Thursday 25 August 2011

Gaming Reviews - Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Eidos Montreal/Square Enix
Available from 26/08/11 on PC, PS3 (Version Tested) and Xbox 360
Review by Rob Wade

Let’s first get one thing out of the way. I’m not going to talk to you about Gibson’s Neuromancer, any subjects of transhumanism or any other subjects besides the game. I realise that other reviewers do that and more power to them for it – they’re obviously very intelligent people. However, I’m here to talk about the game.

If you want a comparison of this game to the great and classic works of fiction in the genre, this one’s not for you. If you simply want to know if the game is any good and worth playing, read on.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an action RPG which tells the story of Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT specialist who has been handpicked to oversee the defensive needs of one of America’s most experimental biotechnology firms, Sarif Industries. Badly wounded during an attack on the facility, he soon finds himself chasing down leads across the globe, never knowing who to trust. Adam begins to question the ethics of neuroprosthetics and everything he thought he knew.

The main mechanic of this game is the earning of XP (or Experience Points if you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-five or so years) which allow you to unlock upgrade points called Praxis Kits, which give the player a range of upgrades to all sorts of things, organised by body parts. These can range from giving you increased accuracy when shooting, increased information from enemies (line of sight and so on) all the way to making your hacking attempts that little bit harder to detect (more on that later). As upgrading systems go, it’s probably one of the most intelligently designed and easiest to comprehend that I’ve experienced, and I’ve played my fair share of RPG action (and indeed action RPGs). What's more, you don't find yourself unable to complete any of the game's tasks by choosing one path or the other. Stealth options don't reduce your ability to beat the game's boss characters, and the combat options don't mean that you're awful at stealth should the situation call for it.

Don’t worry though; players aren’t merely limited to just upgrading their own powers, and every gun has a range of possible upgrades from rate of fire to capacity, and even things like more advanced targeting systems, though if you’re anything like me you’ll spend most of them on your 10mm pistol. Old habits die hard, and no habits are older than my penchant for 10mm pistols in role-playing games, as friends who’ve seen me play Fallout 3 will no doubt recall.

Played from a first-person perspective, with third-person views for entering cover, Deus EX: HR allows the player to experience the world in a number of different ways. The two main ways in which you can traverse the world are stealth-heavy and action-focused. In fact, the first mission asks you this very question, requesting a response of “Lethal” or “Non-lethal”. Players are then rewarded for sticking to this approach as they play through. What struck me instantly about this approach was how seamless the experience was made by this system. The range of attacks is pretty high, with a variety of different upgradeable guns, as well as my personal favourite moves, the Take Downs. In accordance with your chosen path, you can make these lethal or non-lethal as you go along, and what’s nice about that is that taking down an enemy non-lethally when you’re playing stealthily will give you some extra bonus XP for mercy.

As a stealth-action fan, I naturally began my quest as the “non-lethal” guy. Now, regrettably I did have to stray from this a couple of times (because although I am a fan of stealth-action, that doesn’t always mean I’m consistently good at it), but all that happened was that I lost some bonus points. No mission failure or anything like that, and indeed the game is set up really well in the sense that there isn’t really a way to fail a mission besides death. When you have to help someone get out of the building safe, you can simply give them a gun and send them on their way (Word of advice, incidentally, give them a gun you haven’t spent thousands of credits upgrading – that still burns a bit).

Players do also have the option of the hacking route, as well as a more social route where they can talk people into giving them their way. The hacking route is probably the most robust of these modes, with arguably enough depth to keep a real enthusiast happy (and an XP bonus named “Script Kiddie” which gave me a chuckle given the nature of so many of today’s “hackers”). Players go from node to node on the network, following any path they really choose, with a really good risk/reward balance. If a player feels so inclined, they can take a less direct path to the final node which may make the hack easier, but they also have the option to follow the most direct path possible at the cost of making it easier for the computer to detect your actions. When it does detect you, it sends out a signal designed to kill off your attempt. While this is sometimes frantic (and at times unfair – Six seconds, Eidos?! Really?!), it makes for some really exciting moments from what could easily have so easily been a tedious gameplay mechanic, and the rewards are usually good enough to justify the effort, with codes and credits up for grabs.

The conversation window is not as deep as the hacking minigame, but players who prefer the verbose approach will be pleased to know that there are various different conversation options, all of which can end up with different outcomes depending on how strictly you follow your course of enquiry. Players can often find that they could shorten their side missions by a massive amount by choosing the right dialog options. Mission structure is one of the greatest strengths of this game, with players able to make side quests active and inactive in order to avoid clutter on the HUD. The side missions are also of a really good variety, rather than just degrading into just shooting shit or killing someone. You spend just as much time hacking terminals, stealing items and delivering messages and so forth.

Of course, the measure of any success with a Deus Ex game is the strength of its main quest and storyline in general, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution does not disappoint in this area. The main story is full of intrigue, throwing you red herrings all the time to make it impossible to rely too closely on anyone. What’s more impressive, however, is the treatment of Adam Jensen’s character in the game. Having to uncover a conspiracy while at the same time dealing with the repercussions of his cybernetic implants. It’s a real testament to the strength of the writing that I found myself empathising more with Adam as the game went along (I originally, truthfully, thought he was a bit of a douche).

The graphics are really good on this game, too. While Eidos has steered clear of the properly photo-realistic approach, which looks crap in my eyes anyway, the graphics on this game are top notch, and technically the game performs really well in motion, with no slowdown that I saw. What’s really great, though, is the environment itself. The game’s world feels suitably lived-in, with incidental conversations occurring as you pass people, sometimes involving you. The game world is clearly built for this mechanic, with multiple paths to every important destination. In one section in China, I found myself able to access one hotel by three different means, two of which didn’t involve me passing a single guard. Of course, if you do find yourself needing to pass guards, there is cloaking ability, plus there’s always the take-down.

On a final note, I would like to offer this praise to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This game does the little things really, really well. From little nods to Internet communities, like the Final Fantasy XXVII release poster and the memes traditionally favoured by Internet forums like Reddit (a great place to browse game-related photos and circlejerks involving retro consoles and PC gamer superiority complexes), Eidos has made this game very much aware of the way of the Internet gaming community, and all of those little touches add up to a really strong game.

I’ll give you another example of doing things right. I was sneaking my way through a location, and had taken down a couple of soldiers, piling their bodies up in a stack off in a corner which wasn’t being visited by patrolling guards. I made a noise, which alerted a guard on a downstairs level. He made his way up to the level on which I was placed, which was fine until he started exploring the entire floor that I was on, including the less explored corner. I tensed right up, readying myself for a fight in case he saw the bodies, finger poised to lean out and pop the sucker, when he stopped just before the body stash and turned, returning to his post downstairs. If that doesn’t do stealth gaming right, I don’t know what does. Superb.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Some really nice graphics, and although they’re not photo-realistic they suit the tone really well. Brilliant environments.
Sound/Music: Some awesome atmospheric music , and the sound is all good.
Gameplay: Stealth gaming of the highest calibre, along with action and RPG gaming of a high standard. An expansive yet realistic-feeling world as well.
Lasting Appeal: With multiple ways to approach each mission, it’s pretty much a cert that you’ll be firing this up a few times. More importantly, you'll want to.
Summary: One of the most tightly put together gaming experiences in recent memory, and a game worthy of contention for the highest honours come year’s end. 10/10


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When their car’s fan belt snaps during a drag race on a county road several miles outside their home town, best friends Jared, Kate, Rick, and Jessica find themselves stranded with two options: walk all the way back home or try their luck on finding a spare belt at a nearby scrap yard. Choosing the latter, but arriving after nightfall and finding the yard closed, they decide to climb the gate and go in search of the required part. Their situation goes from mildly inconvenient to seriously lethal in an instant when Rick’s careless horseplay with a loaded pistol leaves Kate wounded and in desperate need of medical attention.

Meanwhile, the local sheriff’s office has just received notification that a serial killer has escaped from the state prison and is thought to be hiding out somewhere in the area. Alerted to the situation at the wrecking yard by Jared, the police and ambulance crew arrive on the scene but can find no immediate sign of Rick, Jessica or the injured Kate. Moments later, the discovery of a mutilated body places Jared in the frame as the prime suspect in a murder investigation and leads to a long night of bloodshed and mayhem as a mysterious killer

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