11 years ago, Ion Storm brought to us something that forever changed the landscape of the medium of gaming. Deus Ex (usually pounced ‘day of sex’) was an ugly but profoundly deep cyberpunk RPG, not just in terms of plot but also the gameplay options and mechanics giving the player space to play the game as they so desired, although taking the stealthier option was generally much more viable. It was followed up in 2003 by the mediocre sequel invisible war which was barely a scratch on the original. So with that brief look back out of the way, I can focus on Human Revolution. Does it live up to the name that still evokes bleary eyed nostalgia? Or is it more akin to its other bastard child?
The good news is, as you have probably heard, that this is very much a Dues Ex game or rather it evokes the same key feelings of familiarity: A dystopian future, the perpetual night, a claustrophobic city etc. The plot and motivations of all the groups and characters involved is also suitably intertwined and complex.
You play Adam Jensen, The head of security for a augmentation company called Sarif Industries. However shortly after you introduction the facility is attacked by terrorists using augmented soliders and Adam is mortally wounded only to be saved by having his body augmented. Then the task begins to find out why the attack happened and what has developed in the moths since his surgery and recovery.
Human revolution explores the idea of an augmented society inspired in part from the recent expansions in the field of robotics and prosthetic limbs. Augmentation seems to be a natural progression from these advances and poses the question: Can a human loose its humanity by modifying itself? And in doing so do we sacrifice control? Transhumanism is a central theme in all of the Dues Ex series and its discussion in Human revolution is perhaps the most succinct in the series, if not as deep as in the original. It nicely compliments the main plot which basically boils down to finding out why Sarif industries was attack and what really happened to the key scientist working on new augmentations. The way in which the story unfurls, even granting that most players are able to deduce certain twists and turns, does so at a good pace and is generally well paced.
The developers split the gameplay into four distinct areas: Combat, Stealth, Hacking and Exploration. The weakest of these is combat because although Jensen has been augment, he is still very much human and so a couple of shotgun blasts at close range will have him out for the count. Often stealth and hacking flow into combat depending on how the action pans out, setting off an alarm or an explosion for example. It is a little disappointing that combat is less viable and rewarding than the other paths you can take; but the other areas more than compensate for this. Also the venerability that Jensen has adds to the game play as you are not playing as some government super soldier or meat-head like in most FPS’s. Adam is fairly intelligent and has a clear motivation for his actions, making him easier to relate to as a character, despite his Batman voice.
However, there are other elements of the game which feel oddly out of place. The boss battle for example, in the first Deus ex you could find a way past certain foes without having to engage them, or take them down in a non-lethal manner. In HR, you’d better make sure you have some real firepower ready when they come on you’re going to be in a tough spot. It seems somewhat counterproductive when the majority of the game can be played in a sneaky non-confrontational manner to then force the player to fight someone who they would not have the tools to deal with. Also there is the problem that, while you may be able to buy more energy bars, only the first one recharges on use. I didn’t find this to be a major problem for gameplay as my playing style didn’t depend too much on using a lot of energy at once , but the fact that you could only recharge using energy bars and protein pills left it feeling somewhat disjointed to what these augmentations were supposed to be. Yes you would expect that a augmented human would have only a little power to be recharged after use but that you can only recharge all of the via this method is slightly exasperating to the central premise. Unless other augmented guys and soldiers are carrying around a massive pack of protein plus then their combat effectiveness should drop exponentially. Also, the amount of ammo that you find scattered around can be annoying sparse in some areas; especially if you are doing a non-lethal play through.
+ Strong story
+ Solid action
+ An immersive environment
- Some poor voice acting and character movements
- Combat can be very poor in places
- The battery use can feel frustrating and at times useless
8 Out Of 10
- That Bloke In The Beanie