts are crushed under mediocrity, disappointment, and poor design choice. It lacks definition, and because of this, the game ends up being just above average.
- Excellent soundtrack
- Realistic character interactions
- Simple and elegant conversation options
- Excellent use of an interrogation system
- Main character models are well detailed
- Underlying plots are interesting
- Side-missions are more engaging than the main campaign
- Take-downs can be satisfying.
- Compressed cutscenes look poor
- Enemy AI is bugged
- ‘Choices’ lack weight
- Augments can be broken down into a list of want vs. need
- Alternative routes can be blocked by lack of augments
- Weapon dealers/money are pointless
- Xp system is unbalanced, again taking the choice from the player.
- Main story is predictable and lacks creativity
- Characters lack any real definition, lack investment.
- Glitches in missions and weapons can ruin the experience.
Deus Ex should have made an almighty comeback as a title that K.O.’d the competition of 2011, but instead stands as a testament to why some classic games should stay that way. Dated mechanics, bad design choices, and an illusion of choice pull the player from the immersive atmosphere of the game. A disappointing affair that had the ideas, but lacked the ability to utilise them.
WTF? Moment: So where is the so-called ‘human revolution’ in this game? Because I don’t even think the game knows.