Set in the year 2027, Deus Ex: Human Revolution places you in the augmented shoes of Adam Jensen. You’re charged with following up a break-in at your workplace which resulted not only in the death of your co-workers, but in injuries severe enough to require cybernetic enhancements just to save your life. Thanks to the surgery, you have a bunch of varied and useful upgrades, but only a few are turned on when you start. As you progress, you accumulate experience points, which can be converted into Praxis points, which can then be used to unlock and upgrade your enhancements.
This system is somewhat different from the original Deus Ex. Skills and augmentations from that game have been merged into a single system of augmentation options, and while you still need to choose your upgrades, no one choice will preclude selecting another when you earn a further Praxis point. You may enjoy the simplicity of this approach, or you may pine for the full range of options available in the first game. Some of the augmentations include hacking upgrades, cloaking, social enhancement (for those tricky conversations), dermal armour, the ability to punch through walls and the cool Icarus Landing System which makes falls from any height survivable and awesome.
When violence is your preferred option, you have a number of deadly and non lethal weapons on offer. Stalwarts such as pistols, shotgun and sniper rifles are available as are stun guns and tranquilizer rifles. You may also stumble across laser rifles and missile launchers if you’re lucky. Most weapons can be improved using upgrade kits for better damage or faster reloads. Some have special upgrades for laser sights, or armour piercing rounds. It is well worth choosing a favourite weapon and pimpin’ it to get the best results.
Melee combat is available via context sensitive takedowns. While the riot prods and crowbars of the first game are sadly nowhere to be seen, the takedowns in Human Revolution look pretty cool. Takedowns trigger little in game cut scenes showing you skilfully neutralizing adversaries in style. Non lethal takedowns knock enemies out, while the lethal variety show off your incredible arm and elbow blades. Unfortunately lethal takedowns generate more noise as well as giving you less experience.
Hacking is a big part of the game, but you can avoid much of it if you prefer other options. When hacking a keypad or computer, you enter a mini game that is one of the coolest hacking implementations you’re ever likely to see. It’s not overly complex, but it is fun and requires some thought and strategy. You need to hack nodes and data stores to reach the registry, while hoping you’re not detected and booted out by security. Success leads to bonus experience and potentially cash and other rewards.
You explore massive areas in Detroit, China and Singapore and other locations and your investigation is set against the tense political and socio-economic issues surrounding human augmentation. As you move around the cities, you hear many opinions from the various characters you encounter. Newspaper articles, radio programs and television news clips cover stories relating to the ongoing debate and also report your own exploits. All of these things work together to make the game world feel lived in and impacted by your actions and the choices you make. There are lots of conversions and phone calls you can eavesdrop on. These are fun to listen to and provide even more insight into a world that has quite obviously been lovingly put together by the developers.
Deux Ex provides a lot of gameplay options to progress the story. Almost every situation allows for multiple approaches. You can decide whether to be sneaky or confront things head on using a broad range of weapons, or even use some combination of tactics. The game tends to reward the silent, non lethal approach with experience. The upgrades you choose will then affect the options available to you and the ease you may have implementing your chosen approach.
The game looks great. The entire story is set at night in various urban environments. There are lots of cool muted colours mixed with neon lighting and lots of orange/gold. Some character models look a bit ugly up close, but in general there’s a lot of detail and atmosphere. You may notice that some characters move and gesticulate a lot when talking which doesn’t look natural. You tend to pose a lot during conversations, which is a bit distracting, but not really a problem. The music is subdued and very much fits the mood. You often hear bits of music from the original Deux Ex which is nice too.
Only a few things detract from the game, though none of them should stop you from picking it up. If you upgrade mainly for stealth and hacking, the boss fights (especially the first one) can be a real challenge as they tend to be combat focused. It’s not a big problem, but it may take you a while to defeat them. Also, prepare to endure a lot of lengthy load screens. The PC version of the game has been patched to improve this, but at the time of writing, the console versions remain the same. Finally, you may experience the occasional lockup or broken side quest.
On the whole, this is a game not to miss. It manages to bring so many different elements together so well that you’re sure to lose yourself in the experience. So, gloss over or accept the niggles, boot up your augmentations and prepare to change the world.