Saturday, 24 September 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

They say good things take time. What they never detail, however, is the excruciating pain that comes with waiting for something to come into fruition, or reach physicality, in this case. It's been well over a decade since the thinking man's shooter was released, with its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible Wars hitting our shelves but a mere seven years ago. Regarded by quite a large crowd as one of, if not, the best games ever made, Deus Ex's legacy is present in even the most minor of gaming museums. If you haven't played it, chances of you hearing it's orgasmic-to-some title, or references to it, are highly likely. This Mona Lisa of gaming position it acquired came from the sheer depth contained in a game that looked about as appealing as your wife's make up applied by a shogun. It's varied gameplay, open environments and thoughtfully layered storyline, full of intrigue, twists and turns, political struggles, social commentary and literature-filled influence gave it an auro of sophistication, keeping it very satisfying in terms of gameplay and repayable at the same time. Name one game in our most current time that's come anywhere at dreaming and achieving such an ambitious feat. That's right, you can't. BECAUSE SUCH A THING EXISTS NOT'ETH!

Fast forward to 2011, you can most certainly understand why this supposed prequel making a trilogy of a franchise that doesn't need another entry is making fans sweat waterfalls and general gamers to turn their heads and acknowledge its presence. It's a pair of massive shoes this young one is attempting to fit in, and whether it does or not is for YOU to decide. Here is but a collection of a simpletons opinion, so if you haven't experienced it yet, do so before reading ahead. Not only will it keep some of the surprises hidden, it will also make much more sense in understanding the qualms one may have about it (that is, unless you're the type that enjoys acting surprised. In that case I hate you.)

Enter Adam Jensen, the Head of Security for Sarif Industries which are a firm that prides itself on building augmentations for beings that are human. The central theme Human Revolution focuses on is indeed whether or not human augmentation is a way forward for a society at the very pinnacle of technological advancement. It raises some very relevant questions regarding the real world we live in today, what with our attachment to things made out of processors and wires. You can either remain a fundamentalist on your embracement of human purity or join the Power Rangers club by becoming better in every physically conceivable way than others to gain that employable edge. Wherever your moral stance, there is much to contemplate and set straight by the time the end credit roles.

Since this is a Deus Ex game, there is of course a large conspiracy gearing behind the scenes, making you seem like but a pawn in an overly complicated chess match. There are places to go, people to meet and grand ambient tracks to listen to, all the while deciding who is in fact vying for control of whom and how they're going about doing it.

The places you will go in HR are few in technical terms, but how they've been realized is something to admire. Aside from specific missions set in specific places, you will spend the majority of your time in medium scaled 'hubs'. These hubs, ranging from Detroit, America to Hengsha, China present quite acutely the impact a future of heavy advancements in technology has had in its infrastructural development. Afterall, Hengsha is a double deckered city. Each location has a distinctive look and feel to them, allowing you to separate them from each other quite rapidly. There is some revisiting of said places, but what little repetition there is, is more than compensated for by the vast amount of alternative routes you can take to get around the world. The adventures type will be greatly rewarded for their knack for exploration, as there are always places hiding goodies and experience points upon charting.

The realization of these maps is further enhanced by the positioning of everything navigable. Alternative routes mean alternative ways to tackle any given mission to suite your gameplay style. Can't be bothered squeezing through a conveniently sized vent? Bribe the man at the door for entry. Want to keep your visibility purely confidential? Take the rooftops. Don't like the faces of those two men over there? Double-backhand their faces for ultimate pimp-man satisfaction. The world is very much set-up as an open ended playground, it's design allowing you get around it in any play style that suits you, something that is cleverly extended into how you deal with people getting in your way.

You can complete HR without killing a single person. Although there is large contradiction that will challenge this remark, generally speaking, you don't need go the way of other murderous protagonists to further your experience. It's very much like Hitman: Blood Money. You do have the power to go in guns blazing, but not only does that decrease your chances of survival, it also takes away the satisfaction of infiltrating a building, getting your mission done and exiting it in one fluid motion, without having a single soul hear your peep. Another incentive to play like an non confrontational bi-sexual is the fact that you get a helluva lot more XP. Bonuses such as 'Ghost' and 'Merciful Soul' are only awarded when you eliminate enemies non-lethally, whilst presenting your friend bullet to an unknown persons head offer no such bonuses. It's all about offering the player the freedom of choice and the ability to experiment, rather than giving them AIDS and telling them to 'deal with it'.

These freedoms, however, come at a cost, and to an extent, a rather expensive one. There are exactly four boss battles in HR, with the last one probably being an unnecessary homage to horror sci-fi films. The crime isn't the bosses themselves -- if anything, they're quite well developed to look at. It's how the gameplay shifts into a bottleneck, rather, that become the problem. In a game that condones and promotes choice and specific play styles, being deliberately thrown into a situation you are illequiped for leads to frustrating times for players and question the decision opted by the developers. They're still fun in their own respects, with each of them set in unique environments matching their equally unique abilities, but put simply, it disrupts the brilliant flow HR starts from the moment it begins, at the same time gravitating from the principles it faithfully upholds. The fact that you don't know what their conflict with you is (aside from leaving you for dead shortly after the game begins, wherein a quick ride to the chop shop sees you return with some modifications), as well as a lack of justification for wanting Adam dead makes for some confusing and wholly forgettable moments. The best way to go about enjoying HR is to simply act like these boss fights don't even exist. Frankly the story is better without them (with the exception of Vasili, the augmented Russian with an attitude).

Another minor problem arises from the games integral component; augments. Being pimped out harder than a black man with gold teeth, Adam acquires life saving components without a say of his own [read: because his stomach dropped out after he was thrown through a pane of glass]. Moving on from whether he asked for it or not, you can acquire more augments by earning praxis points which you can then put into specific traits that will give you an edge in gameplay. Said augments range from hacking appliances, punching through walls and landing safely when falling off any height. Although varied, some are just plain useless, whilst the main problems comes from turning into a mechanical Jesus by the end sequence. You simply level up too fast, and with findable and purchasable praxis points throughout the world, there are times where you will feel as if you're too well prepared for a certain situation. Whilst some may argue that's a good thing, it takes away from being a unique character and destroys any potential 'water cooler moments', where you would otherwise talk about how you approach the game (ie. being a hacking genius rather than an unstoppable brute and vice versa).

The most offending part of HR, however, has to be the ending itself. Imagine spending countless hours playing a game, putting in your utmost moral efforts as well as game playing ability only to be shuffled into a room where pressing one of four buttons ends the game.

Such is the anticlimactic reality of HR. Experiencing an overall engrossing storyline that's been thoroughly explored both realistically and fictionally only to have it all end by the press of a red button is offending at best. Here Adam stands, the vanguard of humanity, the decider of humanities fate for decades to come, and all his actions committed, all his experiences had amount to nothing more than applying downward force into an object we're all too familiar with. If you havn't noticed by now, I hate the decision taken to end HR, but more importantly I hate buttons. It undermines the credibility of an otherwise astonishing game for an unnecessarily silly reason. Then again it was developed by a French team, so I guess it at least makes sense.

If there's one thing the original Deus Ex was, it would be how smart a game it was. It presented you with moments you couldn't fully comprehend, with references to literature that went in over your head. It made you think it terms of the characters and their decisions, and how they might be applied to our real world. As hard as HR tries to reach this summit, it never quite does. HR does make you think, but not nearly as much as the original did (although this may vary person to person). It's a detailed world, but the details come in the form of how augmentations work and what the immediate effects they're having on society rather than, say, how it is the answer to the future of humanity or how it will have a negative impact in the long run. It also dosent respond well to a violent playthrough. If you were to murder everyone in the first mission, the only grilling you'll receive is for the death of the suspect you could have interrogated. The fact that you've slaughtered all hostages dosent seem to bother anyone. Jews, maybe? Whatever the case, HR has every potential to be a smart game, but seems to be comfortable by simply remaining a smartly made game. It's shame that they couldnt capsize on the chance to enrich to plot as a whole (reading emails, for example, proved to be a very entertaining pastime), taking full advantage of the exceptional voice work and impressive acting. But this will do, pig. This will do.

The graphics, before I forget, are pretty good, though they won't be rivaling the likes of Crysis or any other game with a high graphical output. It does more than work, but it can be very 'edgy' at times; I don't think I've encountered a single, fully circular object in the whole game. The hubs are given more of a life with appropriate shades, and the color scheme overall works in sync with the given environments. There a missing blocks here and there coupled with the odd 2-D texture sprayed across some canvases, but it's nothing that will create a visible eye-sore. NPC's could have done with a better drama teacher, as their canned acting is basically the same for every one of them, which can get tiresome to see. Stiff facial features also fall into the 'Bummer, dude' list, but as said, nothing too problematic.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a compelling experience from start to finish. It does what it's set out to do, and although it hits a few glitches in expression, it manages to keep itself in check but offering you the power of choice. Choice to do whatever the hell you please, whether it be hacking Asian prostitutes or bashing walls open into toilets where Asian prostitutes are present. It also has the most rewarding stealth seen in a game since Theif. It breaks from the trend of mindless corridor-shooters and reminds us of a time when gaming was at its best, honoring those veterans that came before. It dosen't quite touch the sun, but it comes so achingly close. That is in itself a Falcon Salute worthy effort.

1 comment:

  1. Wall of text, next time tl;dr however it was an ok read coz im bored.