Review by therandomdot

"Jack of All Trades / Master of None"

This game is a jack of all trades, master of none. And, like other games like it, it tries to do everything, and it does so in a mediocre fashion. I won't bother reviewing graphics or other tripe. I play games for game play and story. So, let's cut to it.

The game has free-form character development, which always sounds great when the marketing folks promote it on the back of the box. However, it means the developers are shoe-horning multiple play styles into one game. Unlike the Thief series, which was strictly stealth (and good at it), or Half Life, which was strictly run-n-gun (and good at it), this game wants to let you pick how you engage (or avoid) enemies. I will admit they give a decent blend of how you can go about your activities. However, there's annoying aspects to get on the nerves of every sneaker, shooter or hacker person out there.

For starters, if you want to be a shooter, ammo is too hard to come by. Plus, once you figure out how dumb the enemies are (stand near a door-way to choke-point them, alert enemies, then just mow them down as they bottle-neck at the door) the shooting aspect is pretty lame. The plus-side to being a shooter is that most complimentary augmentations don't require active power consumptions. So, you just buy up these passive augs that help out. But, they don't help much if you're getting shot at. They could have provided augs that boosted your health to 200. Increased the rate of health regen, or something else worthwhile. But, no. Your health is always 100, unless you temp boost it to 200 with items, but once the temp points are wasted, you're stuck at 100 again. And your health regen is always the same. The passive armor aug doesn't seem to soak much damage. But, you'll only really get your butt shot off if you're foolish. In most cases, the enemies are dumb, you can bottle-neck them, and waste them quickly. And this leads to the biggest complaint if you're a shooter... lack of action. You'll plow through enemies so fast, you'll be bored to tears the rest of the time. Most of the game has you running around these annoying city levels running errands / side-quests for people, and there is NO action going on. Then, you finally see some action, and it's over pretty fast. You shoot a gun, everyone on the freakin map is alerted to your presence, you camp out at a doorway, waste them all, then wander around bored trying to wrap up whatever lame mission you're on. If you're coming into this game expecting Serious Sam or Half Life or Halo, then you will feel let down. It's not that kind of game, and it's a shame they try to bill it as such, b/c it shines more as a stealth-sneaker game.

From the sneaking aspect, it's not bad. However, much like you were hindered in shooting via lack of ammo, you get hindered in sneaking via energy consumption. A lot of the stealth augs require active energy consumption. This is annoying, as you have to turn them on, monitor their energy usage, turn them off before they fully deplete an energy cell. You can do take-down moves to quietly take out someone. But, doing so uses up a whole energy cell, which is just flippin ridiculous. God forbid they let sneaker types indulge themselves to letting them incapacitate people for free. No, they make it cost a whole energy cell. Just to get close enough to incapacitate someone can be difficult at times, so you think they'd let you do it for free. I don't agree with the design restriction to make one of the harder things to do in the game even more worthless to do by costing so much to do it. Sneaking is also dumb in that the AI notices certain things with very acute senses, but then ignores other blatant things. Using the police station as an example, if you can talk your way peacefully into the station from the front desk, you can basically walk every where without confrontation. But, while people get alarmed at you trying to hack a door lock, they are NOT alarmed when you enter an occupied, LOCKED office from an air vent. I wander through the vent, two guys are in the room. I open the vent. One guy gets suspicious, and checks it out. After he loses interest, I proceed to exit the air vent INTO THE ROOM (which the door is still locked), and the guys act like nothing's wrong. I then steal credits, weapons and anything else I feel like from the room, and they say nothing. It just seems bizarre. Folks get alarmed at you trying to hack things, but it's a-ok to steal anything that's not nailed down.

The majority of your sneaking will involve the duck-n-cover mechanic. It's a bit annoying to use at first, but once you get the hang of it it's fairly decent. It's weird how enemies become alerted if they hear you walking, but you can do a rolling dive over to another set of cover (which you can audibly hear the sfx of), but doesn't alarm them at all.

However, the biggest annoyance with sneaking, in this game and most games in general, is that you make less noise when crouching. So, until you finally get the augs to move silently, you will spend the majority of the game crouch-moving. This annoys me to no end. I hate having to play the game from crotch-eye-level, and I wish modern games would kill this lame, contrived game mechanic. It's contrived that someone walking makes more noise than crouch-walking, b/c apparently in every sneaking game (from Thief to this one), every sneaking main character has to wear dress shoes which give us tons of noise when walking/running. Thus, in this game, you have to crouch-waddle until you get silent walk/run augs, but those have to be actively switched on, use power, and thus you can't just let them go indefinitely. This is my biggest gripe about the stealth aspect of this game, and stealth games in general, and it pisses me off to no end. All of the crouch-waddling makes me feel like I'm less than heroic in games, b/c you simply run through entire levels crouch-waddling like some idiot to prevent making noise. It's annoying, and the gaming industry needs to put a stop to this BS. Let me walk silently like a real person without being penalized.

Another annoyance is that hacking is ... well, there's just too much of it. And the mini-game would be tolerable if only your augs would make you better at it. You play the mini-game trying to avoid detection, and, if you do get detected, then it's a beat-the-clock trying to take over some node to complete the hack. The problem is, your augs to make you a better hacker suck. Some reduce detection, but you're still detectable even with maxed out hacking stealth. Likewise, you have a "Fortify" aug that lets you fortify nodes to make it harder to back-trace you and stop your hack. The annoyance is that you don't auto-fortify nodes when you take them. But, you can do multiple actions at once. So, you do this annoying two-step: 1) take a node, 2) fortify the node you came from. Repeat, repeat. The mini-game layouts differ, and it can be entertaining, but even with maxed out hacking augs you still feel like you're getting your butt handed to you too much. For the amount of points you have to sink into maxing out hacking, you don't feel very powerful. But, there's simply so much to hack in the game, it's difficult not to utilize it. So, whether you run-n-gun or sneak, you might as well start buying up some hacking levels early on. I just wish there wasn't so freaking much to hack. It seems like there's way too many terminals, computers, etc...eventually you get tired of the mini-game, and just want to get on with life. It becomes a torturous chore after a while, esp. with feeling like a wuss-hacker while doing so. When maxed out, not once did I feel like I was a leet haxor.

I guess that's the problem I have with the augs in general. You upgrade your guy, but he doesn't become superman. You can get an aug to sprint faster...but it doesn't really make you run all that much faster. You get augs to hack better, but you're still getting your butt handed to you by level 4 and 5 interfaces. You get augs to shrug off damage in gun fights, but still die fast. You get augs to influence social situations, but the interface is difficult to read so you're still winging it. It just seems the pay-off of getting all these augs isn't worth it. Or, at least, they don't seem as spectacular as they sound when you're first reading up on them and anticipating them. In a way, that's how the first Deus Ex was, too. You'd get augs, but they didn't make you superman, they just enhanced you a bit. But they could have done better here.

Moving on to the environments ... for starters, they offered way too much potato and not enough meat. The meat of the game should be the mission maps. Instead, they provide these annoyingly huge potato "city hub" maps where you're spending hours wandering around aimlessly trying to find your next mission way-point. It's boring, and quite frankly, I think this hub-style of game play needs to die. I consider it an insult for game developers to make these annoying hubs just so they can say their games have "freedom" in game play. I don't want freedom in game play if it means I'm wandering around this damn city hub for 30 minutes following up on a boring side-quest or getting lost in a dead-end when I realize I need to be on the other side of a building to get to my objective. It's lame, and it ranks up there with crouch-waddling to sneak. Just drop me off at each mission map. Get on with life. Give me a load-out screen while I'm in transit, then dump me off at the start of a map, let me plow my way through as I see fit, then pick me up and take me to the next mission map. We don't need tons of city hub BS, b/c it just leads to lame things like crappy side-quests, lots of wandering, and your marketing folks bragging about "hours of gameplay" and "freedom to explore" and other catch-phrases that translate into the player wasting their time wandering around lost for hours on end in some contrived hub map which ruins the pacing of the game.

The locations were also lackluster. Some had some interesting views, but for the most part, everything ran together. It's weird, b/c you can tell they tried their hardest to give it this futuristic look, but b/c most places were so cluttered with garbage and misc crap sitting around, they all just looked like cluttered spaces. The streets of Detroit looked a lot like China. Office buildings looked a lot alike. Every sewer looked the same (for god's sake, enough with the sewers already! I'm tired of running through sewers!) It's the 21st century,and we've had games give us expansive landscapes to run across, interesting environments to scale and plunder, but this game is lackluster. None of the areas were very memorable. They were nice looking, and did their jobs, but in the end they didn't really stand out. Zhou's (?) office with the art work was appealing. But, all of the city hubs were boring and routine. They all just had the typical futuristic stuff...large image boards displaying stuff, lights everything ... trash. Apparently everyone's a slob in the future. I understand they were trying to differentiate the slums from the nicer areas in the world, but it annoys me when games make it seem like lower-income areas are just filth-ridden.

Moving on to the plot ... it was ... ok. The first Deus Ex took a lot of folks by surprise not only for being a decent game, but also for all of the conspiracy theory it got pretty heavy into. This game sort of just dips its toe into it pond, and you don't really get the satisfaction of uncovering much. A lot of the plot-twists you can see a mile away, and you'll roll your eyes when the characters in the game finally get a clue about something you've known for a while. I realize a game has to get dumbed down for a wide demographic. But, sometimes it feels insulting. The demographic that buys this type of game is already a thinking bunch. We don't need a bunch of hand-holding, especially if you do your job right and place enough interesting tid-bits in hackable computers for us to sleuth together on our own. The moral dilemma of the plot was interesting from a sociological and socio-economic stand-point, and I felt they did a good job at exploring it. However, the end-game was pretty lackluster in that they just shove 4 choices in your face. It's not like actions you did all through-out the game influenced the ending you'd get. No. If you were a cold-blooded killer or a pacifist sneaker, you still get shoved in front of 4 choices at the end, and you can choose however you like. Seemed like a huge cop-out.

Overall, the impression I got from this game was that the developers sat around and tried to re-invent the first game using modern gaming technology. There's just a lot of similarities. But, again, they tried to do too much, and as such, no aspect really stands out as great or best-in-breed. Because it's a mutt. It's a mixed-breed that doesn't show-case anything spectacularly well. The pacing of the game was slow and boring due to all the milling around in the city hubs chasing your tail on mission way-points. The action of the game was over too fast if you chose to gun through, b/c it was just too easy to outwit the enemies and plow through them (then get stuck wandering a level to finish up for an hour while being bored). The stealth aspect was interesting, but annoying, b/c a lot of the options to be stealthy required too much energy micro-management which felt like being punished for being pacifist. It just seemed like the whole game was full of mixed signals. Get some guns to fight with, but hardly any ammo or enemies to do so. Get some interesting sneak abilities, but not enough energy to play with. And so much crap to hack. I'm tired of mini-games.

It's an ok game with an interesting plot that would have been much better if they focused on one aspect of game play: either run-n-gun or stealth-shooter. As it stands, run-n-gunners are going to be bored to tears, and stealth-shooters may get a bit annoyed at the handicaps for trying to play their way.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/19/12

Game Release: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (US, 08/23/11)

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