Story first and foremost
The story in the game revolves around Adam Jensen, a security manager for the Sarif corporation. His life changes after a horrible incident, which leaves him with augmented arms, legs and pretty much everything else he owns. Once recovered, he resumes his job and his quest to uncover a greater truth about the incident that changed him into mostly a machine.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that is driven by its story; and believe me that's not a bad thing. While I can't go into great details, the story creates one of the most well-rounded gaming experiences in recent memory. You get a bit of everything with DXHR. You get an adventure that has first-person shooter, third-person action and role-playing elements wrapped into one gaming body. It's quite amazing how all the elements of the game combine to bring one solid story together.
Bleak and beautiful
The adventure creates a cybernetic, futuristic world that will leave you breathless. The environments are flashy, worn down reminders of how bad the future can get if led in the wrong direction. The good folks at Eidos Montreal made sure to set a tone for the places that Adam visits during the game. Mostly a yellow tint, the buildings, streets and general areas are extremely detailed, as well as broken and tainted. You can tell by the surroundings that all is not right with the world and at any given second the whole place could go to hell, and no one would be surprised. While there are moments where you can see some very 'plain' portions of a building, the majority of the different locations are extremely detailed and alive. In particular, the lighting really does make the mood in the different locations. For example, the Detroit area consists of black, white and heavy yellow lighting. The white glow of the city screams future, while the black says lurking danger and the yellow pushes the message that the city has seen its share of destruction both socially and physically. Each location that Adam visits has some sort of detailed and colorful personality attached to it, which really helps create a solid atmosphere for the gamer.Seeing such a bad amount of corrupt and degenerative places really puts the world that Eidos wanted to create firmly in perspective. It also sets the right mood to get you in the right place with what's going on with our main character, as well as putting you right in the story they're trying to tell.
On top of this, the character models are super detailed and just fun to look at (even the ugly ones). Character movements, reactions, and expressions are extremely defined. When you see characters react or move, you'll be impressed with what Eidos Montreal has put together. The cutscenes are particularly impressive, as they tell a very haunting, brutal noir tale. In true Final Fantasy style they are wonderful eye candy.
In addition to visuals, the music and sound are damn good as well. The voice-over work by the actors brings the story up a notch. While I've certainly seen better acting out of games like L.A. Noire, the actors help to push the story into believability and add more depth to the overall atmosphere. While games can certainly survive with bad acting (see Resident Evil for details), they can only benefit from acting like Deus Ex: Human Revolution does.
Another piece of the presentation pie that makes DXHR even more enjoyable is how absolutely exquisite the music is in the game. Michael McCann did one of the more beautiful composing jobs for this title. The opening credits really sets the tone for the entire game. I would have paid $15 extra dollars for the soundtrack; it was that gorgeous.
When it comes to presentation in Deus Ex: Human Revolution the game doesn't fall short in almost any category.
Hacking Deus Ex
The elements that are used to tell the story are broken down into genres. DXHR is certainly one of the better constructed games, as it features a variety of ways to play. As I mentioned above, you tap into all sorts of gaming genres on the way through the story. What's remarkable about this is that Eidos had a clear purpose for almost every aspect of Adam's usage. Most games tend to throw in elements of gameplay here and there that don't quite make sense to the overall storyline. Some games tend to throw things like a puzzle into the mix for no apparent reason. As much as I love it, Resident Evil had this issue, where you would get surrounded by all this zombie action and you would have to sit still in the middle of the intense story to solve a puzzle. It would be odd, it would be out of place and didn't quite make sense in the overall scheme of things. Deus Ex: Human Revolution doesn't do that to you. Everything that was put in the game has some relation to the story Adam is living in. Every little element of the game makes sense and it doesn't feel out of place. My experience with it was that nothing ever felt forced.
Here are the elements that make up the game.
The very first thing you'll encounter is choice-driven dialogue. Through choosing dialogue in normal conversations, and intense interrogations, you'll find different ways to play the game when the same situations arise. For example, when I was interrogating a cop at the beginning of the game, I chose the wrong approach and got unsatisfactory results that rippled the way the next part of the story reacted. Instead of getting more information, the cop cut me off and he also cut me off with a direct connection to my main goal in this particular mission. It was amazingly smooth and it made sense in the scheme of the story. It was like what you would find in a game like Mass Effect where your attitude and dialogue determine a situation. If you say the wrong thing then maybe you don't immediately get what you want. In Mass Effect it might delay you a few minutes, as you can return to the dialogue and almost correct the situation (sometimes you can't). DXHR takes that concept and propels it even further, as you might say the wrong thing to one person, but it makes the next two hours of the adventure even more difficult to get through. Even though that is a frustrating element, Eidos basically makes you invest time and attention to how you treat people. That's what makes DXHR such a fun experience from the get-go. Choosing the right words and saying the right things makes life easier. The only way you can do that successfully is by paying attention to the story. I've played many games like this (everything Bioware, Monkey Island, etc) and DXHR seems to do it the best. The consequences, and rewards, are so vital that, again, you're forced to invest yourself into the conversation.
Speaking of investing yourself, let's talk about the 'open area' element of the game.
The adventure is extremely 'open area' to compound the believability of the game. Not since the days of Shenmue have I seen open areas like what DXHR sports. You'll have the ability to walk into apartments or stores and do things with your own freewill (such as killing an arms dealer if you don't like purchasing your goods). As you read this you might be thinking to yourself, "What about Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption?" You can call those 'open areas', but the consequences of your actions in those games don't directly have an overall impact on the main story. With every decision in the game comes a consequence that affects your ability to progress in the game, so be cautious on the choices you make. you need to be Much like the dialogue, if you do the wrong thing then it ripples down the story. For example, if you run into a situation where you aren't satisfied with an answer from a police officer, and you let your fist do the talking then the situation will end badly. Not only will you end up pissing off one officer, but you also turn the police force against you, which makes completing missions, and life in general, a lot more difficult. You can still swing away if you want, but just expect life to get hard. The 'open area' is impressive and should be treated with care.
Open areas aside, the game's main story also asks you to consider side quests. Each side quest is perfectly integrated into the main story in some way. Be it an old acquaintance asking for a favor or a scoundrel asking you to perform dirty deeds in his interest, you're going to find more than just a linear path leading the way during this adventure. Much like the dialogue and open area consequences, there are some pretty obvious effects of not touching the side quests. I played through the game trying to help out as many people as possible the first time around. The second time around I just decided to stick to the main quest. The consequence was simple; if you don't do side quests then you cut off a source of XP, which helps to upgrade your abilities. You also cut off a healthy way to make money to improve your arsenal. Can you survive without the side quests? Sure, but the game won't be as easy.
With that said. the side quests don't feel like what they're named -- 'side' quests. The side quests are integrated into the main story in some way, shape or fashion. For example, at the beginning of the game you're going to run into an undercover officer named Jennifer Alexander. She needs you help with tracking down an arms dealer (guns, not augments). Adam use to know her in his former life as a SWAT member and she immediately starts the dialogue off with that connection. Though the side quest might be indirectly related to Adam's main adventure, the connection between the characters (Jennifer and Adam) are directly related to Adam's former life on SWAT. It's a solid extension that breathes more depth into Adam's character, and you'll find many side quests add this value to the main story. The side quests aren't simply there to give you something else to do or to extend a game by 40 hours. The side quests make sense when it comes to how the game's storyline is played out.
Anything that keeps you firmly placed within the story, directly or indirectly, makes for an exciting and involved experience; all the above make the story, and make it work smoothly.
A horse of many colors
Going back to a previous statement I made, Eidos really planned this game out well; nothing was forced in the game.
As Deus Ex: Human Revolution progresses, you will find elements of different genres that help push the game along. That's what makes DXHR, such a well crafted piece of gaming. All these little genre elements are called upon to propel the gameplay into a richer experience for the gamer.
Having said that, the game is going to throw a few wrenches into your first-person shooter previous experiences. If you're a Call of Duty nutcase (nothing wrong with that) who is use to busting down doors and going ape on people then you're in for a rude awakening. The FPS element of Deus Ex: Human Revolution requires restraint, stealth and planning. You have to be a bit more stealthy and less 'Rambo' about the situation. You will find yourself in the midst of firefights with enemy soldiers and gangs throughout the cybernetic adventure. Most of the fights will be within confined areas that will require to find cover, which will instantly push you into a third-person view. It's a seamless process that makes sense for the action taken. It allows you to find cover while at the same time allowing for a 180 degree view of your position. This helps when locating enemy movement without giving much position up in the process. Enemies can detect your movements and sounds, so it's important to find cover quickly and properly position yourself for a helluva battle. Once the firefight begins, you can switch between third-person and first-person smoothly. You can duck behind objects then pop up into first-person view to get a proper shot off. You simply won't be able to go full FPS on this game, but you will be able to combine a solid third-person system with the accuracy and enjoyment of a first-person shooter. It's a good mix of two genres during action in DXHR, as the game requires you to give a bit more thought into the gun touting action it offers. I like that a lot in the game, as it gives off a more mature feeling about how you need to plan the next step before you pull the trigger. In a way, and no disrespect to the FPS genre, it's a more intelligent method of gunfighting.
One of the heavier elements that has made the series intense is that DXHR is very much a stealth-based game. It requires you to sneak into areas, get what you need to get and then sneak out without detection. Much like the game Metal Gear Solid 4 where there is always a way out of a situation, DXHR provides a very similar out if your presence is found by the enemy. You can sometimes shoot your way out of a situation, but getting Adam through missions without detection helps with the overall story quite a bit. It's difficult to be a one-man army, so climbing up buildings, elevator shafts and in air ducts is a necessity for survival. Sometimes it really adds a lot to a plot point in the story, while other stealthy situations keep your nerves from popping out of your skin. One of the problems I had with MGS is that sometimes stealth seemed forced. For example, in Metal Gear Solid 4 there was a level where you had to follow a guy from point A in a city to point B. The entire process was tedious and tiring, which disrupted the flow of the story and the game. DXHR stealth isn't like that in any area. You never feel like you're 'forced' to do stealth, as it feels very much integrated perfectly into the adventure. You'll want to sneak around, knock out guards, drag their bodies into hiding and keep going undetected. It won't ever feel tedious or tiring, which is a remarkable feat for the whole stealth element.
With that said, the story also guides the gameplay into a role-playing flavor. Throughout the game, as you accomplish missions/quests, you'll find Adam collecting XP. The XP can be used to upgrade augment abilities such as jumping, running, hacking (we'll get to that soon), stealth modes and many other attributes that come with our bionic hero. You'll also find weapons, ammo, misc. objects and Praxis kits along the way to improve Adam's adventurous life. The Praxis kits are especially helpful, as they will directly upgrade augment abilities. You have the option to mix and match things and improve your chances to accomplish more. The trick of handling augment upgrades is to make sure you know the purpose of the upgrade. If you know that you will need to go into a very crowded, enemy filled area with little to no ammo for backup then maybe it's best you concentrate on upgrading your stealth abilities. If you know that you will need to move large boxes or move objects to gain access to difficult spots in Adam's adventure then maybe you need to upgrade your arm strength. Go into the game connected with the story and you'll find different reasons to upgrade certain abilities for Adam. I made the mistake of playing the game testing out abilities and found myself wasting time and doing unnecessary work when I could have just upgraded two or three things and went on with the story. The main story should influence your upgrades, so please be very aware of what you need. Improving Adam and getting him prepared to do different things for different situations not only encourages you to get the most out of the main adventure, but possibly take on some side quests to improve your chances of success.
Sticking with the RPG genre, you will do a lot of system hacking in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and rightfully so. If you're going to have a futuristic world that depends on cybernetic material then you must include computers somewhere. To push the story along in the game, you'll find Adam needs to hack into terminals to gain information, access to other terminals (like turrets, robots and security cameras) and to gain goodies along the way that help with the overall hacking process. The hacking element is like a small puzzle of its own that will keep you not only entertained, but also on your toes constantly. It's difficult to describe the process, but here's what you'll deal with. You have 1-5 levels of hacking. The first level is easy hacking jobs, while the fifth level is the hardest. You start by hacking an I/O port which leads to one or more directories. Once the directory is hacked the network fights back and you have a limited amount of time to get to the registry before you're shut out of the system (which ends the hacking process). If you fail at the hacking then the computer gives you a limited amount of time before it lets you back in (usually around 30 seconds) for another go at it. To make hacking easier you can purchase (or find) worms and nukes, which disrupt the Diagnostic Sub-Routine from shutting down the system. Regardless, the entire process will have you involved and thinking through your actions.
On a side note (and please take note of this), when you're in the middle of a firefight don't expect hacking to grant you a temporary reprieve. If guns are blazing and you start to hack in attempt to get into a door to escape the firefight then you're going to be in for a rude awakening. Breaking all conventional gaming methods, Eidos Montreal keeps the story down to earth, as you will be killed hacking if someone is firing at you. Much like how you would imagine the situation playing out in real life, if a thief decided to jump on a computer right in the middle of a armed robbery then someone would probably take him/her down. It's a realistic outcome that adds just a bit more depth to the gameplay, and something that gamers will have to get use to.
Overall, Eidos Montreal did a superb, smooth and precise juggling act with all these different genre elements. They put together a solid plan for Deus Ex: Human Revolution when shaping the world and the gameplay; everything was executed nearly perfect. Not a lot of games do multiple things well, but Eidos Montreal seems to have found the right formula for this one.
With that said...
The system isn't foolproof
While the story is great and the inclusion and merging of different genres is impressive, there are some caveats about the gameplay that will bring imperfection into the system.
The first problem I had to get use to, and I still have issues with, is the controls. About an hour or so into the game I was fighting and cursing about the controls. I would peak around corners in anticipation of an enemy walking around the corner (and getting a lead sandwich) only to find Adam not properly aiming where I wanted, or situated where I assumed he would be situated. What usually resulted was death, which usually resulted in cursing. Things eventually smoothed out as the controls started making sense, but it never quite reached perfection. Having said that, I'm positive PC gamers are laughing and claiming victory for a one up on console gamers, as the mouse and keyboard probably produce a better control solution to the gameplay. If the controls were a bit smoother in some areas, such as not accidentally kneeling when the L3 button is gingerly pushed, then the experience would have been a bit more enjoyable. Again, after an hour or so (mostly shaking off the control schemes from Call of Duty and Medal of Honor) the controls started evening out a bit, but it never got close to being perfect.
Another smaller complaint that I have is the AI of the NPCs. Bosses aside, which were tough as nails, the NPCs generally have repetitive motions and predictable movements. While some reviews might claim that the NPCs take proper cover when they need it, if you fire your weapon in their general area their activator areas will go off and they will begin to move out into a repetitive pattern. For example, there is a mission where you have to go take out a gang of rowdy youth and there was a point where it was me against 6-7 gang members in one area. Patience won out over brute force, as I was able to sit and wait for their movements to become repetitive. After a few stray shots I was able to take all of them out. It was a bit empty when it came to excitement in this particular quest, but the story still compensated for the loss. In this day and age it's difficult to get every element of a game correct, and honestly most games of this type have issues with NPCs. Crysis 2 still stands as the best when it comes to NPC and DXHR isn't close to Crytek in that category. Still, you'll enjoy kicking the crap out of countless enemies. Just don't expect much intelligence out of them (again, it's the drones that do this and not the bosses).
Having said all of this, without a doubt you need to own Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For $59.99 you're getting a unique experience that you can play in 20+ different ways. There's enough here to keep you occupied for weeks, if not months. It has a well crafted story that features superb action, a solid role-playing flavor and a large amount of well thought out side quests. What's even better is that I would bet money that if you started it again a year from after completing it that you would be just as pleased as you were during your first go around. I can see a lot of replay potential with this one. It rates up there with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Fallout 3 for me. Once I retire from writing, which I've been saying for nearly a decade, I will revisit this title and be just as satisfied as the day I reviewed it.
If Deus Ex: Human Revolution were an orchestra it would be the London Symphony Orchestra. It plays an eloquent, sophisticated piece of futuristic noir entertainment that has been carefully crafted to take you away from your mundane life.
You won't be the same gamer after hearing this music.