Archive for September 19th, 2011

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Awed And Augmented – Thoughts On Deus Ex: Human Revolution

September 19, 2011

Last Friday I made the push and finally completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, refusing to relinquish the Xbox360 until I was done. And now that I’m finished the game, I believe one of my commenters said it best when they used the term “class” to describe the experience of DE:HR. I mean, have you ever appreciated a really good movie or read a book you just couldn’t put down, because its plot elements were just so well put together that they flowed almost effortlessly? I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with an RPG, which is good because I mostly bought DX for its story, and I wasn’t disappointed.

In the end, I did come to enjoy everything DE:HR had to offer. In fact, to cut to the chase, the only two major issues I had with the game were 1) the so-named “tacked on boss fights” (but more on that later), and 2) the numerous times when my delicate senses were accosted by the horrible voice acting by the main character (who was probably advised to act too cool for any line of dialogue he speaks, which would certainly explain why everything was delivered in a laughable monotone).

What I really liked about DE:HR was the flexibility it offered. At first, I admit I wasn’t all that crazy about the game mechanics or the augmentation system (which arguably forms the basis of these Deus Ex games), but I did learn to love it. In fact, it’s where much of that flexibility comes from. Once you play the game a bit and start to “get” where it’s coming from, the whole world of DE:HR opens up to you. It also gets easier and gives you a lot more room to play with once you gain more Praxis points. There are so many ways to tackle the situations in this game, even two players with completely different play styles can have a lot of fun with it.

I for one have neither the skill nor capacity for sneakiness, instead preferring bloodbaths to stealth runs, so I played the entire game like a shooter.

My husband on the other hand, he of the seemingly endless fount of patience, challenged himself not to kill anyone or even be detected. Needless to say, watching him play was an infuriating cycle of “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, bringing me dangerously close to just grabbing him by his collar bone from behind and re-enacting a classic Adam Jensen takedown on his ass. And that’s why he’ll probably get the “Pacifist” and “Foxiest of the Hounds” achievement, and I…didn’t.

The only parts of the game I dreaded were the boss fights. Most of the complaints you’ll see about this game will probably involve them, and for good reason. I didn’t think they were going to be so bad but after experiencing them for myself, they do somehow feel apart from the game. First of all, the boss encounters in this game are all straight-up fire fights. So for those who were totally digging the whole stealth and sneaking around thing and not having to kill a single soul, I can see why they would be pissed.

But even as someone playing as a trigger-happy mercenary, I can’t say the boss fights felt all that great for me either. Simply put, they can be difficult. While I don’t normally mind a challenge, the problem is I don’t think the game prepares you for these boss fights. Much of the beginning emphasized and even encouraged stealth and taking enemies down quietly and non-lethally, making it look like a bad-ass bag of fun. Then just as you’ve gotten all your stealthy augments and started falling in love with your stun gun, they throw you into death trap to fend for yourself against some heavy-rifle toting meathead nicknamed “The Bull”. I had damage reduction and all my guns upgraded, and the first time I still flailed around like an oiled-up squid.

Yet, if you know what you’re getting into, DE:HR is still a rock solid game. And the world details are phenomenal! Even when you think you can get away with something, the game’s just too “smart”. Just like real life, someone might catch you moving behind even a tiny window panel in a door and the next thing you know a dozen guards will be alerted to your presence. And as someone who can read a bit of Chinese and French, I was also amazed at the number of Easter eggs I found in Hengsha and Montreal; everything down to the emails to the graffiti scrawled on the walls meant something significant (or was just plain old fun).

I also developed a knack for hacking, and poured points into that as well as social persuasion. Both to me were like little mini-games related to the story, scattered throughout the game. This is where I think the game excels, by giving you many ways of dealing with a situation (with the exception of the boss fights), leading to different branches of the story in a way which I think is even more elaborate than a BioWare game. Picture all the game elements like its plot, features, or mechanics each being an individual thread, and all of them coming together to make a perfect web, and that’s how I felt throughout my playthrough of DE:HR.

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