Saturday, July 6, 2013
Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Everything Adam Jensen Didn't Ask For
I remember when Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out in 2011. Correction, I remember hearing about the game in passing and then getting it at Gamestop. I didn't have any expectations for the game, nor did I have any experience with its lauded predecessor, simply titled Deus Ex.
Two years later, I finally finished it.
Much like Assassin's Creed, Deus Ex is a game that sparked my interest initially, but between long layoffs spent playing better games or spending too much time watching my friends play through, fell into the 'To Be Continued..." pile of games.
I had to change how I played the game to find my groove and truly enjoy it. I focused on building my character the way I was playing the game, fine-tuning the interactions with characters to make the most of the social enhancer (which I acquired far too late in the game to fully enjoy), and giving my Adam Jensen full energy to be able to cloak, take down, slice, dice, chop and lop through heavier populated areas.
Like previous endeavors in stealth games, I played with more force and violence than cloak and dagger. It wasn't a matter of frustration with the stealth system, it was just too tempting to see a lone sentry and not want to cut him down with those fancy arm blades.
I didn't get into the fun of picking up fridges and throwing them at people in this playthrough, but I may have to in the future.
Deus Ex is an interesting game, especially if you treat it as a standalone rather than a spiritual successor or prequel to the original. The premise is interesting, and the story raises some great ideas regarding augmenting human genetics to adapt to cybernetic enhancements.
However, those great questions lead to heavy-handed choices, particularly at the end where you are presented with choices as to how you handle the information you've uncovered.
Your choice can end augmentation, allow it to continue unregulated, allow it to continue under the guidance of the Illuminati, or destroy the information you've uncovered and the world is none the wiser.
In the end, however, this choice seems largely separate from the rest of the game. The story builds to it well enough, but in the presence of the big questions and legitimate moral conundrums, the choices are very black and white.
After the choices, you're treated to a cutscene of stock footage with a voiceover further explaining the choice, and not the actual effect it had.
While it's nice to give the player a choice, it also removes the personal impact of that choice because the result is static. You play the game a very specific way, taking care not to kill people, or killing everyone, only to have your efforts nullified by the narrow-minded, predetermined endings.
Why not have a hashed out aftermath portion of the game, not DLC mind you, but a six-months later scenario where Jensen is once again walking through Sarif Industries or the city streets, talking about the way the world has changed since his decision
Or have each choice could bring up a tree of paths following the release or destruction of the information, allowing the player to truly guide the choice rather than allowing the information to dictate what it is the world does or reacts to.
Long before then, however the prospect of choosing to play through in stealth or use force is eliminated by the boss battles which Eidos farmed out, which forced players to use force to complete.
It is clear from the start that boss battles didn't fit in the game. It made sense to encounter each of the people responsible for the assault on Sarif industries, and the events that led to Jensen's augmentation. It didn't make sense to remove choice for such necessary encounters.
Gameplay is smooth, augmentations are interesting to upgrade since almost all of them serve an actual purpose rather than being gimmicky or one-off abilities, except for that Icarus-slow fall ability. That just seems to be giving lazy players an ability to leap from tall buildings rather than navigate down them the way the got up.
The gunplay is satisfying, though combat as a whole feels lopsided.
The game preaches choice, yet seems to punish you for engaging even street thugs. I understand the heavily armored guards doing substantial damage, and being more ruthless and brazen in their attacks.
But street thugs seem almost MORE likely to rush me while I'm in cover rather than seeking cover themselves. Humans should care more about their well being, you know?
And maybe it is just my own feeling, but for a relatively short game, Deus Ex felt like it took forever.
And why the f*ck is everything yellow?!?
If the future is yellow, count me out. Deus Ex just feels a little hollow because at its core it is several game types and elements and ideas loosely stitched together. There is no weight to any of it because it all feels disjointed.
But whatever... It's over.