Later this week Deus Ex:Human Revolution (DX:HR) hits store shelves and officially kicks off the brutal 2011 Holiday game season. From the end of August until the beginning of December gamers are going to be bombarded with high quality, high content games that will be competing with for their gaming dollars. If you’re wondering if DX:HR should be counted with those games the answer is a resounding yes.
Like all good science fiction, DX:HR has as core concept that it’s exploring and that’s the impact of humans being able to augment themselves with upgrades. This kind augmentation goes beyond the basic cosmetic surgery we have today and into more aggressive things like increasing strength, vision, and allowing the human body to withstand more damage than it should.
It’s not all new arms and X-Ray vision for everyone though, there are some side effects. The biggest being that once you are augmented you need to take special medication to ensure that your body doesn’t reject your new additions, and of course that medicine isn’t being given away for free. The other is that “Augs” aren’t accepted by all of humanity and there are there are a lot of people who find this new area of science to be morally offensive.
Set in the year 2027 and you play Adam Jensen, the head of security for Sarif Industries, a leader in the field of human augmentation. As you start the game Sarif is attacked by an unknown strike force and suffers heavy casualties in it’s augmentation division. Jensen is almost killed but is brought back from near death thanks to several of Sarif’s key technologies.
After six months of recovery Jensen must now unravel the mystery of who attacked Sarif and what their motivations were. Was this aggressive corporate espionage or something more sinister? Well it’s up to you to find out by any means necessary.
My first hour with DX:HR was a bit on the frustrating side. The game wanted me to use stealth to sneak into a factory and hide a piece of top secret equipment before the folks who had just stormed the factory found out what it was and could use it.
Stealth is not my style and creeping through the rafters and hiding behind things just annoyed the hell out of me. Finally I realized that I didn’t have to play that way. If I wanted a firefight I could have a firefight. If I wanted to sneak through vents and perform stealth kills then I could do that as well. You can even mix and match styles if you want as the game allows you to play through the game in several different ways.
What I really liked about DX:HR is that in some ways the game feels like a game from the future. The various menu screens and dialogs all have a nice feel to them and helps to maintain the look and feel of the game. Another fantastic touch is that the in-game tutorials are all optional from the get-go and you only have to go through them if you want. I know this sounds trivial but not being forced to go through the usual rigmarole of learning to jump, crouch, and shoot was a breath of fresh air.
Another nice touch is that during the game’s loading screens it gives you a nice up interactive summary of the plot line so far. It’s not a big deal but it’s one of those things that’s a helper after a few days away from such a deep game and it helps set the mood.
How you pursue the plotline of the game is up to you and each major piece of the puzzles can be attacked in different ways. This is handled through how you build the augmentations of your character. As you progress through the game you earn Praxis points which can be used to unlock new upgrades in your system. These cover the gamut from increased hacking skills to the ability to become completely invisible to greatly augmented strength. While this does increase the re-playability of the game tremendously it does mean that you will occasionally be frustrated when you find a solution that requires a different build. Of course there is usually another solution around the corner that meets your current build but it can be a little off-putting to find these “edges” of the games design.
The other great thing about Human Revolution is that it feels like a fully realized world, sure the streets of Detroit around Sarif’s HQ are a little devoid of life (much like current day Detroit) but there are a lot of places to explore and work through. It’s not a big open world like Dead Island or Elder Scrolls but there is a lot of content to explore.
Special notice should go to the art design of the game which is about as good as it gets. Everything is well designed and feels like it belongs. Everything from the design of the Sarif building to the people, to the weapons looks great.
There are a few quibbles here and there. The load times are a bit on the brutal side but that’s something that will hopefully be fixed in the final build of the game. Another quibble is that the game is fairly heavy on hacking puzzles early on and while the hacking mini-game isn’t as repetitive as the one in Bioshock I did find having to do them over and over again to be a bit annoying. This also forces you to invest heavily in the hacking augmentations early over cooler things like increased sprinting and increased strength.
One other interesting thing is that in 2027 there are lots of cardboards boxes everywhere. You can’t turn around in any building without seeing large clusters of the damned things. You can stack them them to get to certain areas of the game but you would think that in 16 years humanity wouldn’t have the need for so many damn cardboard boxes. I know this is a bit of an odd comment to make but the amount of cardboard boxes goes well above anything I’ve seen in any other game.
The full game wasn’t included in the build they sent us (look for Jeremy’s review in the near future) but it’s easy to see this game is going to be in the 18-22 hour range to complete. When you factor in the different play styles and different endings you’re looking at a lot of value for the money. Personally I’m going to be picking up the PC version of the game as the controls are more my style and the hacking game is sure to be easier but I don’t think you’re going to have any problems with the console versions either.