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Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Human Revolution is an excellent prequel offering expansive player choice through level design and slick augmentations

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a Shooter / RPG hybrid and prequel to the highly praised Deus Ex that was released over ten years ago. Set in 2027 you play as Adam Jensen who is surrounded by conflicts regarding the use of technology to enhance the human body above its natural limitations. Jensen has been mechanically augmented, not by his own choosing, after an accident at Sarif Industries. After six months recovering, Jensen is back at Sarif working as their chief of security. Another attack hits one of Sarif’s manufacturing plants and Jensen is set the task to infiltrate and save hostages. From here you begin to unravel the mystery of the attack that left Jensen crippled and find out just how high the conspiracy goes.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Welcome to Sarif Industries

Human Revolution sets up a game world that allows you to fight, sneak, climb or hack your way to your objective. Played in first person with a third person cover system, you can regularly engage enemies on your terms or avoid them completely. Jensen’s Augmentation powers give him options to persuade, see through walls, hack high security terminals or fall to the ground without injury. The level design increases this choice by allowing you to approach scenarios from multiple directions. The two city hubs of Detroit and Hengsha provide the open framework for most of the game.

The city hubs Jensen moves through are visually diverse even if they occasionally feel empty. Artistically they are engaging, featuring distinctive designs and memorable use of lighting. The city hubs are quite large but consist mostly of narrow alleyways or tunnels connected to one another. Hengsha is further broken down into districts that invoke a fairly infrequent and short game load. The areas are still much larger than Invisible War’s shoebox levels and feature a good amount of verticality.

It’s unfortunate that there is some superfluous design in the city hubs and limited interaction makes them feel empty. Even rooms consist mostly of detailed, static items stuck to desks that don’t move under explosive force. You’ll notice this emptiness after visiting the same tiny back room in the sixth consecutive shop on the streets of Hengsha. Still there are many secrets to find and alternative ways around areas. The open nature of the city hubs propagates into the other locations allowing the player to adapt to the given mission design.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The detailed environments look cluttered but sometimes feel empty

Player choice is important and Human Revolution gives you multiple ways to approach objectives. An example is trying to access a hidden alley way that holds crucial evidence in a side quest. You can walk through an electrically charged tunnel by stacking up boxes. The sewer system lets you enter the alley from deep below the city of Detroit. If you increase your strength augmentation a large object can be moved so you can easily jump the fence. You can even walk through a police station and gain access to the alley via a vent in the roof. This is a simple example but one that propagates through to the combat areas as well.

Most of the core action occurs outside the neutral city hubs, in warehouses or facilities that are important to the story. These vary in size and design so you never know exactly what you are in for. Jensen has a rudimentary 2D map system to help with navigation should you get lost. Some combat locations are open and feature gantries, cameras and laser fences. Other locations are heavily guarded, branching corridors in buildings that have plenty of vents to crawl through. The crucial aspect of having multiple approaches at each step is ever present. Once you encounter foes you can either engage them or sneak past them.

Combat and stealth mechanics are based around Jensen placing himself behind cover, which automatically switches to third person view. There are no shadows to sneak through so you move behind objects in a similar way to the recent Splinter Cell game. The third person cover works well because you can see the movements of enemies around you. You make quick dashes between the cover spots as the patrolling guards turn away. If you take fire while out of cover you will meet your demise very quickly. In direct combat Jensen is highly susceptible to modern weapons and falls after only a few bullets.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
You can choose to kill everybody in the police station

The position of cover locations is crucial to both mechanics so the level design is important for the general flow. Unfortunately some cover locations, particularly in early areas, are contrived. There were a few situations where evenly spread objects extended around hostile areas. Some cover spots are comprised of a clever mix of objects like trucks, desks or buildings while others are simply a generic concrete slab. Several are placed so carefully that you can almost see the trail of breadcrumbs to your objective. This problem is easy to ignore when you are playing a constant game of cat and mouse with the patrolling AI.

As an integral part of the stealth gameplay the AI succeeds in making the covert gameplay satisfying. Enemies you encounter will generally be moving on patrol so patience or distractions are the key. You mini map, x-ray vision and mark and track augmentations help you prepare for upcoming threats. Take an example when Jensen uses an EMP grenade on a turret from half way up a flight of stairs. The enemies become alerted, move to the fried turret and then freak out. They push aggressively up the stairs even though their existing patrols were on the lower level. Proof enough that these foes are plenty smart when they want to be.

The enemy visual acuity is high so they can spot you quite a distance away. Their initial reaction is alarmed unless you keep your head visible for seconds behind the security room window. In this state the single enemy will search the area you were spotted. The AI search radius is minimal but depending on your location it can be deadly for either one of you. After a short time he gives up, calls you ‘chicken,’ and resumes patrol. If you are seen in this alarmed state the danger quickly rises. The game feels designed for stealth play and the only times the AI becomes daft is in the hostile state.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Augmentation Side Effect #47: Glowing armpits

The AI poses a threat because of their reactions to bodies, noises and moved objects. Knocked out enemies can be awoken, eliminating your hard work. The AI notice doors opening, footsteps, weapon fire and a thrown fire extinguisher you used as a distraction. Destroying a security camera, instead of disabling it, places guards in a lengthy alarmed state making it hard to engage on your terms. The lethal takedown is much noisier than the non-lethal variety bringing guards from some distance away. There is a huge incentive to play the game in stealth as you get more points for remaining undetected and leaving enemies alive. These points help you unlock a range of augmentations.

Augmentations are broken into distinct groups and it’s more expensive to be a jack of all trades rather than a specialist. Augmentations have taken influence from the experience system in the original and the result is more cohesive. Cloaking drains energy quickly but renders you invisible and can give you just enough time to escape. The Typhoon weapon system kills anybody within a short radius but can set off a cacophony of alarms in trafficked areas. Jensen can even buff himself to lift heavy objects exposing secret locations or smack enemies with photocopiers. Many Augmentations are designed for specific play styles with some opening up alternative routes via hacking or smashing through walls. Weapons can also be upgraded but their availability depends on exploration.

Augmentations are powerful but due to their energy usage you will still rely on weapons for most engagements. The tranquilizer rifle puts enemies to sleep after a varied time depending on their size. Mine and grenade types allow you to incapacitate humans, disable bots or just disorientate foes. Jensen’s takedowns replace melee weapons and remain satisfying thanks to good animations. The limited grid inventory means you have to make decisions about which arsenal to keep and how much ammo is needed for each weapon. The hacking game lets you locate secured ammo or gain control of security systems.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Takedowns are brutally satisfying

The hacking mini-game is basic but doesn’t get boring due to the short time required to bypass each device. You capture and protect nodes as you move through a network. Augmentations give you lower detection rates or allow you to strengthen nodes. With high enough upgrades you can capture nodes that give you programs to help with more secure devices. Since the hacking occurs in real time you can’t leisurely hack a terminal behind a glass window while an enemy patrols about. Either you cause a distraction, take him down or risk a quick hack as he moves away on patrol. Although you can’t pan cameras you can still take over turrets and bots to create havoc.

It is the combination of stealth, hacking and combat mechanics that occasionally produce these truly reactive movements. You might be hacking into a storage room, to get more ammo for your revolver, only to fail the hack. Alarms sound as guards rush your position while you frantically look for the best way to escape. Later you could position yourself under a sweeping camera, tranquilize a patrolling guard, stun the camera and quickly drag his body before the camera wakes. You are free to explore the options as you are carried along the narrative.

The story, dialogue and characters feel part of the franchise with conspiracies and plenty of references to the original. Additional reading material is found in eBooks, newspapers, PDAs or a huge number of emails. Although this material is duplicated there is generally an incentive to break into accounts for back story or access codes. Jensen is full of sarcastic remarks and will deliver some with impeccable timing. Major characters are memorable although some do go quiet for extended periods. Your main adversaries needed more screen time because they seem as shallow as the boss fights they feature in.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Icarus Landing System: Prevents fall death and looks cool

Human Revolution is not a flawless modernised version of the original. It takes a few elements, mainly stealth and combat, in different directions with many successes and a few stumbles. With stealth and combat linked to the same cover mechanic makes it difficult to design levels that aren’t full of cover locations. The side quests didn’t usually involve more than a few simple steps and never pushed the moral boundaries seen in better RPGs. The city hubs also needed more interaction or at least some compression. Despite these problems there is still a lot to like.

The key elements of the franchise are here, and some things are done much better than its predecessors. More dialogue options and the interesting persuasion system fits perfectly into the franchise. Some open levels present an addicting array of options and you might find yourself going back to engage enemies. Even the Augmentation system has been carefully worked to enhance the options. The choices within levels occasionally reach heights far exceeding the original’s multipath design. Human Revolution is a brilliant addition to the franchise and one of the best games this year.

Our ratings for Deus Ex: Human Revolution on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Artistically impressive and detailed but let down by ugly cut scenes and sparse city hubs. Sci-fi effects and sounds are great. Animations and voice work are good.
Occasionally superb when everything clicks together. The success of the core elements revolves around the level design and good AI. Some design is contrived but there are varied options and some of the later areas are outstanding.
Single Player
Good dialogue and a web of conspiracies will keep the interest high. Nice throwbacks to the original. Some characters are forgotten quickly, barely get involved or go missing for too long.
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Phenom II 955 @ 3.2GHz
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
PC Specs

Runs well at maximum settings, controls work well on default. Handful of crashes but has frequent autosaves. Load times greatly improved with patch.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution might not supersede the original but it still does plenty of things better. This prequel is a superb stealth game with an intriguing narrative that captures the essence of the original: choice.
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#2 Aug 30, 2011 20:17:53 (Aug 30, 2011 20:17)

 I'm going to buy this, I've just bound myself to finishing games that I've bought before hand but this is probably the best release for me so far along this quarter.
#1 Aug 30, 2011 01:55:14 (Aug 30, 2011 01:55)

It's like a splinter cell rpg!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution box art Platform:
Our Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is ranked #51 out of 1981 total reviewed games. It is ranked #8 out of 104 games reviewed in 2011.
50. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
PlayStation 3
51. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
52. Red Dead Redemption
Xbox 360
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