Think edgy Six Million Dollar Man and you’ll get Adam Jensen, the protagonist in Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Square Enix. He’s fashionable, dark, gravelly-voiced, a little dangerous, very capable, part man, part machine, and he’s got a cool beard. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is sexy cyberpunk, which is kind of a tautology, because to be cyberpunk, it must be sexy. Cyberpunk is film noir set in the future—there is tragedy and intrigue; there are huge forces one never quite sees; and only our dark and flawed hero can uncover it all.
In cyberpunk, the cities are light and glass, flashing images, futuristic, and there is a dark underbelly where the have-nots dwell. There are femme fatales and double crosses, and nothing and no one is as they seem. Deus Ex: Human Revolution captures this type of world perfectly in both story and design. Corporations have created ways to augment human abilities with mechanical prostheses that can make you stronger and smarter, heighten your senses and make you more (or less) than what you are. This is the beginning of this process, and the changes are more or less cosmetic, and in some cases, more insectoid than human. The moral question in the game is, “Is this change benefiting humanity or removing ourselves from it? Do these changes further segregate us into haves and have-nots?”
The strengths of the game are the story and the design. The world is gritty and alive, and the costumes are completely fabulous. Seriously. The style is a strange Victorian/modern mix, intricate, textured and beautiful. As someone who prefers less clothing, no one was more surprised than I to find myself ogling the clothes. (Thank you, Tim Gunn!) Everything but characters’ facial features are lovingly and dangerously rendered. The faces of most of the characters, barring the main ones, look straight out of 1995, blocky and crushed and all around bizarre.
I tried not to kill anyone (yes, you can really play this way); it worked pretty well. The RPG elements of upgrading your augmentations was varied and cool and allowed you to approach the world the way you wanted to, guns blazing, stealthy, or as an expert at using the environment. This is good because the shooting aspect of the game is weak, clunky and hard to maneuver. Blind firing is a joke, and your inventory is limited (but can be upgraded), so carrying a variety of weapons and large amounts of ammo isn’t going to happen. Also, there are boss battles, the bane of my existence, that you must use weapons to complete and you must kill those tragically sexy fuckers. This has been a complaint in many reviews, and mine, which excites me, because it says gamers don’t want to be mass murderers in every game, and that they can enjoy games not centered on killing.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a world worth exploring. The story is engrossing, the settings compelling and the design fantastic. The gameplay is passable and made even better by the fact there’s no one way to face a situation. It is a step towards the majesty that games could be, complex and beautiful, something you want to talk about, and an experience that stays with you even after you put the controller down.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, and you can find it where sexy cyberpunk video games are sold. Read all of Frag Dean’s gaming articles here.
Read all of Frag Dean‘s gaming reviews and coverage here.
Frag Dean is a podcaster on Silly Frags, available on iTunes, Sticher and sillyfrags.com.