For some reason I never really got around to playing the original Deus Ex other than a few short times here and there. Truthfully, I know exactly why; Everquest came out the year before and the next few years of my life revolved around that game rather than many others I should have played. Its hard to believe that the original came out over a decade ago and was so revolutionary for its time back in 2000. Shortly after it spawned a sequel but didnt live up to the hype as the original and thus the series went into a slumber for quite some time. Here we are years later and we finally are treated with Deus Ex Human Revolution (DXHR for short) which turns out to be a prequel and set events in motion to what you experience in Deus Ex.
With this summer being quite dead for new releases, DXHR was essentially the first big release to break the summer drought so naturally I was excited to give it a try as Im also a sucker for prequels. Ive youve never played the series before, its essence is based around stealth gameplay but theres so much more to it than that. Obviously for the stealth mechanics youd need to compare to other similar titles like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, but what Deus Ex does so well is that stealth is not the only hook for the series. It has a big emphasis on choice, morals, social interaction, quests and more.
Ill admit, I was really turned off from the first hour of gameplay but thats because I realized I was playing it wrong. Yes you have guns and need them to take enemies out (if you decide to) but you dont want to play this like a cover based third person shooter. Play this like a stealth focused game and youll have a much better experience just like I did once I learned the mechanics and how to properly play the hacking mini-game.
DXHR is all about letting you play the game the way you want to. Many games tout that they give you this freedom but unlike most, DXHR actually rewards you for doing so. Playing through situations in different techniques will truly show you how diverse the mechanics are. You can choose to stealth (and theres even an achievement for not killing anyone aside from bosses), guns blazing or find a separate route to your objective. Its all about choice and how you want to play.
The year is 2027 and the world is much the same as it is today. The rich are rich and poor are poor. Technological cybernetic implants are becoming more commonplace. Naturals shun implants and those who use them saying they are immoral, too poor to afford it themselves or their biochemistry simply makes their body reject implants totally. Augs are approximately 1/20th of the human population and slowly becoming the new face of mankind.
You control ex-SWAT Adam Jensen, employee of Sarif Industries, which is the leading company for developing these mechanical augments for humans. On the eve of a huge announcement from Sarif, the building finds itself under attack by unknown mercenaries and Adam tries to save his former girlfriend Dr. Megan Reed. Turns out Reed is killed in the assault and Adam is critically wounded so badly that the only way he survives is by repairing his body with augments. The game fast forwards six months and now you play the new and improved Jensen that is now being used by Sarif to protect their interests and find out what happened to you six months ago. Youre essentially Robocop, being paid by the corporation and will soon unravel a conspiracy that will have you traveling the globe.
Once the story gets going and you start to suspect people it becomes really engaging and will always having you thinking about morals. The setting is done beautifully and it can feel like a true city landscape with newscasts, PDAs, eBooks and computers to learn more back story about whats going on around you. If you take the time to read every morsel you can find youll be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the current conflict and characters you come across.
Being a stealth orientated game, taking cover is how youll be spending much of your time in DXHR. The cover system is done by holding the Left Trigger and youll stick to the nearest wall, corner or behind an object. As youre in cover the camera switches to a third person view so that you can move the camera and get a better sense of your surroundings. Once youre stuck to a wall its easy to maneuver along it but things get tricky when you want to change faces of a wall or corner. To change side you hold the A Button but it doesnt feel very natural and if youre used to how Gears does its cover system, youre going to be popping out of cover quite often accidentally. Jumping from gap to gap in cover is simple but you need to make sure enemies arent looking in your direction as they can see you as you leap out of cover quickly. Most of the areas are very grid-like but sometimes youll be on an odd corner or behind an object that has an off-axis angle to it making you noticeable unintentionally. At times youll even need to use and transition cover to avoid lasers which is some of the most fun I had in the whole game.
As you explore, defeat enemies, complete missions, hack and more youll gain XP. As you fill your XP bar youll eventually level up which grants you a Praxis Point. These points can then be used to upgrade your different augmentations in any order you choose. Eventually near the end of the game youll have more than enough Praxis Points that youll eventually be upgrading your bag space as theres not much else to get.
As for the inventory system, its dealt with as your carrying bag space. At the beginning it can be quite cumbersome and frustrating always having to drop weapons, ammo and weapons in the beginning due to your small limit, though you shouldnt be relying on many weapons and ammo aside from boss fights and the occasional shootout because you got noticed.
Your hud will show your radar which makes it very easy to see where enemies are, which way theyre facing and more if youve upgraded your augmentations. Your hud will also show you where all of your quest objectives are located but how you get to them will almost always have multiple paths. These separate paths come in different ways. If youve upgraded your strength you can move a vending machine blocking a vent shaft, you can walk through gas or electricity with a specific upgrade, get places from no falling damage and more all depending on how you play and upgrade Jensen.
Youll be hacking into computers and keypads a lot, so get used to it quickly in the beginning and I suggest for those related upgrades to make your life easier. Hacking is a short mini-game that will have you capturing and defending nodes as you try and get to your target without being detected. At first its very confusing but once you get the hang of it and have the necessary augs its quite easy to do even the most difficult hacks. On a side note, apparently Adam lost the ability to crouch while hacking and you are forced to stand in plain sight when hacking, so keep this in mind and make sure there are no guards nearby when attempting to do so.
When you need to take an enemy out with hand to hand combat, you need to be behind your enemy and can choose to tap B for a knockout or hold B for a kill move depending on your preference. What becomes immediately annoying though is the cutscene you need to watch every time you want to use these moves on an enemy. The first few times were cool, but after watching 500 of the same animation it becomes quite old. It even makes less sense when there are other enemies nearby seemingly frozen, watching as you take their friend out in front of them.
Knocking enemies out can be used to your advantage of course though. Sometimes I liked to leave a body in plain sight to distract the other guards away from my real objective. If you accidentally get seen you can duck away into a nearby air duct and essentially just wait out the alerted timer. Enemies apparently arent smart enough to go into the ducts themselves. In a firefight you can use this tactic to pop out, kill a guy and repeat.
Being that the game is 95% stealth based I was excited to see what boss fights were going to be like to integrate into this mechanic. I was hoping to hack some turrets unseen to turn them onto the boss or sneaking somewhere to flip switches or something. Nope, not even close. Boss fights are simply a shootout with an enemy that more health than normal guys. Boss fights are supposed to be an example of everything you learned to that point so you can then use what youve learned. Its a shame as it seems like a glaring flaw when youre constantly supposed to be stealthy.
Like any game, there are some flaws that stand out. Firstly, the loading times are horrible; granted they arent as bad as Duke Nukem, but they are close. You better hope you dont die often of youll easy add a lot of extra time to your play through. Voice acting in general is decent but hit or miss at times. Adams got this scruffy voice like he needs a drink of water that seems really out of place at times. The AI for enemies is also pretty limited and not very hard to outsmart once youve studied their patrol patterns. Their vision is also so narrow in front of them that you can easy take out a guard beside them without being noticed (or heard somehow). The population in the open world areas also seems quite dead and patterned as youll see many of the same models repeatedly.
The level and mission design is what gets the biggest praise in my opinion. Being able to tackle a mission in a number of different ways give you freedom to play truly how you want to. Not many games can prove they give you freedom in this manner, DXHR does it wonderfully. Lasting a lot longer than I was expecting, youll easy put more than 20 30 hours into the game depending on how thorough and stealthy you want to be. While there are only a handful of stealth games in the genre, DXHR deserves to be among the top of the list with the other greats despite its flaws.