librariangmr's Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC) review

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An amazing SF adventure

I'd like to preface this review with a confession:

I have not played the original Deus Ex.

I've certainly been meaning to since I received a copy f the game not too long ago, but life has a bad habit of getting in the way of things, especially video games. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the 2000 game and, from what I've picked up from the community, mighty big shoes to fill. When Deus Ex was released, it was met with critical acclaim and has remained one of the most popular PC games of all time. Although I cannot properly compare Human Revolution to it's eleven year old predecessor, I can say that it has been the most entertaining and thrilling experience I've had on the PC for a good long while. I attribute that because of Human Revolution drawing inspiration from two of my favorite people, Ridley Scott and Shirow Masamune.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution begins with a bang. You play as former SWAT officer turned security expert Adam Jensen who is under the employ of Sarif Industries, a major tech company that has advanced human/cyborg augmentation to such a degree that pro-human organizations and government agencies have stepped up to shut them down by any means necessary. As Sarif's president is preparing to stand before a Washington D.C. assembly to present a new breakthrough and pro-augment arguments, the building is violently raided by a group of augmented mercenaries that leave Jensen mortally wounded. In order to survive, Sarif refits his body with cybernetic limbs and having now become something he quietly despised, Jensen uses his new abilities to track down the mercenaries.

Thematically and aesthetically, Human Revolution is the result of watching Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and then having a sweet, wonderful dream. Set in Detroit during the year 2027, the city is reminiscent of Blade Runner's sprawling industrial megacity where the more shifty and dangerous elements of human society infest darkened alleys and hidden basements. The ethics of human augmentation have been called into question by everyone over the fears that modified humans can be weaponized and businesses are concerned over their use in corporate espionage.

The game itself is both a first person shooter and a role playing game. Jensen is tasked with completing story based objectives as well as short side quests that flesh out the people and events going on around him. Though there is a strong focus on shooting, weapons and item management, Jensen will spend most of the time with his gun in the holster because story characters and other NPCs react negatively if you're pointing a gun at them. Completing missions usually requires Jensen to locate an object, person of interest or handle various situations where talk is more important than a bullet. Once story missions and side quests are complete, you'll earn a nice lump of cash as well as experience points that increase Jensen's character level and earn him Praxis points. Praxis points can be spent to upgrade Jensen's cybernetic abilities, such as cloaking, swifter hacking, track enemies and detect the personalities of high profile NPCs in order to steer the conversation towards a favorable outcome.

In any given environment, you can hack computers in order to gain information towards completing a mission or learning more about the world of Human Revolution. Hacking is dependent on your current security level (which can be upgraded via Praxis points) and if your skill is too low, you can't hack the system. If you meet the security requirement, you're taken into a hacking minigame. The goal of this minigame is to successfully take over the system's control node by capturing a series of access points connected by highways that form the shortest path to the central node. Making things difficult are a one way highways, higher level access points and the system itself. Taking access points and defending your own control point will alert the system to your intrusion, which you can slow or halt momentarily using single-use software. If you fail to break the system within the number of attempts given, you'll be completely locked out.

Combat is present in two different forms, stealth and action. As an action game, Human Revolution handles like any first person shooter should. Using an array of weapons procured from stores or fallen enemies, Jensen can blast his way through missions, killing anything that moves. If you're not the shooting type, you can approach many situations through stealth, sticking to the shadows, studying patrol routes and knocking out (or killing) targets by hand and hiding them away, Solid Snake style. You're free to engage in any style you'd prefer as the game will not penalize you for breaking stealth (although you will get bonus points if you manage to sneak in and out of a mission without detection). Inventory management plays out like a throw back to older RPGs (and even Resident Evil), as you are presented with a large grid with which to drop items on and arrange very much like a jigsaw puzzle. Your inventory is considered "full" when you can no longer fit objects within the grid.

I mentioned earlier that Human Revolution's tone is a combination of the anime Ghost in the Shell and the film Blade Runner. The game's visual style borrows heavily from these two as well, presenting a dark urban world where bright neon and giant LED billboards light urban sprawl. Many of the more complex environments have this great look of futuristic tech grafted onto twentieth century architecture. Jensen's apartment is practically identical in design and layout of Rick Deckard's apartment from Blade Runner. The in-game characters, especially Jensen himself, appear to have been influenced by Shirow's work from Ghost of the Shell as many of them are human/cyborg hybrids. There is even a character who's hand will fold into his arm and be replaced with an assault rifle, the transformation animation being pretty spectacular. Once Jensen has made his transformation, much like Major Motoko Kusanagi he tries to dress himself in such a way to appear as human as possible. But in Jensen's case, that means covering up his enhancements with a thick heavy coat. Although most consider it somewhat douchey, I'm digging the somewhat unnecessary sunglasses that slide in and out from both sides of his temples. It's slick and cool!

I'm really enjoying the game's soundtrack, which is highly reminiscent of Daft Punk's soundtrack from TRON: Legacy. It fits the mood of the story and environment very well. Just throwing this out to Square Enix: if you released a soundtrack, I'd buy it! The game's voice acting is spectacular and I really like Jensen's gruff, but quiet manner of speaking. The great voice work compliments a solid and engaging script.

In the end, I couldn't be happier with Deus Ex: Human Revolution as a product and experience. Narratively speaking, it covers a lot of tropes that I enjoy and the game got its hooks into me right from the beginning and there is much to enjoy here despite not having played the original game. I appreciate Deus Ex for rolling with my constant switching from action to stealth and I always make it a point to sneak up behind guys and launch a non-lethal kill move because the animation is pretty awesome. This game comes highly recommended and if you can, play it on PC because the visuals really shine.

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