To be totally honest, I’m not really happy with the state of the “first-person shooter” genre these days. What started with the youthful exuberance of “Wolfentstein 3D” and “Doom” eventually mutated into the narrative highs of “Jedi Knight” and “Half-Life.”
Those golden days when the shooter combined pulse-pounding action, clever puzzles and even surprisingly well-told stories has been gone for a few years now, replaced by linear corridor crawls with nonsensical stories that defy all logic, narrative or otherwise.
But let us go back in time to the more halcyon days of yore, specifically the year 2000. A game called “Deus Ex” came out of nowhere and blew critics away with a story that combined conspiracy theory with philosophy in a way that’s still never really been recaptured. The game could be completed without killing any of your foes, and you had a massive number of different ways to complete each mission. It was widely lauded, and saw some commercial success.
And then “Deus Ex 2” came out, changed so much from the original game that the established fanbase utterly hated it. Consequently, the game sold horribly and “Deus Ex” as a franchise seemed dead.
Until “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” came out of nowhere, that is.
Like every “Deus Ex” game, “Human Revolution” takes place a few decades in the future. Computer technology is even more ubiquitous than it is today, to the point where a growing number of people are cybernetically augmented with artificial enhancements.
“Human Revolution” is set before the other two games in the series, before this sort of augmentation was totally accepted by society in the “Deus Ex” universe. This time around, you play as ex-cop Adam Jenson, who’s now under the employ of the obligatory slightly sinister corporation Sarif Industries as a “private security manager,” apparently meaning the guy who breaks into incredibly dangerous places and steals and sabotages things for Sarif Industries. He is also a cyborg.
One of the most interesting things about “Human Resources,” unlike many games, is that all of this background is directly relevant to everything you do. Being a cyborg explains your super-power abilities and why you’re better than most of the people you’re dealing with.
Even things like your health display make more sense than in most games, since it’s explained as part of your cybernetically enhanced eyes. Your enhancements can do a lot more than that, although exactly which ones you have are up to you. Choosing what enhancements you use is no small thing either because what you select has a major effect on how you play. New routes open up if you can survive a jump from any height, for instance. Or what about giving yourself the ability to hack combat robots and turn them against their former controllers?
This level of flexibility applies to everything in the game, too. There’s more than one way to progress each level of the game. You can sneak through ducts, fight through the many waves of badguys, and sometimes you can even talk your way out of problems entirely! The choices you make aren’t just about choosing between pressing a blue button instead of a green button; each new ability gives you more tools or more information, but even then you need to use your own head how to use them most effectively.
“Deus Ex: Human Revoloution” is a welcome respite from the more loud and stupid shooters out there today. It’s one of the best big-budget games of last year, and is unlike almost anything else out there right now.
It was developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square-Enix. Rated for mature audiences, it is available for PC, Mac, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360, and is priced at $15 to $20, not including extra downloadable content.