Step into the conspiracy.
It’s rare for a game to not only live up to its prerelease hype, but actually outshine the beautifully rendered trailers and glistening screenshots. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games.
Human Revolution begins, like many of its kind, with a bang. A bang that leaves my company drowned in scandal, my girlfriend dead, and my body shattered nearly beyond repair. But this is not the story of a broken man. This is a story about the triumphs of man and science, and the controversy of playing god. This is a story of lies and conspiracy, hide and seek; cloak and dagger. This is the story of Adam Jensen, the story of a physically augmented super-soldier; my story.
In the year 2027, mechanical augmentation is man’s greatest achievement to date. Sarif Industries’ advances in human augmentation allow for those with deep pockets, or who can pull the right strings, to become more than human, with super-strength, lightning-quick reflexes or digitally-enhanced intelligence and perception. But like any great gift, augmentation comes with a hefty price. Most bodies reject augmentation, requiring a steady supply of symptom-supressing medication to keep issues in check. But for Adam Jensen, chief of security for Sarif Industries, augmentation was not a choice.
They say that God is in the details; a fitting sentiment considering the game’s title. The sheer level of effort put into the details of Human Revolution by the Eidos Montreal team is astounding, from the Nigerian Prince scam email promising a sum of 47,500,000 credits found in an hacked computer terminal, to the complex AI that finds guards still conducting their investigation of a disturbance I created long after I stashed a body and moved on.
But more than anything, Human Revolution is a game of choice. The choice to play how I want, doing what I want when I want. Through the entire game, I never feel forced to play a certain way. Almost any obstacle, be it enemy or physical obstruction, can be surpassed in a number of different ways, often through a combination of augments. Early on, a sidequest finds me gleaning access to a gated apartment building. An upgrade to my armor would allow safe passage through an electrified hallway, while a leg augment might see me leaping the gate in a single bound. A bit of detective work leads me to a hidden pathway from the adjacent building, while a brute force hack through the front door would work just as well. In Human Revolution, the choices I make are important not because they are correct, but because they are the ones I make.
In combat, I am again faced with many choices, but never ones so cut-and-dry as simple do-this-or-do-that menu options. Instead they flow organically through the gameplay. The most definitive menu-based selection takes place on my first mission, when my boss asks if I want to take a lethal or non-lethal approach, followed by a question of up-close or distance combat. This initial exchange determines the lethality and range of my starting weapon, but afterward the options remain entirely in my hands. On my first play through the game, I develop my own personal moral code which determines whose life I deem worthy of sparing. In almost every case, a single shot to the head is the easier option, but stealthier options like non-lethal weaponry and takedowns let me play the game the way I want to. There is no visible morality scale my actions must answer to, as in Mass Effect or InFamous, only my own conscience wondering if that cop’s family deserved the worst news imaginable.
In terms of length, Human Revolution is not a terribly long game, if I were to barrel through the central conflict, guns-blazing and tunnel-visioned, leaving a wake of mayhem, confusion, and a heap of bodies. But to do so would be a terrible disservice to the game’s beautifully intricate world. I could ignore the countless computer terminals containing emails from friends and coworkers, and never learn the hidden stories of the people whose lives I pass through. I could kill the men guarding my objective, worrying not for their lives, or I could meticulously track their patrols, learn their movements, and slip by undetected. From the rioting streets of Detroit to the Triad-controlled alleys of Hengshua, China, there is a living, breathing – or at least mechanically driven – world to explore.
Infiltrating a high-security medical building, I constantly find myself alternating between non-hostile visitor zones and off-limits restricted areas. Two-thirds of my way into the building, I’ve just slipped through an air duct, passed a security checkpoint and snagged the next area’s security code from a company memo. I knock out the one guard who has seen my trespass, turn a corner back into friendly territory, and strike up a conversation with a patrolling officer, him none-the-wiser that his poker buddy is unconscious two doors down. If you take the time to stop and appreciate the amazingly crafted world around you, even if just for a moment, Human Revolution is not a short game at all.
With choice comes power, and vice-versa. Human Revolution’s extensive selection of augments gives me the option to supercharge my selected method of playing. For the digitally inclined, hacking bonuses allow higher-level terminals to be unlocked quicker and easier, while those who prefer brute force would be interested in damage-reduction, aim-stabilization and increased weapon inventory. Those who wish to sneak by undetected can invest in enemy-tracking notifications, allowing to mark-and-track patrolling units through walls, while pathfinding augments grant access through blocked and locked passages and into treasure-laden caches. By game’s end, I can run faster, jump higher, fall further and crack into anything in my way, but more than anything, I simply feel powerful.
Between a story as well crafted as the finest conspiracy-laden sci-fi fare, solid mechanics, interesting character and player development and engaging gameplay, Human Revolution is a game for the ages. It will go down among the finest of our generation. In the year 2027, our world may not mirror the one of Adam Jensen. Until then, I will be content returning, again and again, to this version of the future. Embrace the revolution, or face losing it all. The choice is yours.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square-Enix. It is available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Bo Moore is Paste’s Assistant Games Editor, where he writes about games, music and other various awesome things. He can be found on Twitter @bom351.
Watch the trailer for Deus Ex: Human Revolution: