PROS: Looks fantastic. Weapon and body modifications are fun to upgrade and play with. Mostly good voice acting with well written dialogue. Unlike most sci-fi games, the over-arching story isn’t a complete mess.
CONS: A lot of the aug upgrades were mostly useless, allowing you to max out anything useful pretty easily. Protagonist’s voice-over sounds like Steven Segal and Neo’s love child. The boss battles, in addition to being a little out of place, also suck a bit.
THINGS I LIKED: Punching random citizens in the face never gets old. Shooting random criminals in the face never gets old. Take-down animations may be canned, but they are totally bad-ass. The world it took place in was a nicely realized future. Plus: color!
NITPICKS: Candy bars recharge internal battery stores? Really? If I was at work and someone came creeping out of a duct or bashing through a wall carrying a shotgun I’d be pretty freaked out, but no one in the game seemed to mind all that much.
I’ll make a confession up front – I never played either of the first two Deus Ex games, and so I came into this with no preconceived notions, and no expectations beyond what I saw in the previews.
That said, I enjoyed Deus Ex: Human Revolution very much. I like story with my RPGs, and I like the story to be coherent. You could argue that the over-reaching story of futuristic body modifications, the edge they provide to those who can afford them, the crippling dependencies on the drugs required to maintain them, and the political strife surrounding their use is a little derivative – we’ve seen many of these things before – but I am 42 as of the time of this writing, and I’ve seen freaking everything before. After a point it comes down to execution – do I give a shit about these people, their problems, and their world? In the case of Deus Ex: Human Revolution the answer to those questions was yes. I did find Adam Jensen’s character interesting enough to enjoy being in his shoes, and I apparently cared enough that I replayed a certain section of the game over and over until I succeeded in getting the result that would keep him from losing a friend of his. I wouldn’t call it full immersion, but I’ll give the game credit – I was invested in the story. I found that, unlike most games of this type, I actually had an opinion regarding the unfolding events of the time, and making my final game ending choice involved siding with a character I really didn’t like in order to remain true to that opinion.
Gameplay-wise I’ve heard the complaints but most of them didn’t bother me personally. The ‘boss battles’ felt really out of place and completely sucked…until I realized that if you prioritize the Typhoon aug and its upgrade, you can basically just Typhoon the crap out of them allowing the battles to be more or less skipped. Lame in its own right, but at least you don’t have to endure the frustrating sequences if you don’t want to…and after getting my ass handed to me as many times as I did I really didn’t want to. Difficulty aside, though, the boss battles felt like they came from an entirely different game. One minute I was stalking through this gritty sci-fi action role-playing deal, the next I got dropped in the middle of a closed arena with some overpowered boss like I’d just stumbled into Serious Sam or something.
The enemy A.I. is a little on the weak side too. You’d think if a guy poked his head out from behind cover and got shot in the face that he’d at least think twice before sticking his head out in exactly the same place but the enemies in DE:HR do exactly that pretty much constantly. Maybe the people of this world are so desensitized to augs in general that nobody blinks when a dude wearing sunglasses at midnight floats down like some kind of giant bat and lands right in the middle of the street three feet away from them. They do react a little bit – if two people are talking and you walk over and punch one full in the face, the other one will try and run but you’ll notice after a while that you can pull some pretty weird shit and everyone just kind of takes it in stride. For example, after obtaining the ‘heavy lifting’ aug, I picked up a giant Dumpster and carried it into a store (something you’d think would raise a few eyebrows) but no one reacted. So I threw it against the wall, punched them all out and stole all their candy bars. No one called the cops.
The main thing is, though, that if you stay in the spirit of the game you won’t notice these things. It wasn’t until after I finished it and was bored that I started really testing the reactions of random citizens. During the main playthrough, if you ‘stay in character’ then things mostly seem pretty kosher and honestly it would probably be annoying if people did flip every time you did something amazing in the game, because you do amazing things regularly.
Generally speaking, the combat is fun. Because of the restrictive energy system (seriously, you have batteries and must eat candy bars in order to regain the power you need to do perform most cool actions like breaking through walls and knocking people out) cloaking is practically useless but you can be pretty stealthy if you want by just sneaking around and I found it satisfying.
There are decisions to be made, too – they don’t really affect the endgame at all, but they feel like they matter. If you fail to save people, they die and they’re gone from the game. Whether or not that matters to you at a visceral level might dictate how much you enjoy the ‘choice’ aspect, because from a gameplay standpoint they mostly seemed to mean an extra present here and there in the form of a gun or ammo or something.
BOTTOM LINE: Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks great, has satisfying combat, passable stealth elements, and an interesting story that takes place in a rich world. I don’t know how it compares to the original, but on its own it was slick, fun, and I’d definitely recommend it.