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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action / RPG

 

Publisher

Square Enix

 

Developer

Eidos Montreal

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

August 23, 2011

 

 

- Excellent visuals, both in detail and in style
- Fast pacing and engaging storylines
- Top notch voice acting
- Eerie plausibility of themes and technologies

 

 

- Boss battles
- Technologies are not entirely fleshed out or fail to reach their logical conclusion
- Map design seems overly cramped and under diversified

 

 

Review: Deus Ex (PC)

Review: Deus Ex: The Conspiracy (PS2)

Review: F.E.A.R. 3 (PC)

 

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

deus ex human revolution          deus ex human revolution

 

Albert Einstein is credited as saying, "It is the business of the future to be dangerous." But what dangers might we face? The creeping control and influence of multinational corporations into our lives? The draconian measures adopted by governments with ever more pious platitudes that it's all being done for our protection? The growing privatization of "homeland security" and proliferation of "Private Military Contractors"? The increasing capabilities of robots and computer

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systems employed for security and military applications? The ballooning media conglomerates who blanket the masses in carefully tailored message-driven propaganda while smaller and increasingly marginalized outlets devolve into hysterics just to attract attention? Or perhaps the danger is yet unknown, the fruits of scientific labor which may deliver

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humanity's salvation or destruction based simply on whose hand bears it. This is the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a world set fifteen years in the future that feels only fifteen minutes away. It's a shadowy and shiny reflection of our world, a mirror darkly that holds only a few cracks to break up the image.

While the original Deus Ex has gotten overly long in the tooth graphically speaking, Human Revolution brings an all new level of high end visuals to the series. Neon and LCD signs glow cheerfully while fluorescents give a cooler light. Vehicles range from the conventional car to the reverse trike to the VF-22 Osprey's jet powered grandchild, and all of them look great. Character models are highly detailed across the board, from the average human bystander complaining to the police to the augmented gangbangers and mercenaries patrolling their respective patches of turf. Even the mech designs strike the right note of evolutionary realism, with small patrol bots and giant legged tanks echoing the current UGVs that would be their forebears. Special effects are not only sharply done but they feel like the part of the environment, particularly the effects used for gas and electricity/EMP. I didn’t notice much if any texture cracking, though character models occasionally displayed a sort of running speckling, as if pixels were dropping in and out of their faces or clothes. Contrary to a lot of the mocking and consternation out there, I never really noticed the whole “pee glasses” filter that other people were complaining about. There were some areas which had a definite golden motif in their lighting, but for myself, I think the whole thing is a miniscule element among a panoply of bright lights and grimy surfaces.

I have to give the voice cast the big nod of approval for delivering a broad range of deep and emotional performances. While Elias Toufexis might not necessarily be incredible emotive in the role of Adam Jensen, it actually works in a way that conveys the diminishment of humanity that comes with augmentation. The best showcases for these vocal talents come in the form of “social combat” sequences, extended dialogs that require you to influence an NPC to come around to your way of thinking. It’s almost worth deliberately blowing these sequences just to get the full range of the character’s emotions. Even the little throwaway conversations between NPCs are delivered perfectly, and occasionally hide a little audio nod to some of the source material that influenced the game. Beyond that, the sound effects and music are top flight. Weapons fire sounds authoritative. The soundtrack is predominantly cinematic and orchestral, with a little pop and club music thrown in at appropriate spots. Nobody has any room to complain about audio execution on this title.

 

deus ex human revolution          deus ex human revolution

 

Being such a drooling fan of the original Deus Ex, and even after seeing the live demo at E3, I was determined to hold the game to a high standard. I wasn’t going to give it a pass just because it was shiny and new. For me, gameplay would be the most important element that the developers had to hit. And I can honestly that they came exceedingly close. The original game was heavily involved in its conspiracy theory background, and the storyline was more an exploration of how one man could be the culmination of thousands of years of secret plots, or the catalyst of their destruction. Human Revolution takes a different tack, focusing on mankind’s growing fusion with technology and the threshold of directed human evolution promised in transhumanism as its theme. While the transhumanist focus certainly has a more immediate pull, I think they needlessly relegated the conspiracy elements of the game to background noise, sometimes literally. The game could have had a much better anchor with those elements in place, giving the protagonist something bigger than just finding his girlfriend. For a game as expansive as the original DX was in scope, Human Revolution feels oddly cramped and slightly myopic. In particular, level design and map variety offer up a lot of routes for reaching objectives, but at the same time there aren’t a whole lot of places to actually go in the larger scheme of things. You’re basically bouncing between two major cities for most of the game, as well as a couple different smaller locations whose stated location really doesn’t mesh well with the environment. You could say an office building was on the Moon and you’d really have very little one way or the other to confirm or deny that statement. I get the feeling that Eidos Montreal accidentally hewed too close to one of the shortcomings of the original DX, based on the limitations of the Unreal 1 engine, when they could have gone for more of an open world feel to the game.

While I’m all for giving players the choice to go in guns blazing and playing the homicidal maniac versus stealthy infiltration marked only by the occasional unconscious guard, I believe Eidos Montreal failed to really think about the implications and applications of the tools that the player would have available to them. My first playthrough was a mix of straight killing with the judicious use of takedowns when I had to keep quiet or the objective demanded a specific target merely end up in the hospital instead of the morgue. I was struck by the fact that the nonlethal weapons were unbelievably weak, such that somebody who had just gotten a tranq dart in the back could easily be revived a few moments later by their buddies who happened to be close by rather than laying inert for the next few hours. I found it a rather glaring omission that you didn’t at least have bean bag rounds for the shotgun, or other non-lethal ammunition for otherwise lethal weapons, particularly since you’d think weapons science would have advanced a lot in fifteen years. The Typhoon cluster bomb system which looks so cool in the videos only has two options: kill and overkill, when they could have just as easily added a third non-lethal option. Seriously, if you have the technology to turn a person into a living frag grenade without killing them when it goes off, turning them into the center of a hurricane of micro-flashbangs really shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. The fact that you can register headshots for lethal kills is cool and all, but why not give players the chance to kneecap their targets and take them out of commission that way? I found the takedown animations interesting for the first few hours, but they could have done a lot more both mechanically and contextually, like say using the stock of a combat rifle or a reversed pistol grip behind the ear. Ditching the “battery” use for the takedowns would have also been a good idea. I have a hard time believing that clocking a guy is an equal expenditure of fatigue compared to punching through concrete walls and deliberately expending muscular energy and anti-noise to mute landings from falling medium distances. And the less said about the boss battles, the better.

For all the myriad ways that Human Revolution comes up short, it excels in a single point: you are immersed in the setting. It draws you in and (with the exception of the aforementioned boss battles) lets you linger. It pulls at your mind and triggers that strange feeling that the events you’re seeing could very easily happen tomorrow. It makes you feel like the world is reacting to your behaviors. The various pop culture and geek references aside, and shortcomings notwithstanding, Human Revolution gives you a world to experience and exercise in. For a game that has such a tough act to follow, and such a long time between installments, Eidos Montreal should be proud of what they’ve done while figuring out how to do better next time. There’s plenty of room in the Deus Ex universe for different stories to explore all the aspects of that universe and I can hardly wait to experience the next one.

 

- Axel Cushing

(October 9, 2011)

 

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