Review by Crono09

"A worthy follow-up to a classic game in the genre"

In most cases, first-person shooters are of little interest to me. The exceptions are the ones that contain RPG elements or focus on stealth rather than aggressiveness. The first FPS game to draw me in was the original Deus Ex. The compelling story was surpassed only by its strategy-based gameplay, which allowed multiple ways to complete each mission. It was followed by Deus Ex: Invisible War, a sequel that was better than it was given credit for but still failed to live up to the original. While Invisible War was by no means a bad game, it changed some of the fundamental mechanics that made Deus Ex great. It would be many years before we would see another game that lives up to the Deus Ex legacy. That would be its prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

The game takes place in 2027, about 25 years before the original Deus Ex. Nano-augmentation has not yet been developed, but mechanical augmentation is at its peak. Sarif Industries, the leader in augmentation technology, is about to announce a major breakthrough in its research, but shortly before this happens, their lab is broken into by a team of well-trained operatives. Adam Jensen, Sarif's Head of Security and former SWAT agent, is sent to handle the incident. He is unsuccessful, and the entire lab is destroyed and all of the scientists killed, including Megan Reed, Jensen's ex-girlfriend and lead researcher for Sarif. Adam himself is critically injured, and he only survives by undergoing substantial augmentation throughout his body. After a six-month recovery, he returns to his job at Sarif Industries, which puts him on track to finding out what really happened to Megan and her research team and involves him in a conspiracy of worldwide proportions.

Human Revolution is a story-based first-person shooter with heavy emphasis on stealth. Each chapter of the game has a primary objective that must be completed. Some of them have optional objectives, which provide opportunities for more rewards. Jensen must fight or sneak his way through an area to arrive at a destination, where the objective must be completed. In most cases, there are multiple ways to reach the goal. Enemies can be fought or eluded, security cameras can be disabled or avoided, and locked doors can be forced open or circumvented through air ducts. The controls are designed to enable stealth-based movement. For example, crawling makes you a smaller target and silences your footsteps, while using objects as cover can let you see around them while remaining hidden.

The RPG elements come into play through the game's experience system, which combines the augmentation and skill system of the original Deus Ex into a simpler and much-improved arrangement. Jensen will get experience for various actions throughout the game. The most experience bonuses come from completing objectives, both required and optional, but he also gains experience through defeating enemies, hacking computers, exploring secret areas, destroying robots or turrets, and completing social battles. Once you get 5,000 experience points, you gain a praxis point, which can be used on the menu to activate software that enables the various augmentations that Jensen has. In most cases, activating a new augmentation will require two Praxis points, while upgrading an augmentation takes only one point. You can also find or purchase Praxis Kits throughout the game, which grants a Praxis point immediately. It is nearly impossible to get enough experience to obtain every augmentation in the game, so you have to be careful about choosing the augmentations to activate.

The previous two Deus Ex games were a mixture of action and stealth. In both games, it was possible to complete the game without killing anyone but a few bosses, and it was usually possible to evade enemies rather than fight them directly. Human Revolution continues this tradition, but it places even more emphasis on stealth. Besides having more stealth-based controls (such as the ability to use cover), you get slightly more experience from stealth takedowns than you do from kills. You also get huge experience bonuses for completing objectives without being seen. Going the stealthy route is the only way to get enough experience for most of the augmentations in the game. You can certainly get by with a run-and-gun style of play, but that puts you at a disadvantage in the long run. The only feature that I would have liked to see is an indicator that specifies whether you've been detected. That would help with getting the stealth bonuses, since it's not always apparent that you've been spotted.

The inventory system from the first game made a welcome return, especially since its absence was one of the most maligned aspects of Invisible War. Inventory is stored on a grid with larger items taking up more squares on the grid. For example, a Cyberboost Proenergy Bar takes up only one square, and you can stack up to five of them in that square. In contrast, the Rocket Launcher takes up 24 squares. You can get augmentations that increase the size of your inventory, but it will be limited no matter what, requiring you to decide which items are most important to keep. It's also much harsher than the first Deus Ex. Weapons take up more inventory space than before, ammo now requires inventory space, and items do not stack as much as they did previously. I thought that some of the inventory restrictions were overly severe. For example, ammo takes up far too much inventory space, and smaller items don't stack as much as they should. However, the inventory system as a whole is an appreciated feature.

Most of the augmentations are well thought out, and they offer definite advantages to each playing style. If you want to be stealthy, you'll want augmentations that focus on cloaking and silent movement. If you just want to shoot people, you'll want the ones that improve aiming while limiting recoil. Most augmentations are passive and always in effect one you gain them. A few require energy to use. Jensen starts out with two energy cells, although this can be upgraded to five. The problem is that only one energy cell refills automatically. Any additional energy cells require consumable items to refill. There is no shortage of these items, but there is a finite number in the game, and there's often no telling when you will come across more. With no other way to refill energy cells, you'll effectively go through most of the game with only one. This makes the cloaking augmentation far less useful than you would think because even with five full energy cells, it doesn't last long enough to be of much value. A few other augmentations are less than useless. Most of the radar “upgrades” only clutter your radar screen, while some hacking augmentations don't provide any more information than you already have.

Hacking is much more involved than it was in the first game, where you simply pointed a tool at a screen or keypad to hack it. It now involves a minigame where you must hack through nodes in a system to reach a target before the system's security detects you. This was definitely an improvement, and it makes you feel like you're actually doing something when you hack. It did get old after a while, especially since you do a lot of hacking, and it becomes more luck-based as the game goes on. Once the system detects you, you have to race to the target before it reaches your point of origin. If you get detected on your first movement, which is very, very likely, you have no chance of succeeding. There are items and augmentations to help with hacking, but the items are limited in number while the augmentations have little effect. In generally, I thought that hacking was a favorable addition to the game, although it could have been better designed.

There were a few control-based issues that I had problems with. One of them was the menu controls. This was most obvious in the inventory screen. Clicking on an item often had no response, or it would select an item somewhere else in the inventory. However, it was most detrimental during hacking, where commands are menu-based. The slow menu commands, where I often had to click multiple times to get a response, slowed down my progression and often cost me the hack. The hacking minigame should have allowed single-button hotkeys to keep up with its faster pace. Another control issue was moving bodies to prevent them from being found. Every tiny bump would make you drop the body, and you would sometimes let go them for no reason. Due to a bug, some unconscious enemies would suddenly die when you tried to move them. This makes it hard to move bodies quickly, which is often necessary to avoid detection.

A lot is made of the boss battles in Deus Ex, which go against the stealth focus of the rest of the game. All of the major boss battles require direct confrontation, and if you have been getting augmentations and weapons that are more stealth-based, you are at a major disadvantage. Every boss has a trick that can be used to defeat it regardless of your choices up to that point, but they are still clearly designed for aggressive players. Yeah, it's a design problem, but it didn't really bother me that much. If you think of it as a puzzle, every boss can be taken about simply by taking advantage of the environment. If you're desperate, there's an augmentation that makes every boss battle ridiculously easy. Bosses definitely aren't the strong point of the game, but Deus Ex has never been about boss battles anyway.

When it comes down to it, these problems are mostly nitpicks and don't take away from the value of the game. The stealth elements of the game were excellent, and in true Deus Ex fashion, you have to keep adjusting your strategy to handle the new situations that crop up. What works in one chapter may not work later on. There is a huge menu of weapons to choose from, each with relevant advantages and disadvantages. With all the different ways to complete the game, its appeal reaches pretty far.

The story was less epic than either the original Deus Ex or Invisible War. You're not a soldier, federal agent, or anti-terrorist specialist; you're just the chief of security for a major corporation. It's not until near the end of the game that you discover that your actions have global implications. This isn't a criticism at all because keeping the major players under the radar for so much of the game makes it that much more extraordinary when the fallout of your actions is revealed. While the original Deus Ex has a classic story that is nearly impossible to beat, Human Revolution is an excellent follow-up that approaches the story from a different direction rather than trying to copy it.

Being that this is a Deus Ex game, conspiracies play a central role in the game. Most of the classic conspiracies like the Illuminati, Majestic-12, the JFK assassination, net surveillance, and Area 51 were handled in the first Deus Ex, and there would be little value in repeating them here. Instead, Human Revolution addresses conspiracies that emerged in the past decade, such as FEMA camps, private military contractors, global warming conspiracies, government-created diseases, and manipulation by news media. These fit into the overall story very well, and they're more relevant to people playing the game.

What I found most interesting about the game is the social issues addressed by it. Augmentation is a major worldwide controversy in the story, and many of the arguments surrounding it mirror those of real-life issues, such as abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and other medical ethics. Some people oppose augmentation for religious reasons, while others contend that it is detrimental to society. Its supporters argue that they have the right to do what they want with their own bodies, or they cite the medical advances that are made through augmentation. Discrimination of augmented individuals exists, leading to hate crimes and protests. I imagine that if augmentation really existed, we would have similar issues to what is described in the game.

When it comes to versatility, not many games do it better than Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Whether you're into first-person shooters, stealth gaming, or RPGs, Human Revolution has something for you. There are issues with some unrefined controls, but these are overshadowed by gameplay that is constantly changing and requires frequent innovation. This is accompanied by an intriguing story that has relevant parallels to real-life issues. It would be nearly impossible for a sequel to live up to the original Deus Ex, but Human Revolution is as good as a follow-up as you can probably get.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/18/12

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

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