Deus Ex Human Revolution was a triumphant return for a series long forgotten. When released on the previous generation of consoles, the Blade Runner stylings, and introduction, of multiple pathways through the levels was lauded. Unfortunately, the original version had a number of boss fights developed separately from the rest of the game that was more action based and a complete departure. A later special edition was released that amended these but the memory of them stuck. Now almost five years later Deus Ex is back on current consoles.
Before I get into the inner workings of the game I need to make it clear that this is a very good game and well worth a try especially if you liked the original. Unfortunately, there is a multitude of problems, that will stop this game getting widespread user approval. It is almost as if there is a set template for Deus Ex, that they are scared to deviate from. Each scenario is set up in the same way. There is a room or area that is restricted to the player, they need to access the room and so a variety of options become available. Usually, there are three options.
- Use your enhancements and go in all guns blazing, killing everyone, brutally. The shooting mechanics in the game are competent and there is a variety of weapons that can be upgraded and modified to suit your play style. Silencers can be added as can scopes and upgraded magazines. The weapon customization is nicely done using crafting material found around the world. If guns are your thing, you can get EMP ammo, armour piercing, tranquillizer rounds and standard ammo. All these let you tackle any situation. Add this to, stealth augmentations to effect active camo, arm blades to deal damage in close quarters and hard, shell armour that stops any enemy damage.
- Stealth using Augmentations and the environment. This really can be simplified to ‘find the correct air vent’. Despite all the pretences, the stealthy approach in Deus Ex almost always comes down to finding the most suitable air vent to sneak through. You may have to travel a few buildings away or climb a roof or two firstly, but in the end, there will be a hidden air vent that puts you right into the room you have to be in. As the game goes on there are hazards like gas, laser traps and more guarding the vents, but these can all be circumvented by your choice of augmentations. You can get an augmentation to give you improved lungs, that filter out the poison gas in some areas, leaving you to casually walk through. Basically, if you are ever stuck in Deus Ex, flick on your smart vision and look for a vent or ventilation shaft. Trace it back and there you go the sneaky way in. As satisfying as it is to do this, there is always a disconnect in your mind, that it is too easy or unrealistic. Unfortunately, it has a jarring effect on the rest of the game. As immersive as it is, the air vent issue will always remind you, you are playing a game.
- The hacking way. This is Deus Ex at it’s finest. You play the hacking mini game and turn machines, turrets, cameras and more against the people using them on you. This extends much further into the game. You hack a locked door in an apartment block to allow you to get in. You find the laptop of the owner, you hack it and find an email from their work with the passwords or the location of a terminal inside their office. You walk down to the office and wait until no one is looking. Then you hack their office either with your skill or the password previously obtained and get into the office. You steal what you need and after disabling the security cameras and turrets, you waltz out with leaving everyone unaware of what has happened. These are the moments in Deus Ex that feel unique and special.
These are the three main approaches to Deus Ex and unfortunately, they are exactly the same as they were in the previous game. No matter how involving the story or characters are the actual meat on the bones of the game is basically the same as the old games. This is hardly a criticism as the previous games were excellent, yet it still feels disappointing when playing. The game starts with you having a good compliment of augmentations before a story element means you have to reset all your internal powers. After this, it is a matter of earning XP to upgrade yourself as fully as you feel the need to. To do this most effectively, you should really do all the side missions available. They never seem out of place and are always interesting. Early ones include shutting down a guerilla news organisation either by force or by doing them favours and hoping there is no double cross. Unlike other games, the side-missions don’t feel like a distraction from the main story. There are dialogue choices and logic, that mean Adam Jensen can take a break from the main quest to sort this other pressing issue. Compare this to Fallout 4. In that game, your overarching quest is to find your son. Yet as many have pointed out the settlement building and multitude of other quests are unrealistic as your motivation would not be taken away from the chasing of your son.
Despite all the good things that this game does there is still a horrible feeling that there should have been more innovation. Maybe have fewer enemies in the areas so that you can experiment more with the techniques. The most enjoyment is to be found by combining the three main ways above. Unfortunately like another game from last generation Dishonoured. Dishonoured gave you a wonderful toolbox of tricks and a great setting then punished you unless you took the stealthy approach. Deus Ex doesn’t so much punish you as make stealth the easiest option. After all, why fight your way through an army when an air vent takes you straight to the end?