Review by Taenju
"Player Choice - a true ROLE playing game if ever there was one."
The Premise (Story):
You play as Adam Jenson, Chief of Security at Sarif Industries when the building you're working at is broken into by an unknown group and Adam's significant other, Megan Reeds, is caught in the crossfire and Adam on his deathbed. David Sarif saves Adam by fitting him with augmentations, mechanically assembled limbs and systems to replace most of Adams anatomy, the story's significant point of debate. Six months later after the attack another break-in occurs and you must end your medical leave to resume your duties as Security Chief of Sarif industries all while uncovering the truth about why the company and Megan were so maliciously targeted.
The Story offers a rich and fulfilled narrative while providing for various lengthy side-quests to be done without them feeling tacked-on and the ongoing debate between those who pioneer mechanical augmentation and humanity purists keeps the world feeling alive and kicking. Adam also takes a commanding role, which is proper to his job in security, and gives players many ways to actively alter the circumstances around which the plot progresses by persuading important quest contacts, giving tasks to his allies, and choosing how to approach various situations. Every task, even the optional side quests, feel important their own way and leaves the player wanting to actively take part in whatever needs fixing.
The conversation system is definitely the highlight of the story's progression, instead of the binary good-or-evil choices Deus Ex: Human Revolution employs an organic choice system that offers many approaches to comments, answers, rebuttal, and questions. None of the choices feel too overbearingly right over the others, and while certain options may seem more popular it is truly your choice to be aggressive, suave, professional, pessimistic, or subdued when the situation calls for it. You can even avoid confrontation with contacts in a lot of the scenarios and just bypass them completely, just make sure you're not caught!
Expertly interwoven with the story elements, the gameplay is the epitome of the concept of giving the player a problem and a set of tools to tackle it. The central part of the role playing aspect of the game, the Augmentations, decides what kind of Adam Jensen you become, with upgrades that allow you to Hack, turn invisible, work silently, see through walls, become resilient to damage, lift heavy objects, land safely from great heights, and many, many more. There is a true delightful agony when you receive Praxis points (The games Augmentation currency or "Leveling up" system) and then having to decide which of the many useful upgrades to obtain, and because each level contains often several entrances, exits, and pathways, there is always a place to get use out of every ability you obtain and, consequently, some paths you will not be able to access because it requires an augmentation you may have passed over. Just this fact gives the game amazing replay-ability, you can be the buff, aggressive, big-gun toting Adam Jensen who can blow through walls one game, and the covert, suave, persuasive, master hacker Jensen who can drop down long air shafts the next, the possibilities are truly up to you.
This game is defined as a shooter, but make no mistake, this is not a traditional first-person-shooter that will encourage you to bravely charge Rambo-style into masses of targets. Instead, this is a shooter of the more tactical variety, any time spent outside of cover is a great risk even on the easiest setting and the gun play focuses more on maneuvering and strategy rather than how accurate you are with whatever gun you find, though that still is important.
The cover system is unique in that the game will transition to third-person, allowing you to see Jensen which can help immensely in a game of where-they-saw-you-last. When you disappear behind cover in a fight, enemies will fire at where they think you are, until you reveal yourself somewhere else, this is an important aspect that allows flanking maneuvers and evasive tactics that will make your combat and movement augmentations essential. The enemies are well trained and accuracy usually isn't a question, and while this pinpoint accuracy can be annoying to traditional shooter fans, this encourages tactical gun play and developing strategies for taking out each enemy, whether you're sneaking around them or when they're already shooting you.
And finally the hacking mini-game is very interesting, involving a board game-like table with various nodes to capture so that you can capture the adjacent nodes until you finish with capturing the registries. Each capture though has a chance of alerting the security sub-routines resulting in a game of frantic cat and mouse, trying to capture the bonus data sources for credits and hacking bonuses and then finally the registry before security locks you out. Whether you hack your way through doors, find air vents or other side routes to bypass obstacles, or just blow your obstacles out of the way, you can be sure that you will always have another way to handle a situation if one approach isn't desirable. The only downside to the gameplay is that boss battles can seem stale compared to the tactical skirmishes leading up to them, but these seldom come into play and are quick to forget.
Lastly inventory for both information and items are handled through the game's menu. Missions are kept in the quest window, email and data entries are in the log, Praxis points accrue on the Augmentation screen, and mission objectives are continually added to the games fluid world Map. The major point of discussion for gameplay in the menu is the equipment inventory, which is handled in a square-spaces interface i.e. Diablo 1 & 2, where items take a certain amount of spaces and if you have enough free slots in the right shape, you can place the item. A great feature added to this system is the fact that items can be rotated, though the player won't spend too much time doing this because the game will already rearrange items in your inventory to place a desired item provided there are enough spaces throughout to manage.
The Presentation (Graphics and Sound):
When it comes to the presentation, the setting is extraordinary, every alley is filled to the brim with civilians, various decorative and interact-able objects, as well as atmosphere appropriate to the location. Not every object is defined with enough detail to drool over but the game was designed well enough to hide these short-comings in a smart way and let the objects simply add to the atmosphere and make you believe you are really interacting in a futuristic city environment. Adam's on-screen display is woven appropriately into his glasses, the display never getting in the way, instead adding to, the presentation giving Adam important information and focusing his attention by placing an orange line around significant objects all within the context of the technology in his glasses.
The only shortcoming is some of the animations for the character interactions while in dialogue, only the significant characters like David Sarif, Mr. Hong, and others truly get a choreographed treatment while side-quest contacts and unimportant characters will run through the same arm waving, head shaking, and lip moving animations hundreds of times during the dialogue. The bright side is all of the characters are well voiced, this can be weird though when a side-quest character spills her soul to you in the same calm eyes and subtle mannerisms one would expect in a bored demeanor. Despite this the attention passes quickly to the content of the side-quest and doesn't lock you in these scenarios for long. You may also rarely notice the same face reappearing on multiple insignificant characters, leading to a sense of deja-vu at times. The sound design is also excellent, succeeding in it's job with no sounds seeming overbearing or out of place and the soundtrack adds to the stealth action/tech detective atmosphere.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a well put together game fit for audiences that enjoy stealth action, solo tactical shooters, or have an extreme affinity to Role Playing games. This is also especially true if you're one of the crowd that played the original Deus Ex years ago and loved it. It brings Player Choice to the forefront at all times, truly strutting the name of the Role-playing game giving you a problem and your choice on ways to solve it. Finally if open-ended, open-world gameplay and a rich world count as good qualities in your book, definitely pick up this game. One final detail is that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not a short game, and can easily drift over the 20 hour mark especially if you partake in the many side-objectives that are available, encouraging either a purchase or at least an extended rental, either way this game deserves your attention.
Play Time: 20+ hours
Score: 9 out of 10
Final Recommendation: Purchase
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/26/11, Updated 08/31/11
Game Release: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (US, 08/23/11)
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