Pneumothorax: To most of you this is probably a foreign word; for medics, it’s a term that means air within the pleural cavity that can cause the lung to collapse and thereby lead to shortness of breath. For me it’s the reason why I envy Adam Jensen and his augmentations. Just one of the awesome, key elements of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
The biotechnological augmentations -- in the futuristic-dystopic world of Deus Ex -- are versatile, highly complex, and by some people even seen as next step of evolution. Cameras directly implanted in your eye, sensors that sort humans by type and influence them with matching pheromones, and bulletproof skin are only a few examples of what technology can do in 2027. I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them, but compared to the two tubes sticking out of my torso right now an augmented and far more robust lung seems to be a pleasant alternative.
Unfortunately the technology isn’t perfect. After time the body rejects the augmentations and only the expensive drug Neuropozyne can suppress this. By enhancing your physical abilities, you're automatically accepting a lifelong drug addiction. Because of this, augmentations have broken society into three castes: those with enough money to suppress the rejection, those who can’t afford Neuropozyne, -- therefore doomed to a life of physical and psychological pain -- and those who don’t have any augmentations and thus lose the everyday competition to better equipped humans.
The story of Deus Ex: Human Revolution covers this ethical conflict while discussing the following: What makes humans human and are far-reaching changes to the human body ever justifiable? While these topics lack the input of the protagonist, their presentation is enthralling and deliver a well-paced and exciting thriller about power, control, and conspiracies.
As chief of security for Sarif Industries, a small but leading biotechnology company, Adam Jensen’s ex-girlfriend, a successful scientist, is about to present break-through research in Washington -- which could solve the whole Neuropozyne problem. Before this happens, Sarif Industries is attacked and consequently Adam is fatally wounded. Only an extreme operation and the implementation of augmentations can save his life.
Six months later and back on duty, as a newly bolted super-human, Jensen sets out to find who was behind the attack. His story from start to (the not so spectacular) finish is thrilling, engaging, and filled with unexpected twists around every corner. Veteran thriller fans might be able to detect early foreshadowing, regardless knowing the end doesn’t make the experience any less enthralling.
The ending aside, you won’t be able to greatly influence much of the quest driven story in Deus Ex. Optional side missions -- though limited -- do give more insight into the background of the world as well offering great rewards. While the story is fixed, decisions on how to complete each aforementioned quests is left to the player. Similar to the first and critically acclaimed game in the series, every problem presents multiple solutions.
Eidos Montreal broke this into the four sections; stealth, combat, hacking, and social, but often exploration of the environment can help too. One example of how a scenario can play out differently is at the police station that needs to be infiltrated in the game. You can simply walk in through the front door if you win a "verbal" fight, choose to sneak by through hidden entrances, or simply gun down everyone in your way.
No matter how you do it, you’ll have a bunch of augmentations supporting your play style that can be unlocked over time -- sooner or later depending on your preferences. While experience is earned for every action, the amount varies greatly. For example, gunning down everyone give far less experience than the more passive action of silently knocking enemies out. Then again, while anyone can win a firefight, you’ll need a lot of augmentations to become an invisible hacking pro.
This versatile gameplay works very well throughout the course of the game. In general the game has a good flow and everything works the way it should -- minus a few small issues like inventory management or A.I. Combat seems a bit too easy since the pistol is extremely powerful. If you carry the same weapon the entire game and upgrade it whenever possible, all non-boss enemies will go down with a single head shot -- which aren’t too hard to achieve.
As useful as Combat augmentations are you don’t really need them to complete the game. This flaw aside, most augmentations are versatile and loads of fun. If you like to experiment and look for inventive new ways to play games, you’ll enjoy even the most inconspicuous of augments. And of course it’s always extremely cool to invisibly take down two enemies at the same time.
The visuals of Deus Ex might not be as perfect as some graphics enthusiasts want a modern game to be, but if you take in its great aesthetics, you won’t care about a few rough edges. Sure, the strong emphasis on golden color tones isn’t for everyone, but it’s a well worked out and consistently used concept. A nice counterpart to the cyber-punk atmosphere that’s usually kept in very dark and cold colors.
The world of Deus Ex also imitates a living, breathing reality -- as long as you don’t spend too much time around NPCs. As soon as a character repeats his or her routine everything becomes unreal. While areas in the world are often designed with a focus on the small details, it’s strange that the same crates are copied all over. But such small nuances are easily compensated by all the other great features. For example there are many scripted conversations you can listen in on. These small scenes can be experienced if you sneak close enough to talking people and will occasionally give additional information, fun facts, or advantages on upcoming battles -- something that really enhances the illusion of a dynamic world.
Deus Ex’s music further amplifies the world as well. The music perfectly controls the mood, always evoking the right amount of danger, tension, and drama which allows one to easily slip into the role of Adam Jensen. The voice acting is also done very well and is genuinely engaging. There are a few situations when the voice isn’t properly lip-synced, breaking the immersion, but such instances are very rare considering how much dialog is in this game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is in many aspects a modern version of the first game. In a time of boring sequels, it seems to be exactly what many fans (myself included) wished for. A thrilling story, excellently presented, and playable in a multitude of ways thanks to versatile gameplay mechanics. It may not be flawless, but you’ll completely dive into the world of Deus Ex within the first few minutes and stay until every question and mystery are solved.
Is mankind ready for this? That’s for you to decide. One thing I know for sure, while I still have to wait until I can augment my lung, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great game I’ll gladly play again and again.
Developer: Nixxes Software BV,Eidos Studios Montreal
Genre: Role-Playing, Action, First-Person Shooter
Release: August 23, 2011
Available On: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
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