Science Fiction has a responsibility. To show us the world and what to and not to do. It is more akin to a fable. The best stories accomplish that wonderfully. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and The Minority Report, George Lucas’ Star Wars Saga and The Wachowskis’ The Matrix trilogy. Good science fiction stories make us think about ourselves and the world around us. Video Games lack that favor. Many single player campaigns missed the point of making their story more meaningful and impactful. Let me make an example, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare is a good example. Advanced Warfare’s story has so much potential. It had Kevin Spacey, a very good actor despite his unforgivable past as a sexual predator. It is set in the future where a company has the power to control the world. It is set in a future where humanity takes on more and more machinery to make them stronger, smarter and faster. It had the perfect science fiction which a good storyteller can maximize into a story with reflections on corporate domination and the meaning of humanity. It accomplishes nothing. It somehow becomes one of the blandest stories in a franchise known for bland stories. Bloody incredible.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution had the same premise and through incredible gameplay, level design and storytelling, maximizes the premise and elevates it to Game of the Year level of success.
Deus Ex, which came out in 2000, was one of the early greats in the PC gaming market before Half Life 2 revolutionized game design and storytelling in games in 2004. The game received critical acclaim, including being named "Best PC Game of All Time" in PC Gamer's "Top 100 PC Games" in 2011 and a poll carried out by the UK gaming magazine PC Zone. Deus Ex is a classic and a must play for anyone who loves PC Gaming. Its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War in 2003 is widely considered a step down of the best aspects of the original game, Story and level design, with increasingly linear level being the norm in the game. Invisible War’s lackluster critical and fans reception made the next Deus Ex game having to wait for 8 years, when original developer Ion Storm was no more, and the new game was developed by Eidos Montreal.
Human Revolution was that reboot. 8 years after the last entry, will it lose its swagger? Or will it prevail to become a masterpiece of the calibre same as the original? The answer is an obvious yes. Human Revolution is one of the top games of the last decade, and that's telling as the last decade is rich with incredible games.
Human Revolution is set in 2027, where human augmentation, advanced artificial organs capable of greatly improving and enhancing the human body's performance, is becoming more and more common. The development of augmentation technology has triggered the creation of a new social divide: those with augmentations become the world's new upper class citizenry and are touted as the future of humanity, while normal humans form the majority of the lower-class population. Global megacorporations have come to eclipse government authority in power and influence, while private military forces dwarf the sanctioned armies of First World countries. This is the optimal Cyberpunk setting. The absolute power of corporations and relative weakness of the government are a staple of the genre.
Cyberpunk in its core, very similar to noir films. The tropes are all here. The femme fatale, the hardened detective and the chaotic world that surrounds the world with less and less trust among people. Characters are a huge part of the genre. Human Revolution does not have the most original or the most fleshed out character, but it serves the story really well. Adam Jensen was a leader with the Detroit SWAT squad until he refuses to follow a questionable order and is turfed out. After this, he is taken on as a security manager at Sarif Industries, a local company at the leading edge of augmentation technology. Jensen is the prototypical noir detective, a hardened detective and looked like he doesn’t have much emotions.
The stories start out booming. Jensen's then girlfriend Megan Reed was presumably killed by terrorists right before unveiling a new type of augmentation that will end dependence on Neuropozyne. The attack also nearly fatally injured Jensen, he was saved by the company’s founder David Sarif, having almost his entire body replaced by machine, making him more machine than human. With his new powers, Jensen is tasked to track down the conspirator behind the attack and take down the conspiracy of taking down Sarif industries. Jensen travelled all across the globe, from Detroit to China to Montreal to the polar circle, in order to track down Reed and stop the conspiracy against augmented people.
Human Revolution’s storytelling is above average in gaming standards. It is certainly not Destiny 1 or The Division 1 level of bad, but it is not on the level of Bioshock or Red Dead Redemption 2. The main reasons are character, cutscene and ending. Let's start with the most apparent issue, the cutscenes have aged quite terribly. The character animation is quite bad and the resolution isn’t good either. The graphical fidelity of the game’s cutscene is not good. Strangely, the graphical fidelity in gameplay situations is much better. I don’t know what caused this issue but it makes the players less likely to attach to the story. Another point is the characters are kinda bland. Adam Jensen is in all purpose a blank slate, after all of this, his humanity seeming gone, he is like a less violent Robocop, he does not have a lot of personality. He is just there. At least he is active and we know his motivation. But I expect more. David Sarif is wonderful, and I really like him. Hugh Darrow is pretty awesome, but he didn’t do much. The side characters are alright, but not much personalities. There is a lot of serviceable character, but not a lot of great ones. The ending is the greatest grudge I held against this game. The ending gives the player four choices, however only one or two of them make sense, a la Fallout 4. Let me describe the context, the corporations and the illuminati behind caused a major malfunction to all augmentation, forcing almost all augmented people to inside a new system chip. That system chip is installed with viruses that will make their wearer go crazy. During a conference in The Panchaea, a geo-engineering project located in the arctic with the goal of curbing global warming, Human purity terrorist Hugh Darrow activates the virus and starts the virus. Millions of augmented people started to go insane. Darrow records a confession of condemnation of human augmentation. The player have four choices, he can broadcast Darrow's confession about augmentation and the Illuminati thus ensuring that augmentation is permanently banned, he can blame the Humanity Front for the attack thus ensuring that augmentation is developed further, or he can blame the event on tainted augmentation anti-rejection drugs thus ensuring tight regulation on augmentations or he can set the entire facility to self destruct, killing everyone present and letting humanity decide for itself. The problem is that only two options make sense. Jensen is fighting against the illuminati the whole game and witnessing their atrocities like kidnapping humans as technology testing subjects. The Illuminati ending is thrown out of the window. The banning of all augmentation makes no sense either. Adam Jensen is the product of augmentation, without augmentation, Adam Jensen will be dead. Many lives improved under augmentation. It makes no sense either. Blowing it all up is the dumbest solution. The illuminati are still out there roaming and want to control everyone and everyone who has a chance to stop them are “dead”. The only ending which makes any sense is the Sarif ending, which is to blame the Humanity Front for the attack thus ensuring that augmentation is developed further and become more publicly available. The ending is an illusion of choice, the player could not impact the story in a way that makes sense for Adam Jensen. That's why people don’t like Fallout 4 and that's why people don’t like the ending of Mass Effect 3, and that’s the only blemish on Human Revolution.
The World design and building of Human Revolution is outstanding. There are altogether 5 locations, Detroit, Hengsha, Montreal, Singapore and Panchaea, with multiple visits to Detroit and Hengsha, which is vastly different every time you have been there. Each location tells a different story through design. Detroit is a very good example. The Sarif industries headquarters is a tidy and bright technological place. It acts as a safe harbour for Jensen. However, everything outside is chaotic and dark. This shows Sarif industries lack of touch with the situation of the world. Regular NPCs will often give Jensen foul looks because of his heavy augmentation. These are just a few examples of world design and world building suiting the story and makes the world feel more fleshed out.
The mission design is the true highlight of the game. There is a lot of gameplay variety. Each mission can be tackled in vastly different ways. You can get in through brute force, and make no use of hacking or stealth whatsoever. Although the gunplay is a little bit clunky, it is still a very viable path. You got a lot of tools and augmentation for combat, like the Typhoon explosive system, which turns its user into a human fragmentation grenade, placing him or her at the center of a blast radius that inflicts a ranged sphere of damage on surrounding targets. Stealth is often encouraged. As most enemies need several shots to kill or knock out, however, you can knock them out or kill them in one melee takedown. The map, especially in later levels are filled with cameras and drones, forcing the player to go through frequent movement, you can’t just camp in a corner. There are also a lot of tools for stealth, like a tranquilizer rifle or glass shield cloaking system. If faced by hackable obstacles, you can either brute force hack through it or explore the map for codes to open the door. The important part is trade off. You can only carry as much augmentation and tools. If you use the cloaking device, you use your energy cell so fast, your other augmentation is wasted. If you prioritize stealth, you will lose out on combat equipment and abilities. The maps also suit the various playstyle as well. For example, in a mission in Hengsha, we need to infiltrate the data bank of Tai Yong Medical, one of the corrupt corporations, and gather data. There are few main ways to the database. You can bull rush in through the front door and shoot everyone on site. We can hack or explore through the office space to find codes, in order to disable the security system and waltz in through the back door. We can also go to the storage room and carry away the various cargos to find a ventilation shaft to get in. The level of freedom in Human Revolution is only rivaled by its predecessor, its sequel and other immersive sim titles, like Dishonored 1&2 and the new age HItman trilogy.
Human Revolution fulfills the sci fi genre’s responsibility as well. The social commentary here is not as obvious as in Mankind Divided, its sequel, but it is here in a much more subtle way. Human Revolution’s world is perfectly believable and reasonable in today’s day and age. The corporate power in this world is increasing and increasing. Their influence is astronomus. They control every single aspect of a person’s life. From smaller scale affairs, like deciding which kind of pasta to buy online, to manipulating news sources and using their algorithm to push a certain narrative, these big tech have so much power at the civilian level. They have even more influence in the government level, through frequent lobbying and electoral donation during election times. The future of corporate domination is not very far from us. The very concept which the game focuses on, human augmentation is not far from us either. For example, neuroscientist Theodore Berger explores synthetic memory chips that can be installed in the human brain. While still conceptual, the project could allow people to have “perfect” memories that never forget information, or another project by Elon Musk with the ultimate goal of creating a brain-computer interface (BCI). If successful, the project would allow individuals to interact with a computer on a neural level. This augmentation and human enhancement trend is getting more and more real. When the choice happens, will you go in the augmentation trend? Me probably not, not wanting to give up on my lifes. In this atmosphere, our lives are ever so slightly falling out of our hands. We don’t have as much free will under the influence of this corporation. Jensen. In his own words, “never asked for this”. The installation of augments onto his body was never authorised by him, he lacked authority in his life and so will future us, if this corporate domination continues. We will slowly lose our freedom.
The world in its current state, needs more games like Deus Ex. In a world where fiction and reality comes closer and closer, these games are like a telescope showing what would happen if humans don’t change their way. Even after the huge disaster that is the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, the interest of the Cyberpunk genre is still remarkably high, so why is there nothing about Deus Ex surfacing after the release of Mankind Divided? Mankind Divided is a highly controversial game, because of several predatory business practises carried out by Square Enix, including consumable pre order bonus, if you load the pre order bonus, which is a battle rifle and a tranquilizer rifle, in a save file, you cannot use them in another save again. This is highly questionable. Moreover, same as the much aligned Metal Gear Solid V, the game’s story is incomplete, with heavy sequel bait. The game also, surprisingly, only features one boss fight. This angers a lot of players. Square Enix have a highly unrealistic sales expectation for Mankind Divided of 3 million copies sold. Which is absurd. Human Revolution sold 2.18 million in a year, that's with it being a game of the year type of title. After the disaster of Watch Dogs 1, people are less and less confident of the genre. Mankind Divided is destined to be a failure. After 2016, Square Enix abandoned Deus Ex. The next project Eidos Montreal put out is a collaboration with Crystal Dynamics, the developer of Tomb Raider reboot. You all might have heard of its name before. Marvel’s Avengers. The failure of Avengers, may give some room for these Western Studios to work on new projects, maybe finish the Jensen trilogy? However, if the publisher did not change its utterly terrible marketing and business practises and its unrealistic sales expectation, then the next Deus Ex project will still be a failure.
"The World doesn't care about right or wrong. It's all about power. And right now, none of us have it.”
- Adam Jensen, Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an essential game. In both its themes and mechanics. It does not have nearly the same impact as the original, but it came close. It paved the way for the revival of the immersive sim genre. With the equally brilliant Dishonored coming out the next year. The immersive sim market is blooming once again, with Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Watch Dogs 2 and Watch Dogs Legion headlining it. It just feels weird that the game series that defined the genre is absent because of corporate misjudgement. The theme of this game is ever so relevant with the changing times. If you haven’t, please, try out Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The sci fi theme has been done to death in the media of gaming, but it often devolves into just futuristic weapons. It all has to mean something. And believe me, Deus Ex: Human Revolution means a lot.ns126.96.36.199da2