I have finally finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When I recommended that you play it, I estimated I was only about halfway through, but it turned out it was more like one third of the way through. A long game, especially by modern standards, and I was worried that it might overstay its welcome or lose sight of its focus on human augmentation issues. I am happy to report that neither of these things happened; the game remained engaging right until the end, and I can now recommend it without reservation. Definitely play it.
What I didn’t touch on in my earlier post was the legacy that surrounds the original Deus Ex, which is considered by many (including me) to be the best game ever made. Can Deus Ex: Human Revolution live up to such a standard?
Yes and no. The most important thing is that Human Revolution feels just like the original, even though it actually differs in many ways. Human Revolution has a cover system, regenerating health (although this is implemented very well), and scraps the skill system from the original game in favor of character customization solely through augmentations. But actually playing it will feel instantly familiar to those who have played the original. It captures that player experience that makes a Deus Ex game. As there hasn’t really been a game that tried to build on Deus Ex in the eleven years since its release, this alone is more than enough reason for any fan of the original game to play Human Revolution.
Human Revolution is also a more focused game, especially in its plot and themes. It is about human augmentation, and the implications that has for society. Compared to the rather labyrinthine plot of the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution definitely takes itself more seriously, and is thus an easier game to recommend to those unfamiliar with the series. Gameplay systems are better polished as well; the original was infamous for its extremely challenging stealth and the player’s relative ineptitude with firearms until the relevant skill points are invested. In Human Revolution, stealth is a far more viable option, and you begin the game with a basic competency with weapons that can be improved through augmentations if you wish. Levels are less sprawling and open than in the original game, but they still allow the same variety of approach, and if they don’t feel quite as much like real places as the original game’s levels did, they are still quite believable. Add in a much slicker presentation than the original and you have a refined package that plays very, very well.
In doing this, however, some of the complexity, craziness, and charm of the original is lost. The original Deus Ex was an innovator, a grand experiment in player choice set in a world that was more accurately simulated to react to these choices than had been done before. In this, as well as its mechanical systems and even its plot, it was wildly ambitious. The game allowed emergent gameplay, but it was also possible to break the game, often in hilarious fashion. The plot was crammed with so many ideas that it came off as zany and ridiculous even while actually being quite serious. It was a great game, but it was also rough and a bit mad.
Human Revolution, in contrast, knows exactly what it is trying to be. It’s trying to be a Deus Ex game. It takes the innovative systems from Deus Ex and refines them into a solid package that is balanced and fun. But it is not trying to innovate itself, not in the same way that the original game was. The result is an excellent game that’s much more approachable than the original, but it’s not going to blow your mind like the original did in 2000.
To me, the sheer audacity of the original game means it will likely remain my pick. But Human Revolution is still fantastic, and I am looking forward to further replays, making different choices and using different tactics. Any complaints I have given are extremely minor, and I am very happy that a new game has continued the legacy of Deus Ex. I hope it does well enough commercially to justify more games like it in the future.
In summary, play Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And if you haven’t played the original Deus Ex, play that too. You won’t regret either decision.