The next time you come home from work in a bad mood because you ended up going 30 minutes over your shift or because an afternoon snack got jammed in the vending machine, spare a thought for Deus Ex’s Adam Jensen. As head of security for a biochip manufacturer, he gets sent down to the labs to investigate a commotion and ends up getting his arms blown off and then thrown threw a wall by a bionically enhanced mercenary.
Six months later, Jensen returns to work a new man. Or rather; a half a new man – against his will, his employer SERIF uses their own technology to turn him into a futuristic version of the Six Million Dollar Man, able to jump higher, react quicker and smash through walls. Never mind having an easy first day back at work – Jensen is sent out on the streets straight away to find out who attacked his employer and why.
The previous Deus Ex games were about choice and this one is no different. Most impressive are the conversation arcs where you’re able to steer conversations into a direction of your choosing, including hostage negotiations and either halting or encouraging suicide attempts. You can choose to play stealthy or with aggression too. As an action game Deus Ex excels – the cover system works perfectly, weapons can be upgraded and feel incredibly well balanced, and you’ll never tire of watching Adam’s incredibly slick take-down animations. Inventory space is limited so you have to think carefully about what weapons to carry too. As a stealth game it excels even more so as every enemy poses a sizable threat and sneaking through the expansive environments takes both planning and skill. The AI is clever enough to investigate the smallest of disturbances and if you forget to drag and hide dead bodies out of the way of patrol paths the opposition can very quickly turn hostile.
Unless you’re a natural at taking enemies out with headshots, playing stealthy awards more XP than if you simply shoot everything in sight. When you’ve gained enough XP something called a praxis kit is awarded which can be used to give Jensen a new skill or enhance existing ones. It’s impossible to unlock every skill during one play through, so you need to think tactically about which ones to assign. These vary from being able to jump higher, thus giving access to previously restricted areas, to being able to turn temporarily invisible. It’s recommended to upgrade Jensen’s hacking skills early on: computers can be hacked by playing a mini game – which involves capturing bases against a tight time limit – allowing to deactivate security systems and take a sneak peek at the user’s e-mails.
Eidos Montreal’s futuristic interpretations of Detroit, Montreal and Shanghai are convincing and impeccably well designed, encouraging and rewarding exploration. Detroit isn’t vast as first appears to be but Shanghai is more than large enough to get lost in with backstreet weapon dealers, a seedy hotel and a nightclub to discover. Some sections seem impossible at first with patrols everywhere, but if you have a look around you’ll usually find an air vent or stack of boxes that can be moved around to access a higher area. A mission set in a police station is a good example of how things have been designed – you’re asked to retrieve information from one of the office terminals, which can be achieved either by sweet talking the chief, sneaking in through the sewers or storming the place with a gun in hand. This mission is also one of the first that shows how your decisions have different consequences – create a disturbance at the station and it’ll be later mentioned on the news and on the front of the digital newspapers that you’re able to pick up and read.
Clocking in at around 25-30 hours, Human Revolution is a massive game without taking into consideration that it has been designed for more than one play through. The boss battles are the only genuine low point. They help to progress the story and provide a challenge but they feel like something from a lesser game with predictable attack patterns. Even if you’re aiming to play without killing a single person, Jensen shows no mercy during these battles, making them feel out of synch with the amount of freedom granted during rest of the game. Another criticism can be aimed at the loading times. This is game that really tests your gaming credentials – in other words, you will die often – so given that some loading times are in excess of a minute they can become frustrating.
During the run up to Batman: Arkham Asylum’s release, Eidos boldly claimed that it was as close to perfection that they have ever got. If they had spun the same story prior to Human Revolution’s release we certainly wouldn’t have accused them of creating hyperbole – it’s a masterpiece that deserves to be remembered as one of the finest games this generation.