August 26, 2011

Reviewing Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It's been sometime since I've actually decided to review a single player game. But I think I am due for one, especially a high profile game like this that I am sure many others will be spouting their reviews and personal opinions about. Of course, mine is but one opinion of many, and what I am going to do is try to keep from spoiling things and just boil out the heart itself, the actual game play and how it handles.

Now, let me get the first bit out of the way; I do not care for Squeenix. At all. Like you couldn't even pay me to actually like them anymore. I use to be a fangirl big time, back with the original Final Fantasy games on Nintendo, back when they tried to sell the story and the game as one complete whole instead of isolating them as complete separate entities locked behind a wall of glaringly painful graphics in front of a matte painting backdrop that removed any sense of their actual belonging there.

I loved Final Fantasy 1, 2 and 3 or for those who have to be politically correct 1, 4, and 6 in Japan. The original is extremely dated now, and it's a very basic hack and slash RPG, but Final Fantasy 2(4) and 3(6) introduced not only very powerful game play elements, but an engrossing story that captured the mind and kept wanting you to see more of it. These things orchestrated, in my mind, a company that actually cared and wanted to deliver the best they could despite the limitations of the hardware they were using, you wanted to explore the world, to see what was offered and ask what else is there and even the tiniest things kept you asking, what are they hiding.

But when Squaresoft decided to jump on the Sony Playstation wagon, all that magic and wonder was lost as they got mired in the idea that just selling pretty graphics is enough, the rest of the game isn't as necessary. You can see this philosophy a lot in their latest iterations of Final Fantasy as well as that bombshell of a movie they called The Spirits Within. It's just been awful and it just makes me shake my head how many people think that train wreck of a game, Final Fantasy 7, is the pinnacle of the entire series. How low your bar must be set if you think that dross of a go nowhere, convoluted and no story game is actually remotely as high as the bar set by Final Fantasy 2 and 3.

But that is another story for another time. Instead I am here to talk about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Again, my mind had already been set that this game wasn't going to bear witness to the fruit that the original game garnered in its fan base. Honestly, I can't say I was ever a fan of the original Deus Ex, not because I didn't like it, but because I never actually had the pleasure of playing it. So I will be looking at this from the point of view of a new comer into the series of games.

I can safely say that hurdle has been overcome because I think, for the first time in a long time, I've actually entered a game I feel immersed into. I get into the spirit of the stealth, I get into the wonderment and curiosity the conspiracy theories invoke, and I certainly feel a bit of a small rush when I did something dumb and I am hiding from all the guards in the area as they do a search for me. The game play is very much a choose your own adventure thing, but on top of that, you are given the freedom to decide how to handle all the situations, from being a gung ho hero to being a Solid Snake style sneak and covert op. I am sure there is a game play style for everyone in this.

Another thing I rather enjoy about the game is that there is a sense that you actually have to pay attention, not just to environment, but to your inventory and your various messages and clues you receive. Though the game does track a lot of things, not everything is, and just randomly pushing buttons can end you in either a situation that can hurt you, or even worse, a quick death and speedy trip back to your last save. And if you aren't a diligent saver, that can be a long ways back for many.

As I said previously, it's been a long time I've ever actually felt this immersed in a game before. I want to get around the next corner, I want to unlock that door and find out what secrets are in it, but do I fly the straight and narrow, or am I the stealthy thief, that robs people blind, or am I the cold blooded killer that shoots first, shoots second, shoots some more, and then when everything is dead I think about the question to ask? These are the things you get a hold of and I am sure I am still not doing it justice.

I haven't finished the game yet, I still take breaks here and there to give me a moment to think my way around a situation I've found myself in currently in the game. Current run through I am playing stealthily and so far I can say other than the tutorial, I haven't killed a soul yet. From what I am told that still negates me from the achievement due to the tutorial, but I will gung ho in another play through. The game has presented itself a challenge to me, it actually encourages me to think, and I love that, something many games lack in this day and age.

But, and there is always a but, I have to say there are things that annoy me about it and they are just petty gripes that I think people can ignore for the most part. My first complaint is the voice acting. Now, I can't say voice acting in the video game industry will win any awards anytime soon. Most of the voice actors sound like they are less enthused than the voice actors for cartoons. But here it's almost whimsical how many of the voice actors say their lines. And I don't even think that they were trying to go that route, but it really doesn't sound like they were on the same page that the line delivered should have been. From Adam Jensen's wannabe Bale Batman gravelly voice sound to Mikal's flippant serious to bubbly voice acting, it's hard to get the idea that it was suppose to be serious. Some though delivered their lines perfectly, but most just sound out of place, but I think that also is because of the second point.

The animations during cut scenes and the like. They are so whimsical and poorly animated that you can't help but be sucked right out of what you were enjoying in the immersion. For me, I almost have to stop watching and either just keep reading the subtitles to ignore it, or turn my head and just listen. The character animations for these tense, talky choice scenes are poor, and that's being nice. The characters animate like marionettes from an amateur in the next room, and in some places, like with augmented people, the actual joints themselves appear to almost break off at points before quickly reattaching themselves to the original body. This and the voice acting can end up yanking someone out of the immersion they might have been experiencing. It's perhaps the biggest complaint I got, and it's a tad petty.

The only other thing that drives me up a wall is the interacting distance. Maybe I got use to other games too much where they were a bit gracious on the distance, but in DX:HR you pretty much have to be standing on top of objects before interacting with them works properly. And in a game where stealth is key that can add a bit more drama to moments. But that is only personal preference and probably from being spoiled by the dross of games over the past few years lately.

So far, I would recommend this to anyone who would be interested and would prefer a game that actually encourages exploration, thinking outside of the box, and above all else, not pretending to be a bullet absorbent badass that has no fear of consequences. Though that option is present, you still have to think tactically if you are to survive.

Oh, and that first boss fight is a pain in the ass. It will definitely piss off the people who play HALO (a POS FPS game that somehow gets hailed as the greatest thing evah) and such expecting to deflect bullets with their chins. If you're going in expecting to take 8 billion bullets before death, well, you probably won't like this game very much. However, if you want to use tactics, play using smarts and actually exploiting weaknesses instead of battles of attrition based on who can fire the most bullets, then this might be the game for you, especially if you love conspiracy theory thrillers.

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