Augmentations. Marvels of technology created by Hugh Darrow have given people the ability to not just regain the use of lost limbs or dying organs, but to surpass the abilities of the un-augmented. But, is it the right direction for society and who will have control over how people are augmented?
For Adam Jensen, the protagonist in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, these are the questions that are forced upon him throughout his adventures. Starting the game as an un-augmented security consultant for Sarif Industries, you are quickly thrown into a world rife with confusion and fear over what this fairly new technology means to every walk of life on the planet. You are also thrown into a battle to save Sarif Industries from an intrusion by unknown mercenaries. Your failure in this is inevitable, though, leading you to return six months later in a newly augmented body. You live, but not because of a choice you made, but because of a choice made for you. Whether or not the man inside has accepted these changes or not is up to you.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, these issues and others are examined in the main storyline and the side quests that are available in each area of the game, from Detroit and China to the home of Eidos, developers of the game, Montreal. The main storyline follows Jensen as he tracks down those responsible for his current augmented state and the death of those during their attack. While side quests rarely have anything to deal with your task of protecting Sarif Industries or finding the people responsible for your currently augmented life, they all offer the player a chance to look deeper into the political and social elements relevant to the main storyline. The storyline doesn’t stray very far from what a nosy Jensen can figure out in the first few hours, but there is a lot of depth that is covered for those who are willing to read the many e-mails and eBooks.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution melds first person gunplay with stealth and roleplaying mechanics in a way that gives the player a multitude of choices on how they want to accomplish, or even fail, goals throughout the game. The gun toting avenger can mow down anyone in his way, the diplomat can talk their way through many difficult situations, and the stealthy intruder can go through the whole game without ever being seen by an enemy except for during boss battles. A flexible system that encourages exploration, out of the box thinking, and replaying the game at least once to experience each event in a different way.
Much of how you decide to play Jensen is aided in the ability to further augment yourself through praxis points; obtained by gaining experience, as quest rewards, purchasing at LIMB centers, or found in certain game areas. Augmentations can be gained to improve your ability to take damage, ignore certain grenade effects, detect opponents, hack security panels, turrets, and robots, or even give you the ability to read and influence others in conversations.
Combat in the game comes in two main flavors, lethal or non-lethal. Both options offer up a selection of weapons, grenades, and the always enjoyable melee take downs. If you choose a lethal means of handling your opponents, you will have a lot more weapon options as the story unfolds, including the fun to play with laser and plasma rifles. Your nonlethal options are not as many and will require you focus a lot more on sensory and stealth augmentations as well as the proper handling of your takedowns since opponents that are knocked out can be revived by anyone that sees them. Even the lethal expert should be aware of how he piles up bodies as well, though--dead bodies tell no tales nor do they come back for revenge, but they do still raise an alarm if found..
While you will find yourself in combat situations for a good portion of the game, a lot of it can be completely bypassed with the use of a silver tongue or the general faults in the security systems of the various locations in the game. The former can be aided by an augmentation upgrade, though not necessary, but the latter relies on the player exploring his surroundings and oftentimes finding hints to the area from various sources, including sometimes just listening to the general conversation of a random character. One of the primary methods of obtaining information is through hacking the many computers out there, where it seems people will spill the most secret of passwords in addition to the location of weapon caches. Hacking any device involves a mini game that can, depending on how thorough you are, result in gaining extra credits and experience in addition to bypassing the security of the device.
In total, Human Revolution maintains itself as a roleplaying game at its core, doing everything possible to give the player the choice in how they handle almost every situation possible, making only boss battles the forced scenarios where the player must resort to lethal combat methods. The game doesn’t put anything above this aspect and, for a gamer like me, it truly achieves something that we have been missing in this generation of roleplaying games.
Human Revolution is far from a perfect game, though. Experience is heavily weighted towards those who go a nonlethal and stealthy route and those who also hack everything in sight, making it so that a gun-happy player will walk away with less augmentations in the end. Many of the guns you gain are limited in ammo as well as the time in the game in which they can be found. This forces you to save up weapon mods if you wish to ever maximize their potential, leaving you weaker up until the point that you get your desired weapon. There is also no way for you to manage equipment from a central storage, leaving you to rely on what you can carry (which is far from enough to carry one of each weapon). Even the AI is a bit weird in how it reacts from time to time. From guards that don’t notice you killing a guy just a few feet behind them or who are unable to bend down for better shots into an air duct to some guards who seem to gain prescient abilities and set off alarms without the need to see or hear you. Having said that, these issues do nothing to ruin the gameplay, as it continues to be fun throughout it all and left this gamer wanting to play all over again and waiting for the next Deus Ex game.