The author of this review and the author of the Xbox 360 version review are different persons, and their views may differ. To read our Xbox 360 version review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, click here.
Many games this generation have offered a deep, choice based experience, in terms of story and/or gameplay- few like Dragon Age, Fable and Fallout come to mind. Some of them have succeeded, when it comes to story, like Mass Effect, but no game this generation has really been as open ended and free flowing as Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Be it story, the way you play the game, or what you play in the game- it’s all up to you, without reservations. The game does throw some stuff at you that you have to play the way it wants, like stupid boss fights, but otherwise, it’s the most free-flowing game you’ll ever come across for a long time.
The year, as we all know by now, is 2027. Mankind has come a long way from where we stand now- we have developed technologies like no other, able to implant our bodies with enhancements that help us in social, physical, mental and many other activities. They’re called Augmentations. Civil strife is tearing the world apart regarding these “augs”. You are Adam Jensen, a security specialist with a new job at Sarif Industries, the leading augmentation manufacturers. At the beginning of the game, your headquarters get attacked by mercenaries, who destroy and ravage a lot of the research and kill a whole lot of people. Adam is almost killed, and brought back to life with the help of augmentations. It is not the new, augmented Adam’s job to find out who attacked you, and why.
That takes you on a long journey around the world, from Detroit to Shanghai to Montreal and other places you will never forget. Undoubtedly, the story and the narrative have to be some of the strongest assets in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The first thing you will notice about the story is just how shockingly rich and deep it is, covering subjects and field like politics, transhumance, renaissance, civil strife and so many other things- it pulls you in immediately, with a rich, alive world that feels not so distant and different from the one we live in, and keeps you hooked, throwing difficult choices, excellent plot twists and conspiracies your way all the while. The story is really awesome, worthy of a Deus Ex title, and perhaps one of the best stories in any game in the last few years.
The world is rich and complex, with great attention paid to detail, and it comes to life with the glorious city hubs. People go about their businesses, talking about the political situation in the world and what’s been going on in the game world, the architecture of the buildings is exquisite, reflecting that of the present day yet still futuristic enough to fit perfectly in a sci-fi game. The streets, the winding lanes, the patrolling cops, the citizens, the gutters, the buildings, the crates and boxes all bring the city to life, making it seem very realistic, and making the game itself very atmospheric.
The story and the world are strongly supported by a great cast of characters, especially the protagonist, Adam Jensen. Jensen is the definition of badass really. His augmentations are awesome (more on these as we go on), his character model is, at the risk of sounding gay, deadly looking. His voice work is perfect, brilliantly done, and you would never have expected a character in a game to be voiced like this, really. He is an evil, good badass. It’s confusing, I know, but that’s the only way to describe it. You have to play the game to really find out. His character is a lot like Neo from The Matrix- silent, badass, slick and cool. Other characters most notable, Eliza Cassan, David Sarif, Frank Pritchard, and the main baddie, Jaron Namir- are really good as well, with their distinctive personalities that you grow to love/hate/be awed of. It’s a really strong cast of characters.
Now, on to the aforementioned augmentations. They’re much like upgradations in other, conventional RPGs, really. Basically, as you gain experience points, you get 1 Praxis Point for each XP meter you fill up. You can buy an entirely new augmentation for 2 Praxis Points, and upgrade augmentations for the cost of 1 Praxis Point. You can also buy Praxis Points from clinics known as LIMB clinics (also sell ammo and weapons and other goodies). Augmentations range from social enhancers, inventory expansions and health upgrades to abilities that make us invisible, allow us to punch through walls or gain momentary X-Ray vision. The augmentations are great, giving a lot of depth to the game, and change the experience significantly.
The gameplay is basically centered around three things, as we all must know by now- combat, stealth and hacking. In terms of combat, the game’s difficulty can be really punishing. Enemies have great aim and they swarm in from all directions, flanking you or strategically attacking you. Enemy AI in terms of combat is simply great. As much as the combat is tough, it is also very rewarding, and registering each kill gives you great satisfaction. However, the shooting of the game is a bit buggy- bullets don’t always hurt enemies, even when they hit them, and just fly past them a lot of times. Enemies may not die instantly even if you shoot them in the head or shoot them a lot of times in the chest or something. This gives a very unrealistic feel to the game, and the few combat glitches mar the overall experience somewhat.
The second “pillar” of Deus Ex: HR, stealth, is probably the best and the strongest. Deus Ex: Human Revolution handles stealth very well, and has to be one of the best stealth games I have ever played, especially when augmentations come into play. You can use augmentations like becoming invisible to pass through laser beams or remain unnoticed by cameras or patrolling guards, mechs. You can use augmentations that soften the sound of your footsteps and sneak past an enemy when he has his back facing you. These augmentations add a great deal of advantage to the game, and make it a hell lot of fun. Even without augs, stealth is extremely entertaining, and making your way through sprawling rooms past hordes of enemies without being notices gives immense satisfaction.
However, enemy AI can be a little stupid and glitchy when it comes to stealth- for one, they never enter rooms! All you have to do if you ever alarm the guards is enter one of the smaller, branching rooms in a corridor, and all the guards will do is stand outside in front of the door, have a quick, brief look around, and go. They may have seen you entering the room, but they do not follow you inside. They think you’ve magically disappeared and start searching for you elsewhere. And if you stay hidden for five minutes, they forget all about you. Doesn’t matter if you killed another guard in front of them, or if they saw you running from their bullets with their very own eyes- go five minutes without being noticed by anyone, and they forget you ever existed.
However, other than that, the enemies do make stealth very tough- not because they’re smart, but because of the way they are placed. If you exit the line of vision of one, you enter another’s, or maybe a camera’s or a mech’s. You have to stay careful all the time, stay in cover and stay hidden, and make sure you do nothing, make no sounds, to get noticed. Yes, every time you make a sound- like toppling over a crate, or thudding your feet on the ground, or, of course, shoot, the enemies notice and triangulate on the source of the sound- you. If you kill guards or knock them out and leave their bodies in the open, security cameras or other guards might notice them, and that would alert them of your presence. So you have to hide the bodies too. All the little things have been taken care of that make the stealth element of the game that much more amazing. So you have to stay careful all the time.
You can take down enemies stealthily too. There are two types of takedowns- lethal and non-lethal. In a lethal takedown, you kill your enemies with the blades in your arms, and in non-lethal takedowns, you just known them out with spectacular punches. It’s all just a press of a button- hold the square button, and you perform a lethal takedown. Tap it, and you perform a non-lethal takedown. Every time you do perform a takedown, the game fluidly transitions into a third person view and shows some flashy animations, and fluidly switches back to first person again.
The cover system works really well too. You hold down the action button to switch the direction of your cover, and tap it to perform flashy swat turns between cover and cover. Every time you take cover or perform certain augmentations, the game switches to a third person view. The transition works really smoothly, and gives the presentation a slick and tight feeling. I initially thought it would be disorienting, but it was not, at all, rather, it was very fluid and smooth.
Hacking is a lot of fun too- I, personally, never understood how exactly it works, but it will still an enjoyable, frequent mini-game that provided a break from all the intense action. You can hack doors to enter locked rooms, disarm alarm panels, hack turrets and turn them against your enemies, hack into other people’s computers to disable security cameras and turrets or read e-mails or codes to unlock some doors. It makes you feel that much more like a secret agent badass. But be careful who you hack in front of. If unfriendlies see you hacking something, they will shoot. And shooting can kill you very easily in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
This all comes together to deliver a very expansive, choice based, free-flowing gameplay structure, couples with brilliant level design. And that’s the beauty of Human Revolution, more than anything else. It is not the story, not the characters, not the game world in DXHR that will appeal to you the most- it will be the open ended gameplay. The game lets you decide how to play- something not a lot of games can boast of these days. Do you want to sneak past the enemies via a fire escape to make it into an apartment complex they’re not letting you enter? Do you want to sneak past them taking cover of the vehicles? Do you want to find a vent somewhere around and go inside from there? Or you could climb a building and jump from its rooftop onto one of the buildings into the complex. Or, you could just shoot all your enemies and enter anyway. And this is just one of the scenarios, and just a few of the possibilities. The freedom in the game is incredible. It’s ineffable, really. You have to play the game to realize just how incredible it really is.
You can choose which objectives you want to complete in a mission and which ones you don’t. Like in the first mission of the game, you have to secure one of the devices Sarif has developed, but you are also given the objective to save some hostages. The hostages have been wired to a bomb, which, when detonated, will release a toxic gas and kill those who inhale it. It is all up to you- if you want, you can defuse the bomb by hacking it, but that can be really dangerous. If you want, you can forget all about the hostages and just go and secure the device, to find out at the end of the level that the hostages were killed. Again, this is just one example. The choice is incredible.
Choice based progression is also present in dialogue. In some of the conversations, you are prompted to select a dialogue from an L.A. Noire-like dialogue wheel. These dialogue choices can open up many quests or other dialogue options, or alter the course of the story itself, if done properly. It’s not what you’d see in games like Mass Effect 2 or The Witcher 2, but it’s still pretty good, and seeing as Human Revolution does the gameplay part better than any of those games, its somewhat shortfall here is excusable.
It’s really disappointing, then, when the game throws stupid, ridiculous boss battles at you that you have to play through. You are not given any choice in these matters- the boss battles are forced upon you. It would have still been excusable had they been actually good boss battles, but no. They- suck. They have to be some of the worst boss battles ever, involving mindless shooting and very boring “action.” The game could have done much better without them- I wouldn’t have had a problem with playing through the game without having any boss battles.
The side quests in the game are also pretty boring, so thank god they’re just side quests, and not main story missions. But they may put off some completionists. They’re okay, by normal standards, but generally involve a lot of backtracking and combat, and are not up to the awesome quality of the main missions.
There are some other issues with Deus Ex 3 as well, other than the ones already mentioned. For one, the inventory and inventory management of the game are really bad. The inventory is much like the one you see in Resident Evil 4 or 5, but nowhere near as good. You cannot even do something as simple as stacking items. I liked how the inventory had to be expanded column by column with augments, but let’s be real- who’d spend Praxis Points on increasing their inventory size when they can gain the ability to punch through walls are jump from large heights and land on their feet safely?
The game also has a lot of technical issues- lip syncing and facial animations are very jerky and unwieldy. They seem really out of place, given the high quality of the voice acting. The facial animations just don’t express the emotions in the voices of the characters properly, and the lip syncing doesn’t match up with the voice work. It’s really jarring to see such technical issues in such a high quality game. Jensen’s lip syncing and facial animations are good, though.
The game also has extremely loading times, sometimes stretching on to be as long as a minute or two, and I’m not even exaggerating. It’s really frustrating, sitting their and looking at the boring loading screen that gives us momentary entertainment with tidbits of information, but in no way reduces the frustration of the excruciatingly long loading times. Even if you install the game, loading times stretch on to 30-40 seconds, which is still very long.
The graphics of the game, too, are not very good. They would have been good for a game two or three years old, but now, they just look rough, unpolished and outdated. Not that they’re ugly, no. They do the job pretty well, and in no way are they an eyesore, but they do have a lot of rough edges that Eidos could have improved on has they taken a week or so more. But the artistic design more than makes up for any technical niggles the game’s visuals might have. The game’s art style is very reminiscent of the renaissance, with great art style. The art director of the game has really done a great job- everything looks beautiful and not very far away from our own world, and you can see that 16 years into the future, you might just see these things coming to life.
Though these flaws become almost negligible, when you take into account the other awesome things present in the game. The soundtrack, most notably, is very good. It hits the right chords, with many metallic tunes that fit perfectly with the game’s cyber punk setting and at the same time, give you adrenaline rushes whenever the action kicks in. It’s a beautifully composed track, very reminiscent of Mass Effect, and you would want to get the Augmented Edition, because it comes with the soundtrack of the game.
The replay value of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is also excellent. The game literally begs for multiple playthroughs, wand you strive to indulge it. You’ll want to play through the game again and again to explore the different choices, the different ways to play, the different story paths, the multiple endings. Not just that- it’s a 25 hour long game, and even if you don’t come back to the game, which is highly unlikely, you’ll get your money’s worth out of it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is just too massive a game to properly describe in a review. I could go on for a thousand words more here, and I still would have a lot to say. Trust me, there are a lot of things I haven’t even begun explaining even now, after 3,000 words. You might think I’m crazy, but once you do play this game, you’ll realize how correct I am. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is hard to be described. You have to play it. It’s so awesome, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.
This game was reviewed on the PS3.
Awesome stealth mechanics; Augmentations add a whole lot of depth to the game; Heavy choice based gameplay, a lot of freedom to play the way you want; Great story with nice twists; Really likable main character; City hubs are open and rich; Atmospheric; Really believable world; Really long adventure; Very high replay value; Exceptional art design; Brilliant level design; Soundtrack is awesome; Awesome cover system; Takedown animations are flashy and slick; Third person view to first person view transition is smooth and fluid
Patchy AI; Upolished graphics; Really bad boss fights; Minor glitches; Lip syncing and facial animation issues; Extremely long load times; Inventory and inventory management are not very good; Side quests are boring
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that will grab hold of you and never let go- an experience like no other.