For developer Eidos Montreal, living up to the expectations surrounding Deus Ex: Human Revolution was never going to be an easy task. The weight of a FPS predecessor that is often cited as one of the best of all time — eerily reminiscent of the same expectations following the series’ heavily-criticised second sequel — is not something that appears to have held Eidos back. Without promising too much or talking the talk, the team has truly delivered a mesmerizing look into a very alluring future world, where the human condition is dissected, critiqued and eventually abdicated.
A story that will captivate you – The promise of scientific advancement is ultimately compromised by the people’s inability to advance with it, a future world that gives Human Revolution much of its individuality. Protagonist Adam Jensen is forced directly into the middle of this conflict between science and society, as his employers lead a major global conspiracy initiated by the continued evolving of augmentation technology. With the gate to truly unlocking human potential closer than ever, Jensen eventually finds himself heavily wounded and on an operating table, where he’s educated as to the future of the human race.
The game’s plot often branches off into the near implausible, although it never truly breaks down. It’s a smart vision of the future, molded around a very lengthy and rewarding single-player experience. Obviously inspirited by science fiction noir such as Blade Runner, the tone of the narrative shares similarities with others that attempt to bridge the gap between scientific evolution and the issues it may develop within society.
An experience driven by choice. – The missions in Human Revolution are spread out across several main city hubs. Jensen’s investigation as to the conspiracy sweeping the world is generally the main focus of these hubs, although side missions heavily populate each location.
Where the mission structure really thrives is that it gives you the freedom to choose, with each mission often leading into several different perspectives. There are several possible outcomes with each new objective, leaving the door open for multiple different pathways and plenty of consequential outcomes.
How Human Revolution plays out is completely indicative of the choices you make, as the game can head into any number of directions. You can approach areas any way you want, obviously dependent on your level of character augmentation.
Augmenting your augmentations – Praxis points act as the game’s currency, earned whenever you make a choice. These points are used to make changes to your ‘augmentation’, or, your ability to alter the ways in which your character interacts with the world. As the experience is so aggressively driven by choice, your upgrade choices will heavily dictate the direction of a mission. For example, hacking into a random person’s computer isn’t going to be especially reliant on your ability to jump really high.
Especially rewarding and undeniably satisfying, this level of customization has such a strong influence on how the game progresses that it’s a little hard not to feel like a boss while playing it. While the game will most definitely punish you for making the occasional questionable decision, no matter where you end up there always seems to be a way out, another pathway that leads into another direction. It makes for a very fascinating and rewarding experience.
Reward and Sacrifice – It’s the depth in Human Revolution’s sense of progression that really seems to fuel the experience. Every single thing you do seems to have a direct consequence or some sort of reward, which will push you to make certain decisions even when you’re leaning towards another direction. It’s a level of incentive that is further complimented by the game’s level of choice, and Human Revolution never lets you forget just how rewarding (and punishing) it can be.
Inventive and memorable presentation – Sharing obviously similarities with certain cyberpunk fiction, Human Revolution offers an artistic if troubling familiar world, clearly using plenty from the Italian Renaissance in inspiration for design. The game’s uncanny ability to mix artistic influence with contemporary technological designs give the game its gritty appeal.
There’s a very clear interest in manufacturing a sense of realism in the artificial limbs that make up your augmented protagonist. There is a very unique style being employed here, perfectly complimenting the game’s fascinating noir narrative and distinctive focus on creation, life and death.
Deep and lengthy – Human Revolution is not a game you’ll be especially keen to rush through. The game strongly encourages creative problem solving, and this often leads into multiple different scenarios. How the game progresses will be completely dependant on the choices you make, and if you choose to find absolutely everything on offer, including hacking every single terminal, you’re looking at a 25-50 hour game.
Compromised freewill – Human Revolution mains a very flexible and approachable level of choice and customization, although this is ultimately compromised by the game’s occasional and sudden switch into boss battle-like moments that all but rid you of your in-game freewill. Tracking the augmented killers of the world and taking them down is something you have no choice in, which rather aggressively unbalances the game’s implementation of choice and consequence. While you can lead your character to be one specific type of person for the rest of the game, these mini-boss battles disintegrate any choice you may have had, turning you into the killer you may never have wanted to be.
It’s a design choice that definitely hinders the game’s emotional weight, although it never truly distances the experience from the main plot. It is a momentary breakdown of the core mechanics that drive much of the experience. However, the game’s constructive encouragement of creativity and problem solving counter any major moral implications such an implementation might have on the experience as a whole.
The Final Verdict
Deus Ex: Human Revolution doesn’t actually set out to reinvent the wheel. Hell, it doesn’t even seem that particularly interested in bettering the revolutionary Deus Ex from 2000. Instead, the game relies on a very deep and flexible choice and consequence system, which drives a level of moral obligation that fuels the game’s emotional narrative. While this tone is unfortunately unbalanced by the game’s forced instances, there’s simply too much choice and customization here to completely hinder the experience. The fantastic level of augmentation available for your character is complimented by the stunning level of design employed in the artificial limbs, an aesthetic quality shared throughout the game’s mesmerizing and memorable world. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an emotional and troubling look into a very possible distant future.