The original Deus Ex deserves all its praise for a game with an unprecedented amount of choices and flexibility. Eidos Montreal faced the daunting task of providing the same level of immersion in Human Revolution while also subjecting the gameplay mechanics to today's standards – not an easy goal considering the breadth of options available when carrying out missions in the flagship franchise.
As I'm sure you've heard, the story of Human Revolution, or at least that of its main character, Adam Jensen, is remarkably similar to the premise of Robocop. Both narratives take place in a futuristic, dystopian Detroit (as if it wasn't a dystopia already). In Human Revolution, Adam Jensen is a security chief at Sarif Industries, who seek to improve humanity through the use of robotic enhancements to strength and reflexes. An attack by a rival company leaves Jensen nearly dead, but he is brought back from the brink through the aid of Sarif's augmentations, effectively making him a half-machine superhuman.
From there, it is Jensen's mission to discover why he was attacked, and the story goes you want it. Human Revolution offers a startling amount of player input in how Jensen deals with characters, be it through persuasion or aggression. Depending on your level of success, Adam will uncover varying degrees of help or information concerning the multi-layered conspiracy involving Sarif and its competitors.
The story that Human Revolution tells is an exciting one, with quite a few surprises for the player. I will say some of the twists have either very little to no effect on the overall plot but may change the player's perspective of a person or event. The big game-changers can be largely predicted, too, though one or two may result in genuine surprise.
Unfortunately, no matter how many choices Human Revolution provides and what repercussions arise from your actions, the game ultimately tunnels you down a preset path. It's done in a very well-hidden and convincing manner, and for most part, the linearity remains unnoticeable. However, towards the end I realized several major decisions were made either entirely without my consultation or that my earlier choices were made irrelevant.
Human Revolution exhibits a very liberal use of yellow.
In terms of gameplay, Human Revolution takes a turn for the better, and worse. One of the major selling points is Jensen's augmentations that allow him to tackle any situation in a multitude of ways. He may talk his way out, go in guns blazing, or assassinate a guard before ducking back into a ventilation shaft. There are energy-dependent CQC and melee options available as well. Everything you do can be modified using augmentations, or perks for the uninitiated. You do not gain enough experience to maximize every skill, however, so it's important to focus on a single play style, at least early on, and then try to mix-and-match later.
The dialogue options work like a cross between Mass Effect and choice-reliant RPGs of Fallout or The Witcher. Jensen speaks from a conversation wheel, with responses often chosen based on emotion and not content. This is where RPG elements will step in, and based on intel gathered or eloquence, the person Adam is speaking to/interrogating will seal up, divulge useful information, or perhaps provide false tips. Using this tool may well result in the ability to bypass major encounters or lead Jensen into a trap.
When words aren't enough, which will often be the case, Jensen is forced against various foes intent on stopping him. In these situations, there are still other options available, though they mostly boil down to stealth versus combat.
Combat in Human Revolution revolves around combining Jensen's augmentations with whatever weapons the player has at his/her disposal. Early on, the game will feel like a pedestrian shooter; however, as players unlock better armor, reflex abilities, and optic equipment, simple gunfights evolve into more refined action sequences. The controls work well, as does the cover system, which switches to a third-person perspective when Jensen attaches to an object.
Enhancements divide themselves between Jensen's augmented body parts.
Despite the handling, the shooting in Deus Ex is disappointingly bland. Yes, the augmentations available can make engagements more interesting once Adam is built into a cyborg powerhouse. But the weapons themselves, and the shooting mechanics, feel a little too separated from the action. There is no sense of satisfaction when downing an enemy, no real weight to the shooting, and very little feedback to your actions.
Both Jensen and his enemies can be decommissioned in just a few hits, which means too often gunfights involve waiting patiently for the enemy to poke his head out before quickly popping out and firing. And while the enemies are dangerous in terms of their marksman-like aim, their AI program isn't nearly solid enough to make fights challenging, as they will neither try to flank Jensen or force him from cover.
On the other end of the spectrum waits the stealth mechanics, where Human Revolution really shines. I love stealth games. I grimaced at Splinter Cell: Conviction's very action-heavy approach, and Metal Gear Solid 4, however cinematically brilliant, was too insubstantial, clocking in at around five hours. For anyone who feels as I do, Human Revolution is the answer to your worries. In fact, the difference in quality from shooting to sneaking is so obvious, it's a little surprising that Eidos didn't market the game mainly as a stealth title.
While combat builds will follow a pretty stable path in terms of upgrades, the variety of ways to outfit Jensen for sneaking borders on staggering, from camouflage to the ability to see enemies through obstacles. Depending on your taste for silent, incognito kills or avoiding confrontations altogether, stealth augmentations can be matched and cycled to suit various styles of play. Mingled into the stealth mechanics is a very cool, if slightly underutilized, melee system revolving around two enormous blades hidden in Jensen's arms.
Adam Jensen wears sunglasses at night.
Though they're combat training may be lacking, AI enemies are actually quite good at not only detecting, but finding Jensen when he attempts to sneak past them. It is only once they actually locate him that their programming seems to absolutely shut down. Because of this, perfecting kill-free runs without alerting reinforcements requires a bit more skill.
Human Revolution bats a thousand for it's stealth gameplay, enough to make this at least a must-play for anyone who, like me, has been forced to patiently wait for a serious sneaking title to grace the market. However, those looking to fortify Jensen into a killing machine and wreak havoc with his arsenal will be disappointed. And in a game that boasts its diversity in gameplay, this is an issue.
The story may be Robocop, but everything else about this game world is decidedly Blade Runner. Many locations in Human Revolution are oozing with the same future-noir ambiance and lighting found in Ridley Scott's masterpiece. Even the themes in Deus Ex appear to mirror those in Blade Runner, such as human identity versus machine perfection. Although the story is good, an impressive amount of work and care went into creating a world that manages to grab the player, which at times can feel both detached and personal – a common motif of the noir genre.
In jarring contrast to the game's general tone, much of Human Revolution borrows inspiration from the Italian Renaissance. Throughout the game, several characters, women in particular, materialize in lavish dresses fit for 15th Century Florence. Furthermore, several key moments are filled with symbolic imagery very clearly inspired by the works of Michelangelo and Rafael. Not everyone will catch it, but those who do have the historic background will be very intrigued.
Dude, put some skin on!
The level design flows well with the game's overall purpose: letting the player decide how things commence. There is always more than one way to tackle a situation, and cleverly hidden alternate routes will reveal themselves to attentive gamers. Hacking minigames (which Jensen can be become more proficient in) further increase the options available. The only real downside to the level design is that, after a while, a lot of the offices and buildings Jensen fights through will begin to look identical in color, though the floor plan will still be unique.
And I'm not going to try and sugarcoat it, but Human Revolution looks like a game from 2009, or maybe even 2008. Textures are blurry; character modeling is inconsistent; and facial animation is hit-or-miss. The art team obviously spent a lot of time on Jensen and the other supporting characters, but the rest of the cast did not receive the same treatment. Some of them look look downright deformed.
The voice acting succumbs to similar issues. The script barely does the job, and at times, seems ludicrously out of context, like decidedly jovial dialogue downplaying a situation's severity. Jensen, at least, sounds in-character. On the other hand, the soundtrack is solid. Futuristic synths match with dark beats to fill the locales with a little more life and depth.
Human Revolution is a tough game to rate. A single playthrough can encompass 20-40 hours depending on how much you wish to explore, and the game warrants a second run through just to see how ulterior decisions will affect the story and world. I really enjoyed the gameplay offerings, at least once I decided to make a stealth-committed character. The shooting just wasn't there, and I feel like many would agree with me on that. An unfortunate situation to be sure, but I have to consider the whole package, not just what I liked.
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC