Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

The original Deus Ex is a legend in PC gaming. It was a game that was able to incorporate elements of both FPS and RPGs, giving the player choice in how they achieve their objectives. Even many games of 2011 still can’t get that right (Rage being a recent disappointment that comes to mind, but more on that game when I review it). There’s a reason why PC Powerplay for example, still rates it as the #1 game of all time, even though it’s over a decade old.

At first, I wasn’t actually that interested in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR). From what I could tell, none of the original developers were involved with the project and trying to make a game as half as good the original Deus Ex is a monumental task. However, being the sucker that I am for games that belong to a nostalgic series, I bit the bullet and purchased the game. The question was, did Ubisoft and Square Enix end up tarnishing Ion Storm’s venerable Deus Ex? Is the game even worse than Invisible War? Or did Ubisoft manage to make an excellent game in its own right which manages to please old and new fans alike?

Plot (5/5)
DX:HR is set in the not too distant future – a dystopian cyberpunk world at that. It actually acts as a prequel to the original Deus Ex and is set 25 years before it in 2027. You play the game as Adam Jensen, a security chief for a bio-engineering company known as Sarif Industries. A break-in results in Jensen becoming seriously injured and as a consequence Jensen is turned into a cyborg. The game is interesting in that it tries to sensitively cover the ethical issues and questions, which arise from augmenting humans with artificial limbs and organs: How much augmentation is considered valid? Should humans be allowed to receive augmentations if they want to become stronger, faster or more charismatic? Are augmented humans losing their humanity? What is humanity?

As you can see the game is a very deep, mature and thought-provoking game which is rare to see in computer games. For me, the subject matter really hits close to home as I’ve actually received an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) recently which incidentally is what Adam Jensen is installed with in the game. In fact some of the information you can stumble upon in the game reference actual medical articles.

While on the topic of information you can stumble upon in the game, the hundreds of e-mails and tablets you can read helps to build a bigger picture, just as it was in the original Deus Ex. This helps immerse you in the game and Eidos Montreal has done a good job in this department. Another example of where the game attempts to immerse the player is when you visit Shanghai. Many of the locals speak actual Mandarin – similar to how a couple of NPCs in Deus Ex spoke Cantonese in Hong Kong.

A lot of the plot, characters and locations are similar to Deus Ex, almost to be a conspiracy in itself!

  • Both Adam Jensen and JC Denton are cyborgs with gruff voices that are knee-deep in conspiracies.
  • Deus Ex takes place in the American City of New York first, then the Chinese city of Hong Kong and then the French city of Paris. DX:HR takes place in the American city of Detroit, then the Chinese city of Shanghai and then the French-Canadian city of Montreal.
  • Both Adam Jensen and JC Denton have to face a moral dilemma at the end in deciding which faction to support.
  • Deciding who the bad guys and good guys are isn’t as clear as it seems.

Gameplay (4/5)
For fans of the original Deus Ex, if you thought the plot was similar, wait till you check out the gameplay! DX:HR goes back to Deus Ex’s roots in having a similar interface and inventory system to the original. Unlike the previous Deus Ex, Invisible War, you now have to worry about ammo again as you only can carry a limited number at a time. Once again, stealth is quite important and you in fact receive the most experience points for being stealthy and non-lethal in any given situation. You actually have to take extra effort into being stealthy in DX:HR since the guards even notice the opening of doors and they’ll say it out loud too (e.g. "Wait a minute, that door just opened. But noone came through...")!

For those who haven't played Deus Ex, basically the game can be thought of as a FPS/RPG hybrid. You basically get to run and shoot enemies like your typical FPS but like an RPG you can gain levels (in the form of "Praxis Kits") which allow you to upgrade your augmentations. With upgraded augmentations you're able to run faster, jump higher, lift heavier objects and so on. Consequently, depending on which upgrades you pick, you’re able to tackle missions in different ways. For example, picking the strength upgrade might allow you to lift a heavy box which reveals a secret passage or picking the jump upgrade might allow you to fall down several floors circumventing the need to fight your way downstairs. This is what made Deus Ex such a great game and I’m pleased to say that Eidos Montreal adopted the same formula when designing this latest iteration… well at least most of the time.

Occasionally you may encounter quests where there’s only one way to finish it. For example one quest required you to hack a door and if you didn’t invest enough points into hacking, you couldn’t get in. For most of the quests in DX:HR there’s often another way but in this instance there wasn’t. Another annoyance is the fact that the game suffers the same issues as Alpha Protocol when it comes to boss fights. Boss fights are usually fights to the death with very little opportunity for your character to hide or perform a non-lethal takedown. So if you’ve been investing all your points into being sneaky and non-lethal this means you’ll find the boss fights almost impossible to finish. One of them took me several retries and I only got through thanks to a pathing glitch which caused the boss to get stuck.

Sound (2/5)
Again, just like the original Deus Ex, the overall voice acting in DX:HR is poor. While you’ll occasionally hear some good voice acting most of the time characters have outrageously stereotyped accents or they place emphasis on the wrong words. Also sometimes the volume of background audio/sound effects is too low and the character voices, too loud.

In a step backwards from the original Deus Ex, there is no aural cue to when you’re drinking or eating things from your inventory. This means there’s a chance you’ll waste some of your items as you’re pressing a hotkey and focusing your attention to somewhere else instead of your inventory bar.

Music (4/5)
The game doesn’t have as good music as the original Deus Ex and is more ambient than thematic, but I was actually impressed by what Michael McCann (famous for his work on Splinter Cell: Double Agent) did for this soundtrack. The dystopian, cyberpunk future, where mankind plays with the concept of humanity, is served well by a mixture of gloomy electronica and choral samples. Some of the music sounds like they’re in the same key and style to original Deus Ex tracks, so even though you don’t hear those memorable themes from the original (unless you’re passing by an in-game radio) it still has the same feel.

If you want a more in-depth review on some of the game's music check out my review.

Graphics (4/5)
In terms of graphics the game has a reasonably good engine and I encountered very few framerate drops, glitches or hiccups. The environment of DX:HR is incredibly detailed allowing you to interact with everything but the kitchen sink (oh... actually you can interact with that too). The only thing that seemed a bit silly to me was that some of the character models had heads that were disproportionately small when compared to their torsos.

Replay (3/5)
The game is similar to the original Deus Ex in that there are multiple endings to the game and just like Deus Ex, since you make the choice at the end, you can quite easily experience all of them provided you load a save game near the end. This unfortunately decreases the game replay value as the only reasons to replay the game would be to hunt for Steam achievements or experience an alternative approach to a mission objective.

Polish (3/5)
I can’t actually remember any serious issues or glitches with the game, except for the fact that one of the side quests was seriously bugged – to the point where I couldn’t complete most of it. It was apparently fixed in a later patch but by then it was too late, I already finished the game.

Score - 8/10

It’s Deus Ex for the next generation

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

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