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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Video Game Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution; The Future Is In Good Hands

It’s been a long time since Ion Storm’s and Eidos Interactive’s cult rpg/action hit Deus Ex was released in 2000.  Praised for its cyberpunk setting, engaging story, and the variety of gameplay options available to players, it made sense that the developers would want to continue the series.  However 2003’s sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War, while receiving a fair amount of praise as well, didn’t quite live up to its predecessor’s hype so Eidos decided to go back to the drawing board and take the series in a new direction.  After a rather long wait they finally brought gamers Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the original Deus Ex and despite the skepticism of fans and critics, a game that lives up to the high bar set by its predecessor.

 Taking place twenty five years before the events of the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution sets the stage by immersing players in a world that is on the brink of massive change.  Human augmentation, the process of using machines to enhance or replace parts of a person’s body, has become the chief interest of several large corporations as well as the military.  However the side-effects of such augmentations, many harmful and some even fatal, lead many to question their place in the forefront of human evolution and some have even lashed out violently against augmentations and the people who make and use them. 
In the center of all this is Adam Jensen, a former SWAT officer now serving as a private security specialist for Sarif Industries, one of the forerunning companies in augment development where his ex-girlfriend, an augmentation scientist named Megan Reed, also happens to work.  During what is supposed to be a routine security check the Sarif building is attacked by a group of unidentified soldiers being led by three heavily augmented mercenaries.  Jensen is severely injured during the attack and spends the next six months having most of his body replaced by augments.  The scientists he was protecting, Megan included, have been presumed dead and Jensen returns to his post at Sarif to help them track down the people responsible for the attack.
Like the first two games in the series, Human Revolution is all about player choice.  Entering any hostile situation, Jensen has multiple options for dealing with his opponents; he can opt for stealth and discretion, non-lethal takedowns and tactics, or all-out firefights using a variety of guns and grenades.  Jensen’s actions earn him experience points which convert into special “praxis points” that can be spent on various upgrades for his augmentations.  These upgrades can enhance abilities he already has, such as his skill with hacking computers or firearms, and can even grant him new abilities like a personal cloaking device or the ability to see through walls.
 In addition to firearms and explosives Jensen can also unleash devastating hand-to-hand takedowns with the option of using his fists as a non-lethal method or employing special blades fitted into his augmented arms for a more permanent solution.  These takedowns in addition to some of Jensen’s other abilities are powered by an energy cell meter that, once depleted, slowly recharges over time and can be upgraded to increase the recharge rate or number of cells available.
One small caveat is that Jensen’s dependence on these energy cells seems rather silly at times, particularly when it comes to takedowns.  I found it laughably absurd that because he had no full energy cells Jensen would suddenly be robbed of the ability to throw a punch but I guess it makes sense given that performing a takedown triggers its own animation meaning that all other enemies’ sort of freeze in place as Jensen dispatches his foe.  What this means is that with enough full energy cells Jensen could theoretically bum-rush a group of armed guards and take them out without a scratch on him, not a tactic I would recommend, but it is an option.
Various upgrades can be found for Jensen’s guns as well, from silencers and increased clip sizes to cooling systems and damage multipliers, these upgrades along with an arsenal ranging from handguns and revolvers to shotguns, sniper rifles, and energy weapons are invaluable if running and gunning is more your style.  Ammo is a bit hard to come by at times, but there never was a point where I didn’t have a comfortable amount of bullets for at least one or two of my guns and the large selection of weaponry combined with a sizable inventory that can be expanded further with augment upgrades means that as long as you’re at least a semi-diligent scrounger, you should be all set.
Like the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution’s story is very complex, spanning several different locals that each offer their own side-missions for Jensen to complete.  A myriad of different e-books, newspapers, and e-mail folders spread out around the different environments you explore can be read for background flavor and speaking to certain people can offer the same benefit.  The linear missions Jensen undertakes are also broken up by “hub-areas” that can be explored at the player’s leisure and which contain secrets of their own for diligent explorers to find. 
 Players looking for a game they can really take their time with won’t be disappointed either.  While admittedly Human Revolution isn’t quite as expansive as the 2000 original, it is by no means a game that can be finished in a sitting or two.  Players can look forward to at least 15-20 hours of gameplay, and that’s if they choose to focus solely on the game’s main storyline, diverging to partake in the many side-missions and tasks Jensen stumbles across can net another five hours at least.
Overall, Human Revolution is a worthy successor to Eidos Interactive’s Deus Ex franchise.  A few minor flaws do little to mar what is otherwise a very solid action rpg and the various mission-paths as well as multiple endings mean it’s the sort of game that begs to be replayed multiple times.  The game’s production may have taken a bit longer then fans had hoped, but for anyone looking for a well-paced, intuitive, and immersive action-rpg experience, I’d say Human Revolution was worth the wait.

General Gameplay Tips:
  • Investing in Augments like Punch Through Walls and Icarus Flight can help with exploring the world as well as granting new combat options.
  • Whenever you reach a new hub-world it’s a good idea to find the local L.I.M.B. clinic as each clinic offers two “praxis kits” (instant praxis points) for sale for five thousand credits each.
  • Shooting cameras will instantly sound an alarm, even if the camera didn’t see you.

Useful Links:
Main Game Site: http://deusex.com/

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