Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Initial Impressions

Aah, it's good to own land. And be augmented.

For those of us that aren’t on Amurrican time, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was officially released for Asia-Pac a couple of nights ago. I had a chance to play a solid couple of hours on release night before finally realising that I had to go in to the office the next morning, and I can safely say that I will be getting my money’s worth out of this one.

For those not in the know, DX:HR is set in a dystopian Detroit, where a company called Serif Industries is at the forefront of human augmentation. It has become popular and even fashionable for people to forego their shoddy ol’ meathooks and hooves in favour of some new sexy, shiny augmented arms; mechanically-powered legs; new optics; or some neural implants for computer-aided thought processing. All’s well and good…but in order to prevent your body from rejecting the implants like a cut-price organ from your local alleyway, you need to regularly take a certain drug that happens to be horribly addictive. What’s more is that a vigilante group has sprung up, preaching and ranting of the evils of human augmentation, and that by succumbing to it we are giving up a part of our very humanity (which then segues nicely into tin foil hat conspiracy theories of companies mining data from implant users and being able to deactivate your implants at will).

The most notable thing that struck me in DX:HR was the quality of narrative and the immersion of the setting. The script is comprehensible, mature, and delivered with conviction, and the characters are all the more real as a result. Street thugs and gang bangers use their own lingo. People lingering outside buildings on their cigarette break debate the ethics of augmentation and discuss local politics. Punks clad in drab leather garments and boots spray graffiti on walls, while a few blocks away office workers fashionably dressed in neo-Rennaisance clothing sip coffee and grapple with tablet PDAs. The world is constantly dark and tinged with yellow and gold (perhaps due to Jenson’s glasses?), which can feel monotonous, but it emphasises the surreal nature of this world.

Your actions will also have a visible effect on the populace. People will call you out on your actions, whether it be failing to save hostages or allowing terrorists a chance to escape.

Interrogating and interracting with NPCs is not quite as detailed as, say, the system in Mass Effect, but it does allow you to branch out in a small number of ways. The game appears to focus on three personality types, and certain responses will appeal to those characters of a certain deposition.

Purists will be pleased to know that DX:HR is heavily reminiscent of the original game released many years ago. The game promises steady progression through completion of objectives and exploration of items throughout the world. The progression tree is segmented, allowing players to focus their augmentation upgrades on certain areas, rather than locking them into a small number of paths. Inventory management is near identical – items can be hotkeyed and items are managed by using a grid.

My assault rifle vs. his autocannon? I like those odds.

The action and stealth components are excellent. Whether one chooses to barely fire a shot on a mission or leave nothing standing, both approaches are a lot of fun. I got as much of a kick out of bounding silently from cover to cover behind the backs of patrolling guards as I did unloading a Widowmaker shotgun into a gang member’s gut. The controls are nicely responsive; so far there has never been a moment where I thought, “I didn’t want to do that”. The cover system is similar to that used in Rainbox 6: Vegas, and it’s definitely to the game’s advantage – I wonder why this technique hasn’t caught on with other devs.

Even hacking deserves a mention. Given the prevalence of technology and interfaces throughout the world, hacking plays a pivotal role in the game world. Hacking in itself is a minigame, where you attempt to gain control of key nodes, while preventing the security CPU from doing the same. It’s a mixture of defensive action, offensive push, and the odd custom script or two to ensure access. Compared to the mind-numbing monotony of Bioshock‘s pipe dream minigame, it’s great.

This game is Deus Ex for the modern age. It’s a thoughtful, intelligent title for mature gamers, allowing them to complete the game as they see fit. If you don’t mind being treated to a good yarn slathered with plenty of distractions, side quests, and action sequences, then you could do much worse than this.

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