Tuesday, March 25, 2014

6 Days of...Deus Ex: Human Revolution!

 Playing a demigod built by man

I've heard plenty of amazing things about Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Edios Montreal. The grapevine told me that there were RPG elements in a stealth shooter, that the environment was deep and interactive, and that the underlying themes were dark and entirely possible. I've found all of these true over the last 6 days, as well as taking on the persona of an entirely impossible hero.

You can't help but have cliche entrances with a guy like this
I'm not complaining by any means. The character you inhabit during the game is entertaining to say the least. His voice is a combination of Stalone and Batman, and his deadpan delivery of well, everything, is reminiscent of the Terminator. Honestly I don't think I could remember an action hero trope that wasn't covered in the first 2 hours. 

And it was utterly amazing. 

Whenever I've played characters in the past the developers seem to want to humanize them to give them accessibility by the audience. Deus Ex doesn't have a problem with this because their main character is almost entirely machine. He's literally lost his humanity so there isn't a need to form a sense of humanity around the character unless it's projected by the player. 

This in turn makes the fact that you'll be wiping the floor with dozens of people believable. This is the first game I've been consciously convinced that I'm actually that powerful. Whenever I pass a fellow "aug" on the street they comment on my military enhancements that are a benefit of working in security for my employer. Even though this is reinforced constantly you can still be taken down with just a burst from an assault rifle. This danger in combination with the augmentations that are obviously the envy of everyone around you makes taking on entire armies conceivable, as long as you're smart about it.

This isn't something you want to fight head on.
The level designs play into this greatly. There are places to hide and take cover in many of levels and still somehow make sense with the areas. There are strategically placed assets to assist in stealth or combat no matter what your path of skills. This careful planning shows in every area you come across and I greatly appreciated it while playing. Especially the natural choke points where I could pick my battles and take out multiple opponents with zeal. 

It's not so easy as it sounds though, there were many times where I had to quickly scout and improvise to invent a solution. This often involved using up limited resources like specialized grenades to seal victory for myself. Using these very limited resources to squeak out a win during clutch moments was something I lived for while playing. Knowing it took all you had to beat a group of enemies is very satisfying when it all comes together.

The other thing that is extremely satisfying is the boss battles, that are up against models of human that are augmented at similar levels to your own. It legitimately feels like a fight among demi-gods or semi-humans, no matter how you look at it. This human and non-human theme comes along plenty of times in the story, but it's never as apparent as when you're fighting someone that is just as inhuman as you are. 

Several characters in the story could have been considered demigods by the way they've been reconstructed. This isn't ever more apparent than the boss battles, especially when you're destroying a platoon of augmented humans with a war tuned robot for backup. These scenes make for great challenges and definitely give a sense of tension while you're trying to sneak around. 

Obvious reference is obvious.
I've been thoroughly enjoying all this in the environment they've packed it into. The periods where you're walking around a city with minimal fighting still feels comfortable, which is hard to pull off while keeping you in an action game. The focus on the world building is definitely apparent and well thought out. It's hard not to appreciate this neo-world that Eidos has thought up. Honestly I could talk about themes and rhetoric all day when it comes to the in-game environment. I won't though, so don't worry.

I would suggest playing Deus Ex to anyone who enjoys any of the elements it offers, because they're all very well exhibited here. Masterfully really. I feel like I say that about specific elements in lots of the games I play, but Deus Ex shines in lots of areas at the same time. It's a great overall experience that shows where the technology we take for granted might be taking us. 

You'll like this game if: You enjoy stealth/shooter/social/detective hybrids and want to see where our domination of the natural world through technology might take us. Hint: it's a dark, gritty place so be prepared to survive under the watchful eye of the corporations that control the world.

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