Very few games advertise the notion of choice and deliver on that premise. Some attempt to, some don’t even attempt to but present a black and white notion of the concept and some give the illusion of choice but realistically they’re just setting you down on the same beaten path. Deus Ex was one of those games where I felt like my choices really mattered in the big scheme of things. Sure, I was shuffled along a specific narrative path, but in the end I could make several choices along the way to change just how things carried out. Deus Ex: Invisible War did more things wrong than it did right. The developer, Ion Storm, closed doors and I gave up hope that we’ll ever get a better or equivocal Deus Ex experience. Thankfully I was wrong.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in 2027, 25 years before the first game in the series. Multinational conglomerates have grown further in power beyond the control of national governments. You play Adam Jensen, a security manager at Sarif Industries, a growing biotechnology firm. Following a terrorist attack, Adam is wounded and put into surgery unwillingly to replace most of his body with mechanically augmented parts. Of course, Adam is thrust into a world above his head to search for those responsible for the attack – and this journey takes him to places where he discovers something much greater is going on.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells its story well. It deals with themes of the effects of globalisation, the consequences of poverty on a population advancing themselves with expensive mechanical augmentations and, of course, deals with the ethical issues surrounding such a concept. Even better, those who played the original Deus Ex will be pleased to hear that it doesn’t break the continuity of the series – the technology you encounter is clearly a precedent to the technology found twenty five years later in Deus Ex and not more advanced. It’s a great way to build the continuity for the fan and it’s fantastic that it still errs on this fine line between postmodernism and the past.
Director’s Cut is just as it sounds – it fixes as many of the problems that the previous game had as much as it can without it being a completely different game. There are several improvements here – the Wii U GamePad is utilised to great effect as the “neural hub”, a kind of visual representation of Adam’s augmentations that allows players to sift through all their quests, inventory and items as well as read files strewn throughout the environment to collect clues or key codes. Almost everything that you’d imagine can be done on the Wii U GamePad is done in Director’s Cut, and it’s a brilliant showcase of the Wii U’s second screen capabilities.
The game is a well concocted blend of third person shooter, stealth adventure and role playing game.
Each level is your own playground – allowing for a stealthy approach, a full on assault or combination of both and Adam’s skill set can be built to complement your style of play too. For example – players can break into a police station through the vents, pick a lock and get into the building through a sewage station servicing it, convince a guard to let him through using conversation or just shoot the place up. Of particular note is the conversational system which analyses vocal tones to build a psychological profile and allows players to press the right buttons to get the person to speak or cave in. The consequence of your social interaction with the non-playable characters in Deus Ex is something that not many other games do properly, and it’s to be commended. This freedom to approach your objective however you like is what sets Deus Ex apart from other games in this genre – it almost perfectly appeals to fans of any of these genres.
Adam’s journey is aided by skills, each of which requires a “praxis kit” to unlock. These kits can be found throughout the game world, or earned through collection of experience points awarded to the player for completing certain actions – including completing a level without alerting anyone or just for simply exploring non-essential areas. The abilities they unlock are designed around all kinds of play styles – some reduce noise you make while moving, others allow for hacking of more complex and secure devices, while some can clear a group of enemies with one explosion. If you’re not much of an explorer, you can always complete non-essential side quests for more experience, which also expand the story and the world’s character much more, as none of them feel like filler. Needless to say, if you like to play a certain way, most of the augments in Deus Ex: Human Revolution have you covered.
Probably the worst thing in the original Deus Ex: Human Revolution game were the boss battles. These were outsourced to a secondary developer and were unfortunately not designed with the “all approaches” philosophy in mind like the rest of the game. Many players who weren’t outfitted with a small armoury of weapons would be lost in these battles that were clearly optimised for someone playing an all-action run of their game. Director’s Cut fixes these – including vents to hide in and turrets to hack so that all players from all walks of life are able to approach these battles successfully. The worst thing about Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been fixed, thankfully.
The other most dramatic inclusion in the Director’s Cut is the commentary from the developers and the team on the game. Throughout the game, if this option is turned on, players can choose to listen to some commentary on the development of the game and such. This is a concept that is very new to me, and it’s incredibly insightful to hear how the smallest of details were included, considered or all together removed from the final game. It’s also incredibly interesting to hear where influences from the original game fit into the main game. What’s most important about this commentary, however, is that it’s extremely candid. The team are aware of their shortcomings and are honest and upfront. It’s a feature that easily justifies a second play through for anyone who has played the game previously and especially for those interested in the game development process.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a considerably generous game giving the player roughly twenty hours of play before they see the end of the story. Those who want to complete absolutely everything will probably double that, and what’s even better is that most of the side content is meaningful and doesn’t feel like unfettered chaff. The game supporting multiple approaches to your objective also gives players good incentive to give it a second play through just to play it differently, or even listen to the aforementioned commentary tracks.
On top of this, the Director’s Cut also comes with an extensive achievement list and strategy guide built in, so any tough moments can be made a breeze if needed. A nice touch that we couldn’t test pre-release due to the Miiverse not being online yet is that the game also allows players to take photos at any moment of the game, record voice memos or doodles and upload them to Miiverse to provide players with hints and tips. Couple this with a cool feature that uploads a screenshot after every achievement is unlocked, and it’s safe to say Deus Ex uses the Miiverse in a cool and unique, if not quirky way.
The game’s presentation is unfortunately a bit of an assortment of good, bad and ugly. The Director’s Cut actually scales back one of the lighting effects that makes the game look a saturated yellow. Personally, I found this a bit disappointing as it removed a bit of visual flair from the game’s visuals but many others will be pleased to hear the colour palette has been toned back slightly. Character models, in particular, were never great to start with and a few years on, time unfortunately hasn’t done them any favours. But what the art design does do, is manages to make the locations of Detroit, China, Montreal and Singapore all believable and lived in. The worlds are well designed from an artistic perspective, but the realisation is marred by technical limitation of the engine, which is unfortunate. The frame rate is fine, but there are times when it dips which is a bit disappointing.
The soundtrack is absolute perfection though – featuring many cyber punk inspired ambient tones that really give a broody and gritty atmosphere to the game. There were moments where I stopped to just watch gang members interact on the streets of Boston, to listen to sex workers exchange their stories from their day with mirth all while Michael McCann’s score is playing in the background. The soundtrack in Deus Ex: Human Revolution really elevates the game’s atmosphere to something else. Elias Toufexis gives a fantastic performance as the cold and clinically detached Adam Jensen too, and it’s worth giving credit to.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut does absolutely everything right with the genre and offers the player real choice in achieving their goals. The Wii U functionality is well implemented, the gameplay is solid and the new online Miiverse implementations are well thought out. It’s a shame that the fact that this is an old game has made it look rather disappointing visually, but an incredibly strong soundtrack offering and distinct artistic direction saves the whole experience. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that you can get lost in, and a game that most players will love. And at the price it’s going for, it’s an absolute steal. Not one to be missed.
Rating – 5/5