This video game review takes a look at the new installment in the Deus Ex franchise: Human Revolution.
ďWe can rebuild him...we have the technology. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.Ē
Just as with films, video game sequels promise gamers all kinds of things. And more often than not, this bigger, stronger, faster mentality usually ends up disappointing the fans of the original or the franchise, not only by trying to fix whatís not broken, but in an effort to be everything to everyone, invariably end up leeching out what made the game interesting and cool to begin with. It seems much like the allegory of Daedalus and Icarus, where the ambitions of an overzealous child eager to improve on the achievements of his predecessor ultimately lead to his downfall.
This symbolism is used often as a metaphor for one's reach exceeding one's grasp. Happily, Iím here to say that Deus Ex: Human Revolutionís reach was well within its grasp. Although Revolution is the third game in the series, chronologically, it is a prequel, taking place roughly fifty years before the events in Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003) and twenty-five years before the original Deus Ex (2000).
When it comes to improving on the game play and quality of the original, Revolution does not disappoint. The developer is Eidos Montreal, a subdivision of Eidos Interactive. You may recognize them as the gaming juggernaut that brought us some of the most successful first player franchises such as Tomb Raider, Legend of Kain and Hitman. And they've certainly done it again.
Revolution is one of those rare first person shooter games that allow players to craft their experience as they see fit. It reminds me of those old "Find Your Fate" books back in the 80s, in which you could choose just how sneaky or cavalier you wanted to be. The game is set in the year 2027, decades before the first two installments of the game. It's at a time in society when human augmentation, while still at its genesis, is disturbingly commonplace.
Most of the advances in augmentative technology are limited to cybernetics -- the process of integrating mechanical parts into oneís body. And business is good, especially for Sarif Industries, one of main R&D companies that provides those that can afford it with the ability to be greater than the sum of their parts.
The world of Deus Ex has a unique feel, with the right touches of futuristic tech and dashes of dystopia. Think halfway between Blade Runnerís Los Angeles and RoboCopís Detroit, which incidentally is where the story is based. The story takes place in five different cities, including Montreal and Shanghai. It borrows heavily from a cyperpunk atmosphere, mixing influences from the Renaissance, present day and future tech.
The public backlash soon leads to civil unrest, with riots and poverty running rampant through the futuristic metropolis. Caught in the middle of all this is storyís main protagonist, Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT commander who is now a private security officer for the biotech manufacturer Sarif. The companyís scientists are on the verge of a mysterious breakthrough when Sarifís head factory is attacked by a squad of enhanced mercenaries, killing most of the scientists and leaving Adam for dead.
The higher-ups decide to not only save Adamís life, but also give him a promotion in the form of a hardware upgrade. And before you can say Lee Majors, Adam is off on his quest to find not only who tried to kill him but to recover the stolen technology.
Therein lies the primary crusade of Revolution: unravel the multi-layered conspiracy as you follow your trail of bread crumbs across the globe, five cities in all. Each city has a central plot thread that will drive Adamís quest throughout his entire investigation, side mission included. And unlike other RPGs, such as Grand Theft Auto or Splinter Cell, Revolution only populates their level with very specific side quests, that all have several layers to them.
Youíre behind the wheel about 90% of the time as far as your individual free will goes in choosing when and how youíd like to explore each respective level. You get several missions to be explored or not, with several angles to consider, and each of those angles have multiple outcomes that almost always benefit you in some way, whether expected or unexpected. The only time that the games becomes a bit monotonous is when you have to face an end boss, because thatís when the game play is limited to pretty much just a first person shooter game instead of an RPG with some shooting thrown in.
The most fun, of course, comes from the exploring your new abilities, which range from a Predator-style cloaking ability, X-ray vision and bionic limbs that make the T-1000 look like a Swiss Army knife with a bad attitude. As you explore the futuristic slums of Shanghai or Detroit, and the other cities, youíll have plenty of opportunities to hone and upgrade your abilities. And your skills will develop in direct relation to the style of game play you choose to take.
Whether you choose the Splinter Cell espionage route of stealth and secrecy or the lock-and-load approach, Revolution will not chastise you for your method of gameplay. Of course, certain skill sets might be useful to cultivate as the labyrinthine story unfolds, such as X-ray vision or hacking into people computers.
This game is also different in the way that it takes the moral compass and throws it out the window. Revolution allows the gamer to solve any side mission as well as the game itself as they see fit. You can go through the game with a sledgehammer or a scalpel, and no matter which method you choose, there will always be plenty of challenges and new things to discover.
The free-flow customization of Revolutionís game play should inspire even the most hard-boiled gamer to overlook some of the flaws in an otherwise masterfully crafted game. Most notable among these flaws are the long loading times in between levels, sometimes jerky shooting mechanics, and the canned animations.
Just like any fine piece of equipment, there is always a ghost in the machine. The flaws that you will undeniably find in Deus Ex: Human Revolution should not dissuade you from trying out an otherwise engrossing, wonderfully complex and extensive (30 hours plus) gaming experience.
Even in a sea of first person shooters or RPGs, Deus Ex still managed to put together a smart, gratifying piece of fiction that has more going for it story-wise than most theatrical blockbusters. If you enjoy cyperpunk or hybrid game play, then Revolution is the game for you.
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