Review by bionicman_3090
The "good" has to be taken with the "bad".
Deus Ex : Human Revolution (DE : HR) is a prequel to one the most critically acclaimed games of all time, i.e., Deus Ex which was released a decade ago. The events in DE : HR take place during the year 2027, which is 25 years prior to the events of Deus Ex 1 which happened to be 2052.
You play as Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT who quit the force but was made to look like he's thrown out of the squad controversially. He's hired as the Security Manager by Sarif Industries, one of the leading bio-tech industries in the world through the recommendation of ex-girlfriend Megan Reed. Due for a presentation on augmentation research, the game walks us through couple of the R & D programs going on in Sarif HQ when all of a sudden, a tactically brutal and effective attack on the installation results in the killing of most of the employees and seemingly, Megan Reed, the lead researcher and her team are killed while Adam Jensen, who puts up a brave fight during the process is fatally injured and left for dead. As fate would have it, he's revived and implanted with Sarif Industries' augmentations, which almost completely removes him from the human side of life and is now a walking weapon, capable of humanly impossible feats with mechanical implants running through his entire body, some sub-dermal and others not so inconspicuous.
From there onwards, Adam's recalled to work 6 months early from his "sick leave" and the game truly begins. You embark on a journey rich in political war, corporate espionage and old world order (Illuminati) still vying for power. The bio-tech corporations such as Sarif Industries are forced into a "peaceful", or so it seems, conflict with an organization known as Humanity Front whose aim is to regulate the research on augmentations thereby limiting the power that the bio-tech industries have and what augmentations are released for the public and Purity Fist, a terrorist faction bent on destroying these augmentations, claiming that human beings shouldn't be "playing God". The plot is juicy and is well thought of to be considered good enough to be associated with the "Deus Ex" name.
In today's world, where nearly every big-budget game out there is pushing for photo-realistic graphics, DE : HR took another route - the "artistic" one and boy, does it deliver! The abstract blend of "black & gold" colour palette is just gorgeous throughout. It makes the game feel unique and sucks you into the world, be it wandering around the dead, dirty streets of Detroit or lower portion of a 2-tier city of Hengsha in China. Everything feels futuristic 'cause of the colour palette and yet, it feels real enough to be considered that this could very well be close enough to what the world looks like, be it now or a decade later. It's not all just artistic, mind you. They actually tend to simulate real-life objects quite well.
But there are some faults here. For one, the textures in the game's characters who aren't vital to the plot are sub-par. Even notable characters aren't well rendered apart for the protagonist. The animations while talking to other characters are right off a cheesy 70's TV show or worse. These inconsistencies stand out in the midst of a wonderfully presented world which is a big shame.
Sound effects and music in this game can be described simply as "TOP NOTCH". You can open the top drawer and put it there, that's how good the production value of the soundtracks is in this game. You can just listen to main menu music over and over without ever being tired of it and the main theme of this game is right up there with the very best of the best ever Hollywood movies' soundtracks. The in-game music and the battle music are equally ear-pleasing. There are no complaints in this department.
When we think of Deus Ex, the one thing that comes to mind is the exceptional game-play elements that pushed the FPS+RPG hybrid to a whole new level, along with another classic game "System Shock 2". In DE : HR however, though there are RPG elements, they could be passed on as just a feature put in to be called as a prequel to the original game. Don't get me wrong. By today's standards, the game stands out as one of the very best but compared to the original, there are a lot of gimmicks here.
The Stealth elements :- Very, very good. Bring in the AI, then it just about passes to be considered good. The stealth system works extremely well in conjunction with the "Cover System". While using the cover system, the game switches to 3rd person view. The AI patrols can be bypassed with carefully plotting your path from cover-to-cover or you can use plenty of well designed alternate routes like ventilation systems, sewer entrances or many of the "Fork-in-the-road" entrances which leads to plenty of opportunities in terms of bypassing the enemies through hacking computer terminals. There are plenty of nifty "silent take-downs" which can be accomplished by the touch of a button to quietly sub-due your enemies or if you feel the need for a little "wet-work", holding the key longer will initiate a brutal side of killing enemies.
Combat :- If you feel the need to go in guns blazing, there's plenty of solid and satisfying fire-fights to be had here. The addition of the cover system enables you quickly get out of incoming lead and peeking out of cover to quickly dispatch your enemies. At first, the ammo appears to be scarce but then again, it's about how you manage your resources, isn't it? Besides, there are other ways to deal with enemies such as, throwing explosive barrels at them or even a fridge or a turret to crush your enemies. Or, hack a security terminal, convert the turret's "IFF" (Identify Friend or Foe) system to your advantage and carry it around as an ally. The AI during open fire-fights behave quite well. They take cover efficiently, peek out to keep you pinned down with sustained fire while one of their allies tries to flush you out with grenades.
Augmentations :- Here comes the "RPG" part of the game. Augmentations influence plenty of Adam Jensen's abilities. You upgrade your "Arms" to carry more stuff, negate recoil of guns, be able to punch through weak walls or lift and throw heavy objects. All of these can be directly or indirectly used in combat or finding alternate routes. There are augmentations that allow to fall from great heights without the risk of injuries and upgrading that to initiate a powerful "knock-back" attack while falling on an unsuspecting enemy below, a powerful weaponized augmentation called "Typhoon" that fires high velocity ball bearings that kills every living soul within the radius and upgraded further to even destroy mechanized threats such as turrets and robots, hacking augmentations to hack computer terminals or alarm systems to render it useless and upgrading it further improves hacking abilities to tackle hardened security systems and gain control of cameras and turrets, etc.
Augmentations drain your energy and your energy is in the form of cells that get depleted quite easily for almost every action you use your augments for. At the start, you have two energy cells and you upgrade that to have 5. The cost of a take-down is 1 energy cell. The cost of punching through a wall is 1 energy cell. So, too, the cost of using any other augmentation, such as cloak, silent movement, Typhoon, etc. Your last energy cell recharges automatically and you can speed this up by upgrading the speeding process, obviously. It offers a good balance between game-breaking and resource-managing game-play. You can replenish your energy by consuming "Cyberboost Energy" bars which are basically, your "high protein chocolates". There are plenty of these to come-by just by exploring while you can also buy these from medical outlets.
For every meaningful action, you gain exp. Accumulate enough exp to unlock "Praxis points" which is a software to unlock or upgrade your augmentations. There are several Praxis kits lying around in the world that you can collect while exploring or buy a few from the medical outlets known as "LIMB Clinics".
The flaws :- And there are plentiful. Let me start with the AI. Consider this example. A courtyard with 6 enemy patrols and you sneak by a couple of them and spot a lone patrol who seemingly takes a lonely path to keep an eye on. Once the others are out of sight, you take him out, hide the body and conceal yourself behind a crate or whatever. The other patrols don't even respond to the loss of their comrade. They just happily stick to their routes waiting for you to dwindle their number.
The take-downs I mentioned earlier are another annoying set of inconsistencies. The animations are all fine and beautifully realistic but once you initiate the take-down, until the enemy is subdued, the others, even though they're alerted and have you in their sights are "MADE" to wait. Yes, you go about your fancy martial arts moves and then when you're thrust back into the first person view, the other enemies respond. In some areas, you can clearly see the game "paused" until you finish the take-down. Here's another that doesn't make sense... the "saliva splatter". It's understandable that when you punch someone in the face, you see them reel back and their saliva splatter across. But how is that possible when that "someone" is wearing a full-face helmet or a balaclava? Better yet, in your attempt to pull off the "Sleeper Hold", how is covering someone's mouth and nose even possible when they're wearing the helmet?
Regarding the augmentations and the RPG element, there are so few differences and usefulness that the exp system could well have been scrapped and just awarding the monetary rewards would've made sense. Let me elaborate. By the 2nd last level, I had maxed out every useful augmentation available and was just spending the "Praxis" points just for the sake of it. I really don't get what the developers were thinking of when they added a "Stealth Augmentation" that allows you "see" the enemies' cone-of-vision, the radius of the sound you produce and the ability to "mark" an enemy so that you can keep an "eye" on him. Or for that matter, was it really necessary to have an augmentation that shows "When the enemies' alarmed state goes back to normal" when on top of the radar, by default, you had the words "Alarmed" appear when you aroused the suspicion of your enemy or "Hostile" when the enemy knows you're there? Or have an augmentation that lessens the noise you make when you land after jumping down from a tall structure, especially when having an augmentation that reduces the risk of you hurting yourself from a similar jump and also gives you the ability to inflict damage from such a jump?
The side quests though are a different story as they're well thought of. You get to do a lot of detective work and end up having the only two city hubs to explore, namely Detroit and lower Hengsha....?!. Therein lies the problem. Why is there only two city hubs that feature any sort of exploration? The original had Hell's Kitchen in New York, a pretty big area covering a marketplace in Hong Kong and then you had parts of Paris. Surely, a prequel that came after a decade would have more than just two city hubs. Or atleast, have these two cover more than just 400 m from point to point. It's just baffling.
In the end though, DE : HR is a game that just sneaks into the room, as an invited guest, where its predecessor is still giving the speech on how a game is meant to be made. In itself, DE : HR is a wonderfully crafted game, despite its flaws. It has enough about it to appease even the most hardcore of Deus Ex fans. If you're a fan of this franchise, you'll enjoy it. If you're not, you'll probably love it or atleast consider it a very good game. But overall, there's so much potential wasted here. Considering the plot and the endings alone, they strike a very poignant note as the entire premise is played just as how you might have made those choices and it offers every player to form his own view of how the events in this prequel led to the events of the original, which is extremely well played out. There are interesting characters, although they're not fully developed. Combat is very satisfying, fire-fights are exceptionally realistic while the AI falls just a bit short and that causes the "stealth" elements, which happens to be the crux of this franchise, to fall short as well. The limited variations of take-downs feels like a gimmick after a couple of hours into the game, though they're quite useful and lovely to look at. The lack of useful and meaningful augmentations is another disappointing note that's sung when the game ends. However, the flaws don't out-weight the "Good" and hence, it's a "Must-Have" for everyone who has played and loved the original.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (US, 08/23/11)
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