In the year 2027, cybernetics are challenging the definition of humanity. On one cybernetmic hand, there are powerful corporations who want nothing more than to profit from the sales of such augmentations. On the other fleshy hand, the idea of humans turning into any form of robot rubs some people the wrong way. You, as the new security director at a biotechnology firm, find yourself embroiled in a war over this, as an initial attack on your company almost takes your life. Now outfitted with augmentations – a necessity after the damage done to your body – your search for answers uncovers a plot far grander than a one-off terrorist strike.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third entry into the Deus Ex franchise, though its thick story takes place before the first two games. Having never played a Deus Ex game before, I can’t speak to how this tale connects with the others, but this tale of intrigue is really sucked me in. It’s incredibly engaging, features very strong characters, and paced extremely well. The challenge I had with it is that it can be overwhelmingly deep. Besides the major story beats, there’s lots of story tidbits strewn about within eBooks, newspapers, emails, and more. After a certain point, I made a conscious effort to just focus on the main thread and disregard everything else.
Like its predecessors, its a first person stealth action game, where the element of choice is paramount. Most of the time, the choice you’ll have to make is one between stealth, and action. Though the game tries to keep it open for players to go either way, stealth almost always nets you the better result. As a relatively sloppy sneak, I would generally try to Solid Snake my way through, but would seemingly drop the ball for one reason or another. At this point, I’d pull out the guns and go Rambo on my enemies. Initially, choosing to play guns akimbo is really hard to do, but I was able to offset my deficiencies with combat-refining augmentations.
Speaking of those, there are all sorts of different ways you can enhance your main character’s abilities, some of which include improved computer hacking, the ability to see through walls, and the ability to fall from any distance without getting hurt. These upgrades play a major role in how you experience the game, as most of the abilities open up new gameplay, and story opportunities.
As great as these upgrades can be, they are a double-edged sword. You will constantly run into situations where you’ve discovered a cool opportunity to do something, but can’t, because of how you’ve upgraded your character. In most cases, you miss out on a few extra items, or an easier way out of a particular situation. This is more annoying than anything. However, this can really bone you if you’re a completionist. There are a number of side quests that are dependant on you having augmented yourself a certain way, which means if a side quest requires you to have level 3 hacking, and you’re only at level 1 with no way to gain the extra points to bridge that gap, you’re screwed.
The choices you make with your abilities can also come back to haunt you in the game’s most unfortunate situations: the boss fights. Easily the low points of the experience, these overpowered buffoons will annihilate you repeatedly unless you have a set of combat-focused enhancements equipped, or you figure out a way to cheat the AI. In my first boss encounter, I found a spot in the room where the boss couldn’t shoot me back, and I shot him from there until he died. For the second, I shot her repeatedly with the P.E.P.S. gun, which for some reason, caused the boss to stand completely still. Having died about 7 times before this, I didn’t bother to ask questions, and pumped her full of lead before the game figured out that it was broken.
With that said, the game’s most powerful moments are driven by the availability of choice. In one of the game’s many memorable moments, I was briefed to sneak into someone’s backstage dressing room. It was heavily guarded, so at first, I tried sneaking through a vent. I got close, but screwed up my approach, which led to a quick demise. When I respawned, I wandered around the area in hopes of finding a different route, only to stumble right into my target, who was in the middle of a televised press conference. Taking a complete 180 from the original plan, I instead got into a verbal jousting match with him, which still worked out for me in the end.
When the game is hitting its stride like that, it’s one of the slickest, and most engaging experiences I’ve played in awhile. The opportunity of choice in most cases really makes you feel like every decision matters. I really wish the boss fights were either redone or removed completely, but their presence is minimal in the grand scheme of things. If you’re still debating whether or not to play this game, the choice is clear. Do it.