The Nameless Horror

DX:HR

Finally finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution the other night. Not that the world is short on reactions to it, but here, for what it’s worth, are mine:

  • The storytelling is very good, with one caveat. Jensen’s voiced in Batman-Bale gravel mode, but the overall story’s pretty solid. Setup, characters and all.

  • Gameplay is excellent. Yes, there’s a lot of the old-school DX crate stacking and people ignoring you as you fling vending machines around, but they’ve captured the freedom of the old game very well. Stealth is excellent, the cover system is wholly unintrusive and I can’t think of much in the way of complaints.

  • The setting’s gloriously detailed, with enough random bits and bobs, flavour material and true-to-life “this is what a cafeteria looks like” stuff to maintain immersion extremely well.

  • That said, the setting is also largely warehouses, cafeterias and laboratories. The outdoor parts of Hengsha and Detroit are few, and it seems a shame that more variation in game environment was lacking.

  • The boss battles are just as annoying, pointless and entirely un-established (“Hey, what’s this character doing here? And why? Huh?”) as everyone claimed. That said, the Typhoon enhancement solves most ills except Namir, and that “no augs will work if you got the replacement chip” thing was a bit of a dick move, even if the story justified it.

  • The Praxis system is good, but over-generous and at least in part unnecessary. I finished the game with 10 points unspent and a lot of stuff I didn’t have, but didn’t see the need for. Likewise money; 20k credits and counting at the end.

  • The four endings are cool enough, and while the “click to choose” approach annoyed many, this is exactly how the other two DX games did it. Perhaps more explicit this time, but in both of them you could save before deciding what to do with Page (DX1) or before deciding which faction to side with (DX2) and then reload to see all the endings straight away. There is mention in the voiceover of how you approached the game - few kills, etc. - which suggests a little nod in the direction of your chosen peaceful/violent tack without fucking you for an ending like Bioshock (I swear, I harvest Adam from the first Little Sister and then rescued all the others, and I still get the “you were a bit of a shit” ending; annoyed the balls off me, and I need my balls).

  • The last mission cluster on Panchaea is weak not so much because of its structure (though it’s not great - “go to this unmarked room if you can find it to talk to this person about the ending”), but because the game suddenly cheats. The random mobs of crazy augmented people who rush at you are psychic. You can’t sneak past them, if one sees you they all do like the Infected in L4D, and there’s no way to finesse your way through that I could find. Weak.

  • The conversation system and overall voice acting is great. You can get an aug to show you which way to steer a chat - and there are a few which are key to parts of the game with the main players in the natural vs. aug plot, amongst others: Sarif, Taggart and Darrow (and one in a police station where my only gripe came - referencing events in Jensen’s past that you don’t actually know about) - but I didn’t take it, choosing to try and work it naturally. The responses are readable and realistic enough that I hit the mark on all of them. Lovely.

  • That said, some of the non-Jensen character modelling and shading - in particular the shadows, which at times are massively jaggy - in the PS3 version at least is noticeably blodgy.

  • The mission hubs in Hengsha and Detroit are cool, but underused. Only two side-missions each, and you only really breeze through the places with little call to explore too far.

  • On the up-side, you do get little nods to DX. People whistling the DX theme tune, emails mentioning Manderley as working for FEMA, the Illuminati hand-over-a-globe in the TV station offices, etc. And while you can’t get told off for breaking into the women’s toilets in this one, if you break into all your co-workers offices, you’ll eventually see an email going around talking about mysterious thefts from people’s desks. Nice.

  • My only gripe with the story, in fact my second biggest - maybe even top - gripe with the game as a whole after the bosses, is that, and here be spoilers, the ending has absolutely no pay-off in the relationship between Jensen and anyone else, most especially his ex-girlfriend Megan. That relationship drives the whole story, and when she turns out to be alive (it’s a very obvious twist), and you finally meet her… well, you chat for a bit, and then she’s off and you go to the ending and there’s absolutely no closure or resolution between them. The same with Pritchard, the tech guy, who starts off as a total dick towards you and ends up a close ally - nice arc - nothing after his last radio communication. Or with Sarif, once he’s explained his optional ending. You never get to confront him over his company’s use of your DNA samples, or to find out more about your real past and where you might have come from. That was a big let down all round. The plot is nicely character-driven - who do you trust, what do you want, what are you willing to do to get it - but forgets that right at the very end. A shame.

Overall, an excellent game though. Yes, it could have done more, but it was already years in the making, and it’s better to have this now than more maybe never. It’s already a standout from most of the bombastic manshoot crap shovelled at us on a weekly basis. If everyone hadn’t already bought it, I’d recommend that they do.

But they have so I won’t.