Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Enhancing physical appearance through simple medical procedures is often the norm for the compulsive society of today. Enter the sepia-toned world of Deus Ex. The year is 2027, artificial enhancements to merely improve aesthetics are a thing of the past. Intellect, reflexes, endurance, strength and performance are common place improvements that over-shadow the technology of old. Humans now go beyond realistic capabilities seemingly improving lives, opening career opportunities and heightening the definition of what it means to be perfect.  But these revolutionary advancements in robotics - called augments - bring with them a shadow of their own. Humanitarian governments believe mechanical plaguing of the human body will short circuit humanity, purist uprisings espionage  manufacturing plants, and corporations are teeming with sadistic minds to overcome competition in the oligopolistic market of human enrichment.

Deus Ex works hard to establish a hyperbolic world which never fails to seem believable. Cybernetic arms, legs, and neural implants are genuinely made out to be common - a part of society which has warped communities, governments and companies like individual planets orbiting the sun. Players experience this world through the eyes of Adam Jensen, an ex military soldier, turned security guard for Sarif Industries, a large player in the augmentation field. After Adam's associate Megan Reed makes the next potential breakthrough for human enhancement Sarif Industries is brutally attacked. Heavily augmented behemoths terrorize the laboratory, and Jensen scrambles across the complex in search of Megan and her team to find half the structure severely damaged. After finding Megan, one of the mysterious antagonists emerges, throwing Jensen through a glass panel, puncturing his arms and chest leaving your character crippled and on the brink of death. With Megan believed dead, her research stolen, and only serious augmentation being Adam's saving grace, the conspiracy begins.

Your journey will take you to several locations all of which ooze style.

Blending first person shooter with RPG and stealth elements, Deus Ex is truly a metropolis of variety. Although not one single aspect stands out beyond other franchises, the three elements mold a diverse experience within which gamers of all tastes will find something to admire. Stealth in-particular is handled extremely well. Branching paths and routes make no single objective a linear scramble to the target, it's a thinking man's game. Vents, walkways, ladders, and tunnels litter buildings, streets, complexes, and laboratories providing different ways to tackle what may be a taxing situation. Either light a room up with a rally of bullets, grenades, and mines, or be more methodical. Use a vent to flank and take down each individual silently until the room is cluttered with snoozing guards, honestly, its up to you. Stealth, however, does provide the player with greater exp bonuses, always a beautiful sight for those eager to earn rewards, but unfairly punishes those who enjoy an intense fire fight.

Too many games in this generation have a habit of providing the player with a plethora of character upgrades which never change game play, and are instead used to artificially pad out the experience. Deus Ex does not fall victim to this convention. Much like Mass Effect 2, Adam is revived to discover he is half man, half machine. His augmentations allow for some truly game changing upgrades which are activated through the use of Praxis Kits. Cloaking grants Adam the ability to become invisible, allowing him to slip past guards, cameras and lasers. While arm augmentations allow him to punch through a weakened wall or lift heavy objects to discover new paths in the environment. Jump over a high fence with leg augmentations, or be left to trample through Detroit sewers to collect case evidence. Cranium alterations even allow Adam to analyse an unknowing NPC's personality, letting him manipulate actions and reap the benefits. Unfortunately, player freedom can be limited by a system that works so hard to provide it. Side missions often require hacking skill, but if the player has neglected such skills then they will be forced to come back later, and in some circumstances skip the quest, as a result being left unable to see everything Deus Ex has to offer. A word to the wise, allocate points to hacking, you heard it here first. 

Float off a tall ledge elegantly with the Icarus Landing System, or dispose of dozens of guards with the Typhoon. 

Manipulation and cunning can prevent a lot of hassle for the player. This is were the dialogue system soars, much like Adam after a few leg upgrades. Taking a leaf out of Mass Effect's book, Dues Ex has a branching dialogue system that has instant repercussions once the conversation has concluded. Several points through the adventure players will be submitted to a game of wit with key characters where they must attempt to prevent disaster, or be granted access to a restricted area by using the gift of the gab. Split into categories like absolve, crush, empathize , humble and reason, the options available are much like the game play - diverse. Trying to match options to a character's personality can be a fascinating and tactical challenge. This can be diluted by the Social Enhancer augmentation, however, I handicapped myself as conversations were fun, and immensely engaging without it. These mental battles were to few and far between. In later iterations of the franchise I hope to see more of this impeccable dialogue functionality.  

Beyond all reasonable doubt, Deus Ex is extremely stylish, but this does not prevent it from having minor presentation issues. Most prominent of which is within dialogue. After just shouting praise about the dialogue system with it's challenge and intrigue, it's a shame that it's not visually stimulating. Character expressions often won't match their mood. When engaging in heated conversation with David Sarif, his voice raised which implied stress and anger, but his facial expressions were blank. This happens enough for players to notice it, but never does it detract from the well written speech, or the tale which it weaves. Small frame rate drops are sprinkled among the campaign (particularly in boss battles), but this seems to be common place in most action oriented games. Despite these pit falls, Dues Ex is mostly aesthetically pleasing. Locations, specifically Hengsha, with its gold glow provides great imagery, especially with its layered structure (The higher city is for corporations and business, while the lower is for lesser folk, where partying is high on the agenda). Pre-rendered cut scenes take the player out of the driving seat to explain the more crucial points of the story. Lens flares, sepia tones, and phenomenally detailed characters make them blissful to watch, and a welcome break.

A deep, memorable conversation with an ex-military associate. He blames you for what happened in the past, will you convince him to let you into the morgue?

Legend of Zelda, God of War, even Darksiders all had great boss fights. Unfortunately, Deus Ex doesn't make it into this prestigious club. Tussles in Deus Ex see you face off against the antagonists that terrorize the player at the beginning of the campaign. Often they can be intense and engaging, however, sometimes the player will be submitted to frustration, an emotion gamers are all to familiar with. Facing off against other heavily augmented soldiers mano-a-mano is a good premise, however, the idea is not backed up with much substance. They are fast, bullet flying affairs, a juxtaposition of the thought provoking missions. However, they feel awkward, especially on consoles, where reloading and sprinting at the same time is not permitted, and changing weapons on the fly in a heated onslaught can be finicky. These limitations make the skirmishes feel unfair, like you and your opponent are not on a level playing field. More often then not I found myself using cheap tactics to overcome the battle after several retries. But the simple fact cheap tactics can be used in the first place somewhat degrades the fight's integrity even more. 

After 25 hours Deus Ex's impeccable game play does start to wear a little thin. But until that point Deus Ex is truly a mesmerizing experience. Slipping past entire rooms of guards is an absolute joy thanks to hundreds of branching paths, some made exclusive due to specific augmentations. The shooting mechanics are nothing to write home about, it's a simple cover shooter affair if chosen to play that way, but it most certainly gets the job done, allowing players to experience the winding story through its most intriguing conspiracies. Played on higher difficulties, specifically 'Give Me Deus Ex' difficulty boss fights become a frustrating panic, but on lesser settings the boss fights can be an intense fire fight, backed up by a brilliant premise. Despite a few minor presentation issues, and exclusivity of missions based on hacking skill, Deus Ex is simply fantastic. Put on some Jensen shades, slip on a long trench coat, and immerse yourself in the futuristic cyber punk world which is Deus Ex.

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Release Date: March 2011
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Burchy's picture

Just a foot note:

Statistics for the end of each mission would have been a great addition, going for 'The foxiest of the hounds' trophy can be very frustrating, especially when you beat the game and you're not sure where the alarm was set off

Scumbagb3n's picture

This game and it's predecessor look amazing and visually stunning, should I feel bad for not playing or having interest in either?

Burchy's picture

@Scumbagb3n

I wouldn't say you should feel bad, but you are definitely missing out on quite a unique experience, Human Revolution was a breath of air for me.

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