Additionally, this article contains copious amount of spoilers; read at your discretion.
The Deus Ex brand (derived from the "deus ex machina" literary technique) has become a household name among PC gaming circles ever since the first game's release in 2000; presenting a rare degree of coherent and involving storytelling, intelligent design, a gripping narrative and - above all - the hitherto unseen ability of multiple paths across any of the game's levels.
|The game is generous with its flavor text, ranging|
from emails and public announcements...
Now, after eleven years (and a surprisingly mediocre sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War), the franchise returns with Human Revolution. The game is styled as a prequel to the original, featuring a dystopian society that has begun to witness the next degree of human advancement; bio-mechanical augmentation of the human body, ranging from minor prosthesis (such as cognitive aids) to full body-part replacement.
The game spends a great deal of energy to develop a believable world; the environments are designed in such a way as to reflect the recent technological advancements, the various overheard conversations hint at the side-effects of such breakthroughs, even discarded newspapers and compromised mail accounts color the world with a pessimistic, dystopian hue - this also presents one of the title's minor problems, as most of the "flavor" text is easy to miss for a player not in the appropriate frame of mind, rewarding careful exploration and a slower pace while "penalizing" faster, all-guns-blazing approaches (something which the developer fails to communicate to the player properly).
|...to overheard conversations in the streets of|
any of the major city hubs.
In fact, the entire game seems to be favoring the stealthier approach to any given problem; neutralizing opponents without killing them, hacking doors and security systems (even when having the correct login credentials), finding side-passages (almost always ventilation shafts) and completing objectives without being detected will always award more experience than their more combat-heavy parallels.
|DX: HR sadly rewards stealth far better than|
aggressive playing, despite previous indications.
At the tutorial's end, in which Sarif Industries is invaded by a mercenary army which massacres the on-site personnel, Adam sustains heavy injuries; this allows the game to introduce the augmentation mechanic, which has been used in an effort to save Jensen's life. The developers opted for a free-form upgrade system; each of the possible augmentations (corresponding to various body parts) can be acquired by spending Praxis points (earned via in-game items and at specific experience point thresholds) - there is no preset path of upgrades; every upgrade is available at any point in the game, provided the player has the required Praxis to unlock it.
|The inventory system is highly intuitive; note the|
ability to rotate any item to fit.
|The augmentation mechanic feels highly rewarding,|
even if a lot of the augmentations feel useless.
The combat itself is weirdly balanced; as mentioned above, stealthy characters are rewarded over their action-oriented counterparts, which is itself the result of both the level design and experience system - the levels favor stealth, with multiple side-routes built into nearly all combat areas, while experience awarded for stealth/non-lethal methods outweighs its more direct/lethal analogues.
|Boss fights, the game's second-worst element, was|
apparently outsourced to a different studio.
This shift in pacing is also apparent in the game's finale, which has Adam literally decide on the ending by activating the corresponding console, thus invalidating (in a certain degree) the choices the player has taken up to that point - all while being spoon-fed a good deal of exposition by one of the game's NPC's. The endings themselves are also highly disappointing: each consisting of a short collection of still images coupled with Adam's narration, who justifies his choice - no mention is made of the fates of the game's major factions or characters, thus denying closure to the player.
Ultimately, while the game succeeds in building a consistent, believable world with an intriguing narrative and an interesting combat implementation, its shifts in focus (boss fights), unfairly balanced experience/augmentation system (stealth vs. combat) and disappointing endings rob it of the all-time classic status.
* Deus Ex: Human Revolution Official Site (requires age check)
* Deus Ex Series - Wikipedia Entry
* Deus Ex Wiki
* "Deus ex machina" - Wikipedia Entry