Thursday, 29 December 2011

Number 3: Deus Ex- Human Revolution

My excitement for Human Revolution was one of the main reasons I picked up a PS3 this year. The first Deus Ex is easily up there as one of my favourite games of all time; with its daft cyberpunk conspiracy plot, huge explorable levels, and open-ended approach to combat, it still feels ahead of its time. Now felt about right for a sequel to come around, with more advanced hardware meaning more could be squeezed into the game. Better graphics could finally do justice to the large levels, improved AI would mean that guards didn't just run around in circles when you shot them. Human Revolution doesn't disappoint.

A prequel to the first game, Human Revolution puts you in the shoes of Adam Jenson, the world's surliest man, and head of security for a corporation working on advancements in human augmentation. Terrorists show up, tragedy strikes, and Jenson is fitted with augmentations himself to save his life. He then embarks on a mission to track down those responsible. The plot's a lot less daft than in the previous games, but still thoroughly engaging. Its tale of corporate conspiracy and social unrest in the face of technological change feels relevant, and somehow more important than the previous game's mix of aliens and rogue AIs.

After an introductory jaunt around Sarif Industries, and a nicely done hostage rescue mission, you're finally allowed onto the seedy streets of Detroit, and the game world opens up. The city hub is superbly realised, with shining towers built over grimy backstreets and crumbling apartments, and heavy police presence hinting at the criminal underworld operating in the shadows. I can guarantee you'll be wandering around and exploring long before the thought of continuing your mission crosses your mind. Further locations include the squalid and mazy Heng-Sha island, Montreal, and an Antarctic research base. Eidos Montreal really nailed the gritty sci-fi look of the game, with nods to various inspirations such as Blade Runner and William Gibson. References to the first game are littered throughout, from musical cues to familiar characters. It reminded me a lot of Perfect Dark as well, with Rare's game covering similar themes of near-future corporate espionage and conspiracy.

Part of the beauty of the first Deus Ex was its inventive approach to gameplay. Players were free to approach situations as they wished, running in and gunning everyone down, sneaking around without detection, or hacking and talking their way into places. Human Revolution caries this over brilliantly, presenting you with various ways to accomplish a goal. An early example is the Detroit police station: you can talk your way in, sneak through the sewers or the roof, or simply tear the place apart Terminator-style. The different available approaches add a lot of replay value to the game, as you find yourself wondering how things would have turned out if you'd done it differently. There's nothing quite like unlocking the "ghost" achievement after a mission, safe in the knowledge that you weren't once detected by enemies.

Thankfully, your tasks are made much easier by the augmentations you can fit Jenson with. Another feature carried over from the first, you can tailor the augmentations you choose to fit in with the play style you favour. Dermal armour is useful for heavy-hitters, cloaking devices and x-ray vision will help the stealthy. Hacking and social enhancers also feature, meaning that you're never short of tools to get the job done. The augmentations never feel that they're unbalancing the game too much: it's impossible to collect them all in one playthrough, and limited battery life means you often have to ration their usage. The social enhancer in particular can lead to interesting interrogation scenes which can feel genuinely intuitive, and piss over LA Noire's from a great height.

There are flaws, yes; boss fights are jarring and overly-difficult, and the plot takes a nosedive in its final act; but the strength of the rest of the game is such that you won't find yourself minding too much. Human Revolution is a superbly crafted adventure, well paced and completely gripping. The freedom afforded to the player, and the subsequent replay-value of the game, can make it difficult to stop playing at all, and there have been few better-looking games this generation. Deus Ex is considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time; And while it's not as ground-breaking as its predecessor, I'd say that Human Revolution can stand tall alongside it.

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