While only a temporary feeling, firing up the game for the first time would have had me regretting my purchase, if I didn't get it for the ludicrously low price of $27. Why? Well, the engine is unarguably lack-luster. From the last-gen graphics to something as seemingly simple as mouse sensitivity configuration, there was a profound sense of disappointment.
Kicking off the Human Revolution story-line amongst Detroit city I was dealt another heart-breaking blow; the horribly embarrassing dialogue, character casting and voice acting, that never really gets any better. It's "B-grade bad", and for a game aimed at being rich in story telling, it left a lot to be desired.
Beyond Adam Jensen's infuriating fake husk - akin to Christian Bale's Batman - are cliche personalities and conversation tones that shift inappropriately, sometimes even awkwardly. It's the game's greatest detriment, continually snapping you out of the otherwise engrossing world with disappointing interactions.
You'll spend the first five hours or so in Detroit, every hour of which I was considering pulling the plug. Detroit itself feels scripted, static and tiny. Its composition was far from the awe-inspiring dystopian metropolis of the future I had expected. Stubborn persistence won the fight though, armed with the argument of needing to discover what so many shining reviews were talking about.
To my delight it wasn't long before I found it, arriving in a futuristic China. I began to unlock some neat skills with the augmentation system; hacking improvements, the ability to leap walls, and even punch through them. Upgrading weapons to my liking was also a labor of love, as was being able to pick off targets from range with a laser sighted, silenced, armor piercing head-shot. Shanghai's environment was an improvement upon Detroit, too. The city still failed to deliver a sense of its enormous scale, but unlike Detroit, cramped and cluttered was fitting.
"Diving from cover to cover as you shift in and out of cloak to avoid detection is tense and rewarding."
The stealthy first-person gameplay style was proving to be impressive, instilling stress and great satisfaction. Diving from cover to cover as you shift in and out of cloak to avoid detection is tense and rewarding. There's a guilty, devious gratification derived from looking through a wall to spot an enemy on the other side, right before punching through it and snapping his neck. Perhaps the only more enjoyed scenario I found myself in was sneaking through a complex undetected, hacking a security terminal, and turning turrets and robots on unsuspecting enemies.
You don't have to be stealthy, though. There is a thorough number of ways to approach any situation, and indeed the game as a whole. Run-and-gun or ninja-like, exploratory or to the point. Personally I played through it as if I were Sam Fisher, with some neat twists such as hacking a defense turret, then using my augmented strength to carry it room to room, obliterating surprised guards.
If big weapon action is your preference, there's plenty of monstrously devastating options available; laser rifles and rocket launchers included. If you're the type that will try to gain access to every floor and every room, you'll encounter a slew of hidden goodies and entertaining pop-culture references. My favourite being talk of the 80's cult classic cyborg-cop movie, Robocop, in Murphy's office at the Detroit precinct.
With the sheer fun of actually playing the game suppressing any previously acknowledged shortcomings, I had quite quickly forgotten about the engine, voice acting and story. And that's a good thing, because if you were hanging on for a brilliantly orchestrated conclusion, you might not find it. Personally I thought all of the endings, after twenty or more hours of play, are equally dissatisfactory. The saving grace of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the gameplay and the involvement of elements that make that gameplay so open-ended.
The gameplay isn't just the saving grace of the game, it's the hero of the game. The combination of what actually works in DXHR lead to an inspired, memorable experience. With improvements in production, most importantly the character writing and voice acting, it could have been a perfect-score title. Despite missing that mark, it must be played.