Cyberpunk's Finest Game
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is more or less a "true" sequel to the original Deus Ex game created by Eidos back in 2000, even though this one is actually a prequel. The original game, which I have not yet played as of this writing, is considered one of the best PC games of all time. It was then followed up by a sequel, Invisible War, which was almost universally considered a massive disappointment. This entry is a far better game than I anticipated; it succeeds on almost every front and manages to be one of the best first-person games in recent memory.
Human Revolution is a story-driven game that tracks the progress of Adam Jensen, a former cop turned security specialist for one of the biggest biomedical companies on the planet. This is Sarif Industries, a company that creates human augmentations in a field that is revolutionizing world. Augmentations, or simply "augs", are becoming incredibly widespread and making people faster, stronger, and smarter than ever before. But this technology is divisive, and those who can't afford to become augmented (or the accompanying drugs that prevent augment rejection) are being left in the cold; opponents of this technology range from powerful political figures, who want to impose governmental controls, all the way to extremists who demand human purity through acts of terrorism. When Jensen is caught in an attack that nearly kills him, he has to be heavily augmented just to stay alive. The game is about his investigation into the attack and the truths he discovers as he seeks to figure out what happened.
As a first-person game, Human Revolution is broken down into three main gameplay concepts. The first is shooting - you can shoot to kill, or shoot to incapacitate, but there are always plenty of things to shoot and plenty of guns to do it with. The second is stealth - sneaking is a very viable way to avoid violence and get to objectives that might otherwise be difficult to reach. The third is navigation - individual areas are pretty open in design and give you many ways to reach your target, be it through hidden passages, climbing on rooftops, or ever-present air ducts to climb through. On top of these concepts are mini-games such as hacking terminals/computers, persuading others during conversation, and managing your inventory space. The game manages to handle all of these really well and keeps you engaged with many options at any given time, which is truly the greatest strength of the game and keeps it surprisingly fresh even after almost 30 hours during the first play-through.
The sheer variety of actions you have is enhanced by the fact that the game has a cover mechanic that switches immediately from first to third person, allowing you to readily see your surroundings and plan your next move. This allows for some great moments where you can ambush guards in close combat - either knocking them out with a flurry of punches or ending their lives with cyborg blades, at your discretion. The third person view works well for shooting too, providing cover from enemy fire, the ability to quickly change positions, and even blind-fire or throw grenades from safety. The game presents ever more complex areas, challenging scenarios, and more powerful enemies, but it's always possible to switch your approach to any situation on the fly. Security cameras, hostile robots, and even small mechs will eventually get thrown at you and it's entirely up to the player if you'll sneak around them, hack them, or just steal a rocket launcher and permanently solve the issue.
Adam Jensen's incredible capabilities are a cornerstone of the game which is what truly allows you to tackle situations in a variety of ways. Being a heavily augmented human, he can gradually unlock more capabilities within his state-of-the-art body which enables some pretty awesome things. Leg enhancements allow him to jump over three meters in the air. Skin enhancements can give him more armor, or perhaps you'd prefer cloaking to hide or sneak by hostiles. Arm augmentations can carry very heavy objects and move them or throw them like projectiles. There are a lot of really interesting abilities, sorted into various little technology trees that are unlocks as he earns "Praxis" points from experience or bought/found throughout levels in the game. Customizing Jensen to suit the way you play is one of the many engrossing elements that help keep situations more fresh and interesting, and it's even possible to save up some Praxis points to unlock abilities on the fly as you need them.
Human Revolution does not always keep you in a hostile environment however, and much of the game drops you into reasonably large areas to explore or pick up optional missions. These missions are pretty good and help balance out the more tense nature of fighting through enemy installations or sneaking past security guards. They're also a great source of cash, which can be spent at in-game stores to get health items, weapons, ammo, upgrades, and even Praxis points. But perhaps the best part of these areas is the sense of ambiance created by the developers to suit the game. The world of 2027 is a firmly cyberpunk one, and this is reinforced by outstanding visual and audio design virtually everywhere you go. There are plenty of computers to hack and interesting messages to read, but even just looking and listening around the world is an awesome experience. The entire game goes to great lengths to convincingly introduce you to the concept of "posthumanism" within this world - how it is a divisive issue, and how it's changing everything about society as we know it.
That said, there are a couple failings in this game. The first and probably most obvious is the voice acting, which manages to be decent most of the time but is pretty poor at others. The main character, Jensen, also sounds a bit ridiculous at first. But ultimately it's the content of their messages that gets to you and the delivery, as a result, seems like less of an issue. The biggest problem this game has is the AI behavior. The player is capable of such a wide variety of actions that it's often possible to dupe the hapless enemies into doing some pretty stupid things. As an example, attacking enemy soldiers will take cover against your weapons but seem to forget that you can also throw grenades. They'll pile into doorways or closed spaces without any consideration that you might be armed with some sort of bomb, be it frag or flash or gas, to take them all out at once. It's not a chronic issue but it sometimes seems a little strange or overly easy in a few areas.
Still, I think I need to return to the single best part about this game - the feel of it. An impressively crafted array of music accompanies almost everything you do during Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the sound design stands out as some of the best in the genre. Apart from fantastic music - taking strong cues from classic cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner - gunshots, explosions, and even punches all have really satisfying force to them and make the world fittingly harsh and tough-sounding. The game often presents you with sweeping vistas and views of neo-architecture, with the kind of design that works well all the way down to the high-tech weapons you'll use in combat. Constant news updates about the events happening in the world keep you updated, and apart from one annoying guy they manage to become a strong addition to an already encompassing setting.
From start to finish, this game will take you places that are fascinating to see, and the plot is equally powerful, although at the very end it does get a little muddled. It manages to be a moving experience whichever ending you choose for yourself, and it's certainly worthy of subsequent playthroughs to try things differently. This setting, this world, is just the crowning achievement in a game that pulls of a lot of things really well. Some hiccups in AI, voice acting, and the occasional frustrating segment don't hold back the scope of what you can do in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The future may not be a friendly place, but it's absolutely one worth visiting regardless.
FINAL SCORE 4.5/5