Review by Mephistofun

""Day of What?" No it's Deus Ex, and it is brilliant."

A word of advice. Ignore the achievements or awards on your first play through. You'll want to play it again and again but on the first run you need to play the game as it was meant to be played, by reacting to what the game throws at you.

Deus Ex Human Revolution is a hard game to pin down to one genre. The original, a much celebrated classic on PC really did revolutionise First Person Shooters. It, and Human Revolution are a blend of RPG talky bits like Mass Effect and levelling up like Bioshock, (both you and your guns get upgrades), First Person Shooting that feels like Rainbow Six, Sneaking like Splinter Cell Conviction, a lot of air-vents and a world where everyone has ordered stuff in the post but never got around to getting rid of the boxes.

The gameplay elements are easy to spot. You know you can stack boxes, crawl in the vents, take cover behind that bit of wall, climb that suspiciously stair-like collection of wheelie bins, ledges and roof tops but the whole thing is done so stylishly and so naturally that you are very quickly enveloped in the Blade Runner-eque world painted for you. The game logic is consistent and fair with every part of a game begging to be experimented with.

The main story is set in a series of futuristic city locations. It is a well disguised hub system that feels more open that it is.

The sales pitch for the game is 'solve everything your way' and it really does go out of it's way to let you do that. I am a big fan of the Playstation 2 version of the first game and my instinct was to go for the stealthy approach initially in every situation. I left no computer unhacked, dived into every vent and nicked everything I could get my hands on in every desk-drawer in sight, even my colleagues. And for every in-game email I found, there was a bit more story, a little clue to a side mission or some other nugget of information I could use. There were nods to other science-fiction productions everywhere, names of authors, character from films but the sheer depth of the back story is staggering. You can ignore it completely or just let it take you into the deep. It;s worth doing if you played the other games in the series. This is no 'reboot' of the first game. It's a prequel, less fashionable at the moment but far more interesting as it sets the scene for the later bits of history you may have played through.

I chose a sneaky path but since I'm not actually that good at sneaking, in game or in real life, things invariably went wrong but the game lets you snap right into combat with snazzy hand-to -hand attacks (mini cutscenes so good and so varied it never gets boring) and gunplay on the fly. It all happens naturally, the game never punishing you for accidentally rushing out of a vent and into the guard's cantine. Instead it lets you react, think on your feet and, rather than feeling you have missed out, you feel elated for having 'got away with it.'

This is why I advise ignoring the achievements or trophies. Going for 100% sneakiness may net you a big number to add to your bragging rights but you miss out on much of the freedom the world offers.

Your play-style is assisted by, and only rarely limited by; the upgrade system. Augmentations are well balanced upgrades. Get better legs and you might run silently or run faster, jump higher or a combination. Hacking, a mini game in itself, has a number of upgrades to ease things if you like reading, bullet resistant skin is there if you just want to wade in guns blazing.

Think of it as 'apps' for the body. Want to be able to charm your way through conversations? There's an app for that.
Want to leap of a roof without fear of injury? There is an app for that too.
There is even an app for firing rockets out of the pores of your skin and killing everyone in the room. (I know it! It sounds weird and it sin't really like that at all. Except for the rockets, the firing everywhere at once and the dying of everybody around you. the pores of your skin thing I may have imagined or exaggerated.) If only a certain fruity brand of smart phone had a see-through walls app and an 'unaffected by green, toxic gas app.'

The game world is made all the more compelling by superb story telling. The game is actually quite long but the narrative rips along at a fair old pace. You are left questioning loyalties and barking up all kinds of trees on the way but nothing is forced. You can play like a saint, or play like a nutter and jam your arm mounted swords through anyone who annoys you, either way the game is so well designed, it has a path for you. It never punishes you no matter how silly you get.

Every character has some story to tell. Most two lines of dialogue but many have entire missions. The side missions are never forced and are revealed in a way so natural I can honestly say that it never felt like they were signposted. You literally bump into people, your paths cross, you get chatting and things evolve.

Moving away from the gameplay the graphics are stunning. The backstory is superb, the whole world a believable place but the graphical style reflects this also with the kind of costume and 'set design' usually only found on film. The detail is incredible and the locations are always believable, right down to the last flushable toilet and last dramatic skyline. Streets are dirty, grimy and lived in, others are shiny, clean and yet all believable. Technically you can argue the graphics are pretty good but not ground breaking but the art direction is flawless. This is a game all other big story games are going to be compared and, in my opinion, knocks Bioshock and Mass Effect off the top spots for sheer presence and atmosphere.

The sounds all match up to the vision too, so much so that, like the graphics, you start to lose yourself in them. Music is subtle, voice acting is top notch.

I am also hearing impaired and this is a game that the subtitles are done extremely well. Text is a little tiny at times but they don't distract, never hide anything important and don't miss anything out. The art design is so good that, unlike Bioshock, the game loses little of it's atmosphere in silence as I ended up playing most of the game in at one point.

There maybe needs to be a faster way to bring up the map and the individual elements are sometimes a bit.... gamey; like the boxes I mentioned and the vents. But these gaming cliches become part of an in game logic that you very quickly end up accepting. It means you are challenged to look for different ways out when things get tough and near-death buffoonery like my sneaking up behind a guard to snap his neck only to realise he was TALKING to two others (thanks to my not reading the subtitles and not wearing my hearing aids in the real world) isn't an instant fail.

Instead it was a desperate dive for cover, spray a few rounds blindly to make them drop their heads and then a run for a vent. It was a good plan, made on the fly and doomed to failure by my forgetting where said vent was.

Realising I was being surrounded as the alarm brought more guards and running out of ammo, I started throwing boxes, some big, some small enough to be technically a birthday card, hurling them at my pursuers until I finally, quite accidentally picked up and lobbed a vending machine their way, killing one and revealing a vent I hadn't noticed earlier. I escaped, relieved and eager to share the experience with the others playing the game and buzzing from the new discovery that I could now use vending machines and boxes as weapons.

The game is full of these moments, unscripted and different for the player every time. For me, Deus Ex is game of the year, one of the greats of this generation but one up against so much competition I wonder how many will fail to look beyond the lacklustre Invisible War (sequel to the original) or think that it might to be too complicated.

Fear not on that last one. It is complicated but this is a game that you will not need to read the handbook (I say this now actually checking the handbook for the first time and realising that, like so many now it doesn't actually contain any instructions anyway. Oh I miss those bible thick back stories, and list of guns.)

Deus Ex is as close to a perfect action adventure game as you are going to get for a long time and open that will last well beyond it's competition for your attention. The story bests the sic-fi stories of the year, and dare I say the decade? The future it paints is one that will stay with me for a long time.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/26/11

Game Release: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (EU, 08/26/11)


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