After a long wait, Deus Ex: Human Revolution arrived and despite the weight of expectation, it acquitted itself rather well. In games (and in life), I struggle to remember the bad bits after a year or ten. What I do remember about the last Deus Ex is entering areas filled with baddies and finding awesome ways to punish their pesky asses. Enormous insectoid robot? Pah, I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast – you eat pieces of shit for breakfast?! And so it went. Of course there was probably a ton of tiresome jank in Deus Ex and Invisible War that I’ve forgotten but if Human Revolution dares to put a foot wrong, it is pissing on its predecessors’ graves. Such is the lot of the nostalgia sequel. So I approached the latest instalment of this venerable member of video games’ royal family with trepidation but I leave happy.
Those artfully constructed areas with multiple, flexible solutions are back and sneaking through them is still satisfying enough to make it all worthwhile. It’s not new cause it is unmistakably Deus Ex but after this long, the stealth feels almost original. You creep into a room, peek out and watch everyone going about their business and plan how to get through, ideally unseen but certainly unshot since it does not take many to kill you. If you are lucky, your plan comes off perfectly and you are clearly awesome. If someone sees you, you have some exciting improvisation to do and most likely a delightful load screen to watch till you undie. They are good load screens…maybe if we make the screen really nice they won’t notice how lo…I particularly like the fonts, one’s all tapered corners meets boxy-calculator and ends up looking strong but sort of suave and the other’s all coy and normalish till bam, my A’s got no legs, it’s a triangle, that’s all you get – love it. BUT the loading times are murderous and when you end up somewhere you’re going to die a lot…segue…
What is bad about Human Revolution is a bunch of the supporting acts. The boss fights were ruined by the load times for me, they were also pretty unimaginative and utterly unsuited to my stealth skills but even without those problems, in a game where you die fast, it is stupid to start your fight with the boss charging at you and before you’ve surveyed the scene so you will die numerous times and you will have to admire those fonts till you don’t li…I still like them, I do, the A is a triangle! I put the game onto easy and saved every time I shot the boss – doesn’t make you feel so awesome.
Your character comes off like an ex-angry nerd who has accrued enough general respect, to downgrade his nerd rage to a low-level chippyness. But since he is you, its a bit like bringing a regrettable friend to a party and then feeling obliged to follow them around wincing apologetically when they talk. Still to be fair to him, he does sound a lot better than every NPC in the game simply because he has not caught the insane repeater disease where you only say one thing but boy do you get your mileage out of it. What else? The structure of it all feels a bit off. The hubs don’t really come together like Mass Effect’s and there are fewer of them so you spend an hour or so in a mission and then your inter-mission ice-cream vendor is a mission to find. But really these are minor gripes that only grate towards the end.
The upgrades are well implemented and offer meaningful choices about how to improve your character. You often have a new toy to play with and the difficulty can increase noticeably so you always feel that your last battle was the hairiest. They can feel a bit binary when your path is blocked with a ‘heavy’ object or electrocuted but they are all useful. The hacking minigame is fantastic, simple to grasp but with enough depth to never get old. And finally the production values are very high, I think it looks and sounds great. But really it all comes back to the core gameplay which is as good as it ever was. If you like stealthing at all or want something a bit different or indeed have a penchant for a damn fine load screen, you should definitely play this. I hope this rekindles the Deus Ex franchise, its a winning formula with a rich legacy to draw on and those niggles won’t be hard to address in a sequel.