Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I played this on the PS3 and I had high expectations, even though this game kind of got lost in the shuffle of other Fall releases. This game had a lofty goal, both in terms of gameplay innovations and deep storyline. Well, let’s see if it succeeded.
Let’s talk story. Human Revolution is set in the future: a future where humans enhance themselves using technology, aka “augmentations.” The debate rages over whether this is ethical or not. You star as the head of security for a major research firm for this technology and you’re in an accident before the game even really starts, which prompts your employers to pump you full of these augmentations. When you wake up, you’re pretty much more robot than human.
The game then follows some mercenaries who made that first attack that injured you, and who they really work for. In between you and them is a handful of factions, including law enforcement, scholars, researchers, and even religious zealots who say that augmentation is against God’s design. It’s an interesting scene to set.
But here’s where it falls apart. This game aims too high in terms of the story they’re trying to tell. You travel the globe (literally) and encounter all sorts of people, and the game assumes you know/remember who they are. I killed a lot of people, and I have no idea who they were or why I was breaking into these facilities. It reminded me a poorly written and confusing political thriller, where you’re expected to know who is who and all of their subordinates. It was confusing and I was just following the on-screen markers to where I had to go next. I didn’t understand why I was doing any of it, nonetheless care about why I was doing it. The initial idea of this war for/against augmentation seemed cool, but it got bogged down in this complicated hierarchy with betrayals and plot twists that just made the water more muddy.
But does the gameplay make up for it? Kind of. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I was having fun.
There are essentially three ways to play this game, which is cool. You can 1.) go in and play the game like a traditional shooter. Load up on guns, use cover, and take everyone out. Or you can 2.) not kill a single person. The game actually rewards you with achievements for using stealth. You can use air ducts, stun guns, or non-lethal attacks to take enemies down. Or you can 3.) find a nice medium and use defensive tactics such as setting up mines, using sneak attacks, and other cool gadgets to avoid most enemies but know when to pull out the rocket launcher. All 3 ways are fun in their own way.
You may think that the 2nd option sounds lame. What fun is a game where the fighting is minimal? My most intense moments weren’t the shootouts, it was when I was crouching behind a bookcase, hoping the attackers didn’t see me. Or when I would be following them quietly, hoping they wouldn’t turn around and raise the alarms. It’s incredibly satisfying to succeed in these sections of the game.
This game plays like a role-playing game when you begin to choose your skills. You level up and you can maximize the skills you want to use. If you want to go full-force, you can upgrade your armor to take maximum damage, increase how many weapons you can carry, and more. If you’re using technology to be stealthy, you can upgrade your ability to hack computers and use the enemies’ turrets and robots against them. Always fun.
So, the options are incredible. The upgrade tree is unique. What doesn’t work?
I got bored. I feel horrible saying this. I know that a lot of time went into this game and that they tried to innovate the genre, but I got kind of tired of crawling through the same air ducts and doing the same attacks.
The game also isn’t the best at anything. It’s not a great shooter; the ammo is on short supply (even on Easy), the targeting is always off, the weapons are traditional, and it just feels a little off. The stealth sections also don’t compare to other games focused mainly on stealth. My biggest complaint about stealth is the inability to knock your opponent out while you’re in cover. In most games I’ve played, you can press up against a wall and as the enemy walks past, you can knock them out. Here, you have to go back to your standing/crouching position before knocking them out. A huge hassle and they overlooked something easily done.
This game also falls in the same realm as my previous review of Space Marine. The game is cool, but the level design was repetitive, mostly in terms of aesthetics. They went for this yellow/golden look and it’s very cool, but it was hard for me to distinguish downtown Detroit from Hong Kong.
Stunning work went into the levels, but they all look the same. Even interior spaces and offices all have the same desk ornaments and posters on the walls. And even though there are tons of people roaming the streets, they all have the same voices and statements to make. It’s not a living breathing environment.
Lately, I’ve been on a kick talking about choice in video games. In this game, you can choose to not kill anyone. …But then you have boss battles where it’s a pre-scripted event and you have to fight your way out. If you’ve been specializing in computer hacking, you’ll have a hard time against these enemies. If you choose to go in guns blazing, there will be a few side-quests that you cannot complete because you can’t hack a certain terminal. The idea of choice is there but it falters in a few key ways.
In the end, I believe we have a case of not meeting expectations.
We expected the roleplaying, shooter, and stealth genres to be blown away by this game. We expected a crazy and complicated story (which we got, in a larger dose than we expected). This game could have done a few things maybe outside its director’s scope and it would have made this game a breath of fresh air. Some more unique locations and a streamlined story would have gone a long way, as well as spending some more on truly emphasizing and embracing player choice.