Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Released: Out now
Blade Runner is all over Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and in the best possible way. Sharing both thematic and striking visual similarities with the 1982 oft-talked about classic, this FPS/RPG hybrid is reverential to it, and offers the closest thing to an interactive Blade Runner since, well, Westwood’s excellent Nineties Blade Runner cult hit. With numerous choices relating to both gameplay and narrative, you can imbue Deus Ex with your own instincts as a player and live inside a world where you genuinely affect the surrounding characters and circumstances.
Alright, that does sound a bit hyperbolic and dramatic, but in the confined variables of videogame storytelling, it is extremely impressive. You can let people die, solve hostage situations, absolve guilt, help citizens or ignore them – the story bombards you with frequent dilemmas, and like Mass Effect 2, it’s a pleasure to decide whether you fall into the camp of ruthless serial killer or sympathetic hero.
Your character, Adam Jensen, is working in security at Sarif Industries, a group that has made groundbreaking progress in creating advanced artificial body parts, until augmented terrorists gatecrash the facility. After murdering his girlfriend (thankfully not called Eve), responsible for many of Sarif’s scientific breakthroughs, they severely injure Adam, forcing him to be rebuilt by the corporation using these advanced artificial limbs. Soon, he uncovers a conspiracy linked to the attack, and finds himself at the centre of a rather deadly, all-consuming conflict (is there any other kind in videogames?).
It’s an intriguing story with more than a bit of pastiche, overcooked by some of the voice actors, but otherwise an intense tale that ticks all the sub-genre boxes of cyberpunk. What truly impresses about Human Revolution – and this applies to the previous Deus Ex games, too – is the way you can tackle each level in lethal or passive, stealthy or explosive fashion, upgrading statistics that dovetail with your methodology. If crawling around vents and across catwalks while invisible is your thing, the game is absolutely built for you; likewise if Gears-style cover-shooting tickles your fancy (though you’ll have to be a lot more tactical, and less beard-and-bandana-gung-ho). Whatever approach suits you, there’s no easy option or broken option. It’s remarkably well balanced.
The real treat is in the size and detail of the hub levels (the Blade Runner influences become more pronounced over the course of the game), which allow players to deviate from the main storyline and become convincingly immersed in the beautiful black-and-gold hued near-future. Performing quests is addictive, and when you truly master your chosen set of augmentations, the sense of power is tremendous.
Without the game’s contrived and irritating boss fights, this would be a five-star experience – as it stands, it’s the only glaring error in a title that offers an intelligent, balanced and cinematic alternative to trite first-person shooters. They have their place too, sure, yet Deus Ex: Human Revolution confidently retains the complexity of its predecessors while opening up to the bigger crowd. This is, in many ways, what we’ve been seeking from interactive sci-fi for a long time, beyond the realms of blasting aliens as space marines, and it should be at the top of your required playing list this year. 2011’s most stylish game has the substance to back it up.