When Deus Ex: Human Revolution released in 2011, it was an unexpected surprise. Serving as a prequel to the original which came out more than a decade prior, many suspected it would be just a mildly inspired sequel or reboot of a treasured PC classic. It was with extreme pleasure that Human Revolution dashed any fears of being a bland, cut-and-paste job. The story of Adam Jensen in a cyberpunk-inspired future Detroit was full of character and incredible atmosphere. It was definitely a hidden gem in any gamer’s library. Now with Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut, many improvements are added to the game in attempt to make it a more cohesive, refined experience. The question is: does the Director’s Cut provide the definitive Human Revolution experience or is it just a great excuse to tack on some worthless Wii U GamePad functionality?
It’s the future and what it means to be a human is changing. David Sarif and his company Sarif Industries have popularized human augmentation. People young and old, rich and poor can all replace their limbs and body parts with advanced, robotic-like substitutes – augmentation. The problem with human augmentation is that the body rejects it without an expensive drug called Neuropozyne. Sarif’s lead scientist Megan Reed has actually found a way to make augmented people not require the drug. The player takes on the role of Adam Jensen, head of security at Sarif Industries. Before an important conference, Sarif’s lab is attacked by terrorists, Megan is kidnapped and Jensen is mortally wounded.
Fast-forward six months later and Jensen is back on the job. Except now most of his body has been replaced with augmentations. In a way, he resembles a machine more than a man. The overarching plot behind Human Revolution focuses on Adam’s search for the truth about Megan (who is assumed dead) and unfolding a conspiracy behind stolen technology. Truth be told, the main plot of Human Revolution is strong but certainly not its highlight. As the game goes on, plot threads become more intricate. The Illuminati are involved, political turmoil, self-sacrifice and more are all presented to the player. It’s certainly a wild ride that will keep anyone engaged.
However, the true meat of Human Revolution is in its atmosphere. The team at Eidos Montreal filled their game with subtext that provides some chilling social commentary along with a bevy of philosophical quandaries. The concept of human augmentation brings up the issue of what it means to be human. Jensen frequently clashes with himself and others regarding his new additions providing a great deal of inner turmoil to the protagonist. The drug Neuropozyne can be seen as commentary on drug addiction and dependency today. Questions of whether or not humanity has reached or too far exceeded its limits are posed – the myth of Icarus being referenced in the game.
Human Revolution is truly given time to flex its themes during side missions and optional pick-ups scattered throughout areas. Side missions often present moral choices for Jensen and the players to make, and many of them can be decided on the player’s perception of the world. Character’s dialogue is well written and never feels forced or unrealistic. A mission to unravel the truth behind Jensen’s birth that carries throughout the whole game could have been poorly executed but is instead threaded into the narrative brilliantly. Human Revolution is able to present a vision of a possible future and make it seem startlingly realistic. Things like picking up books and spying into people’s emails all fill in gaps about the world, making its fiction all the more plausible. While the game rests at a great length when completing everything, anyone captivated enough won’t want it to end.
Choice is one of the biggest mechanics in both the story and gameplay of Human Revolution. From beginning to end, players will be making major decisions on how they want to tackle the game. The biggest is in combat. Human Revolution is one of the few games that presents a no-kill/stealth option and truly runs with it. If the player wishes, they can go the entire game without killing anyone and without being seen. Optional, stealthier paths can be found in each level as Jensen can travel through vents and behind cover. One of the complaints about the game, which still holds true, is that combat leans towards stealth over gunplay. The player can use stun guns and tranquilizer darts in rifles so they can use weapons but traditional things like pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers and laser rifles are in place to actually kill enemies. Those approaches aren’t as fun and turn the main combat into a shooting fest. Stealth makes the gameplay more deliberate and also forces the player to think instead of going in guns blazing.
The other big mechanic in the game is upgrading Jensen’s augmentations. Almost everything the player does will reward XP. Knocking out or killing an enemy grants experience, finding secret rooms and not being seen do as well. After gaining enough XP, players will receive a Praxis point which can be used on an augmentation. These augmentations range from upgrading hacking skill, improving armor, increasing inventory size, granting temporary invisibility and more. Some upgrades are more pertinent to full on combat while others are better for stealth. To be quite honest, the stealth augmentation upgrades are just cooler. Who doesn’t want to be able to see through walls, cloak themselves and then knock out multiple enemies without making a noise? By game’s end, players will feel powerful and it’s great.
Many other touches make Human Revolution an even more deep experience. Hacking things like computers and security terminals will grand passwords to rooms, item caches, or even the ability to disable security cams or turrets. Players can also use conversation as a weapon. At several points in the game there will be “social fights” where a variety of dialog choices can be selected. Based on what is selected, Jensen might anger an enemy, force them to divulge information, or prevent a fight. It isn’t always clear how these play out, but they are incredibly fun to watch.
At its heart, Human Revolution is a light open world game. The story is separated into a couple of hub worlds that are full of people giving side quests and secrets to be found. Inside these hub worlds are decent sized areas like a police station or a gang territory, but they aren’t as big as the major levels the player is flown off to for a big story mission. Though it’s really cool to explore the world, they can feel a bit dead after a point. NPCs mainly stick to a routine and fill up the streets with little purpose. After buildings are picked clean (which does take a reasonable amount of time), there is little left to do in them. Part of the reason this is an issue is because the world is so rich in its atmosphere, the player wants it to feel more connected and more lived-in not just on a story side.
Graphics & Sound
Almost immediately, Human Revolution became recognized for its black and gold color palette. It is a distinct artistic choice that holds up through the game. Never becoming drab, it instead reflects the cold and opulent nature of this cyberpunk world. Things like clothing consistency might not seem like a talking point in a video game but here it is just another factor that make it apparent how much care was put into creating a believable world. The biggest fault of Human Revolution’s visuals is that the graphics themselves aren’t that great. It was never an ugly game but even by 2011 standards did look aged. Considering how much dialogue there is in the game, character’s mouths don’t always match the words they are speaking and the same few body and arm movements are recycled with both Jensen and other characters during conversations. It’s kind of a shame that these sections are a little wooden because they can take the player out of the experience a bit. However, the Director’s Cut version of the game has improved the overall look of Human Revolution. It might not be an astounding improvement, but it is appreciated.
As far as video game soundtracks go, Michael McCann’s score is among the finest ever. McCann’s compositions beautifully capture many of the tones and themes that Human Revolution touches upon. It can be downright chilling during quiet, thoughtful moments and decidedly tense during fights and combat. Trying to describe its brilliant execution is quite difficult without the player actually hearing it but regardless of what genre or style of music the player enjoys, this is one of the most masterful uses of sound in recent memory outside of Hotline Miami and Bit.Trip Runner 2. While it is harder to heap as much praise onto the voice work, the cast does an excellent job especially Elias Toufexis as Jensen.
Wii U/Director’s Cut Advantage
One of the biggest talking points of the Wii U/Director’s Cut version of the game is the second screen implementation of the GamePad. It is a pleasure to say that the GamePad is not a mere gimmick in the case of Human Revolution. The original version of the game used several interfaces from a map, to a section for emails and journal entries and even a screen for hacking. Many of these elements are delegated to the GamePad’s screen. It is especially useful for the hacking mini-game where using the touchpad makes it easier to select nodes to hack. The ability to trace lines on the map might not be used by many players but is a thoughtful addition. It does take a bit of time to become familiarized with the bulkiness of the GamePad and looking from the television to the smaller screen. But after the player is accustomed to it, it feels like second nature.
Boss battles in the original game were a sore point in the overall experience. They felt strangely disconnected from the rest of the gameplay. With the Director’s Cut improvements are made to incorporate more than just shooting. They aren’t perfect, but play much better. The Director’s Cut also includes The Missing Link DLC which adds several hours of gameplay and narrative to Human Revolution. Having it incorporated into the game makes the experience feel complete as opposed to disjointed when playing it separately. One of the best additions to the Director’s Cut is the developer commentary. The biggest fans of Deus Ex: Human Revolution will eat this commentary up as it provides a lot of behind-the-scenes information on the making of the game and more. Newcomers should probably avoid it on their first playthrough as some aspects of the game might get a little spoiled.
Possibly one of the biggest questions that exist for Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut is whether or not it warrants a second purchase. For Wii U owners who may have never played the original, this is a must-have purchase. Despite the more expensive price tag, the game is still one of those unique experiences in gaming that can’t be missed. While the Director’s Cut is cheaper on other platforms, it might still be worth it for some. Die-hard fans of Human Revolution would be smart to invest in the Director’s Cut if they never purchased the Missing Link DLC and if they want the developer commentary. The commentary alone would warrant a purchase because it gives a deeper look into one of the hidden gems of the current generation of gaming. Human Revolutions isn’t without its flaws but it sinks its fingers into you deep and never truly lets go.