By Mike Mahardy
TFW Contributing Writer
Adam Jensen’s cybernetically enhanced eyes scan the room for patrolling enemies. After two minutes of learning their walking patterns, he makes his move, swiftly sneaking into a vacant room with a security terminal. The computer on a desk is easily hacked. Soon after, the security turrets guarding the room’s exits are turned on their former controllers, allowing the protagonist to walk over their lifeless bodies without firing a single shot.
And yet, the player could have just as easily aimed two shots from a 10mm pistol at nearby guards, proceeded to dismember a third with a melee sword attack, and finally finished off the fourth with a lethal frag grenade.
The gameplay of “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” is completely up to player choice. In fact, aside from a few anomalies during the boss battles, the player can progress through the thrilling futuristic storyline without killing a single enemy. Or the game can be taken in the other direction, under a hail of bullets and explosions.
The plot opens on a dystopia in which corporations, not nations, rule the world. Power is no longer wielded by traditional governments, but instead by companies that design and produce cybernetic implants. These augmentations create a satisfying RPG element within an action game, and they also set the story up for an interesting political dilemma. Human naturalists rebel against private corporations supporting human alteration. Riots, bombs, ransom, and kidnapping are not out of the norm for these radical extremists.
Adam Jensen, however, enters the fray without a choice. After an unidentified group of mercenaries attacks Sarif Industries, the company for which Adam runs security, scientists choose to augment the protagonist in order to repair his life. Jensen awakens to find that he is just as much machine as he is human. Throughout the course of this pulse pounding game, the player can use Praxis points to shape the path Adam travels. These points serve to increase stealth, hacking, or combat capabilities.
Tired of running into a frantic firefight around every corner? Invest your Praxis points in stealthy attributes and abilities. Craving more of an action-packed adventure? Increase your physical attributes and marksmanship skills.
It is the apex of satisfaction to observe a security robot turn on its human allies and unload a volley of lead into them before escorting you to your next objective. Improved strength combined with turret hacking results in a handheld mini-gun that automatically acquires targets. Hiding the body of a previously unsuspecting enemy only to pile his ally’s on top of it creates a harrowing experience when guards seek out their teammates. Systematic elimination is the name of the game from that point on.
Unfortunately, for as many events that make you feel like a cyborg badass, there are almost as many which make you feel like a toddler with a water gun. Energy cells are required to execute takedowns. These maneuvers frequently come in handy during sneaky infiltration sequences or close quarters battles. The mere fact that an augmented superhuman requires energy cells to initiate a simple takedown while a millionaire playboy in a bat suit performs chokeholds on a whim, is more than confusing. The fact that these cells require an excruciating reload time (until fully upgraded with Praxis points) downgrades the superhuman feeling even more.
The sheer depth of this title is astounding, ranging from newspaper clippings that flesh out the back-story of a current objective, to side quests involving new characters in major cities. The different cities included in the game are presented with unique individuality in both aesthetics and overall mood. The concrete vistas of Detroit stand in stark contrast against the garden covered roofs of Hengsha. Juxtaposed against lavish Asian apartments in one city are the derelict sewers of urban waste in another. Side characters offer Jensen insight into the happenings around them, along with in-depth side quests to boot.
Every character Jensen meets has the potential for reward or recourse later in the story. Opting to save someone’s life instead of sliding out the back door could mean one more ally when the situation goes south in the final chapters. On the contrary, killing someone believed to be an enemy could harm your chances of completing a later mission to the fullest. Some choices can even make a major boss fight much harder than it has to be.
While regenerating energy cells cripple an otherwise exciting combat and stealth system, the boss fights of “Human Revolution” are detrimental to the game’s concept as a whole. Despite the fact that the story encourages player choice throughout the rest of the title, boss fights offer little room for creativity.
For players who have spent their time improving Jensen with stealth abilities, the boss fights will be the most unsatisfactory portions of the game. If the amount of freedom offered in the rest of Jensen’s journey were also displayed during these climactic sequences, the experience would be unforgettable.
In a story that puts player choice on such a high pedestal, missteps are all the more noticeable when that freedom is taken away.
The narrow minded boss fights are sore spots at the core of the game, while minutiae such as energy cells dampen the action in between.
Despite these grievances, it was still an eye opening experience to play through “Human Revolution” a second time.
With different augmentation upgrades, new allies, and unexpected enemies, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” is a title that must be enjoyed more than once.