It’s not Deus Ex Human Revolution’s fault that its another FPS with unlockables in which you stalk through office buildings and warehouses fighting minor varieties of the same enemies while picking up clues to the story from files and emails. From its beautiful art style to its attempts at letting you sneak around and take down enemies in different ways, it is making an effort.
It just isn’t groundbreaking.
Deus Ex Human Revolution owes more to the influences of the modern FPS/RPG, Half Life 2 Bioshock, than it does to the original game, but it isn’t breaking any new ground in gaming or its story about the dangers of enhancing human abilities with cybernetic technology.
Deus Ex Human Revolution doesn’t do subtle. It takes a clear position on every issue and its endings bully you into a single path making those three endings almost as interchangeable as Mass Effect 3’s duplicate endings. It tries to make conversations a factor, but they never matter. Human Revolution gets by on conspiracy theories, looping broadcasts of an Alex Jones wannabe and playing with headline conspiracy theories about FEMA, Blackwater and the World Health Organization, but it’s the art design that is more effective than the story.
The graphics telling detainees to crouch at a FEMA detainee camp and the rows of padded velvet armchairs in the observation area of an operating theater where human subjects are experimented on are much more effective than the game’s own lectures. Making matters worse, Deus Ex Human Revolution’s cutscenes are even worse than its much maligned boss battles, which are mostly not that bad. Sneak through to an objective and a cutscene comes on where Adam Jensen strides boldly into a room and lets a bunch of gangsters or the CEO or a corrupt Chinese medical company sidle around him. And making worse matters, even worse, Adam Jensen, in the cutscenes, is an idiot who is slow to figure out the same things that the player already knows. And all these terrible cutscenes culminate in a final moral choice that makes no sense and in which the game’s only good ending is to blow up yourself and a station full of people so that humanity never learns the truth.
Human Revolution’s story of conspiracies holds together at least until in an idiotic plot twist, Hugh Darrow, the man behind enhancement technology sabotages the Illuminati’s plan to compensate for anger over his birth defect leaving his Global Warming station to be overrun by zombies.
That’s Deus Ex Human Revolution as a story, but what is it like as a game? The answer is generic.
The game does keep track of whether you kill people or knock them out, but only to attach a little lecture at the end. Going quietly has its advantages, but is rarely necessary. The enemies are repetitive and so are the levels, most of which take place in minor variations on modern office buildings or warehouses like every other FPS out there.
The exceptions are the large outdoor maps of a new Detroit and Hengsha in China. The engine shows its limitations in these places. Both cities are always dark and a riot in Detroit lacks rioters, but the effort briefly makes the game come alive, especially in the Hengsha sections where the streets are full of stores and people and oppressive security, where a whorehouse has damsels in distress and people from across the world sleep in pod capsules in a giant rundown hotel.
Unfortunately Hengsha is the exception not the rule and before long, you’re back sneaking around abandoned office buildings and fighting soldiers dressed in red so that they are easier to see.
Human Revolution is a decent enough example of what a modified FPS AAA sequel that isn’t in the military genre is like today, but it’s not especially groundbreaking or even worthwhile. Visually it’s stunning, but no other part of the game lives up to its art direction. The Missing Link DLC embedded in the director’s cut in which you expose an undersea lab where the Hyron experiments are taking place shows what the game might have. And what its sequel might still become.