For all of its innovations, the original Deus Ex is so fondly remembered in part because it had one very rare, very nebulous trait in rich abundance; personality. Even today, a singular personality remains one of the most uncommon commodities in gaming, and whilst a great deal of Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be familiar to players who never experienced the first game – such is the original’s legacy – it’s still so thoroughly unusual in its tone and overall approach that it’s likely to provoke the same kind of impassioned fanaticism that the original did.
Set over two decades before that first game, Human Revolution is a slow-moving (at first) tale of globe-trotting conspiracy and espionage, but despite the fact that there’s definitely an element of James Bond about the whole thing, proceedings are never that straightforward. The utterly polarised people of 2027 – who are torn between supporting the evolution of human augmentation and striving to destroy it – are never used as cheap tools to turn everything into a simplified skirmish of good versus evil. Its story is sprawling, complicated and defiantly adult.
As expected, you’re totally encouraged to tackle the game entirely as you see fit, but this is a stealth game at heart. It can function ably as an action game if that’s what you’re looking for but it politely ushers you in the opposite direction at every turn, by drastically restricting the amount of ammunition that you’re given access to. You can use your Praxis upgrade points to assist you in resisting this suggestion – by bumping up your armour or expanding your inventory so that you’re able to pack more weaponry into it – but the lack of ammunition is something that can’t – rather curiously – be remedied at all.
But to reiterate, the most satisfying way to play Human Revolution is quietly, and slowly. The level of experimentation that’s allowed is sure to feel alien to many contemporary gamers – who are accustomed to pre-set (single) paths directing you to places where you can “discover” secret routes – in Human Revolution you genuinely feel as if you’re left to your own devices, and each scenario is there to be tackled in literally countless different ways. It’s hard to recall a game that has seemed less likely to lose its appeal during subsequent playthroughs, and perusing its world for concealed air vents – the game’s most consistently rewarding pursuit – is one gameplay dynamic that everyone should definitely engage in.
You’ll never get lost – it isn’t that sort of game – but the illusion of a totally open environment is so convincingly maintained, and the rules that determine what you can and can’t do within it are so flexible, that you’ll never find yourself locked into a scenario that you can’t brainstorm your way out of. Have you avoided hacking to the extent that you’re now facing an impenetrable access point? Scour the building for an alternate route, search bodies for a stray door code, or upgrade the ability that allows you to bludgeon your way through debilitated walls… there are several solutions to almost every problem. The fact that side-missions are primarily linear – and most involve the utilisation of one particular skill over the others – rule many of them out as disappointing, and the prevalence of boss battles (which you can’t even avoid if you’ve dodged conflict everywhere else) is a tad mystifying. But these are niggles.
Visually Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks pretty remarkable (some heavily antiquated character animations aside) and the haunting new electronic score – influenced by the music of Mass Effect, Blade Runner and Tron: Evolution most noticeably – helps to create an atmosphere that’s icy and foreboding. Adam Jenson may be voiced by an actor who sounds as if he dines solely on broken glass, and the look of the world illustrates that Eidos are drinking from the same well of sci-fi influences as everyone else, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn’t easily comparable to anything other than its earliest predecessor. And much like that game, it’s definitely one to remember.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is out now on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
Watch the Deus Ex: Human Revolution trailer here: