Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Alright... so the time has come to write a review... a real review, which may or may not cover every little aspect of the game, but enough to illustrate my thoughts and impression of this game.

The story revolves around Adam Jensen, a former SWAT-turned-security director for Sarif Industries. One of Sarif's manufacturing plants is attacked and many scientists are presumed dead, those especially involved in research in the controversial field of human augmentation. Sarif Industries is one of the leading companies pioneering this research. Jensen is involved in a serious accident and is left for dead. He is saved and given a second chance through the use of this controversial method.
He is contracted to figure out who was behind the attack and what happened to his beloved love interest, Megan Reed.
Throughout the story, the plot thickens in many ways, allowing you to explore the story through several side quests and extra dialog.
Anyone who is a fan of the series (specifically the first Deus Ex, released in 2000) will know that this is paramount to really getting into the story. The more you explore, the more you uncover, the more choices you have regarding your actions later in the game. One of the praises in the first game was the ability to take multiple routes to achieve the same objective. This game is no different. As the story unfolds, Adam discovers the truth behind the research of human augmentation, and the effects it has on society.

The game plays differently than its predecessor. This will be one of the first things fans of the series will notice. It's played in a fashion similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction, which is a cover-based stealth/shooter hybrid. I had mixed feelings on this at first. I played SC:C and I really enjoyed the game, but when playing this, I wasn't sure I was ready to allow it to take this path. I quickly got over this. The game designers did a very good job leveraging this system, and still allowing the player to act in the way they choose. Cover is not necessary, but strongly encouraged. The system for the most part, was very easy to use. Often times in games that use cover, the camera is not your friend, or cover is placed in locations which make shooting or deciding which path to take very difficult (if not impossible). That was not the case in this game. There were some places where the cover system was flawed, but all-in-all, it was very well done. You could easily lean from cover to track a target and more often than not, make your move effectively. The cover system is natively a hold-button action. You have to hold that button down to stay in cover, and special in-cover only moves would become available using an action key, if the space permitted. The player has the option of making cover a toggle based operation, if so desired. The addition of the special contextual moves made using the cover system enjoyable and much less of a hassle than making the moves yourself. The detection system was also done well enough that the player could reliably move behind an object, and still remain hidden, even if not in cover.

The enemy AI is for the most part, very well implemented. Depending on the difficulty, it's fairly easy to rely on the actions of the enemies. They will investigate noises, follow set routes, and behave differently in alarmed states, allowing the player to adapt accordingly. Sometimes, the enemy AI would become frustrating, or would notice fallen allies even if hidden behind cover, but this was not something I experienced throughout the game. Sometimes it was difficult to tell if an enemy was going to turn around, but it wasn't something that was hard to get by.
As for boss fights, this is a new addition to the DE series. The boss fights were a good idea, but until later in the game, it can become challenging for a player focusing on stealth abilities to be pitted against a boss where those abilities have little or no effect. Most notably, the first boss encounter (which is actually a good distance into the game). This made the difficulty a little harder to adapt to, since bosses were pretty tough to fool, in comparison to the other enemies encountered throughout the game.

Next we talk about the abilities. Fans of the first will be happy to know, the augmentation abilities return. The player will have the option to spend Praxis Points to unlock and upgrade abilities as they progress through the game. Praxis Points could be earned through gaining experience, spending credits at LIMB clinics, or finding/receiving kits as rewards. Experience can be earned in any number of ways: eliminating enemies (more is awarded for non-lethal solutions), finding secrets/alternative paths, or accomplishing objectives. The more stealthy, the more bonuses you get. In the first game, augmentations were granted by finding Augmentation Canisters, which contained a specific set of augmentations, which the player would have to choose between, with upgrades being very rare. This game allows the player to decide which abilities to unlock and hone, by spending more points to gain new abilities.
DE: HR introduces a very large set of new and old abilities. Some of these abilities include the Typhoon Missile System, the Social Enhancer, the Icarus Landing System, and the Stealth Enhancement System. Where the first game had a hybrid of augmentations and character abilities (such as swimming, hacking, electronics, lockpicking, etc...), HR character enhancements are all done through the augmentation system. Abilities that return are the hacking system, the heavy-lift system, leg/run-silent enhancements, and the cloaking system. None of these abilities are required, but make life MUCH easier later on.
I'll be here all day describing them all, but the hacking system for example, is upgraded incrementally, and is a mini-game of sorts (as opposed to a time-based ICE-BREAKER). The higher the skill, the more complex systems the player can hack. The player will also have the ability to control cameras, turrets, and even security robots, if the hacking system is properly upgraded. This gives the player the flexibility to cultivate a unique experience that is likely never to be the same between playthroughs.

The combat is roughly the same, for the most part, but the player does not have the ability to upgrade their skill in a particular weapon-class, but rather upgrade particular weapons themselves, through the use of the weapon mod system. Since inventory space is again limited, the player must choose which weapons they want to bring with them. The player is thankfully given several opportunities to try out certain weapons throughout the game by placing them in many places, both hidden and not. There is no melee combat in this game. Rather, the player has the option of spending "energy cells" to perform contextual takedowns, which will appear when the player is within range of an enemy. I had mixed feelings on this system, since each takedown consumed a piece of energy, which did not recharge without the aid of nutritional objects (except for the final energy cell). These nutritional objects were not as plentiful as I would have liked, but it forced the player to be conservative with the energy consumption. Many of the augmentations the player uses do not require much (if at all) energy consumption. If energy cells were not fully exhausted, the last partial cell would always recharge. Only fully drained cells would stay drained. This system sometimes made the choice to take down single enemies a tough one, if one wanted to conserve both ammunition and energy cells. Ammunition is also another thing that the player can no longer be cavalier about hoarding. In this game, ammunition can end up taking a significant amount of your inventory space, with some weapons having ammo that takes up a larger footprint (the heavy rifle, for example). This was something I also had mixed reactions on, but fans of the hardcore mode of Fallout-New Vegas, will be used to conserving the ammo they are allowed to pick up.
One of the augmentations I wanted to call out specifically, is the social enhancer. The use of this augmentation is automatic once activated, and will open up new interactive dialog options in certain conversations. This gives the player a leg up in determining which things to say in dialog situations, and at some key points throughout the game, the player is faced with a sort of "boss-conversation", where the object is to have the player influence an outcome. This was something fresh and new, and something I hope is developed further in any potential sequels/installments.

The music was excellent. Very well done. It was new, accurately placed, and touched just the right amount on the music that made the first game so memorable. There were several points throughout the game that I was able to pick out music that was taken from the first. Definitely a soundtrack that makes the game worth picking up, just for that reason.

Lastly, the story. The premise was covered pretty much in the intro, but the story was very well carried along. It keeps the player engaged, and wanting to play more. Side quests and additional dialog only serve to add depth to the story and help shed light on the relationships and the history of Adam and his connections. The elaborate story takes several turns before finally converging on one key discovery, allowing the player to take the path of the first game, by choosing how the story ends. My only critique of this, was that it doesn't leverage upon events that have taken place across the whole game, which detracts from the replay value. It doesn't ruin the story, but it makes the player less inclined to want to pick it up and play it again, simply to uncover another part of the story.

All in all, I was really impressed with this game. It's one of the only games in a long time I was thoroughly stoked to pick up. I have been waiting a long time for it, it arrived, and I was blown away. This was a tough game for me to play, since I was so impressed with the first. The company that developed the first game was not around for the development of this one, and as history shows, that is a recipe for disaster when another company tries to take over the progression. Another success story of such proportions is Fallout 3. A concept developed by a now defunct entity, was undertaken by another with hopes of preserving the story, and delivered a fresh new perspective, on something people actually wanted to play. It was fortunate the original publisher was around to see this through.
Go out and pick this game up. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I was pleasantly surprised with this game. The developers did a great job. Thoroughly enjoying your LP thus far skorch.

    Rock on!