Deus Ex: Human Revolution
This is yet another video game review. I think this will be the last one for awhile, and there is good reason for me to write this particular review. Look for a post over at Evangelical Outpost sometime this week detailing my thoughts on body augmentation in this game as it relates to Matt Anderson’s recent book, Earthen Vessels.
Just over a decade ago, the original Deus Ex was launched. This game blew people out of the water, and rightly so. The world was interesting, conspiracy was everywhere, and you could approach the game from a lot of different methods. This game was known for allowing you to craft your character however you would like–some chose to focus on stealth and hacking, while others might have opted for the run and gun method–which in turn left you with different options for entering any given hostile area. Every mission seemed to have numerous entry points; would you take the sewers in, or would you just blast open the front door? Perhaps you would crawl through the air ducts and tranquilize everyone? Or maybe you’d just ask for the rocket launcher and throw grenades as haphazardly as possible. The point was, you could choose to craft your character however you’d like. Well, except for your name. It didn’t matter what you chose. You could enter anything you’d like, but the game would immediately say “No, this is your code name.”
The game has not aged very well. If you were to play it now, you would find all of the above true, but it would probably hurt your eyes.
Gamers wanted a sequel. And a sequel was made. I never cared for the sequel, but there are apparently some people who liked it or even claimed it was better than the original. They are wrong, but hey, to each his own.
Finally, years after the sequel, we have a third game in the franchise. The game that promised to offer us everything we loved about the original, but packaged in modern-day graphics and gameplay. Freedom, choice, and different play-styles, all thrown into a single game. The question with such a big promise, and such a big history, is rather obvious: Does Deus Ex: Human Revolution deliver?
My brother got this game for me for my birthday just about a month ago. The game, much like the original, centers the story around body augmentation. Your upgrades are all based on installing augmentations into various parts of your body. You may enhance your vision, which changes the heads-up display. You could increase the durability of your legs, letting you run farther or jump higher. You can add rockets that come out of your body, or opt to go the stealth route by taking a cloaking field. The tech tree was rather obvious: do you want to play stealthily, or would you like to go in guns blazing? Only a few sets of upgrades that related directly to infiltration could go either way, but those mostly relied on your hacking skills. Hacking could be a stealthy route, of course, but it could also prove useful in a straight-on attack (changing a turret’s targets, for instance, is not exactly silent).
I chose to be relatively stealthy. Sometimes I would find myself in a firefight or perhaps setting off an alarm, but for the most part, I wanted to play the game in a covert fashion. Silenced weapons, seeking out air vents, non-lethal take downs; yes, I was pretending that my character was a Sam Fisher fanboy. There is one problem with the stealthy approach: boss fights. In the original Deus Ex, if you wanted to avoid a boss, often you could simply run away or run past them. I don’t recall any boss fights that are absolutely forced. In fact, if you decided to run past a boss, the character may show up later, or other characters would comment on your decision. But in Human Revolution, boss fights are forced and can be rather difficult. As a character who primarily used silenced weapons and non-lethal take downs, I found the first time I encountered a boss to be rather unnerving. Suddenly, I was face-to-face with a highly trained agent who was augmented just like I was, and I couldn’t hide and hack a turret or sneak past him. Confrontation was inevitable.
Many reviewers attack that aspect of the game, and rightfully so, I think. The developers stated that the idea was that sometimes combat was a necessity, and that the forced boss fights were their way of saying that. While I think their point is an interesting one, I think that this might have been good to make once. Force one boss fight, not multiple. Give us every choice imaginable, but take away that one choice, and we will really feel it.
The game does pull off choice well, though, aside from the boss fights. I found myself sealing doorways off with vending machines, crawling through every air duct I could find, carrying a turret I had hacked around with me, and at one point simply skipping all of the guys who were closing in on my position. Choice, both as far as level design and with combat style, is in the forefront and feels real. Characters die if you fail them, side missions unlock other side missions, and conversations branch depending on how you talk to people.
The game is a great throwback to an era forgotten, and even though it is not nearly as big as the original, Human Revolution lives up to the name Deus Ex.