While there are any number of ways to make a grown man cry, it takes a real man if you aim to do so without inflicting any physical trauma. Cyborg troubleshooter Adam Jensen is just that man. The mission – take a peek at a dead body stashed in the basement of the local cop shop. The problem? They’re not letting anyone in, least of all me of all people.
Sure, as cyborg badass Adam Jensen I could just prance right on in Terminator-style and shoot everyone and everything up and seeing the amount of military hardware hidden in his longcoat, that isn’t a particularly difficult thing to do. There’s a better way. A manlier way. As Jensen, I persuade the guard through sweet lies and the ingenious application of a built-in cybernetic upgrade that emits mood altering pheromones the error of his ways, making the poor sod shed manly, restrained tears even as he waved me on into the station with open arms. Now, that’s a real man..er cyborg.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set several decades before the events in the first game. In DE:HR, nanotechnology augmentation is still a pipedream and the use of cybernetic prosthetics is the hottest thing since sliced bread. You play as one Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT police officer who joins Sarif Industries, a manufacturer of cybernetic body parts, as their security chief. Even before you get to warm the seat of your cushy desk job, you’re stuck in right in the middle of a terrorist attack on Sarif corporate HQ with your ex-girlfriend Megan ostensibly cacked before your very eyes. To add insult to injury, the terrorists, who are strangely enough heavily augmented, put a bullet in your head in an act of spite.
Fortunately, Sarif has the technology, the money and the indemnity clause needed to rebuild him and like the Six Million Dollar Man, Jensen is reborn as a cybernetically modified badass who is faster, better and stronger than any mortal man with enough hardware in him to make walking through an airport metal detector a virtual impossibility. As Jensen, it’s your job to find out the reason and which faction or people are behind the attack and get some payback.
At its heart, Deus Ex is a game about choices. The first game way back in 2000 wowed the crowds by offering what game reviewers in polite company called emergent gameplay. In less polite company, it’s referred to as the capacity for jackassery as you were allowed to, on account of the diverse variety of solutions to a given objective, the capacity to perform sociopathic stunts like tossing flower pots at people, tasing civilians at random and generally seeing how much mayhem you can get away with before the game just went bananas on you. Human Revolutions lets you perform all this silliness, accommodates you and even and kicks it up a notch and nowhere is this more apparent than in the tutorial level where you’re tasked with securing a weapon prototype called the Typhoon before terrorists can make off with it with the secondary objective of rescuing a bunch of Sarif Industries staff that were taken hostage at the same time.
As you’re en route to the mission, your boss gives you carte blanche as to how you plan to execute your objectives. From there on in, you’re allowed to do as you wish and the game allows for plenty of unorthodox solutions. How unorthodox? A hostage situation later in the game has you standing off with a nutjob holding a gun to a woman’s head. While the usual approach in an average game expects you to talk him down or shoot him, no one in their right mind would expect you to tase the lady to knock her out of the equation. DE:HR did and the terrorist’s jaw simply dropped in abject horror at the insanity of a sociopathic cyborg. I tased the terrorist afterwards for good measure.
The core of the game is still built up around the concept of the original Deus Ex as a hub-based first-person action RPG with stealth, interaction, combat and exploration elements but incorporates several improvements to smoothen out the gameplay. The most immediate is that Jensen doesn’t need to hunt for health packs; he can automatically regenerate his health from the get-go to save you time hunting for the darned things.
One particular improvement is the addition of a surprisingly meaty hacking minigame. Previously in both Invisible War and the first Deus Ex, hacking a computer terminal or a lock was simply a matter of cost versus benefit – if you had the lockpicks to spare you were able to open it. In DE:HR, you now have to sing for your supper. Now when you hack into a system, you’re greeted with an array of nodes and lines like a flowchart gone mad. The objective is to gradually take over each node with the mission being to capture the gateway node that unlocks the system, door or what-have-you. The clincher is that you have to do it on the sly as an antivirus program constantly wanders the network and each node you take over runs a chance of alerting it. This makes for a tense minigame as each node runs the chance of triggering an alert and the moment you trigger one, the whole system goes into amuck as it actively tries to hunt you down and you only have a matter of seconds to finish what you started before it boots you out of the system.
The next improvement is the addition of a more robust stealth and combat system. Instead of the obscure mechanics inherent in the previous games where you had no idea where enemies were looking at and hiding was a matter of crouching behind a box and hoping for the best, Human Revolutions lets Jensen hug behind cover from a 3rd person perspective and, with the addition of the right augmentations (aug), end up with an experience more akin to Metal Gear Solid as he is able to observe enemy fields of vision and the duration of an alarm before it resets for far more effective sneaking about.
The combat system has experienced a significant revamp as well. Jensen’s ability to take cover also extends to firefights as well, allowing him to fire blind from behind a wall. Should Jensen get close enough to a target, he is able to initiate a takedown. Tap the Q key and you witness him delivering a brutally efficient beating that knocks the victim out.
Depending on the angle you approached your victim, Jensen performs different moves. Takedown a target from behind and he’ll deliver an expedient haymaker to the jaw. Perform a takedown on a target right in their face results in an incredibly painful experience that results in a broken arm, a busted rib and teeth flying in all points of the compass. Hold down the Q key and Jensen does horrible, horrible things as he deploys a pair of built-in fist chisels like Altair and eviscerates the target. Upgrade a certain augmentation and Jensen is able to perform a takedown on two targets at a time. One lethal finishing move has him tossing one victim onto another and then stabbing both like a man-kebab. Another double takedown move has him violently slamming the heads of two victims together like cymbals before upending them by pulling their feet out from under them. The only reason it isn’t overpowered is that Jensen requires, ironically enough, battery power to execute these moves which can only be recharged by eating food or, if he’s down to the last bar, by waiting several minutes for it to recharge.
By default, Jensen is able to perform almost every task required of him – hacking, combat, takedowns and what-not but by upgrading the right augs, he’s able to perform them better. Whereas the previous games forced you to find a particular augmentation that you wanted in the game world and made it a binary choice in choosing between two different upgrades for a particular appendage such as possessing the option the ability to lift heavy objects in-game or the ability hit harder with melee weapons for your arms for instance, DE:HR instead offers an alternative skill tree-based system.
The premise here is that Jensen has all the hardware implanted; it’s simply a matter of learning how to use it ergo the skill tree. Effectively speaking, this means that you get your cake and eat it too. Following on from the previous example, Jensen is able to upgrade both his ability to hit harder ‘and’ lift heavy objects at the same time; provided you have enough upgrade points that is that are earned by solving missions and sidequests. As always, there aren’t enough skill points to go around and while you can max out a skill tree, you’ll end up neglecting other areas.
Unlike previous games where some augs were silly duds like an aug that let you swim better, Human Revolutions set of augs all offer tangible benefits to your gameplay. Some smoothen out the more challenging aspects of gameplay and others allow you to hit harder or explore more of the area. Those skewed towards more aggressive solutions will gravitate towards dermal armour plating that makes anything short of a rocket launcher bounce off Jensen’s hide, built-in stabilisation to reduce weapons recoil or the ultimate death-dealing device – the aforementioned Typhoon weapon system that fires a swath of explosive metal balls to kill everything in the area with subsequent upgrades expanding the range and lethality of the blast.
More subtle but no less powerful augmentations like the CASIE aug unlock additional options when talking to people, allowing you to emit pheromones, accurately gauge the mood of the person you are interacting with and turn a conversation to your advantage. One particularly novel aug called the Icarus system actually lets you leap from tall buildings and safely land in a glowing ball of light. Flashy but simple, right? Wait, there’s more. Hold down the left mouse button and your landing turns into a devastating ground slam that stuns nearby targets.
While Jensen’s augmentations turn him into a super spy, he nonetheless still needs an array of guns to deal with hostiles. On top of the usual shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle and assault rifle, you also get a mid-range machine-pistol, a plasma stun gun that fires an area of effect blast of energy, a sniper-style crossbow, a side-loading revolver that fires man-stopping .357 Magnum rounds and the clincher – a laser rifle that can blast through walls and the people hiding behind them.
Round the World
After the tutorial level, you’re given the run of the grounds of downtown Detroit, a rain-slicked metropolis that acts as your first area hub where you perform several missions on behalf of Sarif before you’re tasked to go on to your next mission hub area called Hengsha. Essentially a vast artificial two-tiered island off the coast of China, Hengsha is straight out of a William Gibson novel with a dark, dingy and neon-drenched lower-tiered level where the poor live and a towering upper level where the rich and famous play. In between these two hubs, you also get to take a jaunt around Singapore, Montreal and a few other classified locations. All in, your first playthrough can easily take up to forty plus hours; more if you thoroughly explore every nook and cranny in the game and you likely will seeing how gorgeous the gameworld is and the rewards it offers you if you dare to tread off the beaten path.
Aesthetically speaking, Human Revolutions is truly beautiful to gaze upon with detailed, gorgeous textures, lifelike animation and beautifully rendered cities and weapons. Assuming you have the right hardware, it supports DX11, HD3D and multi-monitor support too. The soundtrack is subtle but appropriate, kicking in at all the right moments and if you pay attention, Michael McCann tosses in faint leitmotivs that hint at the first game. The voice work is solid, with every line of dialogue bringing something crucial to the story with solid acting from Jensen’s appropriately realised sinister gravelly monotone down to the sundry NPCs you’ll encounter throughout the game.
This isn’t a game so much as it is a means to access a beautifully realised cyberpunk world rife with its own geo-political tensions and struggles and letting you loose in it to solve them as you see fit. It’s taken over a decade for something to surpass the depth and playability of the original Deus Ex, and fittingly enough, Human Revolutions is it. This comes as a mandatory acquisition for every gamer out there.