Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Late Review

This was supposed to be another “Early Review” but I finished the game in 18 hours, so…. I can’t really call it early, can I?

The Human Revolution Will Be Televised

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the Deus Ex game, released in the year 2000. In the original game, you played an “augmented” human who had to fight those trying to destroy the company you work for. This game takes in a time way before it, when the split between augmented and non-augmented humans where still in the beginning.

The story for this game is this: You play as Adam Jensen, a non-augmented security officer in one of a company that produces augmentations. The company is attacked and it’s up to you to defend it. In the process, you get badly hurt and, to save your life, the company covers you in augmentations.

And that’s where the story really starts.

“Leveling”

DE:HR uses a traditional system of “reward by quests”, plus a few more XP points floating around. For example, if you manage to shot an enemy in the head, you get “Marksman” points; killing an enemy, in any shape or form, gets you “Man down” points; if you find a different route to your objective, using the ventilation system, you get “Traveler”; and so on. Basically, anything you do you get XP points.

Instead of gaining another level and spending points in “Attack”, “Stamina” and such, every time you reach 5000 XP points, you get a “Praxis”. Praxis is the way Eidos managed to neatly wrap a leveling system with the setting of the game: You see, when you got your augmentations, not everything was enabled at first, to not overwhelm your brain; as you get more used to it, you can enable more functions of them, using a specially crafted piece of software called… “Praxis”!

The Story

The story revolves around the “Why was the company was attacked” and the ramifications in the world. Sure, some inter-company hate explode, some pro-human, anti-augmentation group appear and things go on. The problem I found, though, was that the story takes too long to pick up. Jesse Cox thought the same. To be honest, at some point, I quit the game and decided to play Guild Wars ’cause I was really bored (I’m not kidding: I was bored while playing the game). Fortunately, once the story picks up, it gets really interesting.

The Maps

One thing I’d like to bring here is the discussion by the Extra Credits guys about level design. And I’d like to bring it ’cause I have to disagree with them.

Basically, DE:HR is a corridor shooter: you have a path and you must walk that path to reach your objective. Surely, there are ventilation systems and some other corridors, but basically your whole path is planned ahead of time. It’s not the Skyrim walking freedom: You can’t simply reach the objective from behind ’cause the game developers decided that there isn’t any other way to reach it; your little deroute was carefully planned.

Also, there is the problem of “looks”: Surely, it is nice that they managed to keep the look constant around, not like some World of Warcraft-esque in which one zone is covered in snow and a simple gorge split it from a dry desert (or the “snow hard”/”light snow”/”no snow” short zones in Skyrim) but it also makes the game utterly confusing in finding a place again, ’cause everything looks the same. While Skyrim employed trees and rocks and added a fully visible map to help finding some place again (macro “I know it was near this montain”, micro “I remember that tree”), DE:HR used something like a row of shops that look always the same, in different parts.

One example of looks: In some alley, you could enter two buildings by using their fire escapes. Problem is: Both fire escapes looked the same, they were near dumpster that looked the same and, whoohoo, the buildings looked the same! Good luck trying to remember which one you entered last time.

That may explain why I did finish in only 18 hours: Because I couldn’t perceive anything as “new location”, I probably left a bunch of quest givers behind, which left me behind completing sidequests.

Combat

DE:HR have two different combats types: lethal and non-lethal.

Lethal combat is, obviously, when you use firing weapons to kill enemies (duh!). You can use shotguns, pistols, rocket launchers, laser beans and plasma bolts, fragmentation grenades and such.

In non-lethal, you make your enemies faint (with the exception of robotic enemies). To do that, you can use tranquilizer darts, smoke grenades and punching. The interesting thing with non-lethal is that, once you take down one enemy, if another enemy approaches, it can be “revived”.

You can also use stealth or going full “Rambo” on your enemies. It’s all up to you and very few missions and sidequests really require that you use one style or the other.

Conclusion

I enjoyed my 18 hours of DE:HR and the endings really blow my mind (although I could see that, in the very deep core of them all, the answer was always the same), but the level design really lacks, in my opinion, to the point that I don’t feel like running everything again just to try different achievements or play styles.

Voice over is only imersive to a certain point

My saga into Deus Ex: Human Revolution is just starting, but there is something pissing me off: The voice over. And it can probably explain why the “it’s fully voice over” in Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn’t have any appeal to me.

Oh yes, I know it helps immersing you in the story, but the thing is: I can read things faster than they speak. So the guy talking to me is half-way through their phrase and I already read everything. Sure, I could turn subtitles off, but… well, I’m not a native English speaker (as you should have probably guessed reading my posts so far) and there still are some words I can’t immediately pick up (and I don’t think any of those games offers a “rewind cinematic” option either).

There was one game with voice overs that did hit the spot, though: Half Life 2.

If you have it, install it and check it yourself: The dialogs are either direct to the point or really short. Not a full philosophical discussion about the existence of God by the complete analysis of Mayan calendar and its relation to modern architecture, a simple “yes” or “no”, most of the time. It cuts the dialogs into manageable parts, easy to read with subtitles, easy to understand and, most importantly, it doesn’t spoil anything if you’re a fast reader.

In the case of DE:HR, most dialog options of Jensen show a small phrase with whatever you’re going to say. The problem is, as soon as you select your option, Jensen will go into a full discourse about the topic selected, with the phrase in it. I still prefer that he says something instead of being the silent guy (a là Gordon Freeman), but the fact that I already know what’s the essence of he’s about to say just makes me thing I’m wasting my time watching him go into a full talk about it.

When Alyx was captured by a Hunter, I went full rampage on them, just ’cause I did care about her. When Jensen was telling Megan’s mother about the things he found missing in Megan’s death, I really wanted to check the “FUCK YOU, MRS REED!” ’cause I couldn’t stand hearing him talking that much anymore.

As Saint-ExupĂ©ry said “Perfection is attained, not when no more can be added, but when no more can be removed.” It seems, for some reason, game writers try to cram as much information as they can in dialogs, which leads to this “I’m wasting my time here!” problem.

Just to clear some things before I go: Does this mean that voice-overs are bad? No, Half Life 2 proved they can be used perfectly. Does that mean that Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Star Wars: The Old Republic are bad ’cause they have voice-overs? Again, no, it’s just a part of the whole. But surely it’s a flaw. And I’m talking about SW:TOR without hearing any voice-over, so it may be that they are short and to the point, but still isn’t enough to bring me to the game.

Edit: Oh yeah, I forgot Skyrim also have voice overs. But there are three differences:

1) You have the silent hero treatment, which helps you immerse into the character you designed. How would you feel about him/her if you rolled a male nord in the thinnest body possible and he had the deep voice of Farkas? Or a male Argonian and you didn’t said anything dragging the “esses” like Derkeethus?

2) You can cut the voice overs at any time. Guy talking too much? No worries, you can make him shut up by clicking (except the stupid deities/draenic spirits).

3) Your dialogs are always complete. Whatever you have to say is shown in the dialogs, so you never have to worry about “Will I sound like a good guy here” or not (happened to me one time in DE:HR, when I thought my choice was “I’m a dick and I don’t care” — ’cause it was the less dickish option in the ones I have — but the actual dialog sounded much more like a nice guy).