Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution [3/3]+


   One of 2011’s best.  An impressive game all around.

I’ve never seriously considered playing a Deus Ex game until the day before Human Revolution was released. At the height of the game’s marketing push I finally decided to watch the game’s trailers and was impressed that they were confident enough in their world as to create trailers with zero in game content:

The game itself revolves around Sarif Industry’s chief of security, Adam Jensen, who is trying to uncover who is responsible for a devastating attack on the company’s headquarters.  It is equal parts action/shooting and planning/strategizing.  Jensen is outfitted with augmentations that greatly enhance his ability to fight, hack, and infiltrate.  The player determines what types of augmentations suit their play style and will offer the greatest advantages.  Human Revolution steadily ups the ante of each of the levels that Jensen must negotiate, but they are punctuated by boss battles that are equivalent to arm wrestling matches: the individual with the strongest offensive capability wins.  If you aren’t investing in your offensive abilities, then these could possibly derail your experience and interrupt what is otherwise a great player-drive system.

On the other end of the spectrum are portions of the game where Jensen must persuade or outwit others in conversation.  What makes these interesting is the ambiguity of response types that the player has to choose from.  The player doesn’t simply choose from options that can be categorized by how they appear at face value (e.g. nice, mean, cool, etc.)  They require that the player leverage theory of mind to anticipate how other characters will respond and guide the conversation to a desired outcome.  This may be at odds with what you as a player may feel, and the game sees fit to throw in significant bits of information in the middle of the process.  Some of the most memorable parts of the game for me unfolded during these sequences.  Human Revolution’s dramatic moments can occur as both emergent or scripted events which lend themselves to a consistently entertaining experience.

I’m further impressed not just by how the game itself is constructed but how the experience extends itself beyond the confines of the game.  Like Metal Gear Solid before it, Human Revolution builds a fictional world with enough of reality blended in to engage the player in ways that can color their views of the world.  If you think that’s a stretch then watch this Sarif Industries “advertisement” and then read this news story.  Each section of the game gives the player insight into how augmentations affect people, for better or worse, directly or indirectly.  You can see how real-world themes of scientific advances, corporate ethics, contractors, civil unrest, and technology, come into play.  The player will be challenged to weigh the consequences of arguments from all sides in these matters. As the scale of the overarching conflict broadens, the game puts more pressure on the player to figure out which side they come down on, at the cost of (virtual) human lives.  Even if fictional, players that find themselves engaged in the plot will pause to consider how their in game decisions might reflect on their own real world thought processes.

What separates Human Revolution from the likes of Bioshock or other games that challenge the player to face ethical quandaries is that Human Revolution does a remarkable job of restraining itself from judging the player on their decisions or painting scenarios as being black and white in nature.  There are no good endings or bad endings.  The only thing making them good or bad is how they square with the player’s ethical priorities.  This isn’t to say that the game blindly supports your every decision; on the contrary, it many times will actively challenge you no matter what you decide.  Human Revolution offers the player a world in which they can explore gameplay mechanics that are plainly seen as well as an ethical obstacle course that is quietly laid out through the game and then brought into full view in the game’s final moments.

It’s hard to see Deus Ex: Human Revolution being the game of the year competing with the likes of Modern Warfare, Skyrim, and The Legend of Zelda, but it’s definitely one of the most notable games of 2011 in as far as what it accomplishes as part of the medium of interactive entertainment.

Rating: 3/3 +

See also: TrailerOfficial SiteMore thoughts at Ruminatron5000

Buy it at AmazonBuy it at SteamRent it at Gamefly

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  1. December 21st, 2011

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