Deus Ex: Human Revolution
There is an air of familiarity as you settle into Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Despite the game being set well before JC Denton's nano-augmented adventures, the tale of Adam Jensen echoes the original title very effectively.
The Deus Ex series has always been about interactive storytelling. It may be a philosophical allegory on the merging of technology and biology in human evolution but it also explores plenty of ways to offer a wide variety of personal experiences in a game with fixed start and end points.
Unlike the other games, Human Revolution begins with a normal, unaugmented guy, Adam Jensen as he carries out his duties as head of security for Sarif Industries, a biotechnology firm specialising in human cybernetic augmentation. The firm is attacked and Sarif's chief researcher, Megan Reed, Jensen's ex-girlfriend and her team are killed and Adam is left near death.
In order to save Jensen's life Sarif provides him with extensive augmentation to replace his damaged limbs. He wakes up six months later to find the company is being attacked from all sides by a variety of factions opposed to human augmentation from rich campaigners to militant terrorist groups and he has to infiltrate a Sarif factory that is producing highly confidential weapon for the military, secure the weapon, rescue any hostages and confront the terrorist's leader.
The first mission proper offers a chance to try out the variety of approaches that you can take in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Whether you choose to take on each mission head on or take a stealth approach, go for head-shots or a non-lethal assault there is one thing that Eidos Monteal have made a requirement and that is the use of cover.
Despite being augmented with the option to add dermal armour, Adam cannot withstand concentrated fire. Fortunately DXHR has a very intuitive and flexible cover system allowing you to hide and pop out as and when you need to. The cover system is engaged by pulling the left trigger pushing Adam flush against the wall you are pointing him at. It drops into a pseudo-third-person perspective at this point so you can see around or over corners. If the cover is low-level you will automatically crouch. Using the right stick you can lean out around or over cover depending on which way you move the stick. Pushing the right stick will drop you into a scope if the weapon you have in your hand has one. The left thumbstick can be used to move along the cover between corners. When you reach a gap in the cover tapping the X button will allow you to jump to the opposite side of the gap if there is one. Holding X will move Adam around the corner quietly allowing him to remain in cover to move around patrolling enemies without being spotted. This is all very easy to use and creates a refreshing level of realism to the gameplay that many RPGs tend to leave out and it becomes all the better for it, for the most part.
The augmentation system is quite simple. All the upgrades available to you have already been pre-installed on you but haven't been activated yet for the simple reason that your body was so extensively augmented that your brain might not be able to handle turning them all on at once. Activating and upgrading your augmentations is done using Praxis kits - software keys that allow you to alter the coding of your augmentation. Two kits activate a dormant augmentation and once activated, single praxis kits can update existing features and even add new functions to your augmentations.
A good example of this is your arm augmentations which are already active from the beginning of the game. These can be upgraded in three separate ways. You can increase your inventory capacity, add the ability to punch through walls, add the ability to lift heavy objects and add recoil compensation from firing weapons. Eidos Montreal have been very careful to make sure that there is never more Praxis points available in the game than there are upgrade slots. In fact over the course of the game there are less meaning that you will have to choose very carefully how you want to upgrade your skills so that you only take the ones you really want. There is also no way to take back a choice once it is made forcing you to really think how you want to approach the game before you use up valuable Praxis points on upgrades that you'll rarely use.
These nice touches complement the narrative design of the game. While the game's story is essentially rigidly linear, the level design, clever dialogue system and variety of side missions weave together nicely to make sure that the play experience can vary significantly from player to player depending on their desired approach and personality. The dialogue system in particular offers choices based on the differing emotional approaches (cold, optimistic, empathetic fro example) and this is reflected in the kind of responses you get from the character you are talking to. This is used to great effect in key conversations when you must read the other character's responses and choose what you say carefully in order coax certain pieces of information out of them.
Where Deus Ex: Human Revolution falls down is in the boss battles. These are very tough encounters with fellow augmented humans that, no matter how you've upgraded Adam, always descend into a game of running and shooting until one of you falls down dead. Only after a decent amount of perseverance is it Adam that's left standing and while you do get a great sense of achievement it may push less experienced gamers to wonder if it is worth the effort. For the record, it is.
A huge amount of thought and effort has gone into the creation of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It was always going to be a difficult task to do justice to the Deus Ex series given that the first game is still hailed as one of the best games ever made but Eidos Montreal has managed to pull it off in an impressive fashion. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a little bit in there for everyone with equal parts FPS and RPG woven together with a rich and thought-provoking storyline. Deus Ex: Human Revolution marks a triumphant return of the thinking-man's FPS and if they can keep this standard up then Square Enix's projected lifespan of ten years for the series may not be long enough.