Saturday, September 17, 2011

deus ex human revolution

wouldn't cha know it, I actually have a backlog of games I want to play now. Deus Ex, Catherine, Dead Island, and a few others are games out there that, after a long period of indifference, I want to play. Most of them came out around this time, and Summer is a notoriously dry period for game releases. Go figure. I don't know if I'm actually going to get a chance to play all of them, but I did order Deus Ex from eBay for like 40 bucks, and I can definitely say it's one of those "good" games. If you've read a games "review" from me before you know I do a poor job of actually reviewing. I use these more as jumpoff points for discussing other, related things. What stupid tangent am I going to go off on? Read and find out.

Deus Ex is actually a ploy by the US government to make muffins
One of the first things I noticed about the game was that it was a Steam game. Like, when you buy a Source engine game. It's totally connected for DRM, but also includes file and setting syncing. I wasn't sure if that would be the case, but I recently tried to install Linux on my system, faceplanted and had to reinstall everything. Luckily I had a backup drive (remember kids, always back your stuff up) and got everything back to normal fast, but when I got Deus Ex up and running, all of my saves and trophies were still there. I had only logged in about, say, 8 hours of gameplay, but it would have been really annoying to have had to do it again. It doesn't sound like that much, but this is the sort of game that tracks a lot of data. It records (and is affected plotwise by) whether you go into this building or that, pick up this item or that, and kill this guy or that. So it's not so much about the work put in, but about losing my very-specific play data up to that point. You can't download a "generic" save file from the internet like you can with, say, Tomb Raider Underworld. Every player at a given save point is going to have a very unique play history. So, anyways, yeah. Save file syncing is very useful indeed.

very very vurry useful indeed
The game appears to be running on Mass Effec........wait, no. I'm just getting word that it is, in fact, running on Tomb Raider Underworld's engine. Wow. That game looked great, sure, but really? It actually ran okay on my system but not great. Like I've said before, my graphics card is getting a bit dated. It's an 8800GTS (look it up if you really care), and the average "get at least this for gaming" card these days is a 9800GT, a card that came out a full year later than mine. Anyways, TR:U ran fine on my rig, but with some slowdown if I turned on too much antialiasing. This game doesn't really slow down at all. Deus Ex honestly runs at about 30-60 FPS depending on the number of actors. The graphics are about Mass Effect-level. The digital actors remind me a bit of Oblivion or Fallout in terms of design and animation, but do look a little bit better than in those games. Unfortunately, they don't look as good as the actors in, say, Left 4 Dead 2, but whatever. Few do. I can't believe how good the Source engine still is at doing faces. This game has all the pretty shine, blur, haze, and whatnot effects you've come to expect from AAA titles, but manages to make them look better than average. That is, shine and blur are not turned up so high that everything looks ugly. Bravo, gentlemen, you have my respect.

Yes, I'm happy to say that despite looking oddly-slightly outdated graphically, the art design is awesome. They've used a brown-and-yellow color scheme that somehow isn't just copied from everyone else. It fits the world they've created. It's very Blade Runner meets Minority Report (meets The Flintstones). The gameplay is similar to Mass Effect 2 (half dialogue trees, half cover shooter), but it is also an FPS. It's kind of like Quantum of Solace, actually. That's the only other game I've seen that uses FPS as its native form but switches to Gears of War when you want it to. On the PC, you just hold the right-click button to stick to whatever wall is around, and the camera backs up to a 3rd person. Odd at first (I groaned when I found out, mid-gameplay, that it was half Gears of War like that) but I got over it. The game is not focused on combat. You will do most of your gaming looking through desks, hacking computers, talking to people, and sneaking around. There are a lot of areas that have many enemies, but when that happens you are almost forced to simply sneak around. Going toe-to-toe with numerous enemies will get you killed and fast. It's kind of like Splinter Cell like that. At times it actually felt like Metal Gear to me with all of the wall-sticking and patrol memorization. There have been complaints that the game claims to be open-ended and free-to-choose, but clearly prefers one style of gameplay. I haven't come across that. The most common complaint is that if you tune yourself to be a hacker, you will be S.O.L. when you come to a combat situation. Wasn't the case for me. I tuned myself to roughly be a hacker but could still fight when needed. If I had put all of my points into physical and shooting augmentations, I still would not have been that much better off. So, I don't know what Penny Arcade was talking about when they wrote this:

Click to enlarge

Another thing I noticed about gameplay is something that is kind of hard to put into words, but I'll try here: It is from an "older" school of game design. I don't know how to explain it, but I did experiment a tiny bit with the original Deus Ex, and this game feels eerily similar despite the tons and tons of modern conventions they've integrated. It's been simplified for newer users (myself included. I was only bound to DOS for games until I was 13) and ease-ified, but at it's core it's actually pretty 2001. It feels like Half-Life 1 or Metal Gear Solid. I don't feel like I'm saying this right, lemme try again: It doesn't hold your hand or spell things out for you. You are encouraged to figure things out for yourself. No flashing messages that spell out exactly how to handle your next objective, no annoying sidekick saying "push the jump button to jump". When it's time to infiltrate a complex, you're figuring it out yourself; there are like 4 ways in, I'm sure you'll get it. You can clumsily charge in, or look around for an extra few seconds and find a safer way. Or, if you have enough hacking experience, you can just unlock the side door. What I'm saying is that you can choose how to play, and there is no correct or wrong way. There are points like boss fights in which you kind of have no choice but to play combat for a few minutes, sure, but for the most part you do what you want. Not in a GTA mayhem way, but a mathematical problem-solving sort of way; you have a problem to solve but the how is left up to you. You can come at any situation from a lot of angles, and your gameplay style up to that point influences what your options are. I liked it.

So that's DXHR. If you like action games like Half-Life but are a little bit tired of things that explode, go for it. I had prefaced this review with a "I wander a lot" warning, but wow. I kept it tight. Huh.

1 comment:

Can't find it?