myriad ways to get to your objective.
The pleasure of that freedom is that
it leaves major elements like pacing,
challenge, and variety up to the
player. If stealth gets too hard, you
can find an easier route. If you’re
bored of crawling through cliché
man-sized vents, you can open fire.
And if your ears are still ringing
from the last gunfight, you can slip
through the next area quietly.
These are just the routes the developers planned for. The soul of Deus
Ex is in its systems: simple sets of
rules with no scripting, no exceptions, and no accounting for what the
player might do with them. Human
Revolution has that exact system,
letting you pick up and manipulate
certain objects. The slick, surprisingly natural third-person cover
system lets you hide behind any vertical surface—including the ones
you’ve placed there yourself, lending
to all sorts of mischief. I once built a
hilariously conspicuous secrecy fort
of boxes around a security terminal
before hacking it to hide my crime.
Thinking behind the box
You can also pick up and move
turrets. I called mine Gunther. I was
only able to get to his control console
by shuffling past him behind a cardboard box—I’d move it a few feet
closer to him each time he turned
away, then hide behind it when he
looked back. Once I hacked into his
controls, he was my friend for life.
(Hacking, by the way, is immediately
smarter and more involved than in
any previous game.) Then I sat him
at the top of a ramp to pelt fire at a
whole gang while I snuck up behind
them. When a guard destroyed him
a few fights later, it hurt—because I
was using him as cover at the time.
Like Deus Ex, Human Revolution is
a linear series of levels. Also like Deus
Ex, the levels themselves feel like real
places. When there’s a facility to
infiltrate, it feels like a real building,
with multiple floors and wings to
explore in whatever order you like.
There are two differences in their
approaches. The positive one is the
city hubs: both games have large,
I once built a
box fort around
hide my crime.
Terrorist Zeke has taken Josie Thorpe hostage.These are your options (minor spoilers!)
1. Let him go The easy option is to let Zeke here leave with Josie, but there are armed guards outside. It’s not likely to end well for either of them.
Dealing with Ezekiel
open urban areas you return to after
several missions. Human Revolution’s
are bigger, more complex, and far
richer in activities and secrets.
The negative one is more subtle.
Quite a few missions in Deus Ex,
including the famous first level on
Liberty Island, let you explore the
grounds of the mission location
before entering the main building.
Only a couple in Human Revolution
do this, so it doesn’t always have that
same dizzying level of freedom the
original occasionally did.
There are t wo other areas where
Human Revolution doesn’t entirely
pull off what the original did. Firstly,
the direct approach is a little too
effective. While there are bots and
turrets to hack, gas barrels to blow,
and photocopiers to throw at people,
subversion and improvisation are
rarely the best ways out of a situation.
The effectiveness of a silenced pistol
shot to the face can undermine the
pleasure of coming up with a brilliantly convoluted solution.
The last problem only comes up
four times in the whole game, but it’s
an odd one: boss fights. They’re terrible, and they can’t be avoided. The
game is so conflicted about this that
there’s even a Steam achievement for
completing it without killing anyone,
which apologetically adds that boss
fights don’t count. Yes they do, guys.
2. Talk him down If you say just the right things, you can talk him into letting Josie go in exchange for a safe escape. Both he and Josie can help you out later.
5. Knock Josie out
An unconventional approach: knock
out the hostage and Zeke is too
surprised and confused to do anything
but defend himself from you.
6. Kill Josie
Or “the psycho option.” It’ll certainly
shock Zeke, but don’t be surprised
if Josie’s husband doesn’t see this
as a satisfactory solution.
3. Knock him out
If you manage to taze him before
he can shoot Josie, she’ll be
safe. You’ll find Zeke in jail
later, swearing he’ll get
out. It’s up to you what to
do about that.
4. Kill him
If you’re a good shot,
Killing under cover
you can kill Zeke before
he hurts Josie. Almost
everyone sees it as
justified, and Zeke’s
body shows up in the
That’s it—those are the only three
things that really bothered me. If all
Human Revolution did was capture
that much of Deus Ex’s genius, with
so few flaws, it’d be incredible. But
we’re only just getting started.
The cover system immediately
improves the two main things you
spend your time doing: hiding and
shooting. Deus Ex made stealth viable
by making enemies hilariously short-sighted; Human Revolution makes it
viable by pulling out to third person
every time you hold the cover key to
hug a wall. It shows you exactly
which directions you’re hidden from,
and lets you see out from your hiding
spot without exposing yourself. It’s
not realistic, but it means stealth
works all the way through a game
where enemies are sharp, aggressive,
and can kill you in a second.
Combat then becomes a tough-
but-polished cover shooter. You can
OC TOBER 2011
OC TOBER 2011