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By Spencer . August 22, 2011 . 6:30pm
You can save the world by crawling through air vents. Or shooting. It’s you’re choice and experimenting is the core of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
The story begins with ex-SWAT officer Adam Jensen walking with his ex-girlfriend Megan Reed through a lab in Sarif Industries, a leading company in augmentation research. Adam was just hired as a personal security consultant. After a talk with David Sarif on the wonders of human advancement, the lab is suddenly attacked. Adam rushes to the scene and his augmented attackers leave him to die. Saved by Sarif’s technology, Adam awakens part man and part machine. You can read more about the opening and the first few hours of Deus Ex: Human Revolution here.
Detroit, as envisioned by Eidos Montreal, is a gritty city in 2027 and it’s free to explore after completing the first mission. If you’re up for it, there’s plenty to discover. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has apartments to enter, which Adam can access either by climbing up a fire escape or hacking a gate door. Hacking is a simple, but entertaining mini-game where you take over nodes by guiding a cursor with the left analog stick. (I imagine this is easier with a mouse!) There’s a certain chance you’ll get caught each time you takeover a node, which triggers a time limit. If you’re spotted, it’s a race against the computer to capture registry nodes before you’re kicked out of the system. There are a limited number of retreats and if you get caught the device locks you out for thirty seconds. If you’re in a hostile area, you also sound an alarm and alert guards to attack. Even hacking has choices. Do you rush to capture green registry nodes needed to unlock the device as quickly as possible or split off and capture data stores that may hold data programs that make future hacks easier? Players can pick up Stop worm viruses that freeze the countdown clock and Nuke software that let them capture a node undetected.
There are tangible rewards for exploring – extra weapons and precious experience points, but I think the greatest reward is experiencing the world. Tablet-like eBooks left on tables explain the science behind augmentation and people’s views of human transcendence through short stories. Hack computers and you can read e-mails that flesh out how people live in the not so distant future. Eidos Montreal even took the care to make up futuristic spam e-mail. With all of the secret passages to be found above and below the streets, Detroit was a place I wanted to see more of. For gamers who like more direction, side-quests take you through most of the city. Many of requests you get are fetch quests, something that may incite groans. However, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has so many different paths I felt like I discovered something new each time I was sent to say inspect an antenna. You can do some offbeat things too if you get creative with crates and even rob a black market weapons dealer.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a critical path to follow and in Detroit your mission is to infiltrate a police station. You can barge in, guns blazing, and shoot your way to the goal. Not elegant, but brute force is one way to progress through the area. Eidos Montreal made sure there were plenty of cover points for players with an itchy trigger finger. A stealthy player may find a back entrance to the station’s basement. What’s really neat is it’s possible to avoid conflict altogether. Adam happens to know the desk sergeant and you can persuade him to let you in. Opt for this route and Adam can freely explore the police station, talk to the officers, and loot their weapons without much hostility. (You still need to sneak into some offices.) Bullying your "friend" to let you snoop around has consequences, so it’s up to the player to decide if it’s worthwhile to put a police officer down on his luck in an even more desperate situation. There are several points in Deus Ex: Human Revolution where picking the right thing to say greatly changes how the game is experienced. While these aren’t too difficult, you only have one shot during conversation combat.
There are situations where a silver tongue can’t save Adam and he may have to engage in combat. Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be an action packed third-person shooter, if you want it to be. The game has modern elements like blindfire to scare off enemies and as long as you loot bodies you should have enough ammunition to get through. I tried to cover shoot through portions of the game and even with fully upgraded Rhino dermal armor, it was incredibly difficult. You aren’t penalized for killing, but you are rewarded with more experience (an extra 20 points per man down) if you choose the non-lethal approach. Takedowns and tranquilizer rifles also have the added benefit of an insta-KO while it may take a round of bullets to bring down a heavily armored unit. The downside is ammunition for non-lethal weapons is harder to come by (guards want to kill you, so they don’t carry stun gun ammo) and these weapons have a much longer reload time. Of course, you can avoid most altercations by slipping through air ducts and cloaking to sneak past cameras. Reprogramming robots to target enemies instead of you is another clever solution as is distracting guards by throwing fire extinguishers as a distraction. As someone who isn’t great at lining up headshots, I was happy that Deus Ex: Human Revolution let players change the difficulty level on the fly during boss battles. These can be quite challenging especially if you go a non-lethal route because your inventory is likely useless. It’s a kill or be killed arena. I spent these fights scavenging for supplies, while running for my life because that P.E.P.S. energy gun I picked up only knocks enemies down.
Aside from the bosses, how you approach Deus Ex: Human Revolution depends on how you augment Adam Jensen. Experience points convert to Praxis points, which let Adam add new abilities (2 points) or upgrade previous ones (1 point). Praxis kits can also be purchased at Limb clinics for a hefty 5,000 credits and a few are hidden in the world. Some mechanics like fields of vision, a given in other stealth games, must be purchased with Praxis points. Stealth players may want that (very useful) upgrade while combat players may prefer investing those two points on less gun recoil. Many of the abilities affect how much of the world Adam can explore. Upgrade Adam’s legs and you can jump over fences. Beef up his arms and you can pick up vending machines, perhaps revealing an air duct you couldn’t get to otherwise. Hacking skills, an enhancement that prevents deadly falls, and a boss killing Typhoon attack system are also available. I’d suggest players who want to see more of the story give the Social Enhancer a look since it gives Adam the ability to fire pheromones and see more dialogue choices. Players earn experience by knocking out guards and finding secret passages (and even from reading books!), so Adam is never under-leveled. In fact, Eidos Montreal has a good feedback loop, explore more and you earn more, which allows you to explore further.
Explore until you’re satisfied because once you move to a new area you cannot return to the old one. A warning lets players know they’re moving on and all unfinished side quests will be forever incomplete in that play through. Aside from Detroit, Adam will travel to Heng Sha, a dual level city in China that feels like a modern Midgar. In this rundown area, people live in capsule-like dormitories and augmentation is the only way to move up the social ladder. Heng Sha is just as well crafted as Detroit, in fact it’s even larger with more paths to discover. Adam will visit a few more locales, but these are the only two cities. Other areas throw Adam straight into a mission, although you will find people to talk to.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s story is captivating. Tension between pure humans and augs is bubbling when the game starts and boils as the plot progresses. Classism is a central theme as well as the pursuit of science. You’re caught in the middle with a primary goal of finding the truth behind the attack on Sarif Industries. While you play as Adam, the core narrative doesn’t explain much about who he is. You may find out more, but that depends on how you play the game. Other characters, especially Francis Pritchard, the head of cyber-security, are well developed. Adam and Pritchard often take jabs at each other, which just the right amount of humor. You’ll hear from both sides, pro and against augmentation, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution doesn’t have an invisible morality meter where you have to choose one or the other. Instead, Eidos Montreal wants you to listen to each case and decide for yourself. There are subtle connections to the original Deus Ex too and I think fans of the first game will be able to pick up on.
Near the end, Deus Ex: Human Revolution grabbed me. I didn’t want to put the controller down and pressed on late at night to the end of the game. And right afterwards, I reloaded to see what happened if I tried something else. Now that I’m done with the game, I’m curious to see what solutions other players thought of.
If you’re going to pick up Deus Ex: Human Revolution here are a few tips for cyber-adventurers.