Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Street Date:
- August 23rd, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- October 16th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Square Enix
- Eidos Montreal
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Some things stick with you all your life. For me, Deus Ex is one of those things. I still remember playing it for the first time; getting sucked into the cyberpunk world and mulling over the philosophical questions the game posed. And it looks like I’m not the only one who was so impacted, as more and more games are allowing the player freedom of action, just like Deus Ex did. But the series that arguably started it all has been strangely absent. One sequel, Invisible War, made an appearance, received a collective shrug from critics and gamers, and that was it.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Until now. Deus Ex: Human Revolution aims to move the series back into the spotlight, but it’s not without problems. The game is a prequel, taking place before the events of the two previous titles. You play as Adam Jensen, head of security for Sarif Industries. Sarif is about to reveal a major scientific breakthrough when their headquarters are attacked. Adam is ravaged by mercenaries and left for dead. But luckily he’s at the heart of the bio-augmentation complex, and the doctors rebuild his body. Now heavily augmented, Adam has track down the culprits behind the attack. Of course, this being Deus Ex, nothing is ever black and white, and soon multiple factions vie for Adam’s loyalty and abilities.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution feels a lot like Deus Ex. So much like it, in fact, that it feels like the developers forgot to make their own game as they worked so hard to adhere to the formula of the original. The basic concept is woven through the entire game. For almost every situation, there are multiple ways to get through it, usually revolving around combat, stealth, hacking, or conversation (and often a combination of several). If you wanted to go through the entire game without firing a shot, you can almost get away with it (a few boss fights will require you to engage in combat whether you like it not). Most likely you’ll be mixing and matching your tactics as you wish, but the point is that you have the freedom to act as you wish. This also extends to the characters you encounter throughout the game. You control how you behave and interact, and some of these choices will affect gameplay later.
In concept, I have no issues with this system. It’s pretty much what the original Deus Ex presented us with. The problem is that the first game came out in 2000, and it’s now 2011. Game development hasn’t stood still. Games like Mass Effect make choice an even deeper element of the overall game, going so far as to extending your choices and their consequences to the sequels by reading the memory of your completed games. For Human Revolution to not make any serious advancement in the genre is, to me, a huge letdown. Even if this is a sequel to an eleven year old game, it shouldn’t feel like it is eleven years old itself.
That being said, it’s not all bad. There are very few games that can capture the look and feel of cyberpunk as well as this series, and in that respect Human Revolution does not disappoint. The questions raised about what it means to be human, and how far we’re willing to go to evolve, are undoubtedly interesting and worth exploring. As our country has put space exploration on the backburner, it’s likely that human augmentation may be the next big scientific push. Game publisher Square Enix even commissioned a documentary by a man who lost his eye and installed a camera in its place to look at the state of human augmentation today. These are themes worth studying, I just wish it had been done in a game more worthy of my time.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Deus Ex is known for two things: It’s choice-based mechanics and its cyberpunk look. Human Revolution certainly delivers in setting a suitable atmosphere. Cities look like they were designed right from the words of William Gibson himself. Adam, with his lensed eyes, is very reminiscent of Molly Millions from Neuromancer. Hong Kong might have been ripped out of frames from Blade Runner. In the best cyberpunk tradition, it’s perpetually night…everywhere. While this is undoubtedly impressive and sets the right mood, it suffers for lack of variety, which, combined with a borderline useless map system, makes it easy to get lost. Other issues crop up, such as poor localization (lips are frequently out of sync with what’s being said), and the sameness of the environments are evident even when Adam is meant to be on the other side of the planet.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Human Revolution relies far less on audio to tell its story than a lot of games do. In fact, much of the world is revealed to you by reading emails, newspapers, or books. This is again straight out of the first game. Sound does play a role in the game (you can even get an augmentation to silence your footsteps to be more stealthy), but it’s not as integral as it is in some titles. Even worse, the main voice actor, Elias Toufexis (doing his best Timothy Olyphant impression), completely bungles his job. Adam delivers everything in the same gruff monotone that I suppose was meant to make him sound like a badass, but instead makes him sound like a robot. He is unable to emote, deflating the most important scenes like a balloon with a slow leak. You can see the writers trying to make the game substantial, only to be sabotaged at every turn by Toufexis’ one-note performance.
Due to the game’s wide variety of options, the replay factor is reasonably high. Aside from choosing which way you want to play, there are always more augmentations to try out, side missions to accomplish, and three endings to choose from. If you liked Human Revolution enough to get through it all once, chances are you’ll get a lot out of playing it again.
I really wanted to love Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s a prequel to one of my all time favorite games, and that’s not something I take lightly. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t deliver the goods, simply aping the original instead of taking inspiration from it to make a new, unique experience. It’s a missed opportunity that I hope can be corrected if there should be any further entries in the series.
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