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29Aug/110

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

If you're a gamer, you've heard of Deus Ex.  Released over a decade ago, it has earned countless awards and accolades.  It also combined a number of gameplay elements that resonated with me personally: open-ended obstacles, stealth-based gameplay (remember Thief?), experience-based progression, and a dystopian cyberpunk setting.

Although Invisible War was a decent game, it failed to live up to its name as a Deus Ex sequel.  The game wasn't bad but in an attempt to simplify many of the mechanics of the original Deus Ex it removed much of what made it unique.  So the question commonly asked on the internet was... would Eidos Montreal create a worthy prequel to the original Deus Ex?

Yes.  Yes they did.

Gameplay in Human Revolution feels just like it should - like an updated version of the original DX.  The free-form augmentation system is fantastic, letting you buy whatever you want whenever you want as long as you have the Praxis for it.  This does have a downside in that some players are reporting being overwhelmed by all the options at the beginning of the game but once past that the system provides a great deal of flexibility in customizing your gameplay experience.

Open sesame.

And let's be clear on one point - this is not some half-complete console port.  I play games on the PC and nothing is more frustrating than dealing with limited ports from console-driven control design.  I'm looking at you, Borderlands!  Human Revolution is not a halfway complete console port.  Kudos to Eidos Montreal did a fantastic job making me feel like they created an actual PC gaming experience.

On the story side of things I was very satisfied with how things progressed.  There were a few twists that were telegraphed a little too much but for the most part the overarching narrative and the conspiracy it centers on kept me entertained throughout my playthrough, aided by two features.  One was the side missions which I could pick up as  break from the plot which expanded on the setting, and two was the discovery-based nature of how the setting itself is presented to you.

There are a number of locked doors and computers in HR which serve no other purpose than to allow you to access setting background information through pocket secretaries, ebooks, and emails.  Some gamers might think this is a waste of time but not only did finding them enrich the HR experience, it drew a number of connections between HR and the original DX.  Emails from Manderly and news reports implying the future founding of UNATCO for instance have no effect on the plot but help cement HR firmly within the DX universe.

There has been one criticism leveled against HR that I think is fair.  Unlike in the original DX, there is no way to resolve HR's "boss fights" with nonviolent or even nonlethal means.  It would have been interesting to have these other options, but considering some of the later plot points of HR it makes sense that Adam Jenson didn't have access to the methods JC Denton used to defeat some of his more memorable adversaries.

But with that said, my reaction at the end of the game is a statement on how much I enjoyed it.  When faced with all four possible endings before me, I sat there and thought about it.  I knew I could just reload the game and pick the different endings to see them all (and ultimately I knew I would) but I still wanted to decide which I would choose first; which would by "my canonical ending."

Problem was there was no good ending - I felt like I was trying to choose the least of four evils.  And that only mattered to me, I realized, because I had become invested enough in the story to care how it ended.

As a side note, it's been revealed that Eidios Montreal is currently working on Thief 4.  If they can for for Thief what they did for Deus Ex then I'm going to be throwing more money their way soon.

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