I can already tell that I’m not going to make any friends with this post.
I was recently asked why I didn’t invest a ton of time in Human Revolution and I figured I should probably write out my feelings (I realize the game has been out for a while, but bare with me). To start, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released to widespread critical and commercial acclaim. I acknowledge the fact that it was most definitely a big hit with a lot of people, but not with me. Why? Well, I’ve played Deus Ex before (quite extensively, actually) and when you compare Human Revolution to that game, it just doesn’t hold up that great.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though Human Revolution is a bad game (it’s not). The characters are realistic, the level of exploration in each stage is impressive, puzzles aren’t incredibly derivative, dialogue is strong, graphics are gorgeous, and gameplay can be quite fun. HOWEVER, Human Revolution suffers for two major reasons (and no, I’m not going to diss the boss fights): (1) It closely associates itself with the original Deus Ex, and (2) it presents the illusion of choice.
The first Deus Ex wasn’t just a “great game” or even an “excellent game.” Deus Ex is the reason why we have contemporary games that actually give a sh*t about telling a story. We owe Deus Ex a lot. It had a level of depth and complexity that games today struggle to match - something that is incredibly clear when you play Human Revolution. Because Human Revolution refuses to provide you the level of detail as the original, it instead tries to create an air of complexity through the philosophical question of, “Should I augment myself, given the opportunity?” I say “tries” because this isn’t a reasonable question; we already use transplants, prosthetics, intensive (sometimes radical) surgeries, and apparatus to function in spite of our faults. What? Because these ones are shiny and metal I’m supposed to care? THIS is why the “Purist” movement in the game is really, REALLY silly. Unfortunately, Human Revolution’s approach is to take this situation seriously as a substitute for new and interesting drama. I understand that this game is supposed to be the ‘build up’ to the original Deus Ex, but it doesn’t work hard enough to that end and doesn’t feel like it has enough substance to really be associated with that title. I know it sounds really harsh, but anyone who’s played the original can likely tell you that there is a lot more to see, do, and investigate in that game (and THAT game was released twelve years ago). Sure, the substitute is cinematic and in some respects more engaging, but it is also full of illusions.
The biggest illusion in the game being the attempt to make it seem like there is more choice than their actually is. Essentially, you are plopped into this world and are told that you can either Rambo your way through the stages or use your Ninja skills. Unfortunately, that’s a damn lie. If you take the combat-heavy approach to this game, you’ll find the odds are tremendously stacked against you - health is usually pretty limited, enemies have the uncanny ability to hear your shooting from the other side of the stage, you can’t manually kill things often because you lose battery power faster than a Nintendo 3DS, guns have limited ammunition, and finishing moves are cut-away sequences that slow movement. And that’s just combat. Dialogue trees all lead to the same place, optional objectives are limited, there’s no actual weapon specialization, RPG elements are rained in instead of being integrated from the start, and you feel like you’re being guided the entire time by the game’s very deliberate pace (and you are).
At the end of the day, Human Revolution is a very good game. Unfortunately, as a Deus Ex fan (who had tasted the best of the series), I can’t see it in the same light as the game it is supposedly a prequel to. Why do I say “supposedly,” instead of simply acknowledging it as a legitimated prequel? Probably because Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place 25 years before Deus Ex, but the technology makes it seem like it occurs 100 years later. Seriously, none of the cool sh*t you get in this game is prominently featured in Deus Ex (something that does rub actual fans of the series the wrong way).
I’m not a fan of this game. You can’t make me a fan of this game. Let’s just agree to disagree and go back to playing X-Com and Dishonered.