Review: Deus Ex Human Revolution (PS3)

Title: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Studios – Montreal
Original MSRP: $59.99

The year is 2027 and Human Augmentation – the replacing of body parts with bio-mechanical upgrades – is well into development and implementation around the world.  Leading the way with this scientific breakthrough is Detroit-based Sarif Industries, employer of Adam Jensen – the character you portray.

Jensen is Sarif Industries’ Chief Security Officer who is put to the test in the opening moments of the game.  After a set of impressive cut scenes involving Jensen and his co-worker girlfriend, Doctor Megan Reed, the facility is invaded by a group of trained militia.  In an attempt to stop the attack, Jensen is severely injured and left for dead.  Cut to 6 months later and you have recovered from your injuries but realize you’re more machine than man as Sarif has had to resort to extreme augmentations to save your life.

Confused by the prior attacks and distraught over the death of your girlfriend, Deus Ex Human Revolution sets the tone for an incredible story that is ripe with issues involving scientific ethics, corporate espionage and human morality.  It is these strong emotions that you are left with that will define how you play this game.  Will you bury your emotions and talk your way through the game’s various encounters or lock and load with intentions of killing all that get in your way from discovering the truth?  Why not focus on the second chance you’ve been given at life and use the augmentations to your advantage?  The choice is undeniably yours to make.

Gameplay:
The gameplay of Deus Ex Human Revolution is an interesting mix of stealth, FPS and RPG.  How you play the game from start to finish is entirely up to you. Mixing things up even further the developers at Eidos Studios Montreal took great care with including the ability to smoothly transition between a first and third person point of view.  For a fan of shooters this might initially be a fairly steep learning curve but I can assure you that, once accustomed to, it is a wonderful addition to an already solid action game.

The default view is first person while third person is primarily reserved for quick use of an effective cover system.  Practically any wall, crate, doorway and vending machine can be used as cover.  Approaching these cover points and pressing L1 seamlessly changes your point of view.  When in cover you can move left and right, quietly dodge over to a separate cover point or corner a wall – all while having the advantage of seeing more of your surroundings.  It’s a great feature that is useful for both sneaking up on and past enemies, or having the advantage in a combat situation.

One drawback to this change in perspective can occur when switching back from third to first person.  If your target reticule isn’t properly placed far enough away from the cover you were just occupying you’ll find yourself back in first person view facing that same cover.  In desperate situations where enemies have surrounded you this can be a disorienting experience that will, more often than not, end in disaster.

The enemies of Human Revolution bring about a level of AI that I have rarely experienced.  They are smart, fast, tough and fearless.  They will work together to flank you while their robotic sentinels come at you head-on like unstoppable death machines.  If you’re not smart about your surrounding, if you don’t understand and use every possible advantage, alarms will sound and it will only be a matter of time before that advantage changes hands.

Unfortunately, where the average soldier may instill fear and hesitation, the handful of Boss battles that are included are run-of-the-mill and feel tacked on.  I generally look forward to and enjoy the variety a Boss battle can bring to a game.  With Deus Ex they felt out of place and unnecessary.  With everything else this game has to offer it is a complaint (albeit minor) that can be overlooked.

Regardless of strategy or preferred style of gameplay you should prepare yourself for a significant amount of in-game management: managing your inventory, weapons load-out and augmentations – just to name a few.  You’ll find yourself spending nearly as much time in the various menus as you do in the thick of the action.  This level of management can get somewhat tedious at times but you’ll quickly realize that without giving it the proper attention completing Deus Ex Human Revolution might be more difficult than actually necessary.

In addition to the time spent managing your inventory you’ll also be spending a lot of it watching load screens.  Regardless of main story or side quests there is a good amount of fetching and backtracking.  Go here to get that, head over there to speak to him, etc.  This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the unusually high number of load screens that come into play as you move from one end of the city to the other.  Simply entering or leaving a building prompts a load screen.  For situations like that, where you spend very little time in a specific location, these load screens can become a nuisance and consistently take you out of the previously immersive story.

Visuals:
Deus Ex Human Revolution is inclusive of visuals that are both stunning and completely outdated.  The futuristic set pieces of Detroit and Hengsha Island are quite jaw dropping in their presentation.  From afar they undoubtedly resemble the futurescapes of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece – Blade Runner.  Get in good and close, down to street level, and things pick up a notch or two with an incredible amount of detail and variety.

But where the wide-angle views truly shine and astonish, some of the up-close and personal visuals of the multitude of characters that you encounter (and there are a ton of them) confuse me as being an early generation title and not one that was released in 2011.  I should preface this with a qualification that the main characters – protagonists and antagonists alike – are nicely detailed and fit right in with the rest of the game.  It’s the secondary and, god help them, tertiary characters that really take a beating.  Some of the men are more Cr0-Magnon than not while the woman, on occasion, look as if they may have been run over by the very ambulance that arrived at the scene of the train wreck.  It was quite shocking to go from one end of the extreme to the next.  Thankfully these transitions in graphical excellence are mostly few and far between.

Audio:
Following closely in line with some of the incredible visuals, Human Revolution continues to shine with a soundtrack that somehow finds a way to immerse the player even further into this near futuristic world.  Comprised almost entirely of a synthesized score, it delivers on the thematic sounds one would expect from such a dark and visually stunning landscape.  Mixing in well with the change in pacing – from intense stealth gameplay to in-your-face combat – I often felt as if I were watching a blockbuster sci-fi movie; it was that good.  Add to this a nice variety of mostly competent voice acting and the story that started out strong stays consistent throughout the campaign.

Conclusion:
Deus Ex Human Revolution makes a solid attempt trying to please a variety of different gamers.  With the exception of a  few minor hiccups the game mostly succeeds.  It tells an intriguing story that forces you to pay attention while involving you in a world that isn’t so difficult to perceive as existing in our near future.  The controls, after an initial adjustment period, are tight and the gameplay is solid from start to finish.

Above all else, the stand-out feature of Human Revolution is its moderate-to-high replay value.  You may have initially completed the game as you would any FPS – running and gunning; now dive back into that world, level-up those augmentations and see what true power can be like.  The choice will continue to be yours again and again.

Score:
8.0

Written by Bill Braun

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