Few games do so much, so well, and for so long as Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
In any other year, we'd have our Game of the Year winner locked down before the end of August, but with the likes of Skyrim hitting shelves in the next few months, Deus Ex is in for a fight, and a sneak, and a bit of a chat, and a punch-up, and whatever else you fancy doing, really.
It begins with conspiracy - a shadowy organisation attacks Sarif Industries, kills nine tenths of their research staff and leaves their security specialist, Adam Jensen, broken and dying. Jensen's body is rebuilt with Sarif's own military-grade augmentation technology and he finds himself on the tail of the men who killed his ex-girlfriend and turned him into a mechanical man.
The pre-credits tutorial sets the stage for almost 30 hours in Human Revolution's take on 2027. It's the most credible videogame world since BioShock's Rapture - every location telling a story about what happened before you arrived and what might happen when you leave.
Over those 30 hours not one minute is wasted; Human Revolution never takes your time for granted and never bogs you down with busy work. In every city hub there are half a dozen side-missions to complete alongside the main missions; you'll be tasked with recovering evidence from a body in a police station's morgue, but find yourself taking down a corrupt cop, investigating your ex-girlfriend's disappearance, stealing weapons from gangland territory, and doing anything but the job at hand. Every mission plays differently, and every mission can be played however you want.
Deus Ex encourages you towards stealth with enemies who can blow Jensen away in just two or three shots, but if you'd rather treat it as a shooter, it's down with that. When you find yourself forced into a firefight every fully upgradeable weapon packs a punch and the enemy AI puts up a tremendous fight, moving a couple of men to flank while the rest suppress as a group.
Augment your armour and electromagnetic shielding, install a rebreather to cope with gas grenades, and improve your arms to takedown two enemies at a time and you'll become an unstoppable killing machine. And who doesn't want that?
If you'd rather go sneaky you can install a cloaking system, look through walls, mark targets, and dampen the sound of footsteps to move through the game like a ghost. In those same levels where you can throw down and shootout, you'll find room to hide, sneak, and use your augmentations to your advantage. You can rack up a bodycount in the hundreds, or collect an Achievement for not killing a single soul.
Human Revolution is a proper RPG where you have a real choice about everything you do. You'll make decisions you'll have to think about for minutes at a time, weighing the possibilities; you'll break your zero-kill streak and murder people because they deserved it rather than because the game forced you; you'll risk your life and the lives of others to save characters you've genuinely come to like.
It's a game filled with branching paths where every decision feels like a decisive moment, and a game where the results are always satisfying no matter what path you take.
But we've seen this before, after a fashion. Back in 2000, the original Deus Ex changed everything. With help from System Shock 2, it forged a template the best developers would crib from for the next decade. That game wasn't a great shooter or a great stealth game, the AI was thick, combat was lightweight, and stealth was often as much about exploitation as skill.
Somehow though, even with those problems, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Human Revolution, however, has no caveats; it is a great shooter, it is a great stealth game, and those parts come together to make it a great RPG.
It's a once-in a-generation kind of game, and the first game in a decade to do everything the original Deus Ex did, and to do almost all of it better.
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An incredible piece of game-making; it's the revival Deus Ex always deserved.
- A real lived-in world
- A great shooter, steal, RPG game
- Boss fights can be easy