By Robert Yocum
Robert Yocum is a long term nerd who is currently channeling his love of video games in to the written word. While signed up for Facebook and Twitter, he is not very active on either of them because he is old. Not old in terms of human history, just relative to internet and internet culture.
Late to the game is a series where he plays and reviews games that were previously released and for whatever reason, he was not able to play them at the time of release.
Late to the Game: Deus Ex Human Revolution
Deus Ex, Human revolution, was developed by Eidos Montreal and was published by Square Enix in 2011. Human Revolution is the 3rd game to be released in the Deus Ex franchise. The first game, Deus Ex, was developed by Ion Storm and published in 2000 by Eidos Interactive. The second game, Deus Ex: Invisible War was released in 2003 by the same developer and publisher as the first game. While I remember the release of all 3 games, I never really had the chance to play either of the previous versions of the game. So in terms of story and history I am going in cold, which oddly enough works since the game is a prequel to the first two games. I remember when both of the games came out; I remember the games being heralded for both story and game play, so I was looking forward to starting this game.
Deus Ex is derived from Deus Ex Machina, which is a Latin calque from a Greek phrase ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós), which has the meaning “God from the Machine.” In literary terms, it is when a situational problem, which seems to have no resolution, is abruptly and suddenly solved by the unexpected intervention of some contrived new event, character, ability, or object.(1) Probably the best known modern example of this is the campy 60’s T.V. series Batman, staring Adam West and Burt Ward. Most episode cliffhangers would find the Dynamic Duo in an overly elaborate death trap, when some random object or action would allow them to escape unharmed.
The game itself lends itself to the side of being more literal to the machine aspect then any kind of literary device. The story begins with human mechanical augmentation, I.E. the replacement of missing or defective human body parts with mechanical counterparts, having just started to enter the mainstream. You play the role of Adam Jensen, who is an ex SWAT office now working for Sarif Industries as a security consultant in Detroit. The first thing I noticed about the game was the voice acting of the main character, in that it was quite unbearable. It’s not bad, if you would compare it to a high school drama club production, but it makes long for a silent protagonist. The voice acting sounds like someone who has a cold pretending to be Batman. It’s gruff and gritty for the sake of being gruff and gritty. I wound up turning on subtitles and putting the TV on mute just to ignore it. Outside of that the game is your pretty standard mix of first person shooting, stealth mechanics, computer hacking interactions, and character interactions.
Normally when you mix too many elements into a game it can muddle up the game play experience. For the most part, however, it does work. The stealth elements are not just there for the sake of it. Most of the game can be played without combat. In fact, there is an achievement, for the Xbox 360 version at least, to beat the game without killing anyone. Boss fights are excluded from that.
It’s where the augmentations come in that the game becomes interesting. One of the first augmentations that I picked up was the “Social Enhancer Augmentation.” This perk let you read the personality traits of the NPC you were interacting with, and vastly expanded both the conversation tree and optional ways to resolve a situation. For those players who want to play a stealth run there is the Wayfinder Radar System, which expands the radar to include the cone of vision that enemies and security cameras have. The rest of the augmentations follow your standard RPG skill set. You can get better armor, more health, improved hacking, and things like that.
The game itself runs smoothly, which is impressive considering it’s a game on a previous generation hardware, which was itself adapted from a different platform, and is running as a backwards compatible emulation on my Xbox One. The graphics are good and there are no real noticeable glitches, hangs, or other kind of bugs.
However, I do find that the stealth elements while certainly a viable option, is designed to slow the game down far much for my tastes. You have a limited number of stealth takedowns. The last counter recharges, but only the last one. So if you are in an area with multiple enemies and you want to progress without active combat you have to: isolate one enemy, take them down, hide their unconscious form so others don’t revive them, wait for your last counter to recharge if you are not at a full counter, wait for the next NPC to get into position, and repeat the process.
Ultimately, I think this is a good game, but not one I will continue playing for any long term. The pacing is a bit off centered for my tastes. If you decide to go full stealth the game is really slow. You can wait upwards of five minutes for the NPC’s to get into a position where you would be able to move forward. If you go full combat, there tends to be more enemies in the way then bullets you can bring to the fight. I could never find the right balance of both combat and stealth.
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