Occasionally in the universe there is a convalescence. This idea, that thought, and some inspiration come together, and the results just strike me in a certain way. It is an experience that doesn’t happen often, but when it does I know that I have encountered something profound. Of course, this only applies to me, but I’m the one writing the review, so you’ll have to bear with me. More simply put, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that convalescence. It hits all the right notes, be they story, gameplay, art direction, or sound design, that I look for in a game that I want to play. Near future, science-based fiction? Check. Freedom of choice and an incentive to explore? Check. A unique, distinct visual style? Very check. Seriously, Eidos Montreal visited my dreams when they created this game, and I love them for it.
The star of the game is Adam Jensen, ex-cop and now security professional. He lives in a near-future world where man has discovered the means with which to “augment” itself. Through a variety of unfortunate events, Jensen finds himself nearly dead. In this future, however, they can rebuild you… Ok sorry, I couldn’t resist, but you get the idea. Take one mostly dead (which, as we know, is slightly alive) human, mix in a few cybernetic appendages, throw in one part Blade Runner, one part Robocop, stir vigorously, and you end up with a general idea of what Deus Ex is all about.
The promise of augmentation represents a distinct division in the citizenry of Deus Ex. To those with the means, the future is a beautiful vision of endless potential. Then there are those left behind, left to rot in slums and run down apartment buildings, only occasionally catching a glimpse of the privileged few. Conflict, as they say, is inevitable. Luckily, it is also interesting. Without the slightest knowledge of what he is digging up, Adam Jensen finds himself quickly swept up in a conspiracy of global proportions.
Throughout the game, you will visit a variety of mission hubs. These large, open areas offer myriad opportunities for exploration. Don’t want to follow your quest marker to the next obvious objective? No problem. Turn yourself around, chat it up with the locals, and maybe uncover a side quest or two. These quests are more fleshed out than we have become accustomed to, thanks to the relative blandness and lack of detail most games give their optional missions. Sure, you’ll find the occasional fetch-quest, but there is always a good reason. On top of that, the areas are so interesting and the simple act of getting into and out of the various locales your quest-givers send you to is so fun, it won’t matter how many times you are ordered around to look for a keycard.
Deus Ex is a game about choice. Throughout the game you will be presented with any number of objectives. How you choose to tackle them, however, is where things get interesting. More often than not, this choice is determined by other choices you have already made. While you are never punished for a particular choice, if you leveled up your stealth abilities at the expense of hacking, don’t even bother walking up to that computer. You should, on the other hand, keep an eye out for a nearby vent or some other, less obvious path around those cameras and turrets. It is also entirely possible for you to dump your skill points into beefed up defense, more accurate aiming, and faster movement and become the Terminator himself, entering rooms with guns appropriately blazing. Kill all or kill none, the choice is yours with very few exceptions.
Those exceptions, which have attracted the ire of those hoping to complete the entire game without exerting lethal force, come in the form of boss battles. To their point, it is a bit jarring to exert the patience necessary to bypass untold numbers of guards, police officers, punks, thugs, and other miscreants only to be put into a situation where the only option is to exercise brute force. This can be especially aggravating if all your time and skill points have been put into stealth or hacking-based skills, eschewing those that would make you more combat-worthy. These are the only areas of the game where choice and creativity are not the name of the game, and they stand out for it.
Visually, the game will not win any awards on sheer muscle. This game spent roughly 4 years in development, and it looks like a game that came out 2-3 years ago. Expect janky facial animations, oddities with shadows, and some very unnatural head movements. Luckily, these are not the focus of the game, and do little to detract from the act of playing the game. Still, they can be surprising and distracting enough to occasionally take you out of the experience of the game and remind you that, while you have been engrossed in this amazing adventure, your yard hasn’t been mowed and the trash actually didn’t take itself out.
Overall, Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells a fantastic story, and manages to be a completely immersive experience 90 percent of the time. In the other 10 percent, your illusion of choice is removed and a few technical flaws rear their ugly heads. That 10 percent, however, shouldn’t be the portion that makes your purchasing decision for you. Believe me, the 90 percent is worth it. Eidos Montreal have created a superb video game experience, and it should not be missed.