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Page 4 of 4Dystopia Has Never Been So Beautiful
Where Human Revolution is a resounding success is in its visuals, artwork, and audio. Eidos Montreal has gone to great, painstaking lengths to craft a world that feels authentic. There is a very real and definite sense of time and place to everything, from the fashion of clothing characters wear, to the design of the technology, and to the architecture of the newer world versus the old. The game sports an interesting neo-Renaissance theme to its artwork that ties in nicely with the narrative themes, but it never becomes overwhelming or forced. Some scenes, like the divided cities of Upper and Lower Hengsha, are at times breathtaking, and don't just look pretty, they also help build on the fiction of the game world in very substantial ways. The small details, like the graffiti on alley walls, or a disheveled apartment, do just as good a job in telling the story through the environment, and all of these add up to create a game that isn't just good looking, but driven by a very legitimate artistic vision, one that transcends mere eye candy and serves to make the game world and narrative feel all the more vibrant. It's a commendable accomplishment, especially in today's world of gaming where fidelity tends to take priority over the actual function of graphics. While some people might find the predominantly monotonous color scheme a turn-off (especially in the early game, where there's a good deal less variety), character animation in dialogue can be stiff, and some of the skyboxes and matte paintings can look a little low-res at times, I don't think Human Revolution suffers for any of its minor visual shortcomings.
The audio and music in Human Revolution is equally evocative. The music, though never quite reaching the same memorable status as the original game's, still manages to be powerful and emotionally engaging. Rather than catchy melodies and a distinctly synthetic feel, the soundscape in Human Revolution is one of subtle, harmonic drones, background ambiance and a mix of old-world instrumentation and new-world electronics. Things pick up in combat, with percussion and drama added to the score, but unfortunately the music here isn't quite as strong - many of the tracks feel like Metal Gear Solid B-sides, and lack a lot of the inventiveness and subtlety found in the background tracks, though they still serve their purpose. The sound work is similarly excellent, with environmental audio that does an incredible job of building a sense of time and place, powerful and distinct sounds for all the weapons that make them a ton of fun to use, and high-quality voice acting that wisely eschews big celebrity cast members in favor of just-as-capable, lesser-known actors. Consistency is something that Eidos Montreal have striven for in crafting Human Revolution, and it shows.
Seeing as how Deus Ex originated on the PC, it's fitting that much of the attention pre-release has been centered on how the game would handle on its native platform. I'm pleased to report that, while Human Revolution doesn't entirely shake its console roots, it's still a much more competent porting job than most others. Right off the bat, there's an impressive feature sheet - DirectX 11 support, stereoscopic 3D support, anisotropic filtering, field-of-view adjustment, both X and Y mouse sensitivity options, support for thumb buttons on gaming mice, and more anti-aliasing options than I've seen in a long time - everything from traditional MSAA to newer FXAA and MLAA modes are accounted for. On the PC, the user interface has been given some improvements, namely, the addition of a quickbar that functions identically to the one in the original Deus Ex, and the level of customization it provides is very much appreciated. Of course, there's also full Xbox 360 controller support, if you want to sit back and play with a gamepad as well. Handled by Nixxes, the PC version of the game is thought out with a degree of care, and their fast reaction to fan feedback leading up to the game's release is clearly visible in many of the options they've provided, not to mention very much appreciated.
That said, there are some technical hiccups I ran into during my time reviewing the game. The most unfortunate, and damaging, were crashes that occurred on a fairly regular basis. Once I figured out the quicksave and quickload keys, this was less of a problem, but it's worth noting that, at least on my NVIDIA-powered system (the game seems to be sponsored by AMD), the crashes were frequent enough to be annoying. Additionally, the game's sensitivity options are clearly set up for gamepads, as is the default field-of-view, so most players will want to do some tweaking to get the game controlling the way they want it. My hope is that a patch will help to rectify some of the problems, or, if the crashes and other issues are related to NVIDIA cards, that NVIDIA will have some new drivers out soon to improve the play experience. For what it's worth, the game also requires a Steam account, and all the associated perks and limitations - there's achievements, online cloud saving, and other features, but of course, if you don't like Steam, you're going to have to either bite the bullet, or pick up an Xbox or PlayStation copy. I encountered no problems related to Steam while playing, but as it's a mature platform at this point, that's no surprise.
Living Up to the Legacy
As I mentioned in this review's opening, Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be examined in two ways: as a modern-day sci-fi shooter/role-playing game, and as a follow-up to the original Deus Ex. In both senses, I feel that Human Revolution is a success - it captures the spirit and feel of Deus Ex in both its narrative and in its gameplay, and it does so with a degree of consistency and effortlessness that's rare to see in games these days. There are definitely things that warrant scrutiny - I feel that some of the more modern additions to the game are unnecessary, and there are a number of smaller narrative, balance and design issues that do detract from it - but as we all know, Deus Ex was never perfect itself, and the flaws in Human Revolution aren't enough to dull what is a very positive experience. At the end of my 30ish-hour play-through, on the hardest difficulty, all I can think is "I want to go back a second time, and do everything completely different", and more than anything I feel that is a sure sign that Eidos Montreal have done their jobs, and done them well.
While I very much doubt Human Revolution will find itself remembered as fondly as the original, in many ways, that's an unrealistic expectation, given just how much weight the name Deus Ex carries with it - I find myself still pining for that ideal that Deus Ex defined a decade ago, but like all ideals, it's something that exists more in one's head than in reality. The fact is this: there's a new Deus Ex game, a real Deus Ex game, and it's every bit worth playing and enjoying, whether you hold the original close to heart or are new to the series. So what are you waiting for, agent?
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