Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Megabits Column: Deus Ex Human Revolution

Megabits of Gaming contributes a monthly column in Charged Middle East – a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games magazine that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics.

Each month, Megabits takes a look at a new release in a gaming franchise and considers how its evolved over the years and what makes it great!

Here’s the latest of the articles from the November 2011 issue. For more about the magazine, check out its Facebook page after the jump.

After a summer lull of epic proportions, it’s somewhat appropriate that one of the newly-released titles to inject some much-needed enthusiasm into subdued gamers is rightly being tipped as a Game Of The Year contender.

After a whopping 10-year hiatus, the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is being heralded as a classic and has accrued a healthy 89% rating from score aggregating site Metacritic.

As a hybrid of different genres there’s truly something for everyone. Depending on how you approach Human Revolution, it’s a stealth game or action shooter with RPG elements thrown in for good measure. Decisions you make have a bearing on your game… whether you agree to track down a crazed terrorist, save a downed pilot or help a mother mourning the death of her daughter, they all have consequences and affect future missions. Not only that, but how you choose to upgrade your powers and abilities as the game progresses will completely change the way you play.

Taking place some 25 years before the original Deus Ex, you step into the shoes of Adam Jensen, security chief for Sarif Industries, a biotech company that manufactures augmentations that improve the body’s performance, transforming people into superhumans. A terrorist attack on your employer’s headquarters leaves many dead, with Jensen only surviving after extensive surgery using the very augmentations he’s assigned to protect. With his shiny new cybernetic body he must track down the perpetrators, travel across the globe and negotiate a plot full of twists and turns along the way.

Sure Human Revolution looks great but it’s the living, breathing world that really deserves the plaudits. The gameworld is full of life with NPCs passing you by in the corridors or streets chatting away and going about their business. Police and security guards can be perfectly civil one moment, but if you draw a weapon or try to gain access to a restricted area then all hell breaks loose.

Earning these super powerful upgrades means you can take an all-guns-blazing approach and enhance Jensen with awesome add-ons like the ability to punch through walls or lift immense weight. Alternatively, you can take the stealthy option and buy augmentations for invisibility and silent footsteps. Hacking computers and completing side quests will earn XP and the vital Praxis kits – the currency used to improve your skills.

Human Revolution’s influences are clear. The soon-to-be rebooted fan favourite Syndicate - from Peter Molyneux’s Bullfrog back in 1993 - was a landmark title that arrived to critical acclaim, engraining the cyberpunk world deep into gamers’ psyche a full seven years before the original Deus Ex. Negotiating a dystopia of the not-too-distant future, upgrading your characters with super-powered limbs and abilities, and using some high-tech weaponry has again been captured in Human Revolution’s 30 plus hours of gameplay.

Stealth also plays a huge part in the game – and features elements perhaps best captured in two games dating back to 1998, Thief: The Dark Project from Looking Glass Studios and Konami’s Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear was arguably the game that took the stealth genre to a whole new level. Although hiding in a cardboard box is not in Jensen’s repertoire, hugging walls and scurrying through ventilation shafts is common practice in the new iteration of Deus Ex.

Perhaps though, the strongest and most impressive aspect of Eidos’ game is choice, and the many paths that open depending on your reaction and interaction with characters and objects. As a result, Human Revolution achieves what many developers have strived for over the years – immersion into the gaming world.

Choice is becoming an increasingly important facet of modern gaming, encouraging players to come back and take different paths and explore more. Molyneux attempted it with his Fable series (2004-2010), as have the two Bioshock games (2007-2010), with varying degrees of success. With Deus Ex, there’s so much to see and do, there’s huge incentive to replay the game as soon as the credits start rolling. The developers should be proud.