Another year, another RPG. I clearly have a soft spot here. Human Revolution was a prequel to the “once you mention it someone will install it” Deus Ex, frequently voted one of the top PC games of all time. Huge shoes to fill but for Eidos Montreal’s debut game they certainly hit the mark.
Human Revolution follows the journey of Adam Jensen, 25 years before the events of Deus Ex. As is the theme of the Deus Ex franchise you work to uncover a conspiracy that threatens to shake the very foundation of civilization!!! Travelling through several locations, primarily Detroit and Shanghai, you fight bad guys, hack computers and look good in shades and a long overcoat.
What I loved about Human Revolution was just how polished it was. It fit together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. I loved the freedom of choice and how well implemented it was. I loved that I managed to complete the game twice within a few weeks and had a new experience both times. Heck, the fact that it’s the only game I’ve done a second run through this year speaks volumes on how much I enjoyed this game.
One of my top elements of Human Revolution was the level design. It just felt so right. The hub worlds, though there were only two major hubs, were great. I loved the fact that in my random exploration of Heng Sha, after travelling through unstable walls and elevator shafts, I stumbled right into the middle of an on-going mission. Leading to the humorous moment where I had to fight my way out, rather than in. And yet it all still worked. Rarely, if ever, could you break a mission by doing it the way it-wasn’t-supposed-to, because you’re encouraged to do it any way you want and the game is flexible enough to allow pretty much whichever style you choose. While largely unrealistic, I loved being able to scurry along dust vents, finding new areas, new paths, routes around enemies. The levels provided ample exploration, exploitation and hiding spots. Normally, games lead you along a linear corridor, but being able to move around through different floors of a building, take out some guys then head back up stairs to snipe from above, then maybe throw a vending machine across the room is such a nice break from it the usual.
Choice was a big part of Human Revolution. Before release, Eidos Montreal pushed their “four pillars of gameplay”: Stealth, combat, social and hacking. And it worked. It’d be a push to rely on just one element over all others, but if you wanted you could go in mini-gun blazing, pumped up with Typhoon ammo. Or you could sneak around, hack a PC and let the enemies’ turrets do the work for you. I mostly played a sneaky guy, but pulling out the big guns was enjoyable too. The 10mm gun was certainly over powered, but I enjoyed being able to lean from behind a printer and plant a bullet in a Belltower agent’s skull, having him breathlessly drop to the floor. Only to then set off an alarm and quickly scurry back to my hiding spot before a robot saw me. Those robots were mean, I hated them in Deus Ex too.
The story choice was slightly more limited, nothing close to the Witcher franchise, but enjoyable nonetheless, allowing you to be aggressive Jensen or sweet guy Jensen. Simple choices but at least there was something there. Having conversation used as a form of boss fight was certainly a unique experience. Tying all this together was great aesthetics and visual style, even if it was a bit heavy on the orange. It was a world you could realistically believe to be walking amongst in 15 years time. Also, I really want David Sarif’s jacket.
As a PC gamer, somewhat used to being an afterthought in multi-platform releases, it was pleasant to see the outsourcing work Nixxes had put into the PC release. This alone is a good enough reason to be counted for GOTY: to be able to enjoy a great experience without a hitch.
My only major disappointment, despite many disliking the boss fights which I never took issue with, was the slapdash way the ending was handled, but it was quickly followed minutes later by New Game, so it didn’t dent the experience too much. Starting this year, I honestly expected Skyrim to be my sure-fire Game of the Year choice, but Human Revolution came out of the left field, and playing the long-awaited Skyrim only served to reaffirm just how much I enjoyed Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
For their debut game, and taking on such a risky and protected franchise, Eidos Montreal have been a shining star in this year’s line-up, providing both a great game and a studio to keep an eye on.