The Pursuit of Perfection: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Perfection is the target: the perfect mate, the perfect game, the perfect body. The idea of perfection is such an absurd notion that it gets diluted and misrepresented on a daily basis. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the story of the length people will go to obtain the mythical perfection. While some people are forced to take prosthetic limbs and organs, known as augmentations or augs in Deus Ex, the debate quickly turns to people who take elective procedures and adopt augmentations by choice. Is it ethical for someone with two perfectly good legs to choose to shed their birthright and take on a new pair of metallic legs? Should it be legal for a sales person to get augmented with the ability to read a client’s emotions and personality just by looking at them? These are just a few of the questions that are asked during the course of this game.

Lets just get it out of the way, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is not a perfect game. In my opinion, if we were to ever achieve the perfect game, the video game industry would cease to be due to the fact that no one could be bother to stop playing Perfection: The Game long enough to ever buy another game. However, DX:HR does achieve that very realistic goal of greatness. My review will be a little incomplete because the game I am playing surely isn’t the same game that everyone else is playing as the gameplay experience will vary wildly from player to player.

Many games flaunt the idea of choice; choice in your storyline, choice in how you play the game. Unfortunately, many times it just comes down to good or evil and fun action game or lame stealth game. DX:HR, however, lands in a very uncommon grey area where choice is organic and never seems to be trite. At about four hours into my experience, I had to quickly consult my instruction manual on how to draw my weapon. Up until that point in the game, I hadn’t fired a single shot and it wasn’t due to a lack of action. I had successfully sneaked through a large portion of the game and was using non-lethal hand to hand combat to subdue my enemies. The amazing thing is that I never noticed this because the game was still very rewarding despite my choice to sneak around and not kill people. Being a very non-violent guy in real life, I found that this gameplay came very naturally. There is an achievement for completely the game without killing any non-boss enemies, but it doesn’t seem like I am forcing myself to work towards this goal. It’s just… happening.

The stealth action is a lot of fun. The controls work very well to control Adam Jensen as you weave between cover and shimmy down air vents. The game maps the left trigger button (*note* my review is based off the Xbox 360 version of the title*) as a sort of “cover” button. If you’re near a wall or a crate, pushing this button will instantly make you hug in as close as you can. While it did take a couple hours to get used to a first person shooter that didn’t have the precision aim tied to the left trigger, I soon found myself not caring. This acceptance was bolstered by my complete lack of shooting as well. I don’t think I have enjoyed sneaking around in a game this much since the first Metal Gear Solid for the original PlayStation. There is actually a large facility that you infiltrate before leaving Detroit that could have really been a lost level from Metal Gear, and I mean that in the most positive way.

In a completely non-Metal Gear way, you can actually actually level up your character and use his “Praxis” points to increase his augmented abilities. You can choose from very practical things like increased jumping height and increased strength to lift larger items or you can go over the top getting very situational abilities like being able to punch through a thin wall and snap an enemy’s neck. The leveling system is actually a lot of fun and the way it’s explained in the story is interesting.

Unfortunately, this does bring us to one of the games first imperfections. There are some augmentations that are essential to get, but don’t really seem like they should be “augmentations.” For example, to get more storage space in your inventory you have to dedicate multiple Praxis points. This seems like more of a “I need a new backpack” situation than “I want to fritter away what’s left of my humanity so I can also carry this rocket launcher.” Other things like body armor also fall into the augmentation skill tree, but seem out of place. This is a small issue, but it is a frustrating one at times. It feels as though the game is forcing you to put money in a college savings account when all you want to do is spend your allowance on candy and comic books.

The overall navigation of the game can be frustrating as well. It seems like you need to click on about three or four options just to do the simplest of tasks. For the sake of an example, lets go back to the inventory. Your inventory is a grid based storage page. Different weapons and items are different shapes and sizes. So inventory management is soon reduced to a sadistic game of Tetris. First you click on the item to bring up the item’s menu, then you click on the move option, then if you need to rotate the item to make it fit you have to hit another button, then you finally hit another button to place the item back onto the grid. This system is fine for moving around a couple small items, but when you’re in the middle of action and are frantically trying to make space for a new large weapon you just found, it can be time consuming and quickly takes you out of the moment. This easily could have just been replaced with a list and assigning each item a weight that subtracts from your maximum carry weight. One could argue that the grid is a more pleasing and visual way to accomplish the inventory… if not for the fact that my inventory is more or less completely comprised of a bunch of generic looking boxes and two weapons.

These are just a couple examples of some very minor imperfections that do little to tarnish the overall experience of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I must say that the game does so many things right, and that is illustrated by the fact that all my complaints are nit picking. The story is interesting and the idea of cybernetics rarely gets such a mature and well thought out narrative, especially in a video game. The international setting of DX:HR is great and helps keep the environments and NPCs fresh. While the voice acting can be a little hot and cold, there are some truly great performances. Most importantly the game makes me want to keep playing. It’s far too easy to find you’ve offered up a couple hours of your life to this title without even noticing.

Oddly enough, it actually compels me to do more than just play it. It inspires me to strive for my own little piece of perfection. I find myself saving the game very frequently and trying to be a super spy. I will play very small sections of the game over and over till I achieve that moment of bliss when I perfectly sneak into a room filled with enemies and leave without them ever noticing. Few games ever leave me with that feeling of actual achievement, and Deus Ex is one of them.

Overall, Deus Ex: Human Revolution lives up to the franchise. It is a rich universe with interesting characters, legitimate player choice, and gameplay that will actually appeal to various types of gamers. There are some minor issues with the game, but nothing that will make you want to quit playing. I would highly recommend it and believe it might turn out to be the dark horse when it comes time for publications to pick their Game of the Year.

[xrr rating=”4.5/5″]

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  1. By Review: Dead Island | Guerrilla Geek on September 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    […] be right. Dead Island isn’t helped by the fact that it’s the first game I played after Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both titles are flawed, but the major difference is one of them was such a fun and engaging game […]

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