How Do All Those Augmentations Run Off of One AA Battery?
HIGH Earning the Pacifist and Foxiest of Hounds Achievements in one run.
LOW Constantly dealing with low energy for augmentations.
WTF So I'm a corporate superspy who never... gets... supplied?
As a huge fan of the original Deus Ex, I've been eagerly awaiting this new entry to the series since it was announced. All things considered, it ended up a more-than-respectable title that falls in line with the source material, I enjoyed it, and I recognize it as a fine effort. However, that's not to say that Eidos Montreal can't improve on what they've created. Steve's done his part as Good Cop in the main review, so in keeping with the traditional spirit of an old-fashioned GameCritics second opinion, Bad Cop is here with a few words...
To begin with, while I think that the game offers a good level of atmosphere, it's not great. Areas often feel noticeably empty and vacant, lacking the sort of visually busy traffic that makes other modern games feel alive with virtual citizens. Players will spend much time in "combat zones" that are heavy on sneaking and fulfilling objectives, so there's usually enough going on in them to keep a player distracted. However, when set loose in the free-roam city sections, Deus Ex: Human Revolution fails to convince.
Although it doesn't seem like the bustling urban core it should be, the starting Detroit area isn't too bad. It feels sparse, but there are enough people to talk to and enough things to look at that it mostly gets the job done. The Hengsha level, supposed to be a mega-dense multi-level Asian metropolis, falls completely flat. Before entering, I expected crowded streets, noisy displays and plenty of hustle and bustle. What I got was a large and difficult-to-navigate ghost town. My appreciation of Human Revolution took a big nosedive in this segment, and I couldn't get out of it fast enough—the entire map felt like a massive dead zone with a few quests flagged for completion. The fact that Jensen never has to deal with the populace in any meaningful way felt like a missed opportunity to enrich the Deus Ex world.
Another thing that sapped some of my affection for this game was the bone-headed way the developers handled the energy feeding Adam Jensen's augmentation powers. Doing things like silently subduing a guard or briefly turning invisible to get past a crowded room requires energy, and Jensen has a limited amount. By purchasing some upgrades, his maximum energy capacity can be increased, but it does not regenerate. For example, Jensen may have five available units of energy, but after using all five, he will only recharge one. The remaining four stay empty. In order to gain more, players must find or buy special food and eat it during missions.
I get that the developers didn't want players to run through the game as invincible supermen, but there's just so much wrong with this setup. To start with, Jensen has very limited access to energy-recharging foods. It made absolutely no sense that this character is an elite problem-solver with ties to one of the most powerful corporations in the world, yet he can't go down to the cafeteria on the second floor of his building and buy as many snack bars as he needs. It's an utterly contrived limitation that breaks the fiction of the world.
Also, as mentioned earlier, regardless of how many upgrade points are put into Jensen's battery stats, the regeneration never improves. As a player going for a maximum stealth and pacifism, I relied heavily on my special abilities. Consequently, I was often operating on one unit of energy or less, which turned much of the game into waiting for my battery to recharge. For example, if I used some juice to sneak invisibly behind a guard, I was then unable to take them down since my single unit of energy was gone. This waiting around slowed the pace down unnecessarily, and put a damper on the concept of being such a powerful character. Like I said, it makes sense that having no restrictions on the special abilities would make the game too easy, but in that case, I would've rather the developers toned down the potency of the abilities rather than gimping the energy system.
While those issues are fairly substantial ones, there are also plenty of smaller irritations. Remember when I said that Jensen couldn't go into the cafeteria to buy food? Well, he can't go to the technology department of his corporation and requisition specific weapons or ammo, nor does he have a place to put weapons and ammo that he collects if his hands become too full. I don't understand how a top-level operative never gets to select his own loadout, but there it is.
It was also quite irritating to miss spoken clues to certain sidequests and have no way to go back and catch what I missed. Similarly, it made little sense that I wasn't able to put locations on Jensen's map once they were discovered. I couldn't remember where one particular store was located in one of the urban areas after having found it, and considering that Jensen's body is 3/4ths super bionic, it was petty of the developers to completely ignore any kind of basic GPS function. It doesn't make the game "more real" to force me to physically take notes or to remember where a certain place is, it's just an annoyance.
Another annoyance was that some events are timed and some aren't, and there's no way to tell which is which. In my view, if all events aren't going to be consistent one way or the other, then the developer should implement some way of letting a player know when a clock is running. Guessing what event will be available for infinity and what has a limited window doesn't make for good gameplay.
Finally, the thing that took the cake for me? Finding out that Human Revolution was sliced and diced for the sake of creating a superior version's DLC.
At one point in the adventure, a cut-scene shows a man who's never been seen before. I was quite confused, and after doing a little research, I found out that an extra quest available only for the deluxe version explains who this character is. (Note: this extra mission is now available as paid DLC.)
I can understand the concept of giving extra goodies to those who want to pay a little more, but that's exactly what they should be—extra goodies. Taking out a mission that has an obvious place in the story mode? Not okay. Doing a little more research, I also discovered that an item called an Auto-Unlock Device only exists in the deluxe version (or DLC) of the game. Since I invested in the Hacking augmentations, this omission didn't affect me. However, for players who went with a combat build, having an item of this sort would have been a lifesaver in several instances. Such a thing isn't a bonus, it's an important addition that would help balance the game and provide more options to players. Once I realized that the mission and the device were only available for an extra fee, I lost some respect for the title.
So, I've just played devil's advocate for a thousand words and haven't even mentioned the ill-fitting boss fights or how the player's choices throughout the adventure have essentially no effect on which ending is earned. Without a doubt, there are many aspects of Deus Ex: Human Revolution that need some work before it will live up to its true potential. However, despite my efforts to take the opposite of Steve's position, I must insist that I did enjoy my time with the game and I do genuinely feel as though it was one of 2011's stronger releases. In fact, I liked the game so much that I ordered the Adam Jensen action figure (so poseable!) and succumbing to the merch machine isn't something that I do very often.
Is Deus Ex: Human Revolution an unassailable end-all, be-all? Not hardly, but it is a solid update to historic source material, and an enjoyable title whose flaws are only brought to the forefront because so much of the rest (as Steve outlined) is so good.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 22 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode (completed 1 time). There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, drug reference, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of alcohol. Human Revolution carries a Mature rating; there are non-sexual encounters with prostitutes and sexual themes are occasionally discussed, although nothing especially graphic; the script has also has a fair amount of strong language and intense violence; the latter is mostly reserved for blood in the absence of graphic displays of gore. Finally, protagonist Adam Jensen can consume alcohol. This is by no means the most offensive M-rated game, but parents are still encouraged to use discretion.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Nearly the entire game supports subtitles, though oddly not in any of the game's somewhat rare rendered cutscenes. However, noise can be an issue when dealing with stealth scenarios. Additionally, any information missed in in cutscenes is recapped in a summary when continuing a game from the title screen.