McMillan’s Codex 25 By CT McMillan
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
In my last entry, I brought up the subject of level design in Dishonored and how it is adapted to accommodate any play style. Loud or quite, there were many avenues of approach one could traverse depending on how they want to play or what direction they want to take the story. Any game that gives you such freedom should be standard practice in the industry, no matter the genre. Videogames are an escapist medium and why restrict players by not giving them as many options as possible? One of the best examples of such depth-full choice is the original Deus Ex from 2000. Though I have not played it, I did play Human Revolution, a prequel and worthy successor according to most. Was it good enough to make me play the original?
Cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres. It is a science fiction fan’s dream come true with advanced technologies integrated into the fabric of society to the point of dystopia. Robots and cyborgs walk among regular people as massive corporations run the world, killing each other to gain the upper hand. Ordinary citizens must resort to crime to survive be it with conventional weapons or cybernetics. Communication has reached new heights as one can access another’s mind through neurological enhancements, opening up the possibility for total control by those with malicious intent.
While Ghost in the Shell, Shadowrun, and Blade Runner are classic cyberpunk, Human Revolution is about a world taking its first steps into embracing technology. Biological augmentation is still a new phenomenon as society gradually takes it in and struggles to adapt. The over-arching conflict of the world is normal people do not see cyborgs as equals and feel augmentation should be banned. It gets to the point of civil revolt as dissidents riot against the corporations responsible for introducing such technology.
While it does not make any sense why people would rebel over a voluntary procedure that you must pay for, it is a good enough excuse for the game to explore themes of human transcendence and corporate control. On the one hand, technology allows us to become more than who we are, but sometimes we forget what we are giving away in exchange and what it means for those providing. People with augmentations have problems with their bodies rejecting implants and depend on drugs supplied by corporations. They are also at the mercy of their enhancement’s creators who can do whatever they want at the flip of a switch. As the character Adam Jenson, a corporate security officer turned cyborg after a terrorist attack, it is up to you to determine if augmentations are truly worth becoming more human than human, or just another puppet.
In gameplay you are able to explore these themes. Like its predecessor, Human Revolution allows you to play however you want with upgradable augmentations. If you like stealth, there are radar enhancements, a vision mode that lets you see through walls, and the ability to activate a cloak. There are also combat enhancements like fast reloads, increased strength for throwing objects, and stronger armor. Whatever the situation there is an augmentation or a weapon to suit your needs. With tranquilizers and tasers you can put down a foe without taking their life or kill them with firearms.
Each level is designed with many options in mind. Waist-high walls can be used to take cover when in a fight or to sneak around patrolling guards. Timing and quick movements win the day if you take the stealth route. There are also plenty of vents and high perches that can take you around enemies and circumvent a lot of potential trouble spots.
Peppered throughout levels are instances that help you progress for completing. In the first level at a factory taken over by terrorists, you have the option to rescue hostages, one of which is the husband of the woman in charge of the facility. Come the end of the level you confront the terrorist leader holding the wife at gunpoint. If you talk him down and get him to leave peacefully, you will reunite the wife with her husband, and earn an experience bonus.
There are all sorts of side options and methods that can help you out depending on how you approach them. The social element is as important as your augmentations where you can get what you want if you know the right thing to say. On a mission that involves infiltrating a police precinct, you can convince the desk clerk to let you in through the front door without having to sneak in at the risk making a scene. Later you confront an anti-augmentation politician on his hypocrisy and talk someone out of suicide. There is even an augmentation to assist you in making the right choices in dialog.
True freedom is something all videogames should strive for, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution does its best to make you feel in control. With the sequel Mankind Divided on the horizon, I am excited to be entrenched in the world of cyberpunk once more. Until then, I feel obligated to visit the classic that started it all.