Top Ten of 2011 – 5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Deus Ex Human Revolution finally hit the market: it was actually as good as it looked. Since Invisible War struggled to improve upon its predecessors achievements and success, we found it hard to believe there could be a worthy successor to Deus Ex with a third installment, but with this intelligent and satisfying prequel, we were rendered immobile for days until completing it. The dystopian future Adam Jensen comes from is rich in detail, and the man himself was a hugely versatile protagonist, allowing us to make the ultimate choice: sneak past, or elbow sword to the neck?

Paul:
*tap tap* “Huh?” *SMASH*

That’s the sound of Adam Jensen sneaking up behind a guard, tapping him politely on the shoulder, and then smashing his face in with a robotic arm, using god knows how much force, but discernibly enough to knock a man out without necessarily killing him. Two things are absolutely certain… One, that was totally badass, and two, that would goddamn hurt!

Deus Ex is one of my all time favourite video game franchises, but Human Revolution is a far cry from the days of its elders; offering third person cover-to-cover movement and melee takedowns, and classic RPG leveling and experience points to unlock the new augmentations and upgrades, rather than the augmentation canisters of yore. The multiple ways to play are fantastic, and certainly give you a feeling of power of the [virtual] lives of the enemies and even innocents throughout the story, and whilst I took the pacifists path through the game and killed nobody but the bosses, it was nice to know if I really wanted to, I could have killed anyone I felt deserved it, rather than simply knock them out with a dart, a stun-gun, or a hangover-inducing punch to the chin. Admittedly, because I was gunning (metaphorically, of course) for the pacifist achievement, there were actually times when I would have quite liked to put somebody down for being pure evil, but remembered I was bound by the commitment to kill not a single damn person. Whilst it didn’t taint my experience of the game in the slightest, I can’t help but wonder if I would have actually made the same decisions had I not been after the glory of an achievement.

Human Revolution has a great story, a huge number of augmentations and upgrades to play with from start to finish, and whilst the combat and stealth is all fantastic fun, the game definitely gears you toward playing the smart guy, and not the gung-ho, all weapons blazing mad man, because by jove if you step out of cover at the wrong time in a firefight, you will be dead in seconds, no matter how big your guns. This, however, isn’t a bad thing; Deus Ex has never been about the all-out gunfights between one man and an army, and has always been about the sneaking, assassinating/incapacitating, hacking, negotiating, and exploring. At very few points in any of the series is the player encouraged to murder an entire mob of enemies, and with Human Revolution keeping the tradition of planning, stealthing, and uncovering secrets, they managed to keep a great deal of the game about the characters, the story, and most of all, the conspiracies. I couldn’t have been much happier with Human Revolution, and I will definitely be playing it again soon.

Matt:
He never asked for this. He never asked for elbow swords. He didn’t want to be able to turn invisible. He didn’t want x-ray vision or the ability to punch through a concrete wall. He didn’t want to be capable of leaping off a 20-storey building and land perfectly safe. And if you think Adam Jensen asked to have a deadly typhoon of bullets capable of murdering an entire room full of people installed in his arms, you’d be dead wrong. But I’m rather glad he did. There’s so many cool abilities to unlock in Deus Ex 3, you really can play the game any way you want and it will adapt and allow you to. I didn’t want to restrict myself to being a pacifist, although I deeply admire the fact its possible to play the game entirely without killing anyone (save for those infamous bosses). I preferred to be a little more spontaneous: if I thought someone deserved to die, I would arrange that. I did try to not kill any faction until I had solid evidence of who the bad guys were, but that’s the thing about plans, they never seem to work out the way you hope.

When things go wrong, they can do so spectacularly. What starts off as another routine stealthy break-in to the enemy hideout can turn into a bloodbath pretty damn fast. If a guard spots you, you usually have a few seconds to deal with him silently before he alerts the others. A stun dart to the back of the head works quite well. I lost track of the number of unconscious guards I dragged into vent-shafts and cleaning cupboards. But this approach didn’t always work for me, and if I did happen to be spotted sneaking around in a restricted area, I’d have no choice but to unleash some serious pain on anyone in my way. That aforementioned typhoon literally leaves no-one standing, and the brutal takedown finishing moves are satisfyingly violent in every way. Thanks to the skill of the developers, both styles of play are more than viable and its this balance of gameplay experiences that makes Deus Ex stand out as one of the top 5 games of 2011.

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