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Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

4
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The world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is absolutely worth seeing, and that trumps any of the little issues that pop up along the way.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution feels like the sort of cyberpunk story that no one writes anymore. Why? Probably because this game is set up as a prequel to the original Deus Ex, which was released back in 2000. That means the game is set in a world that was conceived before the Internet became quite as crazy it is today, before our society's conspiracy theories got a lot deeper than basic boogeymen like "the Illuminati" and "Majestic-12." It's a world where a Chinese biotech firm still makes sense as an evil organization. And Human Revolution is set at an extremely interesting time in this world's development, as augmented humans and "normal" people start to clash along lines both class-based and philosophical. It's an exciting world with a tale that's worth hearing, even if some parts of the performance and gameplay don't hit the same high bar as the others.

In Human Revolution, you play as Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT cop who now works in corporate security for a biotech company called Sarif Industries. Sarif is one of the companies leading the charge into human augmentations--implants that can grant their hosts all sorts of superhuman abilities--and it's preparing to send a team of its best scientists to Washington to reveal some game-changing technology when the company is attacked by a crew of augmented soldiers that wants to eradicate all traces of the team and their research before it can be revealed. Jensen barely survives the attack and is reconstructed using a ton of augmented parts, turning him into precisely the type of RoboCop that Sarif needs to track down the entities responsible for blowing up all that research. It doesn't take long to realize that the conspiracy behind the attack goes deep and requires a bit of globetrotting, taking you from your starting point in Detroit to Shanghai, Montreal, and other points of interest.

The way the world is set up and how the story unfolds is the best part about Human Revolution. Positioning itself around the rise of widespread human augmentation gives the story some moral and ethical weight on the subject of transhumanism, which makes for a fantastic backdrop for the rest of the game. That said, you don't necessarily have a ton of moral sway over the proceedings. You can shake people down for rewards on your side missions and take on some missions that aren't quite as noble as your main goal, but it's not really a "good ending" or "evil ending" sort of game. The choices you make do have some impact, though, most notably on how much information you'll know about what's really going on around you. Between dialogue trees that let you grill various people in different ways and a ton of email to read on pocket secretaries, hacked computers, and so on, there are plenty of things to read and hear about this world of the future. If you're the sort of person that loves to dig into a game's fiction and read every little thing you can, you'll really enjoy this aspect of the game. All told, these things paint a reasonably clear picture about both the important events that are depicted in the game as well as flavor text about the world at large.

Your access to information is limited by how you choose to spend upgrade points as you earn them. For example, you can't even attempt to hack higher-level terminals unless you spend a handful of points in hacking. You can't get any assistance in your conversations unless you spend a couple of points to activate a personality meter that lets you figure out what sort of person you're talking to and emit pheromones that help you influence the conversation. This type of conversation doesn't happen all that often, though, and most of your discussions will be fairly straightforward. Unless you're mindlessly rushing through everything and skipping side missions, you'll earn enough points over the course of the game to invest in just about any upgrade you find remotely interesting, from recoil reduction to super lungs that let you breathe normally in rooms filled with toxic gas. Some of these abilities allow you to take alternate paths to your objectives. For example, being able to lift heavy vending machines will often let you get to the ventilation ducts hidden behind them. Being able to fall any distance without taking damage lets you drop down deep shafts instead of taking the long way around. And turning invisible with your cloaking system, though limited by your energy reserves, lets you waltz right past security cameras, turrets, and hapless guards. There are also plenty of upgrades that are less essential, but still useful, like aiming upgrades that reduce reticle growth, inventory upgrades, and skin upgrades that make you more resilient. In short, the upgrade system gives you plenty of choices, but there are some crucial ones that you'll probably want to enable earlier rather than later.

Some of those upgrades mitigate the handful of issues that get in Deus Ex's way. The shooting and enemy AI makes a lot of the action flat, with plenty of largely unsatisfying weapons that require you to pump most enemies full of lead. Speaking of lead, it's surprisingly limited, inviting you to spend too much time fiddling with your inventory and filling up your limited inventory space with too many bulky guns, just in case you find more ammo for that particular weapon. The enemies are pretty boneheaded by cover-based shooter standards, and their main tactic when not hiding behind cover themselves is to slowly step back and forth while constantly shooting at where they think you're currently hiding. They also, inexplicably, refuse to shoot through breakable glass in some cases, resulting in situations where you're staring at a room of enemies who activate and step back and forth like they're intending to gun you down, but never open fire. And as soon as you take the initiative and send a bullet of your own through that window, breaking it completely, they all open fire. That's just stupid.

A stealthy approach ends up being a bit more satisfying, if only because not alerting the enemies and activating them prevents you from seeing their "tactics." You can execute non-lethal takedowns to subdue enemies, and then drag the bodies away before any patrolling guards find the bodies. I found a mix of quiet and loud tactics to be the best fit, which felt a little cheap as it exploited that AI a bit, but you can essentially shoot a guy in the head from cover in such a way that no other enemies see or hear where the shot comes from, but they see the body go down. This causes the dopes to march right over to the body and stand over it in disbelief, giving you plenty of time to shoot the second guard in the head, and so on down the line. Piling up nine bodies in a stack like that is pretty funny, though it makes looting their bodies for the four or five bullets they all seem to carry around kind of laborious. If I was more patient, I would have just stocked up on energy replenishing items and used the cloaking device to simply walk past as many of the enemy encounters as possible. That would still leave you with the game's boss fights, however, which aren't especially engaging. The bosses, though usually fairly chatty, don't give you great feedback about if your chosen method of attack is actually doing any real damage.

The presentation end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution has some high-minded ideas that, depending on your platform of choice, might not hold up as well as you'd hope. Artistically, the game looks wonderful. You really get a sense of the state of the world, from run-down slums to shining future towers that rise high above the waste and poverty found below. Augmented humans, with their crazy robot arms and retractable sunglasses that don't connect in the middle look super cool. And on the PC, the technical end of the bargain holds up just as well, provided you've got a machine that can handle it at a good, high resolution. On consoles, the frame rate bogs down pretty frequently. It's not a deal breaker, and it typically happens when you're just running around the city areas, so it doesn't impact the gameplay that much, but it's very noticeable. The voice acting is pretty scattershot, as well. The gruff-voiced Jensen just sounds ridiculous, and plenty of the other main characters also turn in performances that, at best, are poorly accented. But some of the line delivery, especially with minor characters and unnamed city dwellers, gets so stilted in spots that you wonder if anyone bothered to attempt a second take when recording it.

It has its issues, but it's the world, the setting, and the story that make Human Revolution great. These aspects of the game are so solid that I happily waded through the game's low points in search of the next hackable terminal or other flavor-filled bit of dialogue or text. That stuff is so strong that, unless you're an extreme stickler for the above-mentioned problems, you'll more than likely be able to look past the game's weak points as well.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
146 Comments
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Posted by Video_Game_King

Not much to say about the pictures, I see.

Posted by DarkbeatDK

Sweet! Looking forward to the EU release.

Posted by Milkman

Excited to play some of this.

Posted by KarlPilkington

I look forward to the Deus Next game from Eidos.

Posted by Rorie

Looking forward to it, but I think I'll wait for the half-off sale in a few months on Steam.

Staff
Posted by JazzyJeff

Spot on review.

Posted by KarateKid

Yeh, EU realease only a few days away.

I'm so glad its good =)

Posted by Afroman269

I was kinda hoping to see the Giant Bomb meltdown if this game got 3 stars but it does look like a solid game. I'm going to wait for this game to go on sale because I have too much shit on my backlog.

@Chabbs0 said:

I look forward to the Deus Next game from Eidos.

Hey oh!

Posted by Enigma777

Great review Jeff. Can't wait to get my copy on Thursday!

Posted by Jackhole

It looks cool, but I think I'll get it when it's $40. 

Posted by Soffish

Considering I was able to enjoy Alpha Protocol despite its issues, I'm sure I'll love this.

Posted by Box3ru13

@Rorie said:

Looking forward to it, but I think I'll wait for the half-off sale in a few months on Steam.

Green man gaming had it on sale for $34 bucks yesterday, should've jumped on it.

Review seems fine, I disagree about his voice and some minor points but this review coming from Jeff of all people is surprising.

Posted by Chris2KLee

Good review, and enjoyed the live quicklook. I'm looking forward to playing this when my friggin copy unlocks later this week. I know there are probably good reasons for region based launch dates for digital copies, but in 2011 it just seems stupid.

Posted by Fuga

4 stars? Shitstorm incoming.

Posted by Kung_Fu_Viking

So if I have never touched a Deus Ex game in the past can I jump into this with no problem? I was watching the Quick Look earlier and I really liked the look of that weird future world. It gave me a bit of an original Matrix vibe for whatever reason.

Posted by fr0y0

(I haven't watched it because I haven't started playing yet, but) from what a friend told me about the Quick Look, it sounded like you'd give this more like three stars. I'm not usually the one to care about scores much, just seeing this as a suprise. Yay!

Edited by Invertedx

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thought Adam Jensen's voice and acting sounded stupid. I've had that impression since the early trailers.  I wish that there hadn't been as much promotional material before launch, I feel like I already know so much about most aspects of this game just from the trailers. I know that this game probably has to sell really well to profit or even break even, so the huge marketing push was expected, I just feel that for a game that's all about the story and the world, the promo push was to the games detriment.
 
Anyway, good review! 

Posted by zombie2011

I think i'll get this when it's a little cheaper, didn't want to play this buy it seems really good so eventually i might give it a shot.

Posted by TheWyotee93

I really want this

Posted by ABK_92

Woot. Going to get this for my newly built pc in about a week or so.

Posted by Undeadpool

Hot diggity daffodil! I'm still on the first mission, but I'm glad this game is reviewing so well.

Posted by Marz

woot i predicted this score yesterday!

Online
Posted by LiquidSwords

>Don' tread review

>Post comment anyways

Posted by UberExplodey

Day of Sex

Posted by CrossTheAtlantic

That's a pretty good review, and it sounds like the difference between a 4 and a 5 would depend on how much those smaller issues affect you. Since I was kind of dreading this game would be terrible, I'm super excited by all the good praise I've been hearing.

Posted by Swoxx

So it's as good as fruit ninja kinect then? (Kiddiiiiing)

Posted by SlashDance

From what I played of it, this review is spot-on. I don't mind the issues that game has at all so I'm absolutely loving it.

The most off-putting aspect for me are the character models. People have strange proportions in the future.

Posted by prestonhedges

"It has its issues, but its the world, the setting, and the story that make Human Revolution great."

Don't buy it, watch someone else play it, then. Okay, got it.

Posted by dillinger

The first deus ex actually seems to have reviewed worse than this one for the most part, and it's obviously a big hit, so this is really a great review for the game.

Posted by alexfase

Just got it and getting ready to start it. PUMPED!

Posted by mracoon

Bring on Friday.

Moderator
Posted by damswedon

I'm not all that fussed about the Deus Ex series but I might grab it in a January sale.

Happy to hear that it was good any way.

Posted by bybeach

4 stars(80% in terms of metacritic) is around right at least for the 3 hours I have put in. My only real critism, but a significant one, long load-times. My pc runs it high at DX11 easily, but damn!

Posted by Koshka

I'm not certain about it still. Those problems actually sound like huge ones to me, but they're also exactly what I was expecting to be honest. I'll wait on it for a steam sale, but I'll probably be a bit too busy with my BF3 clan by then :P

Posted by jimmdogg

How are the load times? I can handle spotty frames, but minute plus loads will have me going PC.

Posted by AmatureIdiot

So pumped that i'm getting my copy tomorrow thanks to play.com breaking the street date

Love me a action RPG with a good story

Posted by mosdl

@Kung_Fu_Viking said:

So if I have never touched a Deus Ex game in the past can I jump into this with no problem? I was watching the Quick Look earlier and I really liked the look of that weird future world. It gave me a bit of an original Matrix vibe for whatever reason.

Its a prequel, you should be fine.

Posted by triple07

Hmm still trying to decide if I should buy this now or wait until it gets a little cheaper. Great review though. 

Posted by Romination

I'm really glad this is good. I thought it looked terrible, but I figured, well, time will tell. 
 
And it did and it's good, so that's a happy thing.

Posted by JoeyRavn

@Fuga said:

4 stars? Shitstorm incoming.

JEFF BROKE THE METACRITIC AVERAGE, GGGGRRRAAOOOOR

In all seriousness, can hardly wait to play this game. Everything about it looks awesome, even if it may lack a bit of polish in some areas.

Posted by DaBuddaDa

@jimmdogg: Load times on 360 and PS3 are around 25 seconds. The PC version load times are about the same for most people, actually.

Posted by billyhoush

Great review, Jeff. I know you are the editor but Ryan should've at least read the review to catch the two mistakes.  Totally disconnected me from the reading experience. I guess I'll hate Deus Ex for the voice acting too.
 
However, I kinda just want to play this game to see what cyber punk Montreal looks like.

Online
Posted by Carlos1408

The reviews I've read, including this one, give it good praise. It sounds good but I'm not sure if I can ignore all the issues. I might get it and just play as stealthily as possible.

Posted by Monk

The AI seems pretty dim. Luckily enough I play stealthily and I'm just soaking up the atmosphere. I hope they build upon the success al a the Assassin's Creed franchise. Good review.

Posted by MiniPato

@Fuga said:

4 stars? Shitstorm incoming.

Only from people who were making predictions off the quick look they did. "Oh man they're trashing this game! Three stars!"

Posted by Phatmac

Noticed a typo during the opening sentence:  " That's means the game is set in a world that was conceived before the Internet became quite as crazy it is today, before our society's conspiracy theories got a lot deeper than basic boogeymen like "the Illuminati" and "Majestic-12."

Posted by b33

black and gold.

Posted by laserbolts
@Fuga
4 stars? Shitstorm incoming.
Why do you say that? Good review Jeff I'm having a blast with it so far.
Posted by OtakuGamer

@gladspooky said:

"It has its issues, but its the world, the setting, and the story that make Human Revolution great."

Don't buy it, watch someone else play it, then. Okay, got it.

I don't think it should be watched as a movie, it just won't have the same effect if your just watching someone else do it for you. It's one of those games where you should explore the world, the setting and the story.

Posted by DonPixel

Gertsmann delivers again, Nice review I'm not getting this game right now thou.

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