To all of you who think video games make you a better person – you’re wrong. If you’re not too high and mighty, here’s why. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has made me a colossal dick, or in this case, a heavily modified one starring in a world bathed in liberal amounts of black and yellow. They’ve spun the art style as “cyber-renaissance” (all I can think is of the Wiz Khalifa song) with a story that’s intriguing enough for passersby to take notice. It’s like an Internet troll made real in a Blade Runner-styled future. That’s what the game has made me.
“Why?!” I hear you exclaim just before I burst into a I never asked for this parody? “The game has you donning the role of a mechanical bad-ass who sounds like Christian Bale, jet setting across the globe to uncover a conspiracy, with its fair share of epic plot twists! Surely that means you’re a good guy, yes?” Yes and no. You see, the thing about Human Revolution is that you’re not explicitly told what is right or wrong; just shades of grey. How you approach an objective is completely up to you, leaving morality for later debate with a few friends, or as in this case, a review. Oh, and just because you sound like the goddamned Batman and John Connor, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re the good guy.
During the course of my 30-hour playthrough (yes, developers still make games that long. Even first-person shooter hybrids such as this), I’ve bribed informants, beaten up landlords, threatened civilians and snooped through emails on every possible computer I could lay my hands on. In short, the game has succeeded in making me a bad person. Why? Because I had the option, and I blame Deus Ex: Human Revolution for being so bloody generous with its choices that all I wanted to do was see how far I could push the envelope.
The best part about it is that I only realised the effects of my actions long after I’d had time to reflect on the game’s endings (four of them, all accessible without playing through the game multiple times). Compared to modern day darlings such as Fable and Mass Effect, I never consciously chose to do the things I needed to do because it doesn’t care to label a choice as right or wrong. It’s this sheer simplicity in the decision making process that makes it such a joy to play. Plus, it adds to the replay value, allowing you to go through it all over again, taking a different approach altogether.
However, shades of grey aren’t enough to make a game complete, and Human Revolution does sport a few innovative tricks up its biomechanical sleeves. For starters, it’s soul-suckingly immersive. Everything from the voiceovers to the poster art is intricately detailed. I’m yet to see such an elaborate and ambitious design so well implemented. And this is just scratching the surface. There’s an innovative cover system. A click of a button has you taking cover in third-person view, giving you a vantage point right out of Uncharted. It works brilliantly because in spite of other first-person shooters trying to adopt a cover system (ohai, Killzone!) it just doesn’t work well. This implementation makes stealth a whole lot easier, allowing you to live out your Metal Gear fantasies till Kojima thinks we’re worthy of a new game.
Speaking of stealth, you can go through the whole game without killing anyone, barring of course the game’s bosses. Much has been argued for and against the inclusion of boss battles in this iteration of the franchise, considering that you could go through the earlier games by avoiding them completely. Some have gone to the extent of suggesting that they were created by a different dev team altogether. I, however, felt they’re handled quite well, except for the last encounter that’s humdrum at best. They’re quite similar to the Metal Gear Solid games, where each boss was a classy, memorable affair. Also, considering that this is a prequel, the narrative would end up being a little more inflexible as it has to lead up to the events that result in the first game.
Much like the previous games, you have a host of special abilities or augmentations. These can be acquired by using Praxis points. It works like most RPGs, where completing missions gives you experience points that translates into a Praxis point, which you can put towards a host of skills, such as hacking, invisibility or the Typhoon weapon system that allows you to instantly kill anything in your path. As touched upon in my preview, the coolest addition is the CASIE aug, which allows you to influence conversations, allowing you to get a little more, and importantly, crucial information from each person you speak to. It’s intelligently done as is the hacking, which is by far the best implementation of the mechanic this generation.
One minor gripe is that while you do have an aug that allows you to subdue your opponents with a melee move, you can’t use hand-to-hand combat regularly in the game. I’m guessing that would leave the game’s arsenal of weapons untouched; there’s everything from your bog-standard pistol to plasma rifle prototypes. In fact, depending on your style of play, you might find yourself using more of your augs than weapons, which isn’t a bad thing in a game that’s all about choice. Luckily, this choice also extends to you reloading your old saves from time to time, for even at lower difficulty settings, the AI has a nasty habit of being alerted to your presence without you making a sound. A few people have also reported glitches during side quests even though I’ve been fortunate not to encounter any.
These caveats aside, this is as close as you’d get to a meaty, stylish adventure. It’s made even better by the sheer wealth of side quests that touch upon various facets of the main plot, such as the origins of the protagonist and what he’s up against. They’re so well done that you’re compelled to play through them.
So there you have it; a game that doesn’t hand you your options on a silver platter, and most importantly, gives you the freedom to approach each scenario as you choose. It plays like a love letter to the long time fans of the franchise, and is equally accessible to people who haven’t heard of it. With the current trend of video game development moving towards shorter, low risk, snackable games, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a rare breed, and for most of it, it is fantastic at what it does.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some innocent bystanders to bitchslap.