the artistry and psychology of gaming


Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Admittedly, I was a little wary about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the prequel to the classic FPS-RPG hybrid Deus Ex (a masterpiece of design and one of my all-time favorite games). Shortly after its release, phrases such as “flawed but brilliant” were being thrown around. I have no problem overlooking minor flaws when the overall game is for the most part amazing. It’s just that the last game I played that was widely described as “flawed but brilliant” was L.A. Noire. I really didn’t care for that game, and that phrase has just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Even before the first batch of reviews came in, there was good reason to be skeptical. Whenever any popular intellectual property resurfaces after an extended leave of absence, the results usually don’t measure up. Just look at how that worked for Indiana Jones, Guns N’ Roses, and Duke Nukem. On top of that, very few people involved with the first Deus Ex worked on this one.

On the other hand, there were reasons to be excited. With all due respect to Ion Storm Austin and mastermind Warren Spector, sometimes the creators of an extraordinary game lose sight of what made it successful, and the sequel ends up a failed attempt to regain that glory. Such is the case with Deus Ex: Invisible War. In this case, one of the best things to do is hand a project off to people with reverence to the source material, who know what made the original work so well. In addition, this jawdropping trailer (edited together from three shorter, also breathtaking trailers) gave me hope that Eidos Montreal was getting it right.

Shortly after I booted up the game, a small detail swayed me even closer to the optimistic side. Upon selecting “New Game,” I was asked to choose one of three difficulty levels. But they weren’t labeled Easy, Medium and Hard. Instead, I was presented the following options:

  • Tell Me a Story – You play games for their story and experience, not for their challenge or competitiveness. Enjoy the Deus Ex experience!
  • Give Me a Challenge – You enjoy a good story and a good challenge. This is how the game is meant to be played!
  • Give Me Deus Ex – Hardened enemies and tougher situations will make your experience quite challenging and give you a good adrenaline rush. You are one with the machine!

Clearly, this was not going to be a typical game. But does it deserve to be branded with the Deus Ex name? Read on and find out.

Story and World

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in the year 2027, with a decidedly dystopian feel to its cyberpunk future. You play as Adam Jensen, the security chief for Sarif Industries, one of the leading organizations in the controversial field of human augmentation. Shortly after a Black Mesa-style intro sequence, Sarif Industries is attacked and Jensen is mortally wounded. To save his life, surgeons replace most of his body with augmentations (robotic body parts that grant the owner enhanced abilities). The bulk of the noir-tinged narrative involves Jensen tracking down the people responsible for the attack, both for answers and for revenge. At times, the plot hews a little too closely to the original game, but thankfully it never reaches the level of carbon-copy writing employed in The Hangover Part II. It is an extremely complex plot with lots of technobabble – you won’t be able to sleepwalk your way through it – but it is also interesting and rewarding. Along the way, there are quite a few twists and turns, a surprising amount of which are foreshadowed at some point, and of course, like any good Deus Ex game, there are a number of conspiracies to uncover. If you ever end up returning to the game after an extended hiatus, you will be thankful that the Continue option presents you with a summary of the events to that point. (By the way, wait through the credits for a final piece of story.)

Like most great cyberpunk works, DX:HR is rich with subtext. Major themes include transhumanism, social change, and humanity exceeding its reach. Jensen never chose to be augmented, though he wasn’t exactly in a position to refuse it either. At first he is resentful of his augmentions, but throughout the game, dialog trees let you “change his mind.” You can choose for Jensen to remain bitter, pragmatically accept that the augmentations allow him to do more than he ever could before, or hint that he might be having a little too much fun with enhanced abilities. Of course, he isn’t the only character with an opinion on the matter; just about everyone else has something to say about the augmentation debate, and tensions are incredibly high. Those in favor of augmentation see it as the next step in human evolution and another successful example of humans developing technology to make a better world. Half of the opposing faction sees it as a defilement of the body, robbing us of what it essentially means to be human; the other half is concerned that only the wealthy can afford augmentations, and that the industry itself contributes to the growing rich-poor divide. There is also a third party that doesn’t wish for augmentation to be outright banned, but believes that it should be rigorously regulated, as it could be easily abused. The ongoing debate resembles many real-life social conflicts, particularly in how each side has realistic motivations, and is only “wrong” in the eyes of the opposing factions. The biggest correlation could probably be made with the abortion dispute, but the augmentation feud mirrors aspects of just about every major social conflict of the past half-century.

Another issue is the question of whether humanity is overstepping its bounds or “playing God” by advancing technology so quickly. Reinforcing this theme are a number of references to the tale of Icarus and Daedalus from Greek mythology. Trapped in a tower, the skilled craftsman Daedalus built a set of wings from feathers and wax, and another for his son Icarus. While they were flying to freedom, Icarus flew higher and higher, ignoring his father’s warning. As he got closer to the sun, the wax in his wings melted, causing him to fall into the sea and drown. The major players in support of augmentation liken themselves to Daedalus, using their technology responsibly, but regretting that some choose to abuse it. Those against are quick to point out that “Daedalus was an arrogant bastard. The man built a maze of death, and killed his nephew when he thought he might be smarter than him.” Jensen himself appears birdlike, and the myth is visually referenced in a number of other intriguing ways. Also mentioned a few times is the myth of Prometheus, whole stole fire from the gods to share with mankind, and was severely punished for his hubris.

Populating this narrative is a large cast of characters, each with their own political, social or philosophical motivations (though not all of them are involved with the augmentation debate). Among Jensen’s closest allies are the founder and CEO Sarif Industries, David Sarif (who is, unsurprisingly, a strong advocate for augmentation); an insufferable (in a good way, if that makes sense) computer tech named Frank Pritchard; and Faridah Malik, a VTOL aircraft pilot who is just as awesome as the helicopter pilot Jock from the first Deus Ex (in fact, I actually cheered at the end of her sidequest). Throughout the story, you’ll also meet figureheads from all sides of the augmentation debate, as well as a criminal kingpin or two. My biggest complaint about the game’s plot is that some characters (particularly a couple of villainous ones) have very little screentime or character development, to the point that they had more personality in the trailers.

Pictured: Death Metal Rihanna and a big guy with a minigun for a hand named Barrett (no, not the one from Final Fantasy VII) being much more interesting than they are in the actual game.

Of course, one of the things that makes Deus Ex special is that it’s not just the major characters that have personalities. People you pass on the street will let you know what they think of major events, though a few will just tell you to get lost. Sometimes a random NPC will answer a phone call or pull out a futuristic handheld to play video games. You will regularly find enemies chatting amongst themselves when they aren’t aware of your presence. Hacking into someone’s email account reveals not only plot-relevant details and important passcodes, but also personal conversations between friends (not always with perfect spelling) and even the occasional “Nigerian scam” email.

This attention to detail extends beyond just the characters. There are an astounding number of references to the first game, which shows that not only did the developers care a lot about Human Revolution, but that they also love the original. Almost every major character from DX1 is mentioned at some point, and a couple of them even show up in person during the cutscenes. Many of the radios throughout the game will play music form the original Deus Ex, and Pritchard will scold you for entering the women’s bathroom at the beginning of the game. I’ll let you discover the other connections for yourself. The best part about all these little references is that none of them derail the game, so if you haven’t played the original (shame on you), they just seem like more details that add to the game’s world.

It’s not just the first Deus Ex game that gets referenced throughout; there are also tons of shout outs to other games, movies, novels, whathaveyou. If you have a favorite cyberpunk story, chances are that DX:HR references it somewhere. World leaders and philosophers are quoted often. A Detroit cop will point out to his augmented partner how similar the situation is to a certain movie, one of the restrooms has three seashells next to the toilet, and one NPC may even comment on how his favorite rug really tied the room together. Video games are still popular in the future, as evidenced by references to Modernization IX, Alley Combatants VII, and even Final Fantasy XXVII. If you’re a fan of the Detroit Red Wings or the Montreal Expos, you’re in luck: both teams will still be active in 2027. If you want a challenge, try to spot the references to Iron Maiden and Megadeth. They even managed a wink at one of my favorite TV series of all time, Spaced. Eidos Montreal clearly had fun making this game, and the end result is better for it.

Right now I’d like to take a moment to talk about the ending. I feel that one of the most important aspects of any game’s story is the conclusion and how satisfying it is. There are few things worse than playing through a 20-hour game only to get an anti-climactic final boss fight and a half-assed ending cinematic. You could get away with that in the NES days, but now it’s inexcusable. So anytime I review a game, I’d like to share how satisfying the finale is. I will try to avoid specific plot details, but if you don’t want to hear about the ending at all, you may want to skip the next paragraph. (And if you want a quick answer as to how satisfying the ending is, I would say “Mostly.”)


The original Deus Ex had multiple endings, and Human Revolution does as well. The way that DX1 handled the multiple endings was both unique and really well-done, and it worked for two main reasons. Firstly, the endings weren’t categorized as “bad,” “good,” and “best” like in most games. Rather than basing the decision on morality, the game provided three different options, and it was up to the player to weigh the pros and cons of each one before deciding. It was almost like a Scylla/Charybdis decision, except with three options instead of two. This carries over to Human Revolution. Each of the four options is a viable (though far from ideal) solution, and a strong argument could be made for any one of them. Additionally, whichever conclusion you choose will be altered slightly according to a hidden karma meter, but thankfully there is no decision at any point in the game that irrevocably sets the meter to one extreme or the other. Secondly, DX1’s endings worked well because they were not simply chosen from a menu or a dialog tree. Each option required you to go to a different part of the level and actually select it through your actions. It’s one of the best marriages of gameplay and story I’ve ever seen. This is where Human Revolution fails. Instead of choosing your ending through gameplay, you are presented with four buttons, each one initiating a different denouement (though two of them will only be available if you complete secondary objectives during the final level). While it wasn’t enough to ruin the ending for me, it did seem like a bit of a cop out.


Visuals and Audio

From a purely technical standpoint, the graphics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution are only slightly above “adequate.” (Then again, the graphics in DX1 didn’t really turn any heads either, even back in 2000.) Unless you’re watching a cutscene, important conversation or scripted event, animations are choppy and unnatural, and almost all of the NPCs are firmly planted in the Uncanny Valley, regardless of whether they’re augmented or not. There are a few graphical glitches, mostly involving incapacitated enemies getting stuck in the walls or floor. The pre-rendered cutscenes fare significantly better, but still aren’t at the same level as the CGI trailers.

However, it’s the art design that really shines. Of course the first thing you’ll probably notice about the art design is the color palette: everything is yellow! While I tend to favor games that properly use many different colors, I can appreciate a game with a limited color palette if it’s handled correctly. Limbo is an excellent example of a game that is deliberately monochromatic, and there’s a reason that next time someone asks me “What’s black and white and red all over?” I will respond with “MadWorld.” I don’t even mind that Gears of War is mostly gray and brown, because it reflects the bleak nature of the game’s world, and because the “Real is Brown” craze wasn’t nearly as prominent when that game was released. In the case of DX:HR, not only do the shades of gold fit nicely with the overall art style, but it’s symbolic as well. Everything has an amber tint to it to reflect the fact that 2027 is a “golden age” for human civilization. After all, as Jensen says in the trailer, “it’s a time of great innovation and technological advancement.”

Or maybe they’re just running out of spots on the Cyberpunk Color Wheel.

The “golden age” motif is also present in other ways, like how wealthy characters tend to wear neo-Renaissance clothing. The affluent live and work in extremely tall, imposing buildings with odd geometries. Hard angles and polygons (often evoking shards of glass) are particularly prominent, though the standard sci-fi smooth curves are still present. But as stated earlier, not everyone in the game is wealthy. For every mission that takes place in a sleek, shiny penthouse or sterile laboratory, there is one that involves navigating through a messy slum, with apartments stacked on top of apartments and dark, narrow alleyways. Oftentimes, this grimy squalor will be right across the street from the residences and workplaces of the financially privileged. Seedy, congested cityscapes stretch as far as the eye can see, with gigantic chimneys belching fire at the night sky, and millions of lit windows and neon signs illuminating the perpetual haze. Depending on whose company you share, the world of Human Revolution is either dim and grim, or bright and promising. While DX:HR doesn’t add much to cyberpunk art design, it adopts the style with such breathtaking conviction that you can’t help but be engrossed. In other words, it’s the kind of setting where you wouldn’t be surprised to see Rick Deckard hanging out.


My biggest gripe about the art design is that the game falls into the same pitfall that many titles do in this age of HD gaming: the text is so small that you’ll have a very hard time reading it if you don’t have a high-definition monitor or TV. Loading times can also be a bit of a hassle. Otherwise, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prime example of a game that overcomes technical limitations by employing superb art design.

As far as audio goes, the sound effects are perfect. Familiar objects sound just as they should, while future technologies sound suitably foreign, without being too bizarre. Many locations combine remarkable sound design and detailed art design to create impressive atmospheric effects. The voice acting, however, is a different story. If you’ve played the original Deus Ex, you know more or less what to expect, though the overall quality of Human Revolution’s voice acting is still a step or two above its predecessor. Adam Jensen is gravelly-voiced and stoic (think Neo from The Matrix), but a few emotional moments and a fairly nuanced performance from Elias Toufexis keep him from being a flat character. Some of the characters – usually the important ones – have great voice acting; Steve Shellen as David Sarif is particularly fantastic. On the other hand, minor characters and “extras” are a crapshoot, with quite a bit of cringe-worthy delivery. And just like in DX1, the worst voice acting seems to occur in China.

The musical score of the game is phenomenal, though it is rather understated. There aren’t nearly as many immediately recognizable or memorable tunes as in the original game, but every piece of music contributes strongly to the mood at any given time. The high point of the score is the exhilarating theme from the trailers (called “Icarus”), though it is handled much like the main musical theme from Seven Samurai or the James Bond theme in Casino Royale. Throughout the game you only hear parts of it – the background music of one area may contain only one layer of the theme with different accompaniment, and the music in another area may simply have an identical chord progression to the main theme. It isn’t until the climax that all of the pieces come together and you hear the complete music in all its glory. While the overall score does sound very similar to the Mass Effect soundtrack, I don’t necessarily see that as a negative. (By the way, stick around after the post-credits scene for another surprise.)

Gameplay and Design

Of course, the most important aspect of any video game is the gameplay. Deus Ex has always been about player choice, and Human Revolution was promoted as being supported by the four columns of combat, stealth, hacking, and social interaction.

One of the things that always bugged me about the original DX is that, despite promoting player choice, gunplay was one of the least effective playstyles. While Human Revolution’s shooting mechanics are far from perfect, they still went through a major improvement. For the first time in the series, a cover system is available, and the viewpoint will switch to a third-person perspective when you take cover. (If you’re upset about Deus Ex having a third-person mode, then you clearly don’t know how much cover-based shooting from a first-person perspective sucks.) The controls for shooting from cover can take a little time to get used to, especially if you’re used to playing Gears of War or Uncharted. Instead of holding down an aim/iron sight button to peek out of cover, you use the movement keys/control stick to take aim, all while holding the cover button (unless you’ve set cover to Toggle). While this may seem clumsy, it does have some tactical advantages. For example, if you are at the end of a chest-high wall, this control scheme gives you the options of popping up to shoot over the top of the barrier, or peaking around the side of it to take your shot. I imagine that this sort of thing will end up being very similar to driving manual transmission or typing with a Dvorak keyboard: despite the benefits, many people won’t bother taking the time to learn it.

Another issue with the gunplay is that ammo is incredibly scarce. Like, Resident Evil scarce. I’d probably be able to count on one hand the number of times that I picked up 10 or more rounds for the assault rifle at a time. However, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem if you use the semi-automatic pistol as your primary weapon, and only use other guns situationally. Thankfully, said pistol is one of the best weapons in the game.

Just like in the first game, all of your weapons and consumables are stored on a Diablo-style inventory grid. However, this time ammunition gets placed on the grid as well, and grenades don’t stack (but mines do). The size of the grid can be upgraded, and mercifully there is an auto-sort option that moves your crap around for you so you can always pick something up provided you have enough empty squares. Unfortunately, the auto-sort function will not respect your wishes to group all of the ammunition of any given kind together.

Why, yes, I do have OCD. Why do you ask?

Of course, since this is Deus Ex, it is entirely possible to beat the game without firing a single shot. The melee attack is incredibly useful, though I wish it would have been implemented differently. Whenever you are within melee range of an enemy (or just about any NPC), you have the option of pressing a button to perform a takedown. Tapping the button will result in a non-lethal takedown, while holding it causes Adam to perform a fatal assassination, usually with his arm-mounted blades. (The main difference, gameplay-wise, is that an unconscious enemy can be revived by another enemy. Non-lethal takedowns also grant more experience points.) When you perform a takedown, everyone but you and your victim will freeze in time, while Adam incapacitates the foe with a satisfyingly brutal animation – I myself am a fan of the “Hey You!” Haymaker and the Double Pimpslap. You will also deplete one energy cell during a takedown. You start the game with two energy cells and can upgrade to a maximum of five; the first cell will automatically recharge after a while, but the others can only be refilled by eating energy bars (seriously). Some people have complained that the energy cells wreck the pacing of the game. Since takedowns are basically instakills, I have no problem with the developers placing a time limit between them to keep the player from running around spamming the takedown button. However, the pace of the game does suffer a bit because of it, and could be fixed by also giving the player a significantly weaker melee attack that doesn’t use energy. Alternately, make it so that takedowns don’t expend energy, but can only be performed when the target is stunned or unaware of your presence. Or combine both solutions, like in Assassin’s Creed.

If you’d like to avoid combat altogether, stealth is also a viable option (though most stealth players will still use takedowns). The stealth mechanics are sufficient, but it is far from the most in-depth stealth system in gaming. Unlike the first Deus Ex or Thief, light and shadow don’t factor into stealth at all. Beyond the ability to briefly become invisible, there is also no way to use camouflage, like in Metal Gear Solid 3. Stealth is based entirely on line-of-sight and noise output. Because of this, the cover system is just as invaluable for stealth as it is for combat. However, just because the stealth mechanics are simple, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t tense or rewarding. Many times I waited with bated breath, watching until the patrol routes of two guards lined up in such a way that I could take one of them out and hide the body without the other seeing me. Some of the most nerve-wracking parts of the game involved waiting for a guard to pass, then dashing out of cover and trying to hack a security terminal before he came back.

On that note, something that tends to go hand-in-hand with stealth is hacking. You can use hacking to access email accounts, open doors, disable security systems, and access security terminals – though a password or keycode will almost always be available if you can find it. With security terminals, you can shut down cameras, turrets, and robots, or even turn them against your enemies. While nearly every contemporary shooter of the past generation agrees that a shooter needs a pistol, shotgun, automatic rifle, sniper rifle, and rocket/grenade launcher, and that these should be fired with the left mouse button/right trigger, it seems that every single game with hacking has a different hacking minigame. When you try to hack something in DX:HR, you will be presented with a diagram that looks something like this:

Boot up or shut up.

You start at the I/O node (the blue sphere at the bottom) and your goal is to capture all of the critical nodes (in this picture, the two faded green spheres). To reach the critical nodes, you must travel along the white lines, capturing other nodes along the way. Lines with arrows are unidirectional. Every node has a number next to it that indicates the relative difficulty of capturing it. Nodes with higher numbers will take longer to capture, and there is a higher probability that the computer’s security will detect you. If you have been detected (like in this screenshot), you have a limited amount of time (which varies by computer) to complete the hack. Also, the security program (the red tower towards the top) will begin capturing nodes of its own and fortifying them, raising their numbers. Other types of nodes include gears, which have various effects (lowering the numbers of all adjacent nodes, randomly switching the numbers of two other nodes, or slowing down the security program), and datastores (the cube towards the middle) that grant you various rewards, like experience points or money, should you complete the hack successfully. One option while hacking is to simply capture the security program, which results in a successful hack and gives you the prizes in all of the datastores, but this is not always possible (like in this screenshot). Also available are Stop! Worms, which halt the security program for five seconds, and Nuke Viruses, which can instantly capture any node undetected.

As you can see, it’s an incredibly deep system, driven by risk/reward. The minigame also unfolds at a brisk pace, meaning that you’ll rarely spend longer than 30 seconds hacking any given computer. For that reason, it’s already far better than BioShock‘s Pipe Dream simulator. However, hacking does not freeze time like the pause menu does, so if you’re trying to remain stealthy, you will still have to plan your actions and move quickly. There is also a good deal of variety; despite hacking almost everything in the game, I only encountered a handful of repeat diagrams. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Deus Ex: Human Revolution has the greatest hacking minigame of any video game thus far.

The fourth major aspect of gameplay is social interaction. Almost every RPG (Japanese, western, or otherwise) involves talking to a lot of people, but DX:HR goes a step further. Much of the conversation occurs through Mass-Effect-style dialog trees, and what you say in any given conversation may affect how the NPC treats you or how willing they are to cooperate. At certain points in the game, you will encounter social “boss battles,” particularly tense conversations with important characters (each one a gifted speaker). Choosing the correct dialog options will increase your persuasion over them, and the incorrect options will decrease it. The game provides you with a psychological profile of each character, which you can use to deduce the ideal way to speak to them. Additionally, you can buy an upgrade that analyzes their personality on the fly and allows you to release pheromones that can resolve a conversation earlier than usual, though it’s still up to you to ensure that it resolved with a positive result. Personally, I feel that these conversations succeed where L.A. Noire tried and failed. There aren’t any cartoonishly shifty eyes to ensure that you know the character is lying (because actors, by definition, are always lying), and the menu of Adam Jensen’s possible responses isn’t nearly as ambiguous as Cole Phelps’s menu.

Of course, Deus Ex has never been about any of those facets individually. The shooting and the stealth may not be very polished or deep by today’s standards, but the point is that you can switch between the two playstyles at will. (In fact, a top-notch shooter and a top-notch stealth game are pretty much mutually exclusive.) Even within any one discipline, there is room for variation. If you focus on gunplay, there is a decent variety of firearms, both deadly and non-lethal, and each weapon can be upgraded in a number of ways. If stealth is more your style, you can choose to kill the enemies one at a time before retreating to the shadows like the Xenomorph, silently knock your foes out one by one like Batman, or simply avoid hostiles altogether. It is this extraordinary freedom of choice that sets Deus Ex (both the original and Human Revolution) apart from every other game.

Complementing DX:HR’s focus on player choice are the multiple augmentations. No matter how you play the game, there a number of augmentations to help you out (though there is only one for social interaction). Some of them are passive, others drain your energy cells and must be switched on. Augmentations include (but are not limited to) damage reduction, enhanced radar, improved hacking and even the ability to see through walls. Upgrades can be activated with Praxis kits, which are primarily earned through gaining experience points, but you can also buy a couple from a special clinic every time you switch hub worlds. On rare occasions, you may also earn one as a quest reward, or even find a kit lying around in some hidden corner. If you’re a completionist like me, you won’t have any problem buying all of the upgrades you want. Before the halfway point, I had bought all of the upgrades I deemed necessary, and had started getting sprinting upgrades, simply to expedite backtracking.

Each of those icons has its own tech tree, though some are more complex than others.

This freedom of choice is also supported by the brilliant level design. Chest-high walls and other assorted cover are abundant to accommodate combat specialists, and there are enough traversable air ducts to please any Sneaky Pete. The augmentations and level design also work in tandem to ensure that any given situation has multiple viable solutions. For example, you can use your enhanced strength to turn a vending machine into portable cover (for combat or stealth purposes), or you can utilize the jump augmentation to reach new areas of the level. Most of the levels are quite large, and even the most linear locations have multiple branching paths leading through them.

Two aspects from the original Deus Ex that do not appear in Human Revolution are the lockpicks and multitools, which would allow you to open doors that were mechanically locked or electronically locked respectively. While this does mean that there are fewer options within any given level, the absence of the lockpicks and multitools is soon overlooked. After all, if you find a locked door, you still have the choice to hack the keypad, find the keycode, break the door down, or simply find another path. Also not returning (but not at all missed) are the swimming sections and the areas that are dark enough to require augmented vision.

New to the series is a pair of hub worlds: Detroit, Michigan and Hengsha Island, China. These hubs are where the merchants reside. They also act as a gateway to the other locations in the game, though many of the mission objectives (including all of the sidequest objectives) will still be located in the hubs. The decision to include these “overworlds” necessitates some backtracking, but it was not egregious enough to seriously annoy me.

One gripe that I have about the level design (or more accurately, the HUD) is that almost all of your objectives are marked on your map. In DX1, if you were told to talk to someone in the Underworld Tavern, you would have to find a bar that had a sign reading “Underworld.” If that person told you to search apartment 42, you would actually have to look at the numbers on the doors. That may sound like a hassle in today’s waypoint-happy industry, but this kind of exploration provides a strong sense of accomplishment. Even DX:HR’s map screen diminishes exploration somewhat: you automatically have a diagram of any area you enter, and there will always be a little arrow representing your location. In the original game, you had to acquire each map somehow, and if someone had hastily sketched a building’s layout on a bar napkin, that’s how it would appear in the map screen. (Granted, I will admit that I was often thankful for the typical video game map while I was navigating the confusing streets of Hengsha.)

“Go get the thing from the place. You’ll know you’re in the right spot cuz there’ll be a guy.”

However, just because your objectives are marked for you, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any exploration. You may know exactly where your destination is but there are still going to be several ways to get to it. There are also many hidden nooks and crannies to be found, each with various goodies (including experience bonuses simply for finding them). My gripe about the map is but a minor grievance; exploration is still a large part of Human Revolution.

Another similar complaint I have is that whenever you read an email or Pocket Secretary with a password or keycode, the game will flash a message on screen letting you know the code is there, and will automatically display the code whenever you access the appropriate computer or keypad. I can see why some people might appreciate that (hell, I loved that BioShock 2 did pretty much the same thing), but once again, it takes a little bit of the rewarding detective work out of the game. It means that you essentially never have to actually read anything. DX:HR logs all of the emails you read, plus it could have easily logged any conversations and allowed you to write notes for yourself (like in the original), so this impatient treatment of passwords and keycodes seems unnecessary to me.

The worst parts of Human Revolution, by far, are the combat boss fights. In the original game, there was generally an indirect way of defeating any given boss, and there was always the option to simply run past them and out the door. In DX:HR, all of the boss fights lock you in a room, and won’t let you leave until you’ve killed the bad guy. With one notable exception, the only way to do that is to shoot them a bunch. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the boss battles themselves were designed well, like in Metal Gear Solid, but Human Revolution’s boss fights are bland and frustrating. During a stealth/hacking runthrough, they are even worse. If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, please accept this bit of advice: throw mines and grenades at them. With that basic strategy and a little bit of practice, I was able to defeat each boss on Normal difficulty in less than 20 seconds without taking damage.

“Make… the crappy… boss fights… stop!”


Despite those blemishes, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is still a magnificent game. It is ambitious, intelligent, absorbing and beautiful. It’s the kind of game that sticks with you, long after you finish playing (or between multiple playthroughs). If you’re familiar with the series, you will be pleased that it stays true to the Deus Ex spirit. If you’re a newcomer, it is still a brilliant game on its own. Eidos Montreal knew what made the first game special, updated it for the current generation, and had a lot of fun in the process. Do I consider it to be as good as the original Deus Ex? Not quite. But it definitely deserves to be honored with the Deus Ex label.

“Great, Eidos Montreal. Don’t get cocky.”


One Comment

  1. Awesome review! I have played Deus Ex: Invisible War and it was great. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t the first one made. Ever sense DX:HR hit my Google news page (and i watched all the trailers) i decided i wanted it, but now it’s a must have. I also plan to track down the first one as well. XD Thanks!


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