The Director’s Cut of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is proof that second chances do exist. The first time I played Deus Ex:HR I enjoyed it…until I reached the first boss battle. Because I spent the first few hours working on a stealth build, my version of Adam Jensen was not capable of defeating the first boss. After many failed attempts I turned the game off and later traded it at GameStop. Fast forward a couple of years and Eidos Montreal has released the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut. The latest version has fixed the boss battles, included the Missing Link DLC, and even added new features like New Game+. Is Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut a successful shot at redemption? Let’s find out.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a story of mankind and its ability to adapt to changes in human evolution. In Deus Ex: HR, human augmentations are something of a conundrum for society. On the one hand people are happy to have access to technology to help them live longer and enhance quality of life. However, corporations are not mandated to follow a certain set of guidelines for augmentation development. This has lead to corporate wars between cybernetics companies, and even the rumors of shadow organizations making key decisions to shepherd the growth of technology in certain directions. And there are risks to people getting these augmentations. Body rejection is the biggest risk causing people to depend on the drug neuropozyne to help their bodies cope with the changes. Many people who need the drug find themselves in financial ruin because they cannot afford the drug as the years go on.
It’s a great sci-fi story that suffers from pacing issues. In the beginning you’re tasked with simple fetch quests that doesn’t really move the story forward in any meaningful way. The story does pick up later in the game, however I could see some people quitting the game early due to the slow pace of the story in the beginning. The game also suffers from some inadequate storytelling. Plot points aren’t always described in detail, leaving players confused about certain elements of the story.
Eidos Montreal did a great job integrating The Missing Link DLC into the story. If you never played the DLC separately, you probably won’t notice where the story deviates from the ‘main’ narrative. The Missing Link story arc does a great job of further explaining the story, and helps pushes players to the story’s finale.
It’s actually the end of the game that really drives home the story and makes it a standout game. You are tasked with four choices, each one of them with their own merit. None of them are wrong in the traditional sense of the “good, bad, or neutral” ending. You have to take what you’ve learned from the story and apply it to what outcome you believe serves mankind best. If you’re like me, once you make the choice you’ll spend hours researching the endings (and secret ending) to see how your choice ties into the game’s universe.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is all about choice. You can upgrade Jensen’s augmentations to favor hacking, stealth, or combat. Of course you are not limited to just one play style. My character was a mix of hacking and stealth. While I like the freedom of customization, I do wish the Praxis Points where distributed better. You earn Praxis Points from completing missions or purchasing them from Limb clinics. Other mission factors will also determine the maximum points that you can earn, including how much of the environment you explored, how you deal with enemies, and if you set off any alarms. The problem lies with how many points you receive compared to the cost of abilities and your particular play style. There were moments in the game when I needed the upgraded jump ability, but I did not have enough points to upgrade it because I spent them on another key upgrade. Leveling your character is a balancing act, and there is a risk of building a character that works against you in the beginning of the game.
Getting Things Done
I recorded this gameplay video to demonstrate how Deus Ex: Human Revolution handles choice. In this particular mission I have to enter the harvester base. The first attempt you will watch is a frontal assault. I was able to combine my stealth skills with a couple of combat perks to reach my destination. However, the entire combat situation can be avoided if I choose to be stealthy and enter the base from an air vent in the roof. It’s this freedom of choice that makes the game great.
During my playthrough, I made it a goal to avoid combat and killing enemies. Of course this decision eliminated certain routes, but other times I was awarded with easier, and often shorter routes to my goal. When you do have to engage the enemy controls feel good. The cover mechanic is great, and the camera gives you plenty of space to view your surroundings and make your next move. You can also move from cover to cover and even move around cover with the ‘A’ button.
The boss battles where the reason I didn’t finish the standard version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The promise of revamped boss battles was the reason I gave this game a second shot. I’m happy to say that the boss battles are better designed. The developers have fixed the maps so those who favor certain play styles can defeat the bosses. I found the battles challenging but not impossible. I was able to use my stealth skills to find avenues to defeating a boss in a manner that didn’t feel like I cheated. It’s a nice balance, that is a welcomed change to this version of the game.
Losing Powers and Old School Mechanics
If I had to find a flaw with the gameplay it would be the loss of powers during the middle of the game. It’s an old school game design choice that really bothers me. If I’ve worked so hard to build this character from the ground up, don’t strip me of my powers just because you can. Of course the story gives you a reason for this predicament, but it just feels wrong. The game tries to make up for it by limiting the amount of time you play without your abilities, but it makes you rebuild your character with fewer points. This might be okay for people who wanted to rebuild their character for a different play style, but for me it limited the style of play I was accustomed to. And then there’s the inventory management system. I prefer the number(weight) management system, like Skyrim, instead of the block system in Deus Ex: HR. It’s an old school way of managing inventory that serves more as a pain in the ass than it does a challenge. The game also favors old school design by making you upgrade certain aspects of Jensen’s character that should available from the beginning. For example, Jensen has bionic legs, but I have to upgrade them to jump higher. This might not sound too bad until you realize that his standard jump height is about a foot off the ground. Same goes for the battery system. It’s a nitpick item, but I believe if I upgrade the battery pack then the additional cells should recharge like the first two cells. It’s a small detail that will certainly annoy fans of stealth gameplay.
Dead City Syndrome
Outside of a few gripes here and there, you’d think the game lacks any ‘true’ flaws. And I would love to tell you that, but it does have one huge flaw–dead city syndrome. Like Sleeping Dogs, the world of Deus Ex: HR never feels alive. The city hubs, while large in size, feel soulless. Especially after playing a game like Grand Theft Auto V. Coming back to Dues Ex: Human Revolution feels like a step backwards. It’s a shame because the story and gameplay are great, just not the environment where the action takes place. I have to knock the city hub design because jumping from city to city never feels right. You just move from one soulless city to another without enough time to really get invested in the environment like you do the story.
A Game With A Growing Score
If you were to ask me during the first half the game what I would grade it, I would have given it a score of 7. The problems with the city design, praxis points, and slow story would have kept me from giving it a good review. Thank God I decided to play this game to completion. The result is a game that delivers a great story with player choice sitting at it’s focal point. The problems I have with the game become less and less important the further I progressed through the story. When I finished the game I wanted to know more. I wanted to play the original Deus Ex and read Wikipedia pages to see how the events in this game affect the game’s universe. And to me that is the sign of a great game. Great games leave you with an impression that spur action after the game is finished. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut is one of those games.