4 Gaming Review

'Deus Ex: Human Revolution' (PS3) review

Released on Friday, Aug 26 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution review

© Square Enix

Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: First-person shooter / role-playing game

The days of first-person shooters that involve blasting anything that moves are long behind us. That may have been the norm when Doom exploded onto the scene in the '90s, but at the turn of the millennium, veteran game designer Warren Spector rewrote the rule book on the genre with the sublime Deus Ex. Who'd have thought that adding role-playing elements and a Philip K Dick-esque setting to an established formula could change the face of PC gaming forever?

The hype was more than justified. Deus Ex broke new ground in narrative and player choice, going on to claim a stack of awards. Its 2002 sequel Invisible War didn't quite live up to these high standards, so Eidos Montreal may feel they have a point to prove with the latest entry in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

But after playing the game to its conclusion, we can confirm that it does justice to the groundbreaking original. The developers clearly had a firm understanding of what made the first DX an undisputed classic. From the gripping story, to the freedom of choice, all of the key ingredients are here in spades, though newcomers might want to pack mountaineering equipment to tackle its learning curve.

Human Revolution takes place in 2027, 25 years prior to the events of the original. The nanotech-based augmentations of the previous games are yet to be invented, so their biomechanical precursors are the current pinnacle of science. The story starts out with our security officer protagonist Adam Jensen providing muscle at an event held by augmentation company Sarif Industries.

A devastating attack occurs during Jensen's watch, leaving him with horrific injuries. Our leading man requires augmentation surgery in order to survive and, winds up resembling a cyborg version of Solid Snake. Once he has recuperated, Jensen embarks on a mission to find out who was behind the assault, only to become caught up in a tangled web of international conspiracy.

Like its predecessors, Human Revolution is a blissful marriage of FPS and RPG elements, but what makes it every inch a Deux Ex game is the volume of options available to the player. Stages are linear for the most part, yet there are limitless ways of getting from point A to point B. The tools at our disposal come in the shape of the game's mechanics. You can call upon combat, stealth, hacking or social skills, combining more than one of these gameplay types when the situation calls for it. Each of these gameplay pillars are robust and in-depth, paving the way for extensive replay value.

Combat is satisfying and rich in strategic complexity. The game never coerces you to go in with lethal force, but when desperate times call for desperate measures, the intuitive third-person cover system and sharp enemy AI makes for the kind of firefights won only through tactical prowess. There's an incredible degree of flexibility to the basic commands. For instance, you can pick up and carry anything that isn't bolted down, so this action can be used to hurl objects at enemies, construct a makeshift hiding place, or stack up debris to reach higher ground.

Going in all guns blazing is an effective way to become a bullet-ridden corpse in two seconds flat. How you tackle each mission is flexible for the most part, though stealth is actively encouraged in some levels. These stages are usually the kind of tension-filled scenarios the Splinter Cell series can only dream of. The cover mechanic comes in to play here too, enabling you to give guards the slip using the environment to your advantage.

During stealth missions, attracting the attention of a single foe is usually enough to result in a swift death, so dispatching henchmen on the quiet may be called for. Just be sure to drag their unconscious forms out of sight so their comrades aren't roused. Alternately, you could always bypass the guards entirely by hacking a security door and taking an alternate route, or stacking up moveable objects to reach the ventilation shafts. Like we said before, the possibilities are endless.

Hacking computer terminals and security doors triggers a mini-game of sorts in which the player is required to unscramble a circuit board against a time limit. They require little more than light problem-solving to begin with, but grow increasingly convoluted. Extracting inside information pertaining to the overarching conspiracy is a big part of the game, and once again there's plenty of choice on offer.

Not only is there myriad optional computer systems to infiltrate, you also can grill other characters using your conversational skills. It's essentially dialogue-based combat. At various junctures in a conversation, you are asked to choose between three possible responses. Threats will get you everywhere with certain individuals, whereas others won't budge. Choosing the wrong tact can be costly, depriving you of valuable information permanently, but since this is a Deus Ex game, there's always another method of achieving your goal.

Augmentations don't just play a pivotal role in the game's story, they serve as power-ups too. These upgrades make each gameplay mechanic more interesting. For instance, one stealth power-up enables you to map out the fields of vision of nearby enemies, and another grants you x-ray vision. Others have a bearing on your combat and hacking abilities.

There are even augmentations to enhance your conversation skills, scanning the other character's brain or releasing pheromones to make them more susceptible. With so many upgrades on offer, it's difficult to choose exactly which area to improve, so most players will no doubt be hungry for a second play-through to see them all.

In terms of tone and visuals, Blade Runner springs to mind. The industrial, near-future cityscapes are living, breathing hives of activity. You'll pass through versions of Detroit and Shanghai on your travels, and both are ripe for exploration. There are apartments to turn over, nightclubs to kick back in and secret bases to infiltrate. Pedestrians inhabit the streets, going about their everyday lives, while armed police patrol the area menacingly. It's Eidos Montreal's attention to detail that makes the game so immersive, though the crisp animation and strong voice acting helps too.

If Human Revolution has a downside, it's the steep learning curve. The player is required to study a tutorial and learn something new on virtually every stage, and while this level of variety is a good thing, remembering everything you have been taught can be a headache. The upgrades menu alone is a lot to take in, so newcomers in particular might be deterred by how much there is to take on board in order to simply play the game. On the plus side, it's good to see a first-person shooter geared towards the thinking man appear on home consoles in a world where military shooters have become a dominant force.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a title worthy of the original's branding. Fans of the series will be delighted at just how much Eidos Montreal has gotten right with this prequel, from the dark cyberpunk visuals to the open-ended puzzle solutions. It tells an epic story full of twists and turns, set atop an incredibly challenging gameplay experience. This is an essential purchase for anyone seeking an alternative to Battlefield or Call of Duty.

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