Growing up with a healthy dose of science fiction in my life, I often found myself immersed in books like ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ and anime like ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Unknowingly, I was introducing myself to the spectacular world of Cyberpunk – a world that made its breakthrough into Hollywood with the release of ‘The Matrix’. Naturally, I fantasized about a video game that would allow me to enjoy the same fictional experience. Twelve years later, we get Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that might not be as revolutionary as The Matrix was to Hollywood in the late 90s/early 2000s, but a game that deserves the recognition of science fiction and cyberpunk enthusiasts, as well as gamers who are looking for a new and exciting game to play.
The first game in the Deus Ex franchise was incredible – a breakthrough in game design and game worlds. However, the sequel to that game, Invisible War, was the definition of mediocrity. Forget the fact that it was supposed to follow a game that many hold in such high regard; on its own, it was a very average game with plenty of flaws. Thus, when Human Revolution was announced, gamers had a sense of cautious optimism.
Human Revolution takes place in 2027, 25 years before the first Deus Ex game. Adam Jensen is the character you’ll be controlling in the game; a security chief for Sarif Industries, one of the most powerful and major corporations that exist in the world of Deus Ex. It’s difficult to delve into the story without spoiling some aspects of the game, but what I will say is that the game deals with conspiracy theories, shady characters and the concept of being human, including a common theme known as transhumanism. This involves using technology to exceed the capability of humanity, artificially extending life, enhancing intelligence and so on.
Before Adam Jensen became security chief at Sarif Industries, he used to be a SWAT commander in the Detroit Police Force, which he quit after refusing to follow an order. You know what kind of character Adam Jensen is; he’s loyal yet human and he’ll think about the consequences of his actions. However, once the game starts and you’re in control, you can act in any way you wish. As you play the game, you’ll have to make choices that aren’t simply good or evil, but carry a certain importance. Should you blindly accept orders from your boss David Sarif, or should you question him when he tells you to do something that you consider morally wrong? As you progress further and further into the game (expect 30+ hours) you’ll be making more choices, molding Adam Jensen into the exact kind of person you want him to be.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is certainly not your typical first person shooter. Nearly every quest offers a level of freedom that most games today lack. You can be stealthy like Solid Snake, go in guns blazing like Rambo, and sometimes be diplomatic like Lee Adama. You can hack computers to evade security features like cameras, lasers, robots and turrets. When you start out in the city or a building, there will never just be one way to get from point A to B and the game will reward you with experience for straying off the main path and exploring every nook and cranny. You can modify your character with a wide variety of augmentations depending on how you plan on playing the game. I decided to play the game without killing anyone, so I focused on augmentations that would make me an efficient ninja. A few things my character was able to do were move silently, become invisible, look through walls and learn improved hacking skills that would let me look through computer networks without being detected.
Just look at this building (on the left) you find in Hengsha (the Chinese city you visit), it’s designed after Frank Gehry‘s building you find at MIT (on the right).
The game is not perfect. It has its flaws, but they’re mostly superficial. The voice acting is pretty weak in some parts (especially when you visit China), the character animations are stiff and robotic and the boss fights don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the game. Nonetheless, the art direction of the game is fantastic and the attention paid to detail is remarkable. The level designers did a great job in building a city that feels and looks authentic. The architecture, although contemporary, isn’t too ridiculously futuristic. It feels like a world that can exist in our future, which made me want to explore and immerse myself in it even further. The world itself feels alive; when you infiltrate certain buildings and offices, you’ll find people’s computers that you can hack and read their personal emails from. You’ll discover office gossip, personal back & forth between friends and so on. It may not seem like a big deal, but its little things like this that draw gamers into the universe of Deus Ex even further.
There is one notable part of my Deus Ex experience. It was a battle that lasted just a few minutes, yet once it was done, I had to put my controller down and absorb what had just taken place. I was plunged into a situation where I reacted so swiftly and the augmentations that I had chosen worked together so smoothly. I was outnumbered and outgunned but I was able to take down and knock out all the guards before they were able to cause any serious damage.
There aren’t many games that let you experience a situation where you feel like an essential part of the character you’re playing. I can recall a few; walking out of the vault in Fallout 3 for the very first time when your characters’ eyes are adjusting to the sunlight, walking through your destroyed ship in Mass Effect 2 and looking out the hole in the hull and seeing a beautiful planet, the endings of Halo Reach and Red Dead Redemption. You are those characters in those games; you are Adam Jensen, the Vault Dweller, Commander Shepard, Noble Six and John Marston. When a game succeeds in making you feel like you’re part of the character and their universe, when you develop some sort of emotional attachment to them and when you care about what goes on in the world around you, that’s when you know the developers have succeeded in creating a game that deserves our attention.