Support Chris, click to buy via us...
Deus Ex: Human Revolution provides an epic and immersive story and still allows great freedom of choice; but, how much freedom is it prepared to sacrifice to maintain its own fiction?
Armed guards patrolled the warehouse with utmost vigilance and deadly response. I knew I wasn't equipped for a fight, but I could just see a path through the watching eyes if I kept my head down and picked my moment. As I was about to move I overheard two guards discussing a sniper on the high gantry above. I decided I would have to handle him first. I crept up to the walkway and silently brought unconsciousness to the sniper. My eyes flicked from the courtyard full of guards below to the fully loaded rifle at my feet. I didn't have enough carrying space to keep the bulky weapon but it seemed wasteful not to make use of it while it was to hand. Dropping a few items to make room, I managed to remove all but one of the guards using the rifle. At this point I discarded the empty weapon, reclaimed my equipment from the floor and snuck back into the shadows to deal with the lone remaining guard.
2011 is going to be the year I remember for some truly sublime games that sabotaged their own success with disappointing design choices. In the case of LA Noire, I felt that the painstakingly created world and fascinating narrative was undermined by under-utilisation of the game world, confusing dialogue choices and forcing action set-pieces on the player which were at odds with the main play style.
But before I get into why Deus Ex commits - coincidentally - exactly the same crimes, I need to make clear that I do love this game. It's easy to pick fault (especially when reviewing) but the truth is that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an incredible adventure. It tells a gripping and detailed story, while still allowing room for the player to make personal choices and affect the world; the missions are exciting and the choice of approach available to the player is greater than most action games.
It's like locking the A-Team in a shed full of explosives, fork-lift trucks and heavy soft fruit.
In my view it is the high quality fiction which drives the game. So many games are based in a universe derived from a single concept and fail to feel fully realised. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has that Minority Report feel of a world which is fantastic but it at the same time clearly born of our own world and time. This is highly believable speculative fiction, which successfully drew me in and encouraged me to invest in the fictional world.
I also can't stress enough how much I appreciated the freedoms enabled by the game. The story at the top of this review was my own personal story. In any given challenge I find I am able to first decide how I wanted to approach the situation, then look for a way to make it work.
What makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution so successful is the sheer amount of flexible scenarios that allow this kind of personalised approach. There was nothing directing me to play the level in this fashion; it was simply an expression of the way I wanted to play the game and the kind of hero I wanted my character to be. That is the truest expression of Role Playing. If there is a downside to having so many choices, it is that with so many paths on offer the game becomes a little easy. It is common to stumble across a solution by accident rather than by intent.
Sadly it is when that flexibility was taken away that I felt most cheated. Punctuating the gameplay is a series of boss fights (against characters given little or no introduction, aside from the Deus Ex: Icarus Effect novel) which felt to me to be the antithesis of what makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution great. Having chosen to spend my time and resources developing a stealth approach I found it grievous to suddenly have to take part in a stand-up shooting match. Given a free hand I would have plotted a path which avoided direct encounters. The developers are clearly aware of this problem, hence why the boss rooms tend to be chock full of extra weapons to fix any imbalance. It's like locking the A-Team in a shed full of explosives, fork-lift trucks and heavy soft fruit: it stretches the believability in the fiction to breaking point.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution tells an gripping and detailed story, while still allowing room for the player to make personal choices
There is a dialogue system with similar choices to LA Noire and this has the same strained relationship between choice and outcome. The flaws in this are exposed even more by a character upgrade which allows the target to be psychologically profiled to give an edge. This should really give the player a permanent trump card in dialogue sequences, but sadly the dialogue choices are vague and often ill-fitting with the path the conversation then takes.
I did feel that the game missed a small opportunity. Deus Ex: Human Revolution creates such a believable world that I felt like it had an over-dependence on objective markers. There are a some missions which, rather than giving a target for which to head, provide a verbal clue about where to look for the solution. In these instances I was able to use my own investigative skills to complete the task and this felt far more satisfying. With such a detailed world, full of overheard conversations and misplaced emails, it would have been truly immersive to have had to find outcomes for oneself.
All things considered, Deus Ex is still a must-play game. With so much freedom it's hard to think of many people who wouldn't find their own way to enjoy it. For myself its just a pity that inconsistent boss battles will ultimately break my own immersion in the fiction.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is now available for the XBox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
The Missing Link DLC episode is currently due for release in October 2011.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: