Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review - September 3rd 2011

Let's be honest: could anything calling itself Deus Ex ever match the lofty status of the original? Revolutionary in its time, revered a decade later, the trailblazing, impossibly open-ended sci-fi RPG-come-shooter had ideas way above its station - dialogue trees, character-building alongside first person shooting, box physics.

Remember, this was 2000, a time when Perfect Dark's freedom to choose between pistol and sniper was considered the height of interaction; a time when unimaginative shooters funneled gamers down narrow corridors. Er, how times change. If Human Revolution doesn't quite fit the massive bio boots of its forebear, it certainly does bottle some of the gold dust. Actually, there's quite a bit of gold...

12 years ago, Deus Ex promised big. Way before Bioshock's Andrew Ryan, developers Ion Storm said "No" to the man in Washington who wanted all shooters to endlessly rehash linear levels and brainless guards; "No" to the man in the Vatican who outlawed characters with any sense of depth or development. Trouble is, it promised too big, and developers have spent 12 years playing catch up.

Detroit and Hengsha are the two main hub locations in the game.

Games like Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Alpha Protocol are finally realizing (or at least attempting) that ambition: worlds that seem to exist regardless whether the player walks through them. Rich fiction and ocean-deep backstory. Missions approachable from any angle. Skills you can improve, and skills you can ignore. Genre hybridity, the future of gaming.

Indeed, as well as a nod to gaming's future, Human Revolution is a look towards a fictional one too. The year is 2027, 25 years before the first game. The world has stopped debating Obama's INDISPUTABLE ties to Muslim Satanists, and instead the hot topic is transhumanism. With technology now able to turn man near machine, granting them metal arms and, hopefully, massive genitals, where is humanity heading? What are the social implications? Will we cease to be humans at all?

Smartly, developers Eidos Montreal leave these questions unanswered. Your character Adam Jensen is a figure of quiet conflict, struggling to prevent catastrophe without losing sight of his humanity. "I may have massive blades coming out of my arms", he suggests, "but I'm just as human as the rest of you". He wasn't always that way. A security chief at Sarif Industries biotechnology company, Jensen is mortally wounded in a devastating terrorist attack. After being pieced back together with staples, glue, and a little biomechanical augmentation (this is a time before the sleek nano technology of the first game), he decides to hunt those responsible.

Charging at foes guns blazing or sneaking in via an alternate path are both viable options.

And into the night you go. You'll infiltrate futuristic factories, futuristic office blocks and futuristic convention halls on your mission which, granted, doesn't take you to the most exciting places. Crucially though, they all feel like real world locations. They are mazes of routes and secrets. There is more than one way in, more than one way out, and no inexplicable waist-high walls for you to crouch behind.

Take Sarif's Milwaukee Junction manufacturing plant, besieged by an anti-aug group begging for a bionical punch to the kidneys. Do you walk in the front door and start shooting? Possible - guns can be upgraded with scopes, seeking rounds and damage modifiers, shooting feels weighty, and the third-person cover system is responsive. Do you go stealthy? Also good - stack boxes to reach a ledge, crawl in a vent, or hack through a locked door. Why not do everything? Take out that distant sniper with your scoped tranquilizer, silently strangle the guard in your path, and hack a turret to take out the rest, alarms be damned. These are Deus Ex's three pillars of gameplay - combat, stealth, and hacking, and they all coexist brilliantly.

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Square Enix
Eidos Montreal
Out Now
PC PS3 360