Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

Deus Ex: Human Revolution had the odds stacked against it upon release; after the lackluster second game failed to live up to the original Deus Ex, all attention was focused squarely on the third game. It more or less delivers a worthwhile experience, but at the same time suffers from a number of flaws ranging from nagging irritations to tidal-wave-drowning-your-loved-ones levels of grief, depending on a number of factors.

The most prominent of those factors is the platform you choose to play Human Revolution on. I played on PC, which I later found to be a poor choice; for some inexplicable reason, the game occasionally decides to stop playing nice with certain computer setups. There were no problems the first time I played through, but going through the game a second time with an upgraded GPU meant random frame rate sputtering despite the new card being superior to the old in every way. Every other game saw massive frame rate gains, but Human Revolution became virtually unplayable after the upgrade. No other game that I’ve played suffers from this problem, and even the briefest of Google searches shows that this particular issue persists to this day. No direct cause has ever been established, and though there are a number of tweaks that can make the game a little closer to bearable for those suffering random, sputtering frame rate drops, it’s still pretty bad. This seems to be a hit-or-miss problem that could randomly affect anyone playing on the PC regardless of how powerful their machine may be, so be careful when you’re choosing a platform to play this on.

Another problem to mention: Certain portions of this game, mostly around the middle, tend to drag on and last longer than they should. Part of the problem is the color scheme that emphasizes gold, black, and green, which lends a very same-ish visual quality to many areas, but it would still drag even if that weren’t the case. There’s enough to see and do to (probably) keep one interested through most of the game, but the middle portion of the game ultimately proves to be less interesting than it probably should be. It’s not bad enough that you can expect to quit out of boredom in the middle of the game, but it could easily become bothersome on subsequent playthroughs.

Why… why is he looking straight at me while he’s saying that?

The characters in Human Revolution are largely uninteresting, from the generic “I didn’t ask for this” hero to the cookie-cutter villains. That being said, there are a few worthwhile characters that are worth playing through the game for, and the other characters coming across as hollow shells devoid of personality help to establish the detached atmosphere cyberpunk tends to be known for. I don’t think this was something that happened on purpose, but whatever. Serendipity. So long as it works, I suppose it doesn’t matter that it was an accident.

Usually, the story is the most important part of a game for me. The story in this game is serviceable, at times showing serious potential while at other times communicating upcoming twists with all the subtlety of a crazed baboon. It works for what it is, but it’s a bit disappointing to have the ability to craft a story around the question of what it means to be a human and then quickly change that from a philosophical question to a sloppy pretense to go shoot a bunch of people. The story does have its standout moments, of course, but they’re few and far between.

Gameplay is probably the best thing about the game, acting as a bridge of sorts between the old and the new. Like the original Deus Ex, it’s possible to upgrade yourself in a very RPG fashion, but this is streamlined and made more accessible to bring it in line with what (stupid) current gamers expect; unlike the original game, shooting is a very viable option from the beginning, requiring no points to be invested in guns before they become deadly. Perhaps even more deadly are the “finishers,” little cutscenes that you can initiate (provided you have “energy,” an MP mechanic of sorts that keeps you from spamming finishers and miscellaneous other skills until everything is dead) when you get close enough to an NPC. Finishers come in both lethal and non-lethal varieties, and they’re pretty much awesome. You can easily waste fifteen minutes running around, punching a bunch of random people in the face. Er… not that I’ve done that.

True to the original Deus Ex, you have choices for how to approach situations. You can run down hallways with guns blazing, surreptitiously make your way through vents while avoiding alarms, hack computers to reprogram security robots to mow down your enemies, or any number of other things (though you’re usually limited to just those things—the “choice” of how to approach situations is mostly just an illusion disguising a couple pre-set solutions). The gameplay has one weakness, however: Boss fights. These are annoying sections that don’t mesh with the rest of the game at all, forcing you into a guns-blazing approach. The easiest way around this is to unlock the Typhoon upgrade as early as possible and hoard its ammo; a few blasts from the Typhoon can quickly take out bosses, and it being omnidirectional means that you only need to be close for it to be effective. Still, it would be preferable if the boss fights weren’t present at all.

Taking screenshots during finishers makes you look like a sex offender.

Human Revolution’s graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Many characters—especially NPCs—look really weird. I can’t figure out what it is, but there’s something very wrong about their body proportions that doesn’t work with the dark, trying-to-be-realistic atmosphere of the rest of the game. Weapons, on the other hand, are detailed and interesting. Areas are sterile and tend to blend together after awhile (thanks to the color scheme) into a featureless series of random places that you have no attachment to. That may be the goal, but every place looking a lot like every other place isn’t exactly ideal.

The music, on the other hand, is incredible. I’d go so far as to say that without the orchestral/electronic soundtrack backing it up, the game would be an absolute waste of time; despite the fact that orchestral music tends to all be very same-y, the electronic influence ensures that many of the tracks manage to be unique. Just listen:

The soundtrack is undoubtedly doing the heavy lifting in terms of creating the game’s atmosphere, something that few other in-game elements are helping to contribute to.

Here’s what you should do:

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