Monday, 5 September 2011

Jesus Christ, Denton

Certainly rent it but don't pay as much as I did for Deus Ex Human Revolution. You see, Deus Ex is probably on the podium for my favorite vidya ever. The thing is so cheap now that you could just buy it with refund from McDonald's money and access your own rendition of what I would have to say about it's great absorption ability.

Alright, alright. Let's just start where it starts. The trailers-and there were a lot of trailers- hinted at a closing to the games first act that was going to be affectingly brutal and uncompromisingly visual. Instead, after ten minutes spent pointing out which parts of the Sarif Industries laboratories looked like Mirror's Edge, we get a credits montage. At somepoint therein- probably around the time I spotted JJB's name in the credits- I realised that as a player of the games hardest 'experience', I would seem to be the butt of a very clever joke. True enough, Deus Ex Human Revolution earns one million design points from the half an hour point on. Simply, it; it being "give me Deus Ex" mode, gives a real modicum of gameplay that clearly laments something at the same time as the player: Adam Jensen is not as powerful as JC Denton. 

Fair enough, there were more trivial piss-take moment mental notes made during my first playthrough than I care to mention. However, we must not patronise when it comes to building a game around stealth and must not assume that we are entirely catering for Counter Strike players. Series loyalists like myself get 'given Deus Ex' because it's important to reinforce (upon reinforce, upon reinforce) the notion that Adam must rely on his guile. That's all very fine and well but now go and watch a trailer; I'll wait.

You see that? That's a man with the combined power of Jax for Mortal Kombat and one of the Denton brothers. You will pay north of fifty clams for this. You will wait for two straight minutes before he can throw a punch again. I get it, I do; stealth gameplay as an alternative to corridor shooting. Unfortunately that got boring in Mass Effect one and though our friends at Eidos Montreal may have implemented it twenty times better, it doesn't excuse their abhorrent lying streak about there being more than two ways to complete a given room. Two very flashy, reliably functional and increasingly complex ways-but two ways. Unless you count the hacking-which does warrant the title of being a game in and of itself... just one that I'd buy off the XBLA for twice what it's worth.

What all this meant was that I, as Adam Jensen (reasonably well played in voice with cool gadgetry and a believable past to boot) had to trudge at a snails pace through the world and the plot. In the case of the former, this is a blessing; you've probably heard that the city hubs are glorious and quite rightly so. Every time I stepped out of yet another sprawling hotel or humble shop, Hengsha's cramped streets pinged in contrast with the Blade Runner scale of the Pangu. Detroit was even more sublime, the electric yellow capturing the vivacity of a city full of street dancers, zooming monorails and big robots amongst rioters.

The difficulty of a given room and the prettiness of a given city hub, almost act as vectors-pathways of varying length and superficial complexity to the next plot point. By which I mean, the next encounter with a  believably named person linked to the conspiracy. Indeed, Deus Ex's sprawling character spectrum supported by a philosophical plot may have been mind blowing in 1999 but this time around there is a gaping lack of substance. Time and again you'll be told a character you've met once or twice is the absolute embodiment of the plot's thesis and that it is of the upmost importance that you have yet another limited conversation sequence with them. It's sub-par to creating meaningful actions and fleshed out motivations when people are just standing there talking at you. I'm being harsh though, like the combat these parts of the game don't quite stoop to Mass Effect's level and the dialogue is only reasonably preachy and reasonably well acted. However there was the potential for more-to make two dimensional characters closer to human beings. This at least would have given ample rise to motivations and explanations by the time the later parts of the games third act kick in and a jarring nadir in quality is reached. By the time I was done punching rushing, quasi-zombies on the game's final area, I could only deduct I was in yet another rushed section. Unless you've played the first game upwards of thrice you will not understand the significance of the final big reveal-whereas other plot twists are far less predictable and stupid. 

This is how you will traverse the world of Deus Ex Human Revolution. It's still a highly artistic and articulate place. Every one of these incidental rooms I mention is a labor of love- from the resoundingly referential emails, to the lovely little masterwork that is the hacking system. After the lion's share of twelve hours, you'll reach the edge of the world and chose one of four endings, each relatable to endings of the first game. This time around though, I can forgive my endings post-rationalising bullshit because the gameplay was always supposed to have just a little more to it-not the script. As such Deus Ex is just as much a competent and lively stealth game as it is, ahem, action adventure. It's a great comprehension of everything the flaws of Metal Gear Solid 4, Splinter Cell Conviction and the Fallout DLCs have taught us-with plenty of visual flair to boot.

You'll knit your eyebrows at twists and gain sweat on your palms during some of the more sticky hacking situations. You'll laugh at the occasional animation as much you will the occasional line and wonder why there are barely enough sidequests to count on two hands. It's still undeniable though- the new Deus Ex isn't a completely sub-par game but that doesn't warrant it's release price*. It's not enough of a good thing. No non-vent based stealth negation of linear levels (with vaguely bright AI) and no fucking Walton Simmons; I mean Jesus Christ! Denton.

*funnily enough this is exactly what I said about ME2.


  1. Funnily enough, when I played the game I felt just like Jensen... "I didn't ask for this".

  2. Never played Deus Ex for more than about half an hour, and have little to no interest in this one, either. But I must say, very well written article!

  3. Thanks :) Dead Island will be the next written review.