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Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Video Game Review)

It’s been eight years – eight long, tiring years for some – since we’ve seen the last true Deus Ex game, Invisible War on the original Xbox. Since that time, a lot of first-person shooters have changed the landscape of the genre, including Bioshock. Does that mean Eidos’ series, now in the hands of Square Enix, has bitten the dust? Hardly. This week marks the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that dares to be even more revolutionary than the preceding effort. But can it live up to such strong standards? Surprisingly, yes – just as long as you’re willing to make the proper adjustments along the way. Taking place 25 years before the original Deus Ex (2027, to be exact), the game puts you in control of Adam Jensen, an agent with one of the leading augmentation agencies in the city, Sarif Industries. An attack on the agency leaves Adam in dire straits, and his love interest killed in the crossfire. To save his life, he’s implanted with said augmentations, modifying his body in ways he’s only seen secondhand. He’ll need every one of these skills too, as he investigates the attack on his employer and looks further into a looming war between Sarif and a group called the Humanity Front, a movement dedicated to everything anti-augmentation.

It all wraps together into a story where your choices become crucial. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that relies heavily on which way you select to go. Not only is it important to gameplay, but little things, such as conversation, help shape your character to be. For instance, during one part of the game, there’s a situation where a normally obedient soldier finds himself taking a hostage in order to survive. As Adam, you have the choice of calling his bluff and trying to end the situation violently, or talking him out of it. While the conversation bubble isn’t quite perfect (sometimes you have to run through a situation more than twice before they “get it”), it does add some depth to the game, and makes you wonder how things would’ve played out differently had you gone the other way – adding to the replayability. As for the gameplay front, it too has its choices. As you proceed on each mission (including those assigned to you by Sarif and secondary tasks picked up by various characters throughout the city), you can choose between various pillar types, including Combat (where you specialize in shooting and smacking folks around), Stealth (sneaking and such), Hacking (using computers and devices to get around) and Social.

You can expand these abilities as you pick up currency, stopping by one of the 24/7 LIMB shops to upgrade your augmentations and snag a few extra items to help you out during the mission. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there are no easy choices, and eventually you’ll have to face some sort of conflict, whether it’s fending off a hallway full of police officers after a detector catches you, or trying to escape a firefight when your ammunition runs dangerously low – a situation we’ve run across more than once. The AI in this game is set surprisingly high, to the point that some people might give up within the first hour when they think they’re out of options. But that would be a mistake, as Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a variety of options. You can sneak around situations (through air ducts, out of sight of detectors and guards, etc.) or go all out on the violence. Both ways work quite effectively, and should suit various types of gamers. Again, though, no matter which way you go, you’ll have to deal with harder-than-usual enemy types.

As for the gameplay itself, it fits the Deus Ex style. You’ve got mostly first person shooting, though the game wisely switches to a third-person view when it comes to adjusting for cover and peeking around corners, so you can see if your character’s in harm’s way or not. You can also use light and brutal melee attacks, though they take some time to recharge (until you augment your strength better, anyway), so you’ll want to use them sparingly and, in some cases, hide the body – you can pick them up by getting close and holding the X button to drag them around. We have no problem with the gameplay, aside from the fact that the ammo system has changed. Rather than pooling everything together in a unified format (like Invisible War) did, you have to rely on second-hand pick-ups from guards and those poor saps you kill. This does provide an initiative to search them and nearby rooms to find codes and other useful information, but it also limits you in combat.

Sometimes you’re even forced to switch to the sub-menu for the next immediately available weapon, which can throw off your tactical thinking for a second or two. It’s not bad, but it adds to the already increased difficulty. Along with conversation and combat, the game also relies heavily on hacking. By attempting to hack a door, computer or whatever else is, um, hackable, you need to engage in a mini-game where you try to snag nodes and other points before a detection system can shut you down. At first, this game is pretty easy, but it gets tricky rather quickly, relying you to be quicker and nail specific points in a matter of seconds. While we kind of liked the challenge at first, it gets mildly annoying. Some more variants of mini-games would’ve been useful. (Not every security system has to be the same, y’know.) Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be as smooth a game as, say, the upcoming Battlefield 3, but for a futuristic game that kind of mimics Blade Runner, it’s definitely got its moments. The open world is thoroughly designed, with objectives clearly marked on your map and plenty of ways to open up creative thinking, whether it’s finding an outside route to an objective or figuring out a way into a booby trapped area that you thought you couldn’t quite conceive.

Eidos Montreal has done a stunning job with this world, complete with characters who react to your presence and actions (perhaps a little too quickly) and plenty of small touches that ring true to the Deus Ex universe. And we like the dual-camera system as well, switching from first-person to third-person view almost seamlessly. Throughout our time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution we did notice a few bugs here and there, but overall, fans will be pleased – and newcomers will like what they see as well. As for the audio, the music is stupendous, clearly reminding us of other futuristic tales of this ilk. It’s a moving, thoughtful soundtrack, one carefully packaged and worth listening to over the course of the game. The sound effects are all right as well, particularly when items like turrets and other mechanical objects enter the fray. Nothing cheesy, mind you, but a great part of the augmentation process. Then there’s the conversation, and it’s a mixed batch. On one hand, some of the voicework is quite good, particularly Jensen, who sounds like he’s being played by a dead-on Timothy Olyphant impersonator. Some secondary characters are all right too. On the other, some of the conversations tend to go on a bit too long. You can skip through them by hitting the X button, but it’s all too easy to pass over any pertinent information you’ll need later on.

Plus, some of these characters, particularly around Sarif, sound like full-blown nerds. But, hey, maybe that’s what you need to work there, right? In spite of the game’s somewhat trying difficulty spike and the need to pay attention in particular parts, we’re happy to report that Deus Ex: Human Revolution lives up to the hype – and then some. The graphics are really outstanding for a game of this type, and the combat/stealth/social scenarios are second-to-none, giving you a wide range of choices, whether it’s how you play through the game or adapt your body to make situations fare better in your favor. There’s replay value galore in that alone, which is more than enough to make you complete the main game, as well as try out the varying side missions. It’s definitely a worthwhile successor to Invisible War, and perhaps sets the stage for the next Deus Ex game to come. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another eight years.

Game Information:
Developer: Edios Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Reviewed for Xbox 360
Release Date: August 23, 2011

Score: 9 out of 10
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