PS3 Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution



The burden of choice can be an overwhelming thing. That’s a sentiment that courses through the augmented bloodstream of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Do I play like Batman, prowling rooftops, pummelling my enemies into submission but refusing to kill? Do I go with the ninja approach, creeping through vents, hacking security consoles and stealthily slipping through the fray unseen by cameras and guards alike? Or should I murder everyone who looks at me crooked, punch through walls, break into homes, steal everything not nailed down, then throw the refrigerator through the TV for good measure?

Its the varied choice that the game drops on your shoulders from minute one, letting you play however you like in order to make it through to the end, encountering entirely different pathways, items and conversations depending on the decisions you make, guaranteeing that you’ll be playing it at least twice just to see how else you could’ve done things. The choice of whether or not to pick the game up is a much more simple one: Even coming up to a gaming schedule crammed to the gills with mouth-watering releases, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is essential, and the best RPG since Fallout: New Vegas.
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A prequel to 2000′s Deus Ex, the beloved PC shooter which gave you a similar amount of gameplay freedom, Human Revolution begins in the seedy urban jungle of 2027 Detroit in a future where bionic augmentation is commonplace, but far from perfected, and is a process which is inviting often violent controversy from right-wing factions. You assume the role of Adam Jensen, ex-cop and security chief of Sarif Industries, blessed with a voice so grizzled that it’d out-gruff even the chain-smoking love-child of Vin Diesel and Clint Eastwood. Sarif, the world’s leading biotech firm, is hit by a terrorist attack on the eve of their announcement of a monumental new breakthrough. After his colleagues are burned to death and he’s nearly killed during the raid himself, Jensen is given the Alex Murphy treatment and fitted with countless bio-mechanical augmentations to save his live, which will come in handy as the now-robotic cop sets about discovering those responsible for the attack.

Human Revolution does a phenomenal job at fleshing out that narrative and the world around it, crafting a cyberpunk story that toys with the idea of bio-tech modification in interesting and intelligent ways, touching on the ethical, moral and religious connotations of grafting bionic limbs and microchips into the human body along the way. The game expands its world in great, organic ways, too, and no matter how you choose to play, you’ll no doubt be wanting to hack into the hundreds of desktop PCs you’ll come across to read everyone’s emails, which flesh out the larger plot as well as telling smaller stories and sprinkling in a touch of workplace comedy on the office computers. The narrative hooks you hard, and unfolds engrossingly and satisfyingly, and in a gaming age where cyberpunk is a rarity, it’s refreshing to see the Deus Ex series return to give it another breath of life, especially when it’s a story this well told.
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Of course, the narrative is only one half of a gaming whole, with the play mechanics equally or more important to most. Human Revolution, like its predecessor (we’ll conveniently ignore the existence of 2003′s disappointing Xbox sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War), is a first-person, stealth-based game which relies heavily on RPG elements. Completing mission objectives and side missions or uncovering hidden passageways or eBooks dotted around will earn you XP, with each 5000 XP giving you a Praxis point (you can buy extra Praxis points from clinics, too), which you can use to unlock your augment abilities. There’s a plentiful array of abilities to choose from and level up, and what you choose to sink your point into will depend entirely on what your style of play is.

Stealthy players can pool their points into unlocking temporary invisibility cloaking, being able to see through walls or the ability to run and jump silently. Hackers can level up their basic techniques to take on more secure terminals or make them less likely to be detected while breaking into the server. Brute force brawlers can go for the ability to knock down walls (albeit in select, highlighted locations), increase their strength to lift and toss dumpsters and vending machines (which can uncover hidden vents) or take down two opponents in one melee (there’s no universal melee attack button, more a context-based option to knock out or kill foes with a push or hold of a button when you’re close enough). Chatty Cathys will want the pheromone-emitting speech skill which adds extra dialogue choices to aid in the quest for info or resolve situations peaceable. Gun-happy kill-machines will want to steady their aim, reduce their recoil and max out their inventory to lug around a bigger arsenal, while explorers will make use of the heightened jump ability or enabling long-distance damage-free falls, leaving you able to circumvent locks by just hopping over fences or stacking dumpsters to leap huge walls.
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Though the game isn’t the free-roaming odyssey of exploration that games like Oblivion or Fallout were, you’re given a significant chunk of the city to make your way around at your whim, with two main city hubs to traverse – downtown Detroit and, later, the city slums of Hengsha, China – and other locations inbetween. There’s a tonne of exploring to be done around those cities, with the main missions, a handful of lengthy side quests (some missable depending on your choices) to complete, apartments to raid, buildings to sneak around and a hue amount of different paths to wherever you need to go.

If you need to enter a building, talking to or eavesdropping on NPCs might lead you to discover back-alley vent or sewer entrances. You could hack the back door keypad, you might stumble across the door code on a Pocket Secretary left around, you could climb on a dumpster and leap to the fire escape, you could activate your invisibility and walk in the front door (though, like takedown attacks or wall smashes, stealth is dependant on how much energy you have on your meter, replenishable with drugs and food). Or you could just kill your way in.

The choice is entirely yours and your decisions send ripples both small and large coursing throughout the game. Taking too long to respond to your boss’ orders could lead to a hostage situation becoming a multiple murder (and costing you a side-mission). Sneak around taking stuff from your colleagues’ offices and you’ll later find an email from your boss asking you to look into a series of workplace thefts. One mission tasks you with breaking into the police morgue. You could sneak in stealthily, shoot your way in, sweet-talk the cop at the front desk (a broken-down former colleague of Jensen’s) or blackmail him into letting you slip by. The latter option leads to a lost job for the poor shmoe, and decisions like that latter mean the difference between a handy ally or a grudge-bearing adversary. There’s plenty of amazing moments like that where your decisions come back to bite you in the ass or pat you on the back, but as satisfying as the finale is plot-wise, it’s a small shame that your actions throughout the game don’t impact the ending itself in the same way; you’re pretty much given the button choice of one of four endings – all of which are worthwhile – at the very end of the game regardless of how you played.
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Though it’s mostly a first-person game, the game’s point-of-view zooms out to third-person perspective when in cover. Holding L1 near walls and boxes will cause you to take cover, leaving you able to pop up and put a bullet in whomever comes close. You can blindfire if you’re feeling suicidal or you can skirt around the corner of obstacles and hop to other points of cover. The shooting mechanics are solid and can be a tonne of fun, with a wide range of non-lethal and none-more-deadly weapons to find and upgrade with power enhancements, clip size boosts or silencers and armor-piercing rounds. Once you’ve fashioned yourself a silent 10mm pistol and given it a power upgrade, you’ll be headshotting fools with instant ease. The revolver with explosive rounds is a joy to unleash, too, or you could get creative, hack a beefy turret to fire on its masters, then pick the damn thing up and carry your new deathmachine around with you.

Sadly the trouble enters paradise when you discover that the AI opponents aren’t always the brightest bulbs. Once alarmed, they’ll sometimes just stand in the open awkwardly shuffling back and forth rather than take cover or try to kill you. Trying to distract one guard in a debris-strewn urban playground, I hid a way back from him, tossed a barrel into a far corner to attract his attention before I planned to sneak by unnoticed. Sadly, despite his back being turned, me being out of sight and him hearing nothing but the far-from-my-location landing of a metal drum, he instantly knew my whereabouts and came a-running. Sometimes the AI plays into plans like that realistically, and when it rewards that kind of creativity, it’s a wonderful thing, but other times enemies simply display psychic powers. It’s a problem that extends to other characters, too; people will often think nothing of you stealing their worldly possessions in plain view or hacking their email in front of them, while other times hell will rain down if you attempt the same. In a stealth-based game, it’s a shame that the AI isn’t top-notch, but most of the time the enemies are intelligent enough, and the issue realistically does little to sour the experience as a whole (especially since the wide choice of playstyles means you might not even encounter any such issues).

Visually, the game doesn’t push any platform boundaries whichever version you’re playing, but the art design is fantastic, bringing the broody city slums and Blade Runner-inspired world to life wonderfully. The same’s true of the soundtrack, and while it’s a little too similar to Mass Effect 2′s score at times, that’s certainly no bad thing, and the electronic synth-heavy tunes do wonders for the cyperpunk atmosphere of the game.
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A note about the Explosive Mission Pack, which comes with all UK copies of the game and as a pre-order bonus at select US retailers: The DLC unlock code gives you access to a lengthy side quest in which you have to rescue a Triad boss’ son (Deus Ex’s Tracer Tong in a cameo) from his criminal kidnappers, an automatic unlocking device, some remote explosives and a grenade launcher as reward for completing the quest. The mission is excellent, but the grenade launcher leaves you incredibly overpowered at times; having heard mumblings about intensely difficult bosses, I horded the launcher until a big showdown. It ended up making mincemeat of the third boss in literally a couple of seconds. If you want the full challenge the game intended, then it’s probably best to ditch or sell the launcher when you get it, but if you’re having trouble with the bosses, then the weapon provides an easy out for later big bads.

The couple of minor issues aside, Eidos Montreal have done the seemingly impossible and delivered a more-than-worthy prequel which lives up to the colossal expectation that fans of the original Deus Ex have harboured for over a decade. The freedom afforded to you in terms of gameplay is phenomenal, the game’s universe is a fascinating one that’s intelligently designed, gorgeously presented and entirely engrossing, with an immensely satisfying story and replay value through the roof. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is essential for console and PC gamers alike, and one of the best RPGs in years. Buy it. Then crush your enemies with flying vending machines.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution is available to buy on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC now.
Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk.
Or click here to order the Augmented Edtion of the game.