Monday, September 5, 2011

Cleared: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Well, it's been a very cyberpunk Labor Day weekend this year. As I suspected it wouldn't, it didn't take me very long to get through Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Buying games right when they come out is a fairly rare thing for me to do, but I felt this one warranted it, and I'm happy to report that I was right. Part of the decision to purchase this game was a philosophical one as well: I like freedom to pursue goals in a variety of ways in my games, and the Deus Ex series has always been fantastic towards that end. You can be stealthy or charge in the front door, you can kill your enemies, sneak past them, or knock them unconscious. You can hack your way into computer systems or find the password and log in directly. The game offers you a lot of options to do a lot of things while playing. A lot of people have complained that the unavoidable and always lethal (to your enemy) boss fights break immersion, but I just don't see it. The bosses you fight are monstrous in a variety of ways - the first one you encounter is so augmented as to virtually be a mech with a face (like Robocop) and having to expend entire magazines, plural, of ammo on him to bring him down didn't really strain my suspension of disbelief. A couple of the others did a little bit more, but that was no huge deal. The boss fights were certainly no worse on my entertainment experience than commercial breaks in a TV series I loved would have been, but in the interest of fairness it should be noted that I made no effort whatsoever to spare everybody I fought. In particular, some of the pitiless monsters that killed innocent people right in front of me were put down pretty hard. (An attitude I shared with Jim Rossignol over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.) It also bears mentioning that the game was smart in way that had nothing to do with the gameplay itself. The story and world were very fleshed-out and interesting and there were some real philosophical concepts up for grabs in this one. Also of note: I really appreciated that not everybody who worked for a corporation was cold-blooded, amoral jerk. The growth and development in your relationships between you and Pritchard, Sarif, and Malik was a cool element to be sure.

RPG notes: As usual, this section contains big heaping piles of spoilers. Wow. Where to begin. Obviously, if you're running a cyberpunk game, you owe it to yourself to play through this game at least once and probably twice with a notepad handy. There are tons and tons of ideas for interesting cybermods, societal attitudes, and technology. Some of the interesting highlights that stuck out to me:
  • The Typhoon system. That mod basically makes you into a walking cluster bomb, and you're not the only character that has it.
  • Barret's gun arm was pretty awesome in its execution; it didn't permanently replace his hand, but he couldn't use the hand and gun at the same time.
  • Jensen's arm blades. I don't know who at Eidos thought those up, but those were awesome. They could easily become an iconic videogame weapon.
  • The Icarus landing system. Fall from any height and either just land softly or send out a shockwave. Very nice. The glowing gold sphere was a great visual touch, too.
  • The way newspapers are handled. They still exist, but they're full-color wafer-thin things that can be interacted with. I'll bet recycling is especially important in the Deus Ex world if for no other reason than to just keep costs down.
  • David Sarif's beautiful gold filigree-inlaid cyber-arm and Hugh Darrow's renaissance-style cloak to cover his missing arm.
  • The famous news anchor that's actually an AI.
  • Yelena Federova: instead of being a plodding, up-armored wrecking machine, she was almost like a cybernetic ninja. She could jump HUGE distances, cloak, and so forth. A very cool contrast to other cybered-up warriors.
  • The prejudice towards augmented people. On the one hand, it struck me as exceedingly unreasonable. On the other, it's not like humanity has always been reasonable with its prejudices.

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