I stood at the entrance of my local video game shop, poised to rush in, grab a copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and then get home quick. But something stood in my way – a shop assistant.
I know this guy, and he really likes to chat. But time is not on my side, I have to get home and start playing Deus Ex. Should I go in and distract him by asking the release date of an obscure game, forcing him to go out the back and get “the book”? Should I take the stealthy route and slip past the DS games, hide behind the Wii games and approach the Xbox360 version from there? Or should I just go in “guns blazing”, tell him I don’t have time to chat, grab a copy and run for the counter? There were of course multiple other ways to approach this problem, but I couldn’t find a Donkey and the local Pizza delivery service was shut. Life would be so much easier if, like most video games, your path was clear and the choices were pretty much made for you…
You can imagine my dismay when I came to realise that Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a game that revolved around making choices in a beautifully realised futuristic world. Oh, the irony!
Eidos Montreal’s masterpiece, which is set as a prequel to the original and hugely popular Deus Ex from the year 2000, manages to juggle a lot of balls at once. As an action RPG, it contains a huge amount of both combat and conversation, all whilst developing the main character of Adam Jensen and improving his “augmented” abilities to make him stronger and generally better. Although the conversations with strangely animated civilians, snooty computer experts, brash bosses and numerous other characters is essential to moving the story and the game along, the combat is indeed one of the choices that ou get to make for a lot of the game.
DE:HR has a strong combat engine, featuring a reasonable selection of different weapons, a rather good cover technique and and some really quite tough AI enemies. As the player progresses through the story, in which Adam Jensen is a security expert for a firm that specialises in Human Augmentation, they will earn Praxis points, or find/buy Praxis kits, that will enable them to activate the multiple augmentations within Adam that came as a result of nearly being killed during an attack on his firm. These augmentations can toughen the skin, improve the aim or allow Adam to carry more weapons. But they also open the doors to so many other choices.
As I said, combat is a choice through most of the game. If you need to get somewhere and the way is blocked by enemies, shooting them all down is something that you can do. Or you could try to sneak past them or even find another route all together. There are multiple ways to approach many of the objectives in DE:HR and the augmentations can help all of them. There is a cloak ability that can render you invisible for a while, see through walls and spot enemies, leap great distances or jump from a high building without damage. One augmentation that is essential is the the one that lets you hack into the more and more secure computer systems in the game. No matter what you play style -aggressive, sneaky or exploratory – being a computer whizz is something everyone has to be. Without leveling up that skill, progress will just grind to a halt, or at least become very expensive. But just having the right level of computer skill does not mean that all terminals will reveal their secrets to you, there is still the hacking mini-game to negotiate.
Not everything is perfect in Deus Ex though. The missions can be a bit overwhelming at times due to the sheer amount of things that you have to do. Also, with so much attention of the alternate ways that a player can complete quests, it should be pointed out that some of the stealth routes are so damn hard to find that the player will likely lose any stealth advantage before they even find the elusive air vent/ladder or whatever. The amount of extra work that needs to be put into finding the hidden routes makes them seem kinda superfluous and I would happily bet that most players will approach this game from a “guns blazing” point of view.
Of course, everyone who has tried the game will have realised that the loading times between areas, or just starting the game up, are incredibly long. I can understand that there is a lot of data to be preloaded or whatever, but the loading screens really break the atmosphere and any sense of immersion that the player may have been experiencing, which is a real shame.
Now I would like to tell you about a couple of moments in the game that I don’t want to call “glitches”, because I am fairly sure they are not, but they were frustrating nonetheless. The first point at which I felt like throwing my controller at the screen began with me entering the Police Station. The cops in the building were all crouching down and waving their guns around, with the civilians cowering from fear. I am not sure what their problem was, although it is entirely possible that I caused it. But the cops were ignoring me and just refused to talk to me. I waited a while to see if anything changed, but it didn’t, so I left. Upon exiting the Police Station, I was shot and killed! Of course, the game saved just before this, so reloading the previous save just resulted in my death again. And again. And again. The save before that was when I entered the Police Station, leaving me in exactly the same situation. Fortunately I had manually saved the game a while before that, so I didn’t lose too much game time (real time with how long the game takes to load was a different matter).
The other moment of frustration made a mockery of all the work I had put in to a particular mission. I had managed to stealthily work my way through a particularly large area for a mission and walked through a door onto a rooftop, where two guards were standing talking. I sneaked around behind them to reach my objective, then realised that I had actually walked past the objective for another mission earlier in this area. Confident of my stealth skills, I backtracked and found the objective then made my way, all without being seen, back to the rooftop. Upon arriving at the door, I noticed that the door was open and one of the rooftop guards was standing in the doorway. I waited for ages for the guard to move, but he just refused to do so. In the end, I was forced to take out the guard, which raised the alarm and meant that any achievement for making my way through the entire area without being seen was lost. This had taken me ages and would have been a lot easier if I had fought my way through, so to finally lose out on a stealth bonus at the very last moment resulted in my shouting a bit and then going to bed. I was not a happy bunny.
But the reality is that after throwing my little wobbly, I could not wait to get back into the game. It is incredibly polished and the level of detail that goes to make up this dark, almost BladeRunner-esque world is what makes the game so compelling. Little things like picking up and reading E-newspapers, or reading other peoples emails on their computers, all go towards breathing life into the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The story itself twists and deepens to the point that you really can’t wait to see what happens next, and the game looks so damn good that you are quite happy to sit there, immersed in a world where humans are becoming less human.
There is a lot to like about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It has some problems, but they just don’t seem important in the grand scheme of things. What are important are the stories. Not just the brilliant main story and sidequests from the game, but the stories that anyone who plays the game will come away with. DS:HR will stay in your mind for a long time, for all the right reasons. An essential purchase.