Posted by John on August 22, 2011

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360)

I, for one, would like to welcome our new robot overlords: ourselves. Deus Ex’s transhuman future is finally here.

  • Tom Price

  • by
    Tom Price
  • August 22, 2011 16:00 PM PT
  • GamePro Score

When we talk about “open-world” games, we’re usually referring to games set in large virtual sandboxes that allow a freedom of movement for the player that you don’t find in the corridors and halls of most narrative action/adventures. But the “openness” of Deus Ex: Human Revolution — the long awaited next installment of the highly esteemed Deus Ex franchise — espouses a different kind of openness that can be far more satisfying for gamers who like to add a little thinking to their shooting. It’s an openness to your choices and play style that is easily as rewarding as the original game was back in 2000. And back then, it was nothing short of revolutionary.

Since then though, many games have taken the RPG and shooter mash-up to new highs. BioShock and Mass Effect come immediately to mind. Both of those games approach the conventions of the shooter with the more invested complexity of an RPG in ways that were undoubtedly informed by the original Deus Ex’s gameplay, but both are also far superior games to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, most notably in the quality and veracity of their abilities to tell a story. That’s one of the areas Human Revolution falls a bit short: it aims very high to tell a story full of fine moral ambiguity, but in the end comes off a bit preachy and not all that relevant to current events. Sure, augmented humans as they are envisioned in Deus Ex are a real possibility in the near future. But would anyone really argue that our currently possible “augmentations” — better prosthetics for amputees or even artificial hearts and pacemakers — are somehow diminishing our humanity?

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360)

Maybe I’m stretching the point, and honestly the speculative fiction of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is fun to contemplate. But the way the plot unfolds feels less polished than those aforementioned games, with a lot of corny language, telegraphed twists, and cliched plot points. And the way the story wraps up, not to spoil anything, is a bit of a disappointment as well. The depths of the conspiracy alluded to never feel sufficiently plumbed, possibly in an attempt to set up the next sequel. If you feel any satisfaction upon completing Human Revolution (which I undoubtedly did) it probably won’t be because you were told a ripping yarn.

Human Revolution’s stronger points come from the gameplay, and are the basis for why you should play the game. That openness of the experience — approaching each hallway or laboratory from a number of different routes, with a number of different approaches — is the strength upon which the game most heavily relies. It’s almost stimulating to fail at a task in this game because of the “back to the drawing board” moments you’ll have. Do I hit the room full of guards head-on with grenades and heavy rifle fire (provided I’m able to find those items; they are terribly scarce in the earlier going) or do I sneak into the security office, hack the computer and turn the automated security bots against their masters? Or should I just ninja my way through the whole level, never letting a guard see or hear me? Those possibilities keep the game fresh throughout, with the exception of a few glaring exceptions: boss fights.

Oh, how did I hate the boss fights in Human Revolution! Taking me out of the thoughtful planning and stealth maneuvers I had carefully crafted my augmentations to enhance to fight old-school, patterned bosses by hammering on them with heavy weapons is a major buzzkill. They’re not even very creative like the bosses in Metal Gear Solid, another game that’s garnering favorable comparisons to Human Revolution. Rather, they are tedious and often really hard to pass. A number of times I found myself going back a save or two (thank God for saving anywhere, by the way) so I could scour the level for more ammo or re-spec my augments to better fit the specific challenge of the boss fight. I’m not against boss fights in general, but these feel out of place and antiquated.

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360)

But again, every time one of Human Revolution’s flaws rears it’s ugly head, I find myself wanting to forgive the game because of something else. The system of augment upgrades is great, and fun to experiment with. I look forward to my next playthrough of the game mainly so I can spec myself out in an entirely different way. The hacking minigame is fun too, and has a deeper design to it than most hacking minigames you see. And the art style, despite its oppressive orange-ness, is really creative and intelligently thought out, even down to the futuristic fashions worn by the citizens of 2027. Those little touches go a long way towards creating the appropriate atmosphere for the game.

Another of the game’s components that really deserves to be called out are the conversation interludes. A few times during the game, you’ll engage a major character in a conversation where you must persuade them to do something (that they should give you the codes you’re looking for, or tell you where some dude you’re looking for is, etc.) and the dialog engine that’s built into the game feel much more sophisticated than even what BioWare did in Mass Effect. Each character has a list of personality traits that you must exploit by choosing the right dialog tree. It’s subtle and clever and sometimes very hard to see through the artifice of it. And that’s a very good thing.

Despite the flaws I found with the game, Deus Ex: Human Evolution is overall a really great experience for those who like a bit more from their shooters. The consistent mental challenge of tackling each mission is what makes it so captivating, relying on strategy over spectacle. That’s not what everyone is looking for in their games, but those who are will find it in droves in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

PROS: Gameplay that’s full of possibilities and surprises; intriguing art and design style, even if a bit heavy handed with the color palette; saving anywhere.
CONS: Boss fights; a confusing and disappointing story arc; did I mention boss fights?

Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360)

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