“I never asked for this.” —Adam Jensen
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a title I had picked up last year during the Steam Summer Sale, but only got around to playing it properly at June’s closing. After the opening scenes rolled, I would take on the role of Adam Jensen, a security officer for Sarif Industries who is mortally wounded at the game’s beginning and is subsequently brought back to life with an array of augmentations. In the next few hours, I familiarised myself with the game’s mechanics and found myself at awe with just how much depth there is in the game. Whether it be the dialogue (and options to have Jensen respond differently), the conversations between various NPCs, newspapers, pocket secretaries or eBooks, the world in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is incredibly rich in detail and story. The question that invariably comes to the forefront of all discussion would be the ethical implications behind human augmentation and transhumanism. The conflicts in the game stem largely from shadowy organisations going up against mega-corporations, protesting human augmentation as a violation of the natural order. This ultimately kicks off Deus Ex: Human Revolution; as Jensen delves deeper into the investigation behind who was responsible for the attacks on Sarif that left him injured, questions arise as to whether or not augmentation is truly something humanity should pursue.
- I suppose it’s time I actually started this game, and so, exactly a month ago, on a rainy afternoon, I finally opened the game for the first time and sat through the opening cinematics, which introduced the Typhoon weapon system. Set right on the eve of a major scientific conference, many themes about transhumanism and research ethics come into play here. Back during my undergraduate degree, one of my courses involved ethics in medical research, so I do hold my own opinions about what is and is not ethical.
- With that in mind, I think I’ll hold back on the ethics discussions for the time being, seeing as I would probably be forced to refer to primary literature or textbooks in order to adequately discuss things. For now, this is a talk about what I’m enjoying in Deus Ex: Human Revolution so far, and I recall that early on, I was quite unaccustomed to the control scheme: typically, right-click brings up the iron sights, but right-click is used for cover in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I’ve kept it this way in Deus Ex: Human Revolution because cover is an integral part of gameplay.
- Faridah Malik is one of Sarif’s chief pilots, ferrying Jensen around in a company VTOL. I’ve gotten a HUD as a result of the augmentations now (notice how there was no HUD in the earlier screenshots). Here, I am making my way to the first major mission in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which involves a Purist First, a group of anti-augmentation supporters who take over a Sarif facility holding the Typhoon weapons system.
- Jensen will be given a choice to go non-lethal or lethal in order to secure the Typhoon, an augmentation that shoots out explosive ball bearings in a 360° direction around Jensen. It requires two Praxis points to activate, and a third to max out. Fully upgraded, it can destroy robots in a single shot, and eliminate any boss in two shots. I completed this mission with only one casualty, which arose after I ran out of darts for the stun gun and was cornered by a Purity First supported while low on health and battery. In the end, when I confronted Zeke, I chose to let him escape after convincing him to free the hostage, feeling that he was entangled in something.
- The city hubs are the areas of the game with the most open feel to them: here, NPCs will offer side quests when approached. Completing these quests with a benevolent hand will yield experience points, credits and equipment, as well as giving greater insight into the Deus Ex: Human Revolution world. I find that the best approach to take for side quests is to play things as closely to the real-world as required: instead of sneaking about, sometimes, it’s easier to go through the front door and talk to people.
- This is one of the LIMB clinics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where players can go to purchase Praxis kits. Experience points and credits also go towards acquiring Praxis points: these points are functionally identical to skill points in other RPGs, allowing players to unlock augmentations suited for their style of gameplay. The augmentations make the game substantially easier, and there is an achievement in one of the DLCs for going through the entire game without augmentations beyond the default ones for vision and hacking.
- Hacking is an essential part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and is one of the fastest ways to obtain XP towards getting Praxis points. While real-world hacking does not work remotely like it does in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it adds a fun mini-game and rewards players for exploring. The system is very easy to learn and isn’t involved by any means, although some of the tougher systems will require augmentations in order to be hacked.
- The combat system in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is completely optional, and when one chooses to take a combat-driven approach, they can do so using lethal and non-lethal weapons, as well as lethal and non-lethal takedowns. I find that a traditional first-person shooter approach, characterised by aiming down sights, doesn’t really work too well compared to taking cover and making use of a laser sight to accurately down distant foes. At closer ranges, I usually prefer non-lethal takedowns (which are quicker to perform, silent and yield more XP), or else just fire from the hip.
- Lawrence Barrett is the first boss Jensen encounters, deep in the bowels of the FEMA facility. In the standard version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, boss fights are mandatory and end with the boss dying, although The Director’s Cut allows for bosses to be spared. These fights break away from the option-laden approach in the campaign and turns the game into a 1v1 arena. Barrett is a mercenary hired by Belltower and is notable for having an integral chain-gun built into his suit. Those without a rocket launcher can best him using a combination of EMP grenades and headshots.
- After Barrett is defeated, he tells Jensen that what the latter seeks is in Hengsha, before blowing himself up with grenades in the hopes of taking Jensen with him. Upon meeting up with Malik, Jensen heads to Hengsha (横沙), an alluvial island in the Yangtze river delta transformed into a bi-layered city. Known as the Pearl of the Yangtze, Hengsha is home of the Tai Yong medical company and holds clues into the attack at Sarif months ago.
Insofar, I’ve beaten the game up to the confrontation with Yelena Fedorova, who was wiped out with liberal use of the heavy rifle. From a gameplay perspective, Deus Ex: Human Revolution handles like a role-playing game with first and third person shooter mechanics, as well as the option of stealth. There are items to collect and experience points to earn, which are subsequently translated into Praxis points and used to unlock augmentations. Depending on one’s play-style, augmentations for combat, stealth or hacking can be picked. Those favouring combat will find that the game can be approached as a first or third person shooter: in practise, since Jensen is quite fragile even with the dermal augmentations, I prefer doing most of my shooting from the third person. Of course, it’s quite possible to go through the game without killing anyone (save bosses and certain NPCs), but I find that a combination between stealth, non-lethal take-downs and firefights works best for me. In fitting with my preferences, I’ve chosen to upgrade my hacking capture level and stealth to hack terminals and computers more easily. As well, I have all of the strength upgrades to fully use my inventory, punch through walls and move heavy objects. For exploration’s sake, I also have the Icarus landing system so I can move around more easily without taking falling damage, and I picked up the social enhancer, because talking to people to enter restricted areas or allay suspicions is far easier than sneaking about.
- Here, I’ve completed the Shanghai Justice side quest Malik offers. For me, Hengsha was a particularly entertaining section in the game, evoking the “Asian City” feel perfectly. Though it’s nowhere near as crowded as Hong Kong, the street-side shops, dialogue, signs and atmosphere are perfect. The Chinese characters speak Mandarin Chinese, which I only have some familiarity with, but it does feel good to be able to mostly understand what people are saying without the subtitles.
- I’ve busted into the Tai Yong medical center and are getting closer to one of the secured severs here, in a room filled with laser security beams. As these beams follow a pattern, it’s reasonably simple to remain Oscar Mike until the end of the room is reached. There’s a switch to shut this system off. Readers will note that I am jumping ahead a fair bit with the photographs: this is because there is quite a bit to talk about in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and if I were to do a full walkthrough, there’d be enough content for me to start a separate blog.
- This is the Longsword Sniper rifle, a weapon that occupies a fair portion of Jensen’s inventory and is intended for long range combat. Installing a laser sight makes the weapon woefully inaccurate unless firing from cover while zoomed in. Typically, I pick up sniper rifles to sell for credits; at this point in the game, a combat rifle with a laser sight, coupled with non-lethal takedowns and a stun-gun are my preferred way of combat early on in the game.
- Besides hacking augmentations, one of the earliest upgrades players should opt for are the strength ones to boost the inventory size, allowing for Jensen to hold onto more stuff. While we’re doing strength, it’s also good to boost lifting capacity (which allows Jensen to lift and toss things like vending machines and dumpsters to find hidden passage ways) and punch through walls to expose new paths. By Hengsha, I also have dermal armour, EMP shielding, the Icarus landing system and maxed out hacking capture and stealth.
- After a confrontation with Zhao Yun Ru, the building’s entire security detail will be all over the map.Because I’m forgoing stealth for combat, I slowly picked all of them off before making my way to the hanger, where two security bots patrol. This is before I acquired the revolver’s explosive ammunition upgrade and Typhoon system: I was scrounging around for EMP grenades and found some, allowing me to disable them. Previously, I just snuck past them to avoid being fired upon, but sometimes, direct confrontation is necessary.
- I suddenly realise that, throughout Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I’ve finally used all of the weapons that were subsequently ported to Team Fortress 2 for promotional purposes; the shotgun, sniper rifle and revolver are were included as weapons for the engineer, sniper and spy class. I acquired all of these weapons through drops in Team Fortress 2, but for one reason or another, I haven’t played very frequently since last summer ended. For the most part, though, the combat rifle, pistol and revolver are the game’s most practical and effective weapons: even at close range, the shotgun may require two shots to down an enemy, while the sniper rifle is only useful in a few contexts and otherwise occupies precious inventory space.
- After leaving Hengsha, Jensen requests Malik drop him off at Montreal’s Picus Communications center. Here, the 2027 Montreal skyline can be seen, and it’s good to see a Canadian city in a game: given that Eidos Montreal developed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it seems natural that their city be featured as one of the levels. However, there is no city hub here, as the entire mission is set inside the Picus Communications building.
- I spent most of the Montreal mission digging through every single drawer and hacking every computer in office areas. Insofar, I’ve only bought one Praxis kit from the LIMB clinic: all of my other augmentations were unlocked via experience points. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the music yet, which I found to add significantly to the game’s atmospherics. The Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack was nominated for many awards back during 2011 for its dark, brooding tones, attesting to its quality, and I especially love the main theme, “Icarus”.
- There’s more to the Picus center than meets the eye, though: after Jensen discovers that Eliza Cassan is an AI, he finds a way to the building’s subterranian levels to learn more about Cassan and the Tyrants. Over the past month, I’ve been helping looking after a relative’s lionhead rabbit; we usually clean the pen twice a day, and give food in the morning and by evening. In the latter, I’m typically playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution when the time comes for the rabbit to be given lettuce, so I’ll pause the game, get said lettuce and give it to the rabbit, who then happily eats it. Because this is so adorable, I’ll watch the rabbit eat all of the lettuce before returning to whatever it is I’m doing.
- I admit, I was not expecting a boss fight with Yelena Fedorova at the level’s end, but my FPS instinct kicked in after I found a room filled with heavy rifles. These support weapons fulfil the role served by LMGs, and although powerful, isn’t very practical because of how unwieldy it is. Against Fedorova, though, the weapon performs quite well with the EMp shielding augmentation: she makes use of a Typhoon knockoff and will accidentally damage the servers, sending sparks into the room and stunning her. Some 100 heavy rifle rounds later, here’s another boss fight I beat. For the next bosses, I’ll probably use the Typhoon system.
The first thing that comes to mind in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the level of immersion and degree of freedom the game offers. Besides the variety of approaches one can take towards finishing missions, players can also interact with the dialogue, picking different responses Jensen can make during a conversation. This mechanic allows players to truly feel like they’re a part of the game; I play Jensen as calm, reasonable and adapting to his augmentations. This was particularly rewarding during the earlier missions, where I talked Zeke Sanders into releasing his hostage and leave quietly without much incident. Beyond conversations and various tidbits into what is going on in their world gained from the main mission and scattered throughout the game, there are also side quests that can be completed to gain further insight into what has transpired. These elements alone gives Deus Ex: Human Revolution a very involved story that captivates the player; it’s certainly kept me playing through the game and exploring every nook imaginable, and I can’t wait to see what awaits me upon a return to Detroit for the second time (well, there’s a riot over augmentations, but there are also things to get done).