Monday, 23 April 2012

Completed: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I like how the credits have photos of the devs

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game in an acclaimed series. Normally I try to play series in order as improvements made to interface and mechanics can make going back to earlier games feel more clunky and less fun to play and I like to notice the references to earlier stories that took place within that universe.

Fortunately for me Deus Ex HR is a prequel and so whilst the later titles are unlikely to reference it, I didn't need to worry about receiving many spoilers for the other titles and the information available to me pre-launch indicated that it would be a great game; the TF2 items for pre-ordering also helped to sweeten the deal.

DEHR is at its core a first person shooter with stealth elements and a leveling system. The stealth elements are quite good and being both non-lethal and stealthy provides more experience and thus faster leveling, it is however significantly slower and more difficult. I am not ashamed to say that I save-scummed my way through the game, if any enemy spotted me I immediately loaded an earlier save. I truly was the Foxiest of the Hounds.
A desk in the police station
Little details are shown on desks and computers.

The story revolves around augmentation, transhumanism, conspiracy and control. It addresses what may happen to society when the rich become unarguably better, stronger, faster, smarter, etc. Addiction and control are examined through a drug called Neuropozyne which the augmented require to stave off rejection.

Due to my own personal views I came down fairly firmly on the pro-augmentation side, I like the concept of being able to upgrade myself with abilities that are otherwise unobtainable, but the game does a good job through the story to show the risks associated with augmentation, both economically and from the perspective of mental security.

The tutorial of Human Revolution does a great job of showing the new player how easily an unaugmented person dies in a firefight as you begin as a standard issue human being. Unfortunately this is somewhat undone by the rest of the game where, save for the boss fights, there are no significant differences between unaugmented and augmented enemies, they both are serious threats if they can open fire on you, they both take about the same amount of effort to take down and they are both about as observant as each other.

I really enjoyed sneaking around, knocking out enemies and generally being an undetected hacker/thief, which should come as no surprise to my friends as this is the kind of character I play in pretty much every single game I can. If a game gives me incentives to be unseen and to hack everything regardless of whether or not I know the passcode, then I will attempt to be unseen and to hack every single thing.

A conversation with a sweet old lady
Social augs give the player more information in conversations
I liked the characters that you interact with, especially Pritchard the computer security guy who functions as the primary off-site advice and message guy and David Sarif who is the head of the company for which you work. They do a great job of developing these characters and showing them as people with their own drives and scruples.

They do a great job of having little details in the world, desks have pictures and names on them, emails between characters have the occasional misspelling depending upon the character and you get a sense of how the organisations and people operate.

The game also includes some significant conversations that are a kind of social combat, you can get augmentations to help win these fights, like a lot of the stealth augmentations, they work by providing extra information rather than making the checks easier. Some people can get by through examining faces for reactions, I found that I was relatively rubbish at that aspect. The animations for these sections were significantly better than the standard ones used for standing and talking though.

The game does include boss fights that were outsourced to another  company, they all start with Adam Jenson walking out into the open and being tricked or surprised, they feel pretty forced and are a significant change of pace. They also don't count for both the pacifist and the stealth achievements. They were the least enjoyable part of the game for me as I found that my play style did not fit them at all.

Adam Jenson relaxing at home
Prerendered cutscenes can be a little jarring
The other niggle I have is the cutscenes, they are prerendered cinematics that are very obviously running under different lighting and at a different resolution to the rest of the game which I found quite jarring as suddenly everything became significantly more blurred. I think the disconnect comes from the cutscenes being close to what is depicted in the normal game, though with a little more detailed animation. There isn't a great solution to this other than making all cutscenes in engine as I would probably have been rather irritated if they had included a 2560x1440 copy of the prerendered cutscenes as that would have made the game somewhat massive.

I have not yet completed the Missing Link DLC, it actually appears as a completely separate game on Steam and nothing crosses over between it and the main game in terms of equipment or experience, it does give a little more information about the world and characters within it, and more importantly it provides me with a little bit more of the game to play through.

If you enjoy a bit of modern cyberpunk and stealth gameplay I really recommend this title. It is actually on sale at the moment from GamersGate for $7.50 or $10 if you want the augmented edition. It is a steamworks title, so you will get a code that you then activate on Steam.

Games list status: 387 unfinished titles
                           Net change: 1 title finished, 1 title removed

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