Monday, January 7, 2013

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

11 years is a very long time in video game graphics. It would have been stupid to not use the available technology in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, though. But as they did, the prequel to Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War looks way better and the world more advanced than in the first game. Somewhat dubious in a cyberpunk themed game series, I feel.

Pretty the game is, though, there is no doubt about that. Personal taste might affect how much one likes the yellowish tint everything has but I found no fault in it, nor in the general art style. Though I do wonder the meaning behind the single white room in the game. It made me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and apparently I was not the only one. My quick search did not reveal anything definitive, however, so I guess the meaning shall remain a mystery.

DX:HR has grainy skies, too. A pretty common thing for games for whatever reason, I have found. It was not that bad, though, and often a lighting effect conveniently covered the graininess. Otherwise the game is gorgeous.

As a bonus, you frequently get to see your character, Adam Jensen, when you a hug a cover and the camera moves into third person. I very much liked this feature, even if it felt bit like cheating compared to the other two games to have such thing aiding with one's sneaking. For stealth purposes it is indeed very useful; for combat not so much. You can shoot from cover but I found it bit too clunky compared to Mass Effect 3, and did not use it for that.

The first boss did not appreciate me hiding in cover either but started spamming grenades. And when I tried to relocate, I was ripped apart by his machine gun. The lack of non-lethal solution was not an issue for me in the boss fights, only the seemingly high difficulty. At least on the first one.

Then, after many attempts, I realized maybe I should try the remote-detonated explosives given by The Explosive Mission Pack DLC. I started the fight, hugged the waist-high cover in front of me, threw four of the explosives to the boss's feet, detonated them, and it was all over in less than ten seconds.

With the second boss I played shotgun tag using the Huntsman Silverback -- also a DLC weapon. It was great fun. The third one met his end by yet another DLC weapon, the grenade launcher. Very quickly, I might add. The weapon is overpowered, really, as it evidently has the same maximum damage as the rocket launcher but has six shots (instead of one) and takes less inventory space. The third boss fight was the only place I used it, though.

The two DLCs were originally pre-order bonuses (and which one you got, depended on where you bought the game) and received their share of criticism. I bought them mostly for the silenced sniper rifle, which I liked in the previous two games. Having it available only as a pre-order bonus/DLC is blatant money-grubbing, though.

I struggled to find use for the gun, however. In early game it was all right but later on it could no longer one-shot many enemies due to having no armor piercing to penetrate helmets. The 10mm pistol has no such problems when upgraded with weapon mods and a lot of Human Revolution's combat happens in tight office buildings where the rifle's range is not required anyway. Thus, one is better off with the pistol. After you find a silencer mod for it, that is.

The 10k credits from The Tactical Enhancement Pack did not greatly affect my playthrough, although the idea of buying DLC to make a game easier surely is dumb. But the credits merely meant I could buy two praxis kits right away and for the rest of the game I just had 10k extra cash with nothing to spend it on. And two praxis points hardly made a difference. In fact, most of the game I sat on quite a few unused points, waiting to meet an obstacle that required an augment or two.

I also picked up The Missing Link DLC, in which I decided to not use praxis points at all after noticing the steam achievement, Factory Zero. It was a decision I regretted afterwards. While not being allowed to use guns nor explosives gave its own entertainment in the challenge it provided, I think it is way more fun to get to use all the toys available. And there was also the fact that I actually did not get the achievement. I guess something went wrong somewhere. That was very likely the last time I do anything for the sake of some stupid achievement.

Regardless, I was glad to return to the main game and to have access to all the tools again. I think the most important augmentations one should take are the ones that allow you to get to places; hacking, improved jumping etc. The defensive passive will aid in the boss fights as well. The rest are pretty much optional in my opinion, even the social enhancer, although I guess I cannot really say if it has its uses as I never took it. I did, however, beat all the dialogue challenges on my first try. Such a cool feature those.

I was surprised how little console-oriented development shows in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I mean, the game even has a grid inventory. If not for the four-way dialogue options I could have thought the game a PC exclusive. Though there was also the store interface . . . That particual design would be last on my list when deciding how in-game shops should sell their stuff.

The fact of the matter is that such interface design works fine with the keyboard too. Developers just do not tend to optimize their games for it. Like in DX:HR, instead of clicking the small arrows to navigate the store, you can instead use the arrow keys and Enter for buying and selling. But why not have WASD and Space do it? Your left hand is already on them. And it is not like you are moving your character when shopping or talking to someone.

Such things irritate me in today's game development. But console-oriented design can be a good thing as well, leading to streamlined controls. For instance, instead of having 12 buttons for different augmentations, you can use many from one when the abilities are context sensitive.

If you have played the two other games, Deus Ex: Human Revolution will instantly give you a sense of familiarity. The themes and factions are pretty much the same and you can see where things are going. The soundtrack is not by Alexander Brandon this time, but Michael McCann's fine compositions have no trouble what-so-ever in fitting in the setting.

The press-button-to-choose-your-ending can be criticized for not having gameplay tied to it. Although, apparently Jensen's end monologue is affected by how you played through the game, giving each four choices three different possible tones. I chose to side with Sarif because I liked the guy and it seemed like a smart thing to do. I also got the "good" ending, which is nice as I felt the "neutral" and "bad" ones were not as satisfying after I watched them on YouTube.

A whole lot of minor flaws can be pointed out from Deus Ex: Human Revolution but they hardly affect how good the game is. And what a great game it is! Easily one of the best I have ever played. A very rewarding experience with awesome gameplay and story, good characters and room to choose how to approach your tasks. In fact, I have huge trouble resisting the urge to start a new playthrough right now to try all the things I didn't get to use on my first, 50 hours (+8 for The Missing Link) lasting playthrough.

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