Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a brilliant game. It doesn't quite live up to its marvelous hype, but is still addictive and adrenaline pumping enough that any fan of games like Fallout 3 or Mass Effect 1 and 2 should not hesitate to play it.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you play Adam Jensen, security chief for one of the many companies in the near future that are exploiting a new technology called "augmentation." This technology amounts to replacing human body parts with mechanical innovations for greater strength, speed, and even superhuman-like powers like invisibility and radar. Because it is a new technology, there are a ton of problems with it, and various powers and potentates are figuring out how to best exploit it.
The future may not be very bright, but he's still wearing shades.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution does a great job of juxtaposing the tremendous potential that this technology represents, as convincingly championed by David Sarif, Jensen's boss, and head of Sarif Industries, with the myriad of nasty things that can also come from it, either intrinsically or via unpleasant people's machinations.
Despite a few rough spots, Deus Ex: Human Revolution sports a fascinating story. Plotting is fairly brisk after a relatively slow start. Like Mass Effect 2, the game begins with the death of the main character, and his (or in Mass Effect 2 's case his or hers) painstaking rebuilding into something more than they were before. If Mass Effect's Command Shepard is the space marine Jesus, Adam Jensen is Jason Bourne meets Robocop. (A point lampshaded in the game by the Detroit setting, and an explicit conversation between a police officer named Alex Murphy and another cop about a movie that they can't remember, which is Robocop.)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a bit of a genre buster. Billed as an action role playing game, it might be better described as an action-adventure thriller.
Modern western role playing games pride themselves on the variety of choices they present in dialogue and exploration. Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers little of this. There is virtually no meaningful dialogue choice in the game apart from a very limited number of dialogues which have binary win-loss outcomes. The much hyped "social bosses" are interesting, but unoriginal. The idea is cribbed from the first Mass Effect.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution does, however, offer an entertaining variety of minute to minute gameplay, in contrast to Mass Effect, in which you pretty much hide behind a bench or wall and shoot at the baddies. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution , you can sneak around enemies, often through vents, climb ladders to dodge enemies. Or you can shoot your way through the game.
Whether you choose to shoot or sneak, you'll find yourself rewarded for evasion and non-violence over slaughter. Although other games pay lip service to this idea, with varying degrees of success, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the few that really rewards evasion and non-violence in the bottom line. By completing a level without setting off an alarm, you get a significant bonus. You'll get another bonus for completing it without being seen.
Sneaking is encouraged.
Parents may appreciate that in a field of ultra-violent games, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the few possible to complete with minimum fatalities. A "pacifist" accomplishment rewards players who complete the game without killing anyone outside the unavoidable "boss" fights."
Of course, you can take another path.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution also inverts the classic "mook" versus boss dichotomy, in which most games view it as a common place to kill thousands of foot soldiers only to confront the player with the occasional pseudo moral dilemma of killing or sparing a significant character. Instead, the boss confrontations are mandatory -- and deadly -- whereas the rest of the game can be completed with non-lethal force. On the other hand, you can slaughter the innocent and guilty alike if you so choose.
As much as Deus Ex: Human Revolution subverts the standard mook v. villain hierarchy, the nerfing of enemy AI at regular difficulty or lower leads the game to observe another concept from TV Tropes, that of "mook chivalry."
The enemies in Deus Ex: Human Revolution may often be highly augmented special forces cyborgs, but they are rarely so uncouth as to violate the maxim observed in many a Bruce Lee film, that only the rudest of enemies attack in groups.
Instead, if the player simply patiently takes up shop behind a wall, he can almost always count on Deus Ex: Human Revolution's enemies taking a number in order to die or be stunned at the player's hands. Flanking is an alien concept to them, and stairs are approached with the trepidation worthy of confronting a Stargate.
(To be fair, having completed the game on regular difficulty, I restarted it on hard only to find this criticism less applicable. In hard, enemies do sometimes think to flank the player and rush in groups.)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, by design or happy accident, balances the relative stupidity of enemies by utilizing a rather counterintuitive cover system and annoying zoom. I died dozens of times by trying to zoom in using the left trigger, only to attach myself to the nearest wall. A frustrating experience.
It's clear the developers put a lot more scripting and included many more branching options in the early going than later on. For instance, in an early scene, a character will be context savvy enough to ask you not to point a gun in her face. Another will respond if you read her computer in front of her. But towards the middle of the game, you can loot people's desks in front of them and even shoot one major character without provoking reactions.
Yet, for all this, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a compelling, adrenaline pumping experience. There's something fantastic about trying to sneak past enemies, the drama of wondering if you can stun an enemy before he sounds an alarm, and even trying to hack a terminal without being spotted.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution also has some truly brilliant set pieces and manages to convey a real sense of drama throughout.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a very good reboot of this storied franchise. With enough big and small moments to propel players through the game and challenges galore, an open minded player will find dozens of hours of pleasure in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Available on Xbox 360 (the version I played), PS3, and PC. Realistic violence and explicit language.
Disclosure: Recent FTC regulations imply that I should disclose that the game manufacturer provided me with a complimentary review copy of this game.