Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes as close to deliverying on its campaign promises as any game has ever dared before. The story line is an epic web of conspiracies and lies interwoven with a question of humanity and what it means to each player. By the end of the game you'll have created your own individual Adam Jensen whose final choice may surprise even you.
+Brilliant sci-fi noir-esque story.
+Interesting and relatable characters.
+Plenty of replay value.
+Deep and expansive world with plenty to do and see.
+An almost unpressidented level of 'play how you want'.
-The game does heavily favor stealth, if that's now how you play/wanted to play you can miss out on some of the side-quests/rewards of the game.
Just over two years ago now I was lead into a private booth on the floor of E3 to catch my first glimpse of Human Revolution. The demo that I saw then would set an impossibly high bar that no game could ever match. The demo show cased gorgeous cinematics, stealth-oriented gameplay, ridiculous take-downs in the form (in single, double, and five-at-a-time varieties) combined with dialog from the development team; which wound up selling me with one quote: "You can play through the entire game without killing anyone."
As a long-term fan of Metal Gear, there's no phrase that excites me more. So I would spend two years waiting as patiently as I could must for the release of the sequel to one of the greatest PC games of all time: Deus Ex: Human Revolution. - Finally this month we saw its full release, and while what I said at the top of this review (that nothing would ever uphold the promise of that first viewing) the game does come damn close.
Human Revolution takes us back (in the Deus Ex timeline) to an era far beyond the events of the original title. Taking place in the year 2027 (a good 25 years before the events of the first game) Human Revolution focuses on the earlier generations of augmentation, when it was just starting to find its place in the world. The story focuses mainly around that of Adam Jensen, a recently hired security consultant for Serif Industries, for whom his love interest (Megan Reed) works for as a researcher.
At the top of the game you're introduced as being required because of the fact that Dr. Reed has just broken through to new grounds in the field of augmentation. Her discovery, it would seem, it poised to change the game forever... and some people aren't all too happy about it. If you've as much as seen the cover for the game, then it's not much of a spoiler to say that things quickly go wrong for Adam Jensen and Dr. Reed, and during the scuffle our protagonist winds up limb-less. Thankfully the fine people at Sarif are all too eager to provide him with a full set of augmented limbs to speed him back on his way, and after six short months of recovery is back on his feet and hot on the trail of the people who attacked him and his girlfriend to find out what happened.
The story line is one of conspiracy and intrigue, with touches towards the sub-plot of humanity struggling with the idea of scientific modification and evolution. Story-wise, the whole thing feels a little like Bladerunner. Humanity has been broken into two factions: Those for and against human augmentation/evolution. Adam winds up thrust into the former camp at the start of the game, but depending on how you play and react through the dialog options through-out the game, his opinions of augmentation for humanity can be drastically changed.
It would be very easy for me to spend the entirety of the review talking about the story for the game, considering I'm deeply invested into this quirky little sub-genre of sci-fi. It's almost like a film noir detective story flung a couple of centuries into the future, and it works for me personally in a big way. But the problem about talking about the story, especially in length, is that due to the game's versatile plot, and the ability to drastically shift the way things pan out through dialog trees, my experience is a personal one that's not likely to be replicated by anyone else (well, probably at least one another person... but you know what I mean).
I will say this much though: In starting the game out, the very first minor decisions, right down to the first augmentation purchase, had me thinking about what kind of man my Adam Jensen was. An entire backstory was built for Adam in my mind regarding what happened to him in that six-month recovery period... and in speaking with other players since I've found that we've all come with our own interpretation for who he is, what drives him, and what that first introduction scene did to him. - Which to me is a pretty powerful thing for a game to be able to accomplish.
While the game has been touted the whole way along as a "play any way you want" sort of RPG, I have to say that in my first play through with the title, it seemed pretty heavily slanted towards the stealth option. Considering that I'm hard-wired for stealth, which normally wouldn't be a complaint that you'd hear out of me... But I knew that's how I would personally play, and so I opted for something a little different for the 'review play through' and instead invested all my augmentation points into strength upgrades and weapon abilities to be a hard-hitting MF'er. Don't get me wrong, it's still something you can do, and just like the guys at Square promised, you do have options to work your way in/around situations differently depending on how you spec'd your character.
For example, because I put points into strength early on in the game I was able to move around larger objects. That meant that I could move a dumpster over to a fence in order to create a make-shift staircase up and over locked doors instead of having to hack their control panels. It also meant that I was strong enough to rip fridges from walls, using them for shields while working my way into position in order to take out three guys at once with a single fridge-throw.
That kind of stuff is awesome, and even in playing as the hard-hitting brute, I did notice a series of vent shafts, access panels, and alternative routes that could have been used if I had the ability to jump higher, or hack beyond level 1.
Where the game seems to have lost it, at least in my experience, was in keeping everything even. Through my first play through of the game, I noticed a large number of rooms that were blocked by security consoles requiring a hacking skill above level 1; something I wouldn't obtain until way late in the game when I'd already bought every 'physical' modification. Unfortunately not all of them had a back-door that you could bust down with your wall-punch either. Which is fine, I kind of expected that going through as a physical character that some routes would be off limits to me. The problem that I had was there wasn't a single room that I accessed through brute strength (smashing down a wall, or lifting some heavy objects out of the way of a secret path) that wasn't also accessible by a door with a security panel... It seems to me if there are going to be some rooms that I can't access because I didn't spec for hacking, someone that spec'd for hacking shouldn't be able to access at least a couple of the rooms because they didn't spec for wall-smashing.
The gripe is a minor one, and it completely is me being nit-picky about something that'll only affect a small percentage of the people that play the game... At the same time, I kind of feel like if you are one of the people that like to role play as a tank, you're kind of getting a bum deal here.
The game itself plays like a dream. The shooting is solid, the menu systems are slick and intuitive, and the cover-based system is easily one of the best out there.
I never really found myself cursing out the controls for not doing what I needed, and when you've built up the character to play the way you want, it's easy enough to get from point A to point B as that character would.
Easily the biggest draw to the game, outside of the choice that it provides and the ability to customize your experience to cater to your own personal preferences, the best part of the game for me was the depth.
There are four possible endings to the game (two of which I've already seen) plus a 'bonus ending' if you're dedicated enough to watch through to the end of the credits (or do a search on YouTube). There's also a ton of side-quests that you can embark on which add all kinds of additional information, character expansion and backstory. Not unlike my play throughs of Mass Effect, I found myself needing to pick up every bit of information about the world of Adam Jensen along the way, and there's plenty to help you in that quest.
The game does a great job of making the locales (Chicago, Heng Sha, Montreal and Singapore) feel unique and alive. If you have the time/interest, there are plenty of supplemental items along the way to expand upon as well including company/employee emails, newspapers and e-books. Personally I was on a mission to see about unlocking every little tidbit I could along the way, and it wound up rewarding me in some really interesting ways. Beyond expanding on the story-line, and giving a better picture of the world that was taking place outside of Adam Jensen's personal quest, there were some great little inside-jokes offered up (like the Nigerian scam email that floats around several of the computers through the game).
One of the hardest things to do in this era of gaming is to provide a truly unique experience. With so many games becoming carbon copies of their competition, and everything becoming a sequel of something else that was successfully (yes, I see the irony in calling Human Revolution unique and new) it's nice to see that Deus Ex can provide something truly original. - The game is fun, it's deep, it's got plenty of replay, and best of all it'll be one of those conversation pieces amongst gamers where you compare notes to what you personally experienced while working your way through the main story-arch.
This review is based on a Xbox 360 version provided by the Publisher.