"Deus Ex: Human Revolution"
Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
From: Eidos Montreal/Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Mature (intense violence,
blood, sexual themes, strong language,
drug reference, use of alcohol)
By Billy O'Keefe
When we greeted "Deus Ex" as a liberator from a first-person shooter genre that badly needed a growth spurt, few probably predicted history would repeat itself 11 years later.
But here we are, neck-deep in a genre that's reverted to old habits and covered them up with cinematic flimflam. And here's "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," which holds so true to its pedigree that what was amazing then is amazing all over again now.
This isn't immediately apparent, because while "Revolution" quickly establishes itself as a cover shooter — with a third-person perspective while in cover — it also makes a point to let you know that attacking enemies at the front door is as viable a tactic as using stealth to neutralize them from behind. The cover interface makes complete use of the controller and requires some finger gymnastics when "Revolution's" other systems are in play, but once you acquaint yourself, all the pieces — responsive controls, satisfying gunplay, intelligent enemy A.I. and an intuitive cover mechanic — are there.
"Revolution" complements this encouragement of freedom with a design that very ably suits it. In place of the same old corridors are open-ended areas with multiple paths straight through and around enemies. A tense and deceptively deep hacking mini-game allows access to locked pathways, security cameras, sensitive data and other access restrictions, and you can move certain objects to create your own cover when cover isn't readily available.
But it isn't just "Revolution's" levels that branch: It's the whole game. True to the series' lineage, "Revolution" operates around a role-playing core that's built to accommodate your preferred attack style. In this instance, you can use experience points — accrued through everything from kills to finding secret passageways to completing side missions — to purchase bionic augmentations. (The story, set 25 years before the first game, explains all.)
"Revolution's" augmentation selection is large and wonderfully diverse. Stealthy players can purchase an augmentation that briefly turns them invisible, for instance, while other augmentations let you see through walls, lift extremely heavy objects, and read other characters' minds when in conversation with them. (Verbal manipulation, thanks to a great dialogue tree system, goes a long way here, which is why "Revolution" stocks an entire augmentation shelf dedicated to social mastery.)
The long list of augmentations works in concert with open-world hub cities and a massive, branching storyline — roughly five times the size of a typical shooter — to create an experience that truly feels tailor-made. Fans of the original expect nothing less, but if you're new here, "Revolution's" scope and freedom allowance might shock you. Engage in each city's side quests and dive into the ridiculous amount of discoverable exposition hiding behind locked doors and firewalls, and you're looking at a 40-plus-hour investment that's almost universally polished.
It's merely a shame "Revolution" loses itself so badly whenever things come to a head in a boss fight. In contrast to everything that precedes and follows, these boss fights — enclosed shootouts against a massively overpowered enemy who can withstand an inhuman amount of firepower and has no issues firing explosives willy-nilly and unloading his or her own augmentations without rhythm or limitation — are a horridly rude awakening, especially if you've adopted a stealthy approach and don't carry a ton of ammo. Outside of their infrequency, there is nothing good to say about these encounters, so you'll just have to endure them to get back to everything else that makes "Revolution" so incredible.
(c) 2011, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.