Deus EX: Human Revolution is a game that if it were an actual human being I’d club it over the head like it was an especially cuddly baby seal until it grew a brain, or until I realized that I’m just making it worse by giving it brain damage. The whole affair to me just seems like it was being phoned in from the setting, to the characters, to the plot, and especially the ending which will rank number one on my personal top worst endings in gaming, well at least until I play Metal Gear Solid: Revengance. Like I said in my after poem rant, the impact of everything wrong in this game would be somewhat lessened if it weren’t for the ending.
Overall the FPS aspect of the game is above average. There is a nice variety of options to complete any given mission which is a rarity in an industry that likes to lead you by the nose, although trying to get through the game using nonlethal means is borderline impossible due to the fact that the ammo for the non-lethal weaponry seems to be buried in the same grave plot as Boudicca queen of the Iceni, Attila the Hun, and Jimmy Hoffa. The power ups are fun if seldom used, and there’s enough variety of NPC that it doesn’t feel like there was a massive escape at the clone factory. Then we get to the rest of the game, the overall gameplay, the hacking, the setting, the characters, the story (of course), and the melding of story and gameplay, or should I say the lack thereof, and it all goes downhill.
Cyber-Punk is one of those settings that I personally think is criminally underutilized. Mind, there’s about as much variety in story as any other setting, but with the focus on Trans humanism, cybernetics, and computer technology, Cyber-Punk is a perfect setting for the Solipsist in all of us. In fact the questioning of reality and the makeup of the human soul is a major theme in many of the genre’s greatest work from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to Ghost in the Shell. All of which are avoided like a rapist plague rat with super AIDS in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It does come close to asking poignant questions of what it means to be human along the same lines as the Theseus ship paradox, but the game seems almost afraid to challenge its audience on even the most basic level, so everything stays brick simple right down to the gameplay. Am I the only one who groaned when they found out that in the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution you need military training to know NOT to go to where the bullets are hitting, or to stay away from the large pile of your friends’ bodies’ mere seconds after the tenth one hit the damned ground!? How about the fact that hacking, an activity which should be based on some kind of skill, has been relegated to chance like it’s a top down RPG from 1999, only without the excuse of limited technology! And I wasn’t joking in my little poem when I said that the battles fell into a routine akin to a Modern Military Shooter. Go to cover wait for a baddy to pop his head up and cap his ass between the eyes. It’s only slightly more nuanced than Duck Hunt. I think in the entirety of the game I died maybe twice, once due to accidently falling off a building and another time when I blundered into a bunch of poisonous gas in Chinese sewer. That’s our hero ladies and gentlemen! Clumsy as hell and has a taste for green air.
Then there are the characters; the stupid, boring as hell characters. If one of them had shown any kind of reasoning power, if one of them had been interesting, or proactive, or had any self-awareness at all I would’ve forgiven the entirety of the way the characters were written. They are written almost as poorly as a Seth McFarlane character. Just simple as bricks, one note, I have a hard time believing this wasn’t a first draft batch of characters. Hell Adam Jensen sucks Batman’s dick so hard you can hardly tell where he ends and Batman begins. I’m not asking for much just a single character that has an IQ larger than their shoe size, or a character that can see both sides of the argument and the grey areas within them. Instead of this gung ho let’s push technology to its limits without any forethought assuring that it eventually bites us in the ass, or the whole “Augmentation is unnatural” crowd whose leader unironically wears glasses and clothes, both of which are technically augmentations. Seriously anyone who says augmentation is a sin needs to be thrown into the woods wearing nothing but what they were born in.
I don’t know what else I can say about the story that I didn’t cover in my poem. The conflicts are contrived, the narrative turns into a joke, and the twist are all so obvious that they might as well be spelled on a fifty foot neon sign. It’s the J. J. Abrams mystery box problem, where if they just let cat out of the bag and forgo any attempt at mystery or suspense then the entire story would’ve been great or at least close to great, but NO we have to have the cocking mystery box don’t we? The answer to that by the way is a resounding NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Imagine the story if right off the bat the characters knew what was going on, but they didn’t quite have the proof so no one would believe them. It would make them look smart and our motivations and actions would be more concise, instead of just wandering around and finding out what’s going on by blundering into discoveries. To my eyes it would’ve made for a much better narrative and hell I’d probably had let the ending slide, but alas it was not to be for we must have the mystery box, and really the mystery box angle is getting tiring. Here we are sacrificing stories to this monster and getting nothing in return except for piss poor plot twist that we have figured out at the beginning, and even if we don’t figure them out it’s only because we give the writers more credit than they deserve. I seriously face palmed when your in game boss started screaming about the Illuminati, and my jaw dropped when your boss’s boss decides to murder a few thousand people thinking that humanity needs to be more natural. At the end it all gets so cartoonishly insane that it feels more like a bad fan-fic than anything else, especially that ending. The old choose your own adventure novels flowed more naturally than this game does.
The lack of melding between the gameplay and story is what gets to me the most however (I blame this lack of melding for the ending). It’s as if they exist in two entirely different universes that look, sound, act and feel almost exactly the same. However in the gameplay universe you are always in Detroit or China, it is always around 11:00 pm or so, and the beings there are nothing more than slightly sentient store mannequins. Whereas in the story universe there is a great dynamic mystery full of intrigue that may shake the foundation of everything everyone holds dear (that you as an outside observer have already figured out, but are completely unable to help in any way shape or form, no matter how much you scream at the screen0 unfolds, and THAT is the biggest problem. If only you could express some sort of doubt that Megan is dead or that you think something weird is going on then it would’ve been a lot better. There is one point when talking to Megan’s mother you tell her that the perpetrators used “Excessive means to cover up the crime” I was almost clawing at the screen, praying to God that someone, anyone would just say, “It seems really weird to be that excessive, maybe there’s more to this” or something to that extent, but no it was simply brushed to the side as FORESHADOWING!!!!!!! BUM! BUM! BUUUUUMMM! And then Jensen’s shocked when he finds out Megan is alive, while you’re screaming NO FUCKING SHIT SHERLOCK DID YOU NOT HEAR THE FORESHADOWTRON 9000 GOING OFF!?
Overall the game left me sour. If a few things were tweaked and the story given a good reworking it could’ve been great, but as is it’s a face palm inducing experience.
I wonder if Jensen’s going to put this job on his resume’.