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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Enjoying his cushy, lucrative post-SWAT job as Sarif Industries’ Head of Security, Adam Jensen is in an enviable position. The human augmentation business is on the cusp of exploding, however, it also balances precariously on a precipice, situated between two extremes. David Sarif, the company’s CEO, firmly believes man is taking what is rightfully theirs by “unlocking our full potential”. Naturally there is opposition, including fundamentalist groups such as Humanity First, who are vocal in the anti-aug movement. Before Adam’s stance on this debate is known, he’s violently pushed in one direction.

Six months after a horrific attack on Sarif Industries, Adam Jenson returns to his role as Head of Security. Six months ago he was maimed and left for dead, trying to save the life of Megan Reed, a brilliant bio-mechanical scientist, who had been preparing for a crucial trip to Washington DC, a trip that would have charted the human augmentation path – for better or worse. Following the brutal attack, Sarif’s medical staff and scientists go to great lengths to save Adam’s life. With no choice in the matter, Adam becomes augmented, irreparably changing his façade and standing in Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s near future fiction.

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Moment to moment, Human Revolution is a game about decision making. Choice, like morality, isn’t nearly the anomaly it was 11 years ago alongside the release of the original Deus Ex, but what separates Human Revolution is the elegance in which it’s imparted. There is no wrong way to do anything; no Paragon, no Renegade, no binary meter to tell you how nice or naughty you’ve been. You’re a man thrust into a world on the brink of chaos. This world won’t hold your hand and it refuses to bemoan the player with a predetermined sense of right and wrong; your own, personal morality, is the only thing governing you and your actions.

When decisions have to be made, Human Revolution offers little fanfare. Developer Eidos Montreal, has shrewdly left the gravitas of every choice in your hands, leaving you to weigh every decision as carefully or brashly as you desire. At worst Adam might be chastised for failing to subdue an assailant rather than kill them, but the lack of any form of meaningful punishment encourages decisions that you would make normally; you’re never funneled down a story corridor, simply to get the ‘good’ ending.

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Facilitating Human Revolution’s core design, objectives can generally be completed in three or four different manners. Direct conflict, coercion and stealth are all par for the course, with most players likely mixing and matching approaches depending on the current situation at hand. Maybe you’ll take pleasure passing through hostile zones completely undetected, or lob a concussion grenade into an unsuspecting fray of patrolmen, triggering a firefight, either way, all that matters is that you always remain in control of your actions. Human Revolution is merely the sandbox for you to mold your own unique path through.

Finding creative solutions is what makes the ride so very unique and personal. To that end, Adam can improve his augmentations to build the type of character and experience you’re looking for. Praxis points are awarded for every 5,000 experience points earned, which can then be spent to unlock new augs and upgrade existing ones. Again, there are no right augmentations to get, and thanks to the highly adaptive world of Human Revolution, there are no bad character builds. What governs these choices remains squarely on the shoulders of the player. Do you want to be an expert hacker, a silent assassin who leaps from 5 story buildings or some sort of hybrid? The answer is yours alone; make the character you wish to play.

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While Eidos Montreal has taken a predominantly hands-off approach to story progression, Human Revolution does encourage a path of non-violence. Experience point bonuses can be accrued for completing story objectives without being seen or triggering alarm panels, but by proceeding through areas with little interaction, you forfeit the experience points of neutralizing enemies or hacking terminals. Each specific playstyle has its own benefits and consequences, which encourages a combination of approaches.

Speaking of consequences, Human Revolution subtly integrates the decisions you’ve made back into your narrative. Whether you stumble upon a jailed perp, one you had previously knocked unconscious for the police, or receive a few thousand credits wired to your account for helping a friend, Human Revolution’s attention to detail is hard to miss. Every terminal, office and apartment has a story, whether it be the story of a junkie looking for his latest fix or that of a crooked cop. Sub-quests and random literature of the future – disguised as eBooks, newspapers and emails – flesh out the people, motives and history surrounding this delicate juncture in mankind’s history. And while Human Revolution’s subject matter is decidedly sci-fi, it’s also very human and applicable. Parallels to modern day moral quandaries are easy to make and Eidos Montreal wisely lays out the facts without choosing a side. Still, despite the heavy premise, Human Revolution is unafraid to poke fun at itself and lampoon genre conventions, which offers the occasional, refreshing break from the conspiracy.

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What ends up holding Human Revolution back is its boss battles, which tosses aside player choice in favor of a few fights to the death. Sometimes considered a relic of gaming’s past, bosses can still serve as a worthwhile point of exposition, as long as they fit the game’s story and design; Human Revolution’s bosses fail to do either. Bosses have to be shot until they die, plain and simple. That isn’t to say there isn’t strategy involved in killing each, there is, and you will definitely need a good one to survive, but in a game that wants you to play your own way, each fight flies in the face of the game’s core principles.

Despite the incongruous nature of Human Revolution’s bosses, they remain a minor – but noticeable – blemish on an otherwise fantastic experience. Tackling Deus Ex for their first game as a studio, a franchise riddled with both prestige and disappointment, with such class and confidence, Eidos Montreal has instantly established themselves as one of the world’s premier developers. Human Revolution is your story, your character and your choices, and nobody will judge you.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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