With the DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION review embargo lifted, we take a look beyond the scores to pick out some trends. Who’s saying what about the game – and what does that mean? We investigate…
It’s done well, basically. Then again, so did Invisible War, and most people hated that, even though most people were wrong (ho ho). Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s review scores are all towards the higher end of the spectrum, though it’s not a game that’s received quite such universal mega-praise as Ion Storm’s PC classic. So who’s been saying what? And what can we take from that beyond some arbitrary numbers?
We’ve been reading as many reviews as we can to bring you BeefJack’s first ever meta-analysis of critical reception, ahead of our own review of the game which is set to appear on Friday, alongside UK release. We wanted to take our time with this one – but we also wanted to let you know in advance, based on more than just our own experiences, whether you might want to consider picking this game up.
Absolutely central to critics’ praise of Human Revolution is that it feels like a Deus Ex game in a way that Invisible War didn’t quite manage. It’s “absolutely the Deus Ex of our age,” said PC Gamer, awarding Eidos Montreal’s title a massive 94% – one of the highest scores the mag has ever awarded, and only a single point behind the original. (Cynics might like to point out that this was an exclusive review, but, y’know, come on…) Meanwhile, GamesMaster called it “the first game in a decade to do everything the original Deus Ex did,” awarding the same score as PC Gamer and, in fact, going on to say Human Revolution is better than the original in many ways – again, a sentiment the two mags share.
The open-ended play is quite pivotal to this, it would seem. Players are afforded massive freedom of choice in how they approach situations. The Guardian wrote that “the range of playing styles [...] is handled well, and alternating between them is simple thanks to an array of augmentation upgrades.”
Eurogamer adds: “There is no wrong kind of progress, there’s just success. It would be nice if more of the games that wished they were Deus Ex treated us like that.” The game scores 9/10. It’s the “best tribute act” to Deus Ex there’s ever been, writes Tom Bramwell, while accepting that it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor in certain areas.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is how beautiful the game looks, with its amber hues and carefully thought-out technology. While some – such as Rock Paper Shotgun – notice that the visuals could be technically better (referring to the “shackles” of console development), they acknowledge that this is a game world that feels convincing as much as it looks it. And regardless of the polygons, Human Revolution has “some of the best production design and art of any game this year. Or last year,” says IGN, awarding a 9/10 score.
And PC Gamer’s review says the combat sees a marked improvement over the original – a game in which, even for the time, the mechanics of shooting were always a little bit shaky. In fact, the combination of stealth and action seems to have been fairly well nailed according to many. 1UP describes it as the best combination since Metal Gear Solid - a game released way back in the ’90s. That’s a game that comes up a lot across reviews: the spirit of the original MGS seems to have merged with that of Deus Ex in an extremely satisfying way.
Official PlayStation Magazine criticised the game for allowing free choice between stealth and action, but ultimately favouring stealth, claiming that players will run out of ammo far too quickly if choosing to go in all guns blazing. While this might be a valid criticism for some, it does seem that the review is in many ways catered to those who aren’t necessarily fans of the original. It’s a cross between Fallout 3 and Call of Duty, the mag says in its 8/10 review.
This seems to be the only major outlet that’s run into this difficulty, but there are some more common complaints. A big one is the inclusion of boss fights, which PC Gamer, Official PlayStation Magazine and PSM3 all agree are strangely out-of-place. Also, the game’s AI is regularly criticised for flitting between super-skilled and strangely stupid, with guards alternately spotting your every move and failing to respond like a conscious human being. NowGamer in particular were critical of this, talking of “laughable” AI in a 7.5 out of 10 review. It’s an odd quirk, and one that supposedly leads to a few frustrating moments. At least the original game’s AI was consistently stupid…
Eurogamer says that “some of the rules about what’s interactive and not seem quite arbitrary, which is a pretty blatant failing in a game which tries so hard to make you feel like you’re not being restricted.” There’s also a problem with repeated assets, they say, such as broadcasts played in the game world – but when they’re of such a high quality, the problem is mitigated.
Elsewhere, an infographic in the 8.8/10 PSM3 review suggests that the game’s excitement goes up and down throughout, reaching a particular low somewhere past the halfway point – supposedly a time at which the game’s difficulty becomes frustrating. The mag also criticised the story for being occasionally ‘meandering’ – although clarified that this doesn’t mean the story is bad, just that there are times when it slows down a little too much. Similarly, Edge – though scoring the game 9 out of 10 – criticised the game’s final act for being less than compelling.
IGN disagrees, though, saying the story moves along nicely.
The bottom line
It’s safe to say that Deus Ex: Human Revolution seems to have impressed critics more than Invisible War did. Where that game received positive reviews, they did accept that much of what people loved about the original had been changed. This time around, we seem to have been presented with what is very much a Deus Ex game, if one with a few shaky design decisions made along the way. But then, wasn’t that Deus Ex in a nutshell? A game with flaws, but whose magic nevertheless rendered them insignificant?
It seems that Human Revolution lacks the utter mind-melting magic of the original game, but it’s harder to innovate these days, and Deus Ex always did have the benefit of landing without hype. Videogamer probably says it best with this: “Deus Ex: Human Revolution is reminiscent of the best efforts from the golden era of PC gaming at the end of the 90s. It’s a modern release imbued with the finer qualities of an age gone by.” The score, if you care, is 9 out of 10.
We’d say it looks like Eidos Montreal have hit the nail on the head with this one – though you’ll have to wait ’til the end of the week to find out definitively what we thought of the game.