Deus Ex: Human Revolution
August 30, 2011 § 4 Comments
As it has been documented elsewhere, I was never a big fan of the original Deus Ex. Possibly because I struggle with games that feel like they should be played with a calculator. Or, as others have postulated, I may simply be an idiot.
But, I never back down from a challenge, and decided to give Deus Ex: Human Revolution my full attention. After playing it for the past few days, I feel I’ve made some progress – although I’m fairly certain I am nowhere near the end – and have discovered something… unusual.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn’t exactly a role-playing game.
***Minor spoiler warning, if you haven’t finished the Police Station segment of the game, what follows may spoil a few minor elements – consider yourself warned.***
This is a great game. I want to stress that from the start. The combat is far closer to the FPS game Deus Ex has always felt like – head-shots kill, melee take-downs are brutal and stealth no longer relies on your enemies being myopic and slightly deaf. Each area is tunneled with alternate routes, and each encounter with the baddies a smorgasbord of violence… or not, if that’s your pleasure. You can complete this game without killing a single person (excluding the bosses, which I have yet to encounter) and at no stage did I ever feel this was a fun tactic. Adam Jensen has a gun, he certainly didn’t take a bullet through the head to float past everyone like a fairy…
The conversations you have with various people during the early game help piece together both your own past, and the events that have taken place while you were being put back together again… Oh, yeah, your initiation to the game ends with a brutal assault on your workplace, Sarif Industries, and you getting plugged. Never mind. Six months later, the game begins for real, as you return as the head security chap who also seems to double as a secret agent and a ninja assassin. Or a murderous psychopath hell-bent on killing everyone he meets as violently as possible.
There are an amazing number of options for both the sneaky-approach and the kill-everybody-and-light-them-on-fire methodology, including (as I tend to aim for) plenty of in-between choices. For example, tasked with infiltrating a busy police station to search a bad-guy’s body, I tried the non-lethal approach and went in quiet. I actually found four separate ways to get in to the building, one of which brought me out right next to the morgue. Alternatively, I could simply have broken out the big guns and went berserk, but hey – it’s a police station, I don’t want to be a total dick. Whereas while searching a thug gang’s hideout for illegal weapons, I brought a 10mm pistol and a lot of bullets.
You also have just as many options when talking to others in the game, allowing you to play the role you want to the letter. I did what I usually do, optimistic and friendly for the most part – even being sympathetic to the guy on the front desk of the police station (who didn’t like that at all, for some reason). But I felt in charge of my character. Until you get to your apartment…
Earlier on, you meet a lovely old woman outside Sarif’s headquarters. Adam seems to know her, and it turns out to be that lovely scientist from earlier’s mum. She asks, rather furtively, how you feel after being augmented so extensively without your consent. I thought this was a strange bit of dialogue, I mean, who wouldn’t want to have all this gadgetry sown into their skin? It even gives you a few options to choose as a reply, I choose my own opinion – optimistic, at least I’m alive, yeah? And better than ever.
However, a little later, you get to Adam Jensen’s apartment – it looks fairly normal, a bit dark for sun-glasses, but nice. A lot of boxes strewn about, but it makes sense given what you know of the past six months. As I look a bit closer, I see a few strange things – an obsession with clock-building, along with diagrams, how-to guides and even a few cogs and brackets sprinkle a workbench at one side. A flock of post-it notes covering a wall nearby – a driven mind, perhaps? And you walk into the bathroom… to find a mirror, quite clearly broken by a punch.
Now this made me stop for a second. It would seem Adam Jensen is most certainly not optimistic about his augmentations. He can’t look at his own reflection without punching it, a small sticky note nearby alludes to this not being the first time either. He is struggling to come to terms with what happened, and possibly harboring some guilt too at not being able to save that pretty scientist/girlfriend from the opening scenes… And after playing the happy, carefree James-Bond-esque hero, it makes everything I’ve done and said in the game nothing but a macho, emotionally-stunted front. It was a strange thing, I honestly can’t remember the last time a game deliberately made me out to be a liar.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution gives you unparalleled freedom to approach problems in whatever way you choose, and it allows you to pick your own way through a spectacularly convoluted plot. But this isn’t an RPG. It doesn’t matter what you do or say during the course of the game, nothing will change who you are.
You are Adam Jensen – the man with the broken mirror.