Back in the now prehistoric time of *gasp* 2000, a game called Deus Ex was released. It reached both commercial success and extreme critical claim. Then the sequel came out. Deus Ex: Invisible War was a commercial failure and it was still pretty well liked by the critics. However, many of the fans felt only disappointment. The game was smaller and had far less depth. It was a streamlined sequel which is the average RPG fans approximation of the Anti-Christ. (And yes, that does include me.) In terms of fan hate and series decline invisible war was sort of like the Dragon Age 2 of its day. Nearly a decade later a different developer picked up the long defunct series and tried their hand at reviving it. Did Eidos Montreal bring the series back to its former glory? That is what I intend to find out.
The game looks good, very good but the developers thought that it would be a good idea to make the cutscenes prerendered. Prerendered cutscenes aren’t a bad thing, but when it looks so much worse than the normal gameplay all you can do is ask, “Why?” It is really one of the most perplexing design decisions I have seen in quite a while. The game’s art style is a rather strange mish mash of strangely geometric cyberpunk and Victorian style which seems like it wouldn’t work. However it really does and it adds some much needed variety in a industry that is predominately going for the gritty and realistic look. Another interesting aesthetic choice is the black and yellow/orange color scheme which makes many of the environments seem almost alien in how different they are from the modern day.
Another thing that adds to that strange vibe is the game’s absolutely fantastic soundtrack. The music is rather incredible in how perfectly it fits the game and how easy it is on the ears. It is the only video game soundtrack that I can just listen to like regular music.
There are many different gameplay options in Deus Ex:HR. You can be a silent hacker who sneaks by enemies without ever being seen, you can be a violent Dirty Harry Esq killer who pops in and out of cover to head-shot the others in the room and to avoid being on the receiving end of such, or a variety of other styles. It really is a game you can play however you want and all of the ways to play the game were uniquely entertaining. The gameplay is greatly improved by the cover system which is extremely fluid. The combat is a great improvement over that of the original game in many aspects. With the notable exception of the melee combat which now takes a back seat. In the original game you were able to use weapons like the crowbar, knife, and laser sword, but in this game you have only your metal hands and arm blades. This would not be that big of a problem if using melee attacks didn’t sap energy. This is why I was only able to use it semi-rarely. These melee moves are divided into lethal and non-lethal take downs. One would think that a lethal take down would be something along the lines of slitting a man’s throat, right? Instead Jensen chooses to drive both of his arm-blades through an enemies chest then launch them through the air loudly announcing his position to anyone within a hundred miles.
The A.I of this game is wildly inconsistent. Some enemies won’t notice when you drop their buddy who he was talking to just one second ago. Other times bumping a box fifty feet away from them will put them on alert. This inconsistency can be frustrating and it will lead to a lot of save scumming if you happen upon some of the nearly clairvoyant enemies. This is hardly a deal breaker though since the A.I in this game is still better than that of the A.I in most games with a stealth element.
The story of this game is pretty interesting. Human Augmentation is breaking into mainstream use and this advancement could change society as we know it. It could allow humans to transcend the restrictions currently placed on them, but it would fundamentally change society forever. The upper class could afford augments that would make them better at a job than anyone else while the lower class would have even greater difficulty landing a high paying job because they wouldn’t have the money to get the tools to do it. Within this world you play as Adam Jensen who is the Chief of Security at Sarif Industries which is one of the biggest augment companies in the world. There is an attack on the building and Jensen is critically injured. With the help of human augmentation they are able to keep him alive. Now he is forced to live with these augmentations whether he wanted them or not. And the driving force of the story is finding out the reasons for the attack and what they are doing with those they kidnapped including Jensen’s ex who he still had feelings for.
The problem with this story is you don’t really know who she is as you only see her for about five minutes. I stopped caring about her fate the second a gun was put in my hands. Thankfully the game did make me care about “why?” it happened which kept me interested enough and the other characters in the game are great. They are quick to subvert cyberpunk genre tropes so that I was never sure what was going to happen next. I also loved the dialogue system you explore the game with. I never at any point felt like I didn’t have an option that more or less said what I wanted to say at any given time. This is in stark contrast with games like the Mass Effect sequels where I always felt railroaded to either two extremes or options that said the EXACT SAME THING using slightly different terms depending if you were being a Paragon or Renegade. It also makes me glad that while you get to chose Jensen’s dialogue it never forces you to chose a specific path to get new dialogue choices or something similar. I was able to chose whatever I wanted at any given time and I didn’t have to worry about meta-gaming. I do have to say that the game drops off in the story department in the last two and a half missions. But it feels less like they forgot what they were doing and more like they were running out of time and money which forced them to cut parts that would have made it flow better.
Speaking of dialogue, this game has several different boss fights that you fight with words. You can talk these people into doing things for you or seeing the way that you do. These boss fights consisting purely of dialogue were some of the best boss fights I have experienced in a game in several years. On the other side of the same coin, the combat bosses are the absolute worst I have encountered in quite a long time. They feel out of place in the context of the game and they are incredibly uninteresting and, at times, frustrating. These boss fights are the absolute low of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the fact that they outsourced them doesn’t make them any better.
In the end, I would suggest this game to anyone looking for an old school action RPG experience or anyone who wants a entertaining and mostly well written interactive story or even just someone who wants to play a good cover based shooter if they can get past the boss fights and a few of the annoyances I mentioned.