by Jon Michael May
There will come a day, perhaps in our lifetime, when science can build a better human, fixing the flaws of nature and enhancing abilities bordering on science fiction. That is the world presented in Dues Ex: Human Revolution, a game blending directed action and meticulous stealth, into the not so distant future of human augmentation.
Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, Human Revolution emerged from the shadows of obscurity, at least to me, with few expectations. Having never played the original title, to which HR is a prequel, I knew little of what to expect from the GameFly rental. Imagine then my surprise when I stumbled upon this sleeper hit and discovered something amazing.
Human Revolution puts you in the first person perspective of Adam Jensen, the head of security for Sarif Industries and the unwitting recipient for a host of cybernetic augmentations. Those augmentations are at the heart of what sets Dues Ex apart from other games. Instead of including the typical RPG element of upgradeable traits/skills, human augmentation is placed front and center as the catalyst for the next step in human evolution. It’s through this augmentation that Jensen’s abilities can be enhanced, as it’s as much a part of Jensen’s character as the world in which he inhabits. This is never more evident than in the way in which the story explores the ethical uncertainties inherit when science plays God and tries to make man, better.
Determined to find answers and justice for the death of key scientists at Sarif industries Jensen is led into the world of corporate espionage and a truth that reaches far beyond his employer. Jensen must now rely on his new augmentations to overcome a world of augmented mercenaries determined on stopping him.
Human Revolution was a game that I couldn’t put down, even when faced with a particularly difficult challenge or action sequence. Many games inevitably create a challenge that becomes frustrating to overcome, with no insensitive to keep coming back, because the only reward is the progression beyond the obstacle. Dues Ex, overcomes this with it’s story and the rich and vibrant world Eidos Montreal has created.
While not completely linear or open world, the locations where the action does occur, are developed into thriving vibrant worlds where more is going on than just the focus of the story. There are definite boundaries, but the environment is created to direct the gameplay in a manner that never feels constrained. Even while exploring, I don’t recall running up against the typical blank wall or edge of the world.
On several occasions I found myself wanting to stop and look around, not to see where the edge of the world might be, but to examine the minute details. That exploration is often rewarded with side quests, loot, and world supporting details that add a wealth of detail to the universe.
Ultimately, Human Revolution depicts a universe I want to revisit. With a variety of ways to play the game, from straight action shooter to hacking stealth mechanics, and in lack of a proper sequel, I can easily see myself replaying Human Revolution for a second (technically a third) time.
Initially, the game bugged out on me in the final mission and at the time, when I rented it back in 2011 and I was unable to complete the main campaign. The Directors Cut seeks to correct such issues and I experienced no further problems completing the game.
Additional flourishes promised improved boss battles, AI and graphics, and enhanced Wii U GamePad functionality. While I can’t speak to the latter, even with the inclusion of Second Screen Tablet and PS Vita support, due to my lack of a tablet, I did notice a refinement in the boss battle sequences. As for improved graphics, the game looked good to begin with and I couldn’t see any distinguishable increase in graphic fidelity, though that’s not to say it was lacking. I played on the highest difficulty setting and the action, both stealth and combat, presented challenging obstacles.
The Directors Cut promised to integrate The Missing Link DLC and as promised, played like an original part of the story, rather than another level tacked onto the end. The integration was so convincing, that I suspect the Missing Link content was part of the original game and removed so DLC would be available when the game launched. While I have no proof of this, I can’t escape the thought this was the case and done as a simple money grab. That’s too bad and remains the one downside I came away with from the entire game. It remains a minor qualm however.
The game fills tightly constructed, but never claustrophobic. Levels are intricately laid out to provide a wealth of game play and missions across a relatively small landscape while being detailed enough to never be boring. Combat, if you choose to engage, is quick and precise, while the stealth mechanics offer their own level of enjoyment. I found that for me a combination of both tactics worked well to overcome most situations. I could sneak through a room and hack various doors, terminals, and robots, but if detected, I had the capacity to fight my way out it. It does however take much of the game to build up this balance and the early stages of dealing with which augmentations to chose, can be overwhelming, particularly when early investments in a particular skill make later levels and boss fights, much easier to overcome.
I enjoyed the open ended nature of the game, as the build up to the conclusion originated from elements within the first moments of the story. The final moments never felt anticlimactic as though a shoehorned ending rolled into the credits without warning. The player is never asked to make a decision with little or no context as to why that decision matters or what effect it will have on the world. While it took time to make that final choice, I appreciated the chance to make a decision that actually had an impact on the world, albeit after the fact.
A time consuming game and one not picked up to quell a few minutes of boredom, Human Revolution rewards those willing to stick with the Science Fiction adventure it attempts to tell. Completing the full story and the variety of side quests takes a commitment and because of that, Human Revolution loses a degree of replayability. Given enough time, it’s definitely a game I intend to revisit.
I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of releasing a Directors Cut of a game, which essentially addresses issues which arise after the games release. I suppose that in many ways it’s not that different from periodic patches and updates that most games now receive, but that suggests a consumer willing to purchase a broken product and companies more than willing to sell us that broken product. While nothing can be entirely perfect and in many cases, testing before release, even Open Beta’s, won’t find every problem. The Directors Cut of Dues Ex: Human Revolution is an interesting case because it offers changes to actual gameplay in addition to the inclusion of DLC and bug fixes. Were it merely the latter, we could chalk it up to a fancy Game of the Year type release. Those are common these days, but few if any actually go back and tweak parts of the game in ways that alter the gameplay.
It helps that the Directors Cut was cheaper than the original game and in the end, Human Revolution is better for it. If you have the original version, it’s not worth another purchase unless you want a collectors item or plan to purchase it for the Wii U. If you’ve never played it before or like me, didn’t finish it the first time around, than give it another chance. It’s worth your time and money.