Adam Jensen was hand-picked to safeguard the secrets of America's top biotech firm. But when a black ops team breaks in and kills the scientists he was hired to protect, using a security plan he developed, he is thrust into a conspiracy shrouding mankind's future evolution.
Revolution or De-volution? A lengthy review about the latest game in the Deus-Ex franchise.
Posted by Dragonlord on Sep 8th, 2011 Page 1 of 6
Page 1: Introduction, Story, Emails, Ebooks and NewsPads
Page 2: The Game World, Vertical Design and Map-View, Hacking
Page 3: Augmentations, Energy, Experience and Praxis points
Page 4: Combat, Stealth, Cover and Take-Down, Weapons and Skills
Page 5: Conversations, Animations, Physics, Post Processing, Inventory
Page 6: Boss Fights, Choice, Summary
(Usually I would show screenshots but since this is broken in this game or rather said in Steam no dice. So this review has to do without it)
The name „Deus-Ex" is something most gamers have already heard one way or the other. In general it stands for a game that stood out of the crowd redefining the FPS genre in a way no other game redefined it up to today. The main focus had been on freedom of choice to handle the missions given to you the way you see fit. Equipped with an interesting skill and augmentation system as well as large selection of weapons and objects to interact with (either first hand or by frobbing them) it ensured there are various different ways to handle a situation. Then after a couple of years a first contender stepped up: Deus-Ex Invisible Wars. In general this game had been considered a step backwards and failed to convince many fans of the original game. Again a couple of years later the last contender stepped into the ring: Deus-Ex Human Revolution. Backed up by the largest PR any Deus-Ex game has ever seen so far it tries to sneak up on the original game in the hope of pulling of a lethal take-down.
A word before you start reading further. This review is going to contain spoilers as it is otherwise not really possible to cover what is good and what is bad. So you have been warned. Turn away now if you don't want to get spoiled. That said there is not much to be spoiled in the story to begin with so if you are still with me read on.
As with the previous titles the player takes control of an augmented guy hunting down a conspiracy. You are Adam Jensen the chief of security at Sarif Industries, a bio-tech company specialized in mechanical augmentations or rather set prosthesis. Just before the great day of a major break-through in science Megan and her team is assaulted in the very own building they work in... by augs, how the game calls augmented people. Trying to safe their butt Adam gets worked over hard ending himself being turned into an aug himself. In contrary to people with simple prosthesis your augmented limbs are quite something else not to say military grade. Trying to figure out who has assaulted Megan and here team you are setting off for your journey.
Whereas DX:IW had been a continuation of the original game DX:HR is a prequel. Prequels are always a dangerous sword to wield. On one side you have better engine technology at your disposal so you can do more advanced stuff while on the other side according to the background story the player should not have that many possibilities as in the original game. Finding the middle ground in this catch-22 is not simple and most prequels failed. DX:HR does an acceptable job in this situation although the average mech is better equipped than Gunther. Compared to Deus-Ex there are definitely too many people around with mechanic limbs. There augmented people had been not a common sight which emails found on UNATCO computers or Gunther show. In DX:HR mechs are common place and roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of the people you see are augmented in one way or the other. Also whereas in Deus-Ex mechs could not conceal their modifications (and thus get dissed for being mechs) in DX:HR Jensen and others can easily conceal their augmented limbs under clothing and gloves. While not fitting well into the later taking place Deus-Ex it works fine enough if looked at independent of the first game.
The story itself is rather shallow. You are most of the time running through maps just to find that one ebook or email to read and then you are send to another location. You are not doing anything interesting like infiltration jobs, messing with something or even rescue operations as the original game provided. At last some of the side quests themselves are more interesting than the main story providing some of the varied goals that the original game had and that the main story utterly lacks. The factions in the game are generic and can be replaced with any corporation or gang and you get the same boring story. A conspiracy is also not really existing at all more opportunistic actions of individuals from different factions. The original game had a large conspiracy going mixing together various secret societies, corrupt governments and monopolistic corporations plotting to rule the world while DX:HR sports a boring Frankenstein story. It gets even as boring as pulling out zombies towards the end. One can say a lot of things about the story in DX:HR but you can't call it engaging or interesting by any stretch of the imagination.
To top this off the engine is no where as it had been in the original game. There you had to do different tasks for the different engines including ending up in different parts of the facility. In DX:HR the ending composes of walking up to a PC with a bunch of buttons each triggering a different ending. More cheap than that is just not possible. There is no choice, no different tasks to get endings and especially no consequences since the endings are incoherently cut together real world news footage with a cheesy commentary of Jensen himself. The only good thing is the philosophical thinking expressed through the monologue. This though doesn't save the endings from not telling at all how your decision changed the world. You could stop right after the final boss battle and not missing much... except a hidden Bob-Page (voice) appearance and the Deus-Ex tune at the end but that's hardly rewarding in any way.
What's also lacking are philosophical conversations like with the AI in the original game or the bar keeper. The topic of prosthesis is closer to our current time than nano-tech augmentations of the make of JC Denton are yet except for a cheesy ending monologue this entire philosophical debate is left blank. The few one-liners by civilians on the streets does not really help that. This is something where DX:HR really had a chance to shine and where it wasted the opportunity.
There are lots of emails and ebooks to read scattered all around the game world. Some of them reference characters from the original game while others give information about the world itself. Reading emails on a computer can be a nuisance since the controls for scrolling longer emails is broken. In general you are better off to just hack the computer and switch it immediately off since emails are copied to your history immediately. Reading emails there is much better not only because the controls are better but also because in the inventory screen the game is frozen which is not the case reading on a computer. In general computers are handled without a GUI overlay as it had been the case in the original game. Reading ebooks brings up a GUI overlay designed like the 3D model you just picked up. Scrolling is confusing first as this is done using the mouse wheel. Depending on the mouse configuration this can backfire on you. The over-sized font is also a nuisance since only a few lines of text can be shown before scrolling is required. News pads work similar to Ebooks in that they show as a GUI overlay. The flying-in motion is irritating and should have been cut out. News pads are always larger than the screen and requires thus scrolling in which case the entire news pad moves up or down on the screen. While a nice idea it is a nuisance to have to scroll a new pad with over-sized font on a 1680x1050 monitor whereas the entire news pad would have fit 4 times into the screen space. The font problem existed already in DX:IW thus it is no excuse to have the same problem repeated in DX:HR too. While it is nice to have a console version of the game it is not nice to dumb down the PC version for it. A problem that killed DX:IW already. While there are a lot of emails and ebooks around their content is very short barely filling 2 pages of over-sized text. This doesn't animate the player much to read them especially since most of them are not very interesting to read.
In addition to the news pads there exist tv screens showing news reports. They can be compared with the news terminals in the original game. All tv screens play the same news report which gets boring quickly especially since the news change only after major missions have been accomplished and you leave city hubs. The news pads are not any different in this regard. The original game had though also not that much of variety in news. Due to the lack of other interesting things to do and the prominent placement of the news tv screens and news pads this lacking is quite obvious making the game more artificial and annoying than it already is.