Friday, 6 June 2014

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC) - Part 1

Due to overwhelming demand (one person almost asked for it) I've decided that the final 'H' game is going to be... Deus Ex: Human Revolution! But why does this get shoved down the alphabet when my article on Invisible War appeared earlier in the year under 'D', you may be wondering in your brain. Well, it's so I can play them in order, like duh.

Actually the order of the games isn't necessarily so straightforward, as although this is was the third Deus Ex game released, it's actually a prequel set 25 years earlier in the timeline. But as prequels go, will this be another Snake Eater or will it be an Arkham Origins? More importantly, which game am I implying to be the bad one out of those two? Perhaps we'll never know.

Human Revolution was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, but it received a Director's Cut two years later to accompany the upgraded Wii U version. I'll be sticking with the original version though, mostly because it's what I've got sitting in my Steam library right now (but also because I want to whine about the original boss fights at some point).

(Clicking screenshots will bring up a slightly higher resolution version for you to scrutinize.)

Nice to see that they've had the sense to include the proper spinning logo in the background... is what I would've said if the menu actually looked like this. But nope, this is actually a rushed mock-up I put together to show what could have been. The classic logo has finally been retired it seems.

Plus it doesn't even have Alexander Brandon's iconic Deus Ex theme! For whatever reason, incoming developer Eidos Montreal thought that getting XCOM composer Michael McCann in to write something entirely new would be somehow acceptable. He's awesome though, so they were right.

Also I surprised to find a box to adjust the FOV on another options page, amongst object highlight, automatic inventory management and quest arrow toggles. When it comes to tweaking your game experience, DX:HR has you covered it appears.

As is tradition for the series, the game begins with mysterious people conspiring to change the world. In this case it's a mysterious smoking man and his friends on Skype.

Hang on, I recognise that voice. Is this... Deus Ex 1 villain Bob Page? I think it actually is!

Meanwhile, somewhere else, Sarif Industries head of security (and amateur Clint Eastwood impersonator) Adam Jensen is sorting out the arrangements for a trip to Washington, where Doctor Megan Reed will present her incredible new discovery to Congress. The problem he's having is that Sarif Industries is a cybernetics company promoting products that upgrade and augment the human body, and right now there's 30,000 angry anti-augmentation protesters gathering in front of the capital. Dr. Reed herself is sitting there on the right, looking understandably concerned.

Unlike with JC Denton and Alex D from the last two games, there's no options to change Adam Jenson's skin tone, hair colour, gender or real name. I suppose these pre-rendered cutscenes make that kind of customisation entirely unfeasible, though I like him just fine as it he is to be honest. I'm envying his pointy beard.

Okay now I'm playing as Jenson in first person view. He has chosen not to take advantage of his company's military-grade augmentations, so he's just a regular human at the moment, with no on screen HUD, inventory or mission goals list cluttering up his vision.

He doesn't seem all that keen on augmentation in general, though his badass trenchcoat has apparently been augmented with chintzy sofa fabric across the shoulders. This Cyber-Renaissance style the designers have gone with could've easily looked ridiculous, but I think they've pulled it off. Things like Dr Reed's high ruffled collar, the leather chair, electric candles etc. add a touch of class to what could've otherwise have been a very generic looking game.

Dr. Reed keeps pestering me to leave with her already, but I'm going to rummage through her belongings instead. There is a ridiculous amount of stuff lying around in here; every surface is covered with piles of books and paper, even the floor. I've never seen a room in a video game look so lived in. It makes me want to start tidying up for her, though I should probably do something about the stacks of notes accumulating on my own real life desk first.

Oh damn, take a look at Dr Reed's book shelf; we've gone through the looking glass here!

It can't have been cheap to get all those books custom printed with reversed text like that. Either she's showing off her incredible intellect, or the poor woman has had her optical implants installed the wrong way around. Or maybe she just collects misprints.

You know I should probably go talk to her so she can leave, before she comes over here and hits me.

Hey, what the fuck man? The game has suddenly stolen control back from me as Megan and Adam walk around the labs! It seems that the developers didn't even trust me to walk behind her and behave myself while the cutscene plays out. They know full well that given half a chance I'll start jumping on the desks.

Though being locked firmly onto rails for a bit does give me an opportunity to test something I've been wondering about. I've heard that for the Director's Cut they've stripped out the game's signature golden tint for no good reason (well, besides a few complaints about it being a 'piss filter'), and I'm curious about how true that is. Personally I like the colours just fine the way they are, so I think it'd be a shame if it turns out that they have screwed with them, especially considering that you can't even buy this original version from Steam any more.

Okay, that's not a missing colour filter, that's a reworked lighting system! Sure using a palette based gif animation to compare the hue this way is a bit like trying to measure the ocean in a pint glass, but you can tell how the different the shading looks at least.

It seems to me that the Director's Cut still has a yellow colour cast, but it's less monochromatic and a bit more natural looking. Though that's still just another way of saying 'it looks less yellow' I suppose.

Anyway we've arrived at Megan's floor, so she leaves me alone in the elevator with Pritchard, the cyber-security chief, who is doing his very best to firmly establish that he's my asshole rival in the limited screen time the intro allows. Well I say 'limited', this walk and talk sequence actually took five and a half minutes in the end.

UNATCO theme! The music has suddenly transitioned into the tune from your HQ the start of Deus Ex! Such a perfect way to say 'you have arrived home' and 'trust no one' at the same time. This room is the office of David Sarif (my boss and the CEO of the company), and it's about the size of the average Invisible War level on its own. I'm only exaggerating so very slightly.

Anyway I can't hang around here looking at stacks of books all day. The big screen is flashing red and whining about some environmental malfunction back down in the labs. Sarif tells me to use his personal elevator on the left and gives me a keycode to type in.

It lets me use my keyboard's numeric keypad to key in the code! It's such a small pointless little feature, but it's the small touches that make all the difference sometimes. I've got this input device sitting on the desk in front of me and being allowed to use it as if it was an in-game object is cool, just like how Wii U users get to use their controller's touchpad.

(Also they got the door code right: 451, as featured in Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Dishonored, BioShock and the offices of Looking Glass Studios. It's a four digit seal of quality!)


Well the 'environmental malfunction' turned out to be more of a 'armed soldiers are invading the building and gunning all of the scientists down malfunction', but fortunately I have these helpful videos popping up as I go to teach me the basics of combat. Well, we're still only up to the basics of crouching and picking up boxes so far, but you gotta walk before you can run (it hasn't taught me running yet). These videos explain concepts in action much better than words alone ever could, and I have to opt in to watching them by hitting a button, so they're entirely ignorable. Only an absolute monster could dislike this tutorial system.

Jensen never goes anywhere without his trusty machine gun, and as head of security going Rambo on the soldiers' asses and single-handedly saving the day is in his job description... but I'm not going to shoot anyone. There's an achievement for finishing the game without a single non-boss kill you see, and it counts the enemies in this prologue even though I have no way of taking them down non-lethally.

So I'm going to be hiding a lot pretty much.

What the fuck, they've put a third person cover system into a Deus Ex game? This feels like it should be terrible idea, but to be honest I'm really struggling to hate it so far. Light levels don't affect the stealth any more, it's purely line of sight, so being able to stick to walls and peer around corners like this without revealing myself is a massive help. Plus it's not like the other Deus Ex games didn't also kick you out into third person view during every conversation.

In Invisible War I had very little idea what the enemies were doing half the time and I spent way too long hiding in the dark trying to listen for footsteps, before sneaking out and stumbling straight into an enemy by accident. In this I know exactly what they're up to and can plan my moves accordingly.

Well okay I didn't see THAT coming. This guy crept up on me in an pre-rendered cutscene, all artificial muscles and malice, and now all I can do is watch him throw poor Jensen through walls.

The fight ends before it even begins really, with a gunshot to Jensen's head providing an exclamation mark to everything that has happened up to this point. Gotta say though, it was a good advert for robot arms.

Fortunately, like Max Payne and the Courier from Fallout: New Vegas before him, Jensen has too thick of a skull for a point-blank bullet to the brain to do much more than knock him out for a while.

Hey hey, c'mon guys! I know Jensen got a little bit beat up just then, but a few bits of glass in his arm does not require a double amputation! David Sarif is inflicting more harm on his head of security than the cyborg who threw him through a wall did! Looks like they've done a fair amount of internal reconstruction for his torso as well, judging by the metal bars and bolts sticking out of it (not to mention the arm sockets).

This video reminds me a lot of the resurrection scene at the start of Mass Effect 2 actually, as they're both similarly stylised, with synth music and a lot of close ups of cybernetics. Though this is 100% more skippable, which makes it 200% more bearable.


Whoa, the size of this place... I think I can just about make out the receptionist over in the distance. Okay okay I get it, you're not Invisible War, I get the point!

Jensen is supposed to still be recovering from being shot, mutilated and having metal rods shoved under his skin, but he's been called back to work early to deal with a situation. There's been a break in at a Sarif Industries factory and he has to deal with it. Alone.

First though I should go do something about this flicking interface. Graphics bugs are so much worse when they're inside your head.

Hey a Final Fantasy XXVII poster, nice. Human Revolution is set in 2027, so that means that Square Enix has to release one main series FF game a year to stay on track. Personally I'll just be happy if they can get The Game Formally Known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII out by then.

I want to snoop around everywhere but my boss is very insistent that bad things are going to happen if I don't go out and fight terrorism immediately, so I'm going to speak to tech bastard Pritchard, get him to fix my flickery HUD, and then head straight out to the helipad.

Okay, flickery HUD has a little arrow saying 'turn right and walk forward 6 meters', so I'll give that a try. This quest arrow is entirely optional by the way, so everyone's happy. Well apart from the people who hate options I guess. They're out there, I promise you.


Man, that thing's a lot more substantial than my black helicopter from the first game. I get the feeling that Malik, my pilot, is going to be a semi-major character as this goes on as she has a lot to say here. Plus she drives the plane, so unless getting my pilot's license is a later quest, I'll likely be seeing her around wherever I go.

Sarif is waiting on board to brief me on the situation personally: pro-human purists have invaded one of our factories just hours after a secret prototype weapon called the Typhoon was brought there. Also there's hostages etc, but Sarif makes it clear that the recovering the Typhoon is my number one priority.

He also offers me a choice of what lethal or non-lethal weapon I want to take. I decided to go with the non-lethal long distance tranquilliser rifle, and waited for Sarif to drop the punch line and then give me the rest of my guns. Nope, seems like he can only spare the one. I guess him and Malik are going to use the others for target practice while they wait for me to finish up.

Deus Ex Human Revolution 800 BEE VTOL
Oh hey they flipped the registry code around in video clip: 800 B-EE, very mature. Though I suppose it could be the in-game model that has the flipped code, seeing as the pre-rendered video would be much harder to adjust after the fact.

Anyway I've been dropped off at the factory now, sans trenchcoat. There's a SWAT team already hanging around looking miserable, but Sarif has just enough influence to ensure that they won't raid the place until I've done what I came here to do.

Most NPCs only have exactly two lines of dialogue to say when I chat to them (par for the course for DX games), with a few special cases letting me pull out my full dialogue wheel.

Man, it pays to be friends with the head of the leading augmentation company; Jensen's got the most stylish looking artificial arms that money can buy. His tech looks more advanced than the implants special forces cyborgs will be wearing 25 years later:

Deus Ex (PC)
Jensen wouldn't let a mere vending machine get the better of him like that. He'd pick the thing up and launch it at a wall. Note to self: get vending machine throwing augmentation.

After I've done chatting with SWAT, Pritchard phones me up to inform me that the back entrance to the factory is pretty well guarded, but there's another way inside up on the roof if I can find my way up there. I think I'll take the high road, as it'll keep me out of sight and I'm still trying to play this without fighting anyone.

If you look at my new minimap you can see that I've got arrows now to show which way the enemies are facing. If I take a minute to watch carefully and observe their patrol routes I bet I can make it through this entire warehouse without them having any idea I was even here.

Maybe not on my first try, but eventually.


It doesn't seem like a fair test to play a Deus Ex game only one way however, so I'm giving the level a separate playthrough as Renegade Jensen, this time bringing with me all the violence I can carry. I'm even playing it recklessly; deliberately ignoring the cover system, firing wildly instead of carefully aiming for headshots, and going out of my to make sure that no one survives.

I'll tell you one thing: fights in this are over with fast. Headshots are an instant kill, and being caught out of cover has much the same effect on me. Enemies are smart enough to fall back and find something to hide behind and if I don't do the same I'll be out of the game by the count of three every time.

The full on assault approach definitely burns through my limited ammo stash much faster than... well, never firing a shot, but I get as much back (or more!) from searching the rooms and scavenging from the dead or unconscious terrorists after the bodies have hit the floor. Speaking of bodies hitting the floor, I can drag people out of the patrol routes of suspicious guards, but no longer throw them across the room like a rag doll.

There's no door keys in this, but pocket secretaries often contain key codes so that's basically the same thing.

Oh cool, the proper grid inventory is back. I can even rotate objects for the maximum Resident Evil 4-style 'inventory Tetris' experience. All those spaces on right are reserved though until I augment my imaginary backpack.

By the way, ammo is back to being old fashioned boxes of bullets, instead of Invisible War's universal energy packs, or whatever that game used. This is a good thing for a number of reasons; for one thing firing the rocket launcher doesn't eat up all your pistol rounds. Also gun reload animations are just satisfying to watch somehow.

On the other hand, ammo takes up space in the inventory now, which I'm not sure about. It kind of feels like I'm being punished twice for choosing to bring along more interesting guns, seeing as they usually take up a fair number of squares themselves. I need that space for my candy bars dammit!


Oh look, a security camera, I was just thinking how awesome it was that I haven't had to sneak under any camera arcs in a while. Fortunately it's too lazy to look downwards, so I can slip past easily. Crouching silences my footsteps so I can shadow people like this all I want. Stealth is all very straightforward, without any frustrating vagueness. You're either hidden or you're not, you're silent or you're not.

By the way, those icons you're seeing up there indicate that I'm standing close enough to the enemy to use a takedown move on them, either lethal or otherwise. Of course I'm playing this 100% stealth right now, so having any kind of contact with the enemy would break my self-imposed rules of engagement!

But if I did use it, it would look something like this. Shame it uses up one of my precious power batteries though. I've only got two right now, and only the first one (slowly) recharges! (Director's Cut changes this so that the first two recharge). It means that melee attacks aren't really a viable way to take out a whole group of enemies, unless I'm going to lure them out one by one by throwing noisy cardboard boxes around for them to investigate.

I was trying to decide what I thought about how this feature affects the gameplay, but then I got distracted by the number of QTE button presses I had to hit in turn to pull it off. Which was zero.


I came across a locked door and was told by Pritchard to hack the keypad, but it brought this minigame up instead This isn't right, hacking in Deus Ex games is supposed to involve pointing a remote control at something for five seconds or watching a progress bar fill up!

Okay here's how the hacking minigame works as I understand it (and I understand it surprisingly well after watching the tutorial video): I start off at the blue sphere and I want to get to the green sphere (or spheres), by capturing icons along the path in order. Capturing takes a second or two and comes with a chance of detection, and if the system learns that I'm screwing around with its nodes it starts tracing its own path towards my sphere from the red stack of boxes. Once I've captured a point I can choose to fortify it further to slow the computer's own hacking line down, but that comes with a high chance of detection, so I have to decide how far I want to risk pushing ahead before setting up defences. It's pretty frantic, as I'm capturing or fortifying multiple nodes at once to get to my target before he gets me.

See, this is why I love the video tutorials: my words are clumsy and rubbish, but if you saw it in action it'd make sense immediately. Man, I've been wasting my time these last four years writing articles instead of making youtube videos! Anyway: best hacking minigame ever.

By the way, there are no lockpicks or multitool items in the game anymore. In their place are viruses I can use during the minigame to give myself an advantage. It definitely helps to solve the problem that Deus Ex had, where you'd occasionally have to choose what mystery box to spend your valuable finite resources opening and risk getting a crappy reward. Plus I believe there are places in Deus Ex where you can get hopelessly stuck if you're out of lockpicks/multitools, which is a bit crap.


Aha, pulling these boxes away from the wall has revealed a secret air vent. Perhaps I could use to get through the next room unseen! Or maybe it'll take me back to where I've already been, who can say? All I really know for certain is that the floorboards have little hexagons on, and that's cool.

By the way, I'm very appreciative of the fact that I don't have to hammer the button to prise the vent cover off, Arkham Asylum style. I mean seriously, if there's any developers reading this, I've done a quick study and it turns out that it is NEVER FUN in any game.


It's not how it looks! This hacker went and shot himself in an video clip as I entered the room. The guy sure seems to have a lot of tech hanging out of his head for an anti-augmentation activist, though Sarif tells me to leave his neural hub alone in case it's booby trapped.

But at least I've finally got the Typhoon prototype I was sent here to retrieve. That's 250XP in the bank, plus double that as a Ghost bonus for not being seen. That definitely helps to offset all the 10XP rewards I missed out on for leaving people standing. It's an interesting design choice though, considering that the original Deus Ex only gives XP for results, not methods (and Invisible War doesn't give you jack shit.)

Well that's my primary mission complete, but I'm not done here yet. I still need to go after the leader of the terrorists.

Continued in part two!

Semi-Random Game Box