Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Decorated in gold, worth the same amount

As long as they’ve been around, I’ve never had a chance to play the first two Deus Ex games. Taking up Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the series, I found myself engulfed in a completely unfamiliar universe, plugged with high-tech cities painted in gold, half-human, half-robot civilians, political unrest, and a protagonist looking for answers.

Deus Ex is set in the year 2027, where technological advancements have allowed for controlled evolution in humans. Companies such as Sarif Industries have created human augmentations, attained by surgical means, that gifts them with advanced eyesight, bigger brawn, invisible cloaking, smarter intellect… you name it. Becoming augmented means a new way of life. Neuropozyne, a drug manufactured for augmented patients, must be taken once a week to keep the body from rejecting its new enhancements.

Though, not all are pleased with these advancements. Many people want to see augmentations fail, as they believe it belittles the work of God and throws us off our path of evolution. Others fear the danger of the technology, or the addiction one may succumb to Neuropozyne. Factions like “Purity First” have sprung up in protest of augmentations. As you play, you’ll come across many civilians who plain dislike people with augmentations, or “augs” as the game’s unique set of vocabulary will come to teach you.

The protagonist, Adam Jensen, is an augmented human, though not by choice. You start the game at work as the boss of security at Sarif Industries. One of Sarif’s teams have just made a breakthrough with their research and were preparing a trip to Washington the next day to present their findings. An unauthorized break-in, which results in the death of the entire team, prevents the trip from happening. Jensen, who attempted to subdue the criminals, was nearly murdered himself, surviving by just a hair. Over the course of the next six months, Sarif Industries restores Jensen, equipping his body with all sorts of augmentations to keep him alive. After returning from sick leave, Jensen, as well as Sarif Industries itself, begins his search for answers. Eventually, you’ll discover that things are bigger than what they seem.

Deus Ex is a mix of ‘first-person shooter’ and ‘RPG.’ The entire game is played from the first-person perspective, minus cover instances, and offers a heavily gun-based arsenal to pursue your enemies. You’re given the option to play any way you like, as there’s usually always more than one way to complete an objective. During one part of the game, for example, you’re sent off to China, where you’re looking for a gang leader in a rave nightclub. The club, however, is members only. You could pay the bouncer 1000 credits at the door for a one-time entry, but credits aren’t easy to come by and you may not want to waste such a hefty amount. Instead, you could go snooping around for an alternate entrance, which will get you in, free of charge.

The majority of the game is a choice affair. In conversation, you choose your answers, which affect how the person in dialogue responds. If you’re trying to get information out of them, and you say the wrong things, they might not share with you what you were hoping. Though, you might get something entirely new out of them in the process. You — the player — choose your role, whether it’s the snarky, the sympathetic, or whoever else you’d want to be. A scene early on in Deus Ex sees Jensen looking to get into a police station morgue. An ex-partner sat in the front desk of the police station. If you’re able to sooth him over, he’ll let you into the morgue without hassle. If not, you’ll have two options: 1) sneak in and avoid being seen, snooping around cops and office desks, and performing melee stealth knockouts on guards or 2) run in, guns blazing, uncaring of who dies because hell man, it’s just a video game. This aspect of choice needs to be seen more often in games today; they make for both non-linearity and give the game higher replayability value. In Deus Ex, specifically, they put the player’s noggin to the test. As everything you say affects the reactions of others, you may not always get what you want. The morgue scene could turn into a 20-minute stage if you’re not able to persuade the cop; whereas it’s a 3-4 minute affair with the persuasion.

Choices are furthered displayed with Jensen’s augmentations. Though he was implanted with a plethora of augmentations (if you’re looking for a number, it’s 68), they’re not all activated. Due to issues relating to the science of life, they’d normally have to be turned on naturally over time. Though, upon medical inspection, Jensen was told his body has reacted rather positively to the augmentations — which isn’t a regular occurrence — and that he can activate them any time he likes. Awesome! That’s where Praxis comes in.

Praxis are your skill points. You’ll obtain them after earning enough XP, completing quests and side-quests, and can even buy them in medical centers. Praxis are used to upgrade your seven categories of augmentations. The ‘Icarus Landing System,’ for instance, which is one of your back augmentations, costs two Praxis to activate. It allows you to fall from any height without being injured. Another augmentation, ‘Smart Vision,’ which is part of Jensen’s pair of eye augmentations, costs two Praxis and allows you to see through walls. Some augmentations, such as the latter, must be activated manually and consume energy. Other augmentations, similar to the former, are automatically activated and do not consume energy. Of course, you’ll need to be careful about which augmentations you activate, because Praxis don’t come easy. Other augmentation upgrades include enhancements to Jensen’s aiming, strength, hacking, defense, and other abilities.

Deus Ex‘s structure is much less shooter than it is role-playing. Linearity is pretty much non-existent in this game. When you’re not on a mission off in some facility or wherever other location, you’re most likely in one of the game’s few hub cities. In these cities, which include the likes of Detroit, Michigan and Hengsha, China, you’re given a huge world to explore. There are people to talk to, side-quests to take on, terminals to hack, and a city to discover. Side-quests are all entertaining and each have interesting stories to accompany them. All your quests are put together neatly in your mission log, where you can view and check off all your objectives.

Simply walking the city is a breathtaking enough. Each city is built to its culture and is so vitally different from one another. In Hengsha, you’re surroundings are mixed with Chinese thrift shops and hooker-based hotels. In Detroit, you’re greeted with the thugs of the slums and the tall buildings of big corporate. The cities are also your ticket to weapon, item, and Praxis purchases. In Detroit, it’s also where you’ll find your apartment and place of work, Sarif Industries.

While structure takes the role-playing route, combat takes the shooter path. As mentioned earlier, your arsenal is gun-based, boasting weapons like pistols, combat rifles, shotguns, tranquilizers, crossbows and rocket launchers. You’ll take cover in third-person behind walls, crates, borders, and other objects, whether you’re stealthily sneaking past enemies or headshoting every last one of them. My only concern with combat is that, at points, it could be a bit difficult. One boss fight, for example, had me switching from standard difficulty to the easiest after killing me nearly 20 times. It felt unbalanced as each of his machine gun rounds took down over half of my health, and a single toss of his grenade killed me in a hit. But even after two strikes with a rocket launcher from my end, he was still standing! A few defense augmentation upgrades might’ve changed that, though, which really brings to light the importance of which augmentations you apply your Praxis to.

An interesting storyline, a world of exploration, exciting missions, the gift of choice, and a plethora of abilities are Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s star offerings. Eidos Montreal spent four long years working to the bone to put this out, and it’s no secret that it’s a hit. Whether you’re a fan of shooters, role-playing games, sci-fi, conspiracies, or the color gold (that last one was a joke), Deus Ex is for you. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is as golden in value as it is in hue — only much more affordable.

9/10

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was reviewed on a PlayStation 3. Story mode was played to completion. Deus Ex: Human Revolution launches for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC on August 23, 2011 for an MSRP of $59.99.

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