*Writer’s Note* – I was unable to finish the game due to the disc being damaged. I did manage to play most of the new content however (approx. 90%) before it froze and played the original game back when it came out so I feel confident enough to write this review. Just felt it needed mentioned before I went any further. Now on with the review!
Two years after initially coming out, Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut has been released, complete with both DLC packages as well as revamps of the infamous boss battles. The game was well received by critics, but many found it hard to get into. How does it fare by today’s standards?
The year is 2027 and the debate on human augmentation is reaching fever pitch, with heated debates and protests breaking out all over the world. You play Adam Jensen, head of security at Sarif Infustries. Just as the company is about to reveal scientific findings that can help the poor, the building is attacked, with Adam left for dead and his ex-girlfriend , Megan, captured. Without his knowledge (or consent) Adam is put under the knife and given cybernetic augments that not only save his life but improve his capabilities. Once he has recovered, Adam sets out to find out who attacked the base, why, and avenge Megan.
The story may draw parallels with the gun debate, but there are actually some similarities to healthcare in the US, with only the rich being able to afford certain treatments and corporate higher-ups fiddling with strings behind the scenes to ensure their bottom line. It’s an intelligent plot and one that’s well told. Events feel very genuine and confidently told. There is no real use of overwrought satire or unrestrained drama, there is enough confidence in the storytelling to simply tell its tale. Even a scene involving an AI which talks through a giant green head on a screen doesn’t seem out-of-place. Like all great political espionage thrillers, a true understanding of the plot always seems just a touch out of reach, helping to hammer home the helpless and “fish out of water” feel. It’s not that the plot is hard to follow, but that after a while you may lose grasp of a thread or two, only to pick it up again later.
As for the characters, they are likeable but not particularly memorable. You have your sarcastic tech expert, the friendly CEO, the gruff no-nonsense hero and the vapid, barely registered love interest. As you’d expect from this sort of thriller, nobody is to be trusted but everyone has their reasons and motivations for doing what they’re doing. There are no power mad, maniacal bad guys to deal with, there are different sides to the debate and no side is painted with a broad brush. The only exception perhaps being the bad guys that make up the boss battles in the game (more on them later) who while hardly bad, are rather one note with no real chance to make an impression.
There is a slight issue when it comes to pacing however. For the final third or so, the story and environments in the world really seem to be heating up, yet the story still has you completing fetch quests. This problem is made worse by the game’s insistence on including the bonus missions into the game instead of making them optional. Don’t get me wrong, having the missions on the disc is brilliant, but they were clearly designed for players that had already completed the game and are coming back for more.
I’m of course talking about the “Missing Link” mission, which takes up to 5 hours to complete and has almost nothing to do with the overall plot and has no real purpose but to waste time and be forgotten about upon completion. To make matters worse, the segment starts off with you having all of your augments removed and forces you to start levelling up again, despite the fact that you had just spent the previous 20 or so hours honing your character. If you had mission specific powers to play with that were new it might make a difference, instead your stuck with the usual powers you already had.
Even if you take it out of context of the main story, it’s hardly thrilling stuff with no real changes in gameplay to accommodate the powerless feel. There are slight nods near the end that suggest a continuation of the story but there is nothing interesting about the story in-context to the game and only serves to answer a plot hole that few even cared about (or noticed) in the first place. I can’t stress this enough, taken out of context of the game’s narrative the add-on could be decent fun, but it doesn’t sit well when forced into the game and Eidos could have served it much better by simply making it optional. Add to that the freeze errors many gamers (as noted above) have experienced, there’s room for improvement.
All in all, it’s an impressive story. The ending may split opinion as it’s your standard “push one of four buttons” scenario, though your decision may lead to heated debates when talking with others. Missing Link may ruin the pacing which is a shame (Eidos, I beg you to release a patch which makes the bonus mission optional) but it’s a confident tale well told.
In an attempt to keep the same “choose your own adventure” style of gameplay that the original Deus Ex had, you have the option to play the game however you like, be it stealthy or a more direct and explosive approach. At least in theory. Everything else about the game screams stealth. From the bonus points you get for not being caught, extra XP for hacking computers with your tech skills, to the incredibly powerful and easy to manage takedowns, stealth is king here and the sooner you realise that, the more enjoyment you’ll get.
Moving about is fun and fluid, especially with the ability to dive from cover to cover. However, the game also seems confused in terms of how you should go about stealth. During a tutorial, you are told that it’s best to remain unseen and avoid confrontations with guards, yet the XP you get from clearing out a room suggests otherwise. Equally annoying is the battery charge, the “energy” of the game. Performing actions such as take-downs uses up a bar of energy which will slowly recharge, but no matter how much you upgrade your bar, you will never recharge more than two bars, the rest can only be gained by eating nutrients. While there are a lot of design decisions I don’t agree with, this one I simply don’t understand.
The hacking mini-game is surprisingly excellent on the other hand. To start with it may seem overly simple and one minded, but soon you’ll be calculating the best possible route while lining up the risk of extra rewards. The sooner you throw XP into this area the better.
Some conversations almost behave like hacking mini-games, for the most part you simply choose responses to further the story, but every so often (with the help of social buffs) you will come face to face with someone you need to convince. You will be given a psych profile of the character as well vague hints, but it’s up to you to determine how best to persuade a character to see your side of things with failure a very real outcome. It’s tense stuff and will keep you hooked.
One major change that the director’s cut brings to the game are revamped boss battles. In the original game, these fights were widely criticised for being far too simple and lacking any real stealth or technological input, you simply had to lob grenades at the bad guys till they took the hint. While previously they were shipped out to another studio, this time Eidos have taken care of the battles themselves, adding some hidden rooms, different tactics and items to be used. While it is a nice and appreciated touch, it doesn’t change an awful lot. You can unlock all the secret doors and turrets that you want, the only way to defeat the enemies still consist of hitting the enemy with overwhelming force until they fall. While hardly dreadful, they can be frustrating and are ultimately still a disappointment.
Overall, the game struggles to begin with, but truly comes to its own about two or three hours in, when the player is given more freedom to explore and do things at their own pace in the open world. That being said, the level design can be infuriating at times, especially in China, where the multiple levels make the world almost impossible to fully explore or even find checkpoints.
While the game was hardly cutting edge at the time, the looks are rather dated. A lot of characters have bizarre triangle like designs, making them look like PlayStation 1 characters. The style and tone make up for lack of graphical fidelity though, along with the music straight our of 80’s sci-fi. Even if the graphics aren’t cutting edge and the colors are even somewhat bland, it’s an impressive and unique package.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut has a lot of flaws. From the design which feels conflicted, the slow start and the pace spoiling inclusion of the DLC, I can understand why some couldn’t get into it. That being said, those who love a good stealth game with an intriguing and intelligent story will find much to enjoy. I played the game two years ago when it first came out, but was surprised how by how much I enjoyed jumping back in. Given the cheap price, there’s no reason why those interested shouldn’t give it another go, especially if you’re interested in the DLC.
There’s a fantastic game in here somewhere, but as things stand, for now it will have to settle for being a great one.