Deus Ex Human Revolution – The real reason for all the 9s and 10s
X360 doesn’t understand why Deus Ex: Human Revolution got such high scores, but is trying to.
I played and reviewed Deus Ex: Human Revolution well before the game’s release date – so well before the review embargo lifted – and I have to say I was surprised when reviews started coming through from other sources to see so many 9 and 10 scores for it. I gave it a 7.
So I had a good read through several of these ultra positive reviews and it seems to me that they all overlook, ignore or deny important facts about the game. For a start, let’s tackle those one by one…
(By the way, I’m not naming names or using direct quotes because this isn’t about mud slinging)
And one more thing – for the record, I played it on the hardest difficulty.
One of the main reasons for all the high praise was the level of choice offered by the game. While I’d agree that it’s fun to explore and that there are several different ways to approach each situation, I often found unreasonable, illogical limits put on my freedom of choice and certainly found it less generous with freedom of choice than the original Deus Ex. I saw one review that acknowledged this, describing the gameplay of Ion Storm’s 2000 classic as a “flow-chart”. That’s a nice way of putting it.
Back in 2002 I wrote a long, detailed, complex, branching walkthrough of Deus Ex for a PS2 magazine, so I really know just how much choice you had in that game, even on the PS2 version, which was a little more limited than the PC original. Believe me, Human Revolution doesn’t come close in this department. Surely, over a decade later, it should at least be a match.
I’ve seen the voice acting referred to as both expert and impeccable. It’s just not. It’s about average overall, but Elias Toufexis’ performance as Adam Jensen is particularly flat and boring.
Most reviews repeat the game’s own assertion that its mechanics and design favour stealth. This also just isn’t true and was one of my main criticisms of the game. Thanks to some clumsy mechanics and inconsistent AI, stealth is actually haphazard and risky, whereas thanks to the same crappy AI, open combat is more predictable and so ultimately much easier.
I’ve seen it argued that you need to focus on combat augmentations if you want to take a more violent approach. No you don’t. You just need to take advantage of the way the enemies willingly line up to be killed by you (one review specifically said they didn’t do that). You need to be smart enough to dig in somewhere where you can’t be surrounded, but that’s not exactly tactical depth and certainly doesn’t require combat augs.
It’s also been said that the game’s stealth mechanics stand up to scrutiny. I wouldn’t call shifting across the gap between one piece of cover and another in front of a guard just 20 yards away and noting that he was completely oblivious to it ‘scrutiny’, but it was enough to prove that stealth is a bit of a joke in this game.
I’ve touched on this already because it’s a massive problem that compromises everything Deus Ex: Human Revolution tries to do, but it’s getting its own heading too. I’ve seen the AI described as intelligent, plausible and solid. It is not. It’s some of the dumbest AI I’ve ever seen. It just obviously is. What more can I say?
I think some reviewers maybe think that saying a game is polished is the same as saying it’s shiny. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is shiny, but it’s not polished. There are many bugs, glitches, inconsistencies and rough edges.
So what do I think the real reason is for all the 9s and 10s? Well, one factor that can’t be ignored is that Deus Ex is the type of game that allows different players to have different experiences and I am willing to accept that I might have been a little unlucky in the particular experience I got out of it. But that’s still a flaw in the game and still doesn’t explain 9s and 10s. Here’s my theory as to what does…
Games journalists are hardcore gamers who’ve grown up with games and have had to put up with being told again and again that they’re hobby is childish and immature. So when a game comes along that even hints at genuine maturity and sophistication, some reviewers get carried away. The rush of excitement at finding a title that’s actually trying to help gaming grow up a bit is so great that critical assessment of the product as a whole gets sidelined. It seems to me that some write-ups of Deus Ex: Human Revolution review its capacity to make a gamer feel like an adult for a change, and little else.
There’s some exemplary storytelling in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, no doubt about that, and it does tackle some serious themes in a clever way. Eidos Montreal deserves credit for this. But as a vehicle for narrative it has some pretty serious flaws. One review argued that I’d be missing out if I ‘allowed’ issues with the game to impinge upon the narrative. But I didn’t allow them to, Eidos Montreal did. And for that, the studio deserves criticism. And not fawning, gushing praise.