FULL DISCLOSURE: This game was received as a free review copy provided by Square Enix.
After five years of waiting, we finally have the release of the sequel to Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The Deus Ex series has long been known for its commitment to player choice and the ability to take multiple routes to complete your objective, as well as being a famously PC-centric game. For some reason, this game was made for consoles first and then ported to PC, but if it’s handled correctly, that can still be just fine. Now let’s go into the big questions. Was it worth the wait, and is it worthy of the Deus Ex name? (Spoiler: The answer to both of those is yes.)
The story begins two years after the ending of Human Revolution. The aug incident, which was started by Illuminati scientist Hugh Darrow and caused all augmented people to fly into a murderous rage, has caused the natural human population to want to distance themselves from augs. It’s reached the point of total segregation and discrimination against augs, as well as the construction of concentration camps and prison cities built to keep augs away from the general population. As Adam Jensen, you get to experience the hatred firsthand, as the majority of his body was augmented in order to save his life. Now, rather than being a security agent for Sarif Industries, Jensen is working for Interpol and acting as a double agent, reporting to the Juggernaut Collective behind Interpol’s back. A number of terrorist attacks have begun occurring around the world, and notably in Jensen’s new hometown of Prague. The group being blamed for this is the Augmented Rights Coalition (ARC), but as any Deus Ex veteran knows, the answer is never that simple, and it’s up to you to unravel the mystery and conspiracy behind all of it.
Those of you who have played through Human Revolution will be able to understand the story right off the bat, but if you haven’t played it, or even if you just forgot the story, you should be fine with just watching the recap video included with the game. In fact it asks you if you want to watch the recap video before you start a new file. Even if you don’t watch it though, you’ll probably be able to catch on, since they hammer the previous story into your head so much as the game goes on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s good to have continuing lore in a heavily story-driven franchise, so in the case of this game I think it’s probably for the best.
I can’t really say the game’s story will make you feel too much in the way of emotional response to the things happening to augs, but the satisfaction you get from punching certain people in the face is really worth it. If you want a good emotional reaction to a Deus Ex story, watch the live-action Mechanical Apartheid trailer for this game. That deserves to be made into a movie.
Like every game in the Deus Ex series, it’s an stealth-based FPS with RPG elements. The game is loaded with story missions as well as side missions that you can take on in any order you want, but if you choose to take certain story missions on, it will prevent you from going back and doing those side missions. I’d recommend handling any side stuff you get before moving on to the actual story. One of the big things that is pushed for in this game is the additional augmentations that were found in Jensen’s body that you’re now able to unlock. Your old augmentations don’t carry over from the previous game, but they do give a good reason in the story for that happening.
I found that I didn’t use the new augmentations very much other than hacking from a distance and the TITAN shielding system. Most of them are more for ranged attacks that use energy cells instead of ammunition, which isn’t really a good idea because this game suffers from the same problem that the last one did in regards to augmentations. You never have enough energy. In Human Revolution you could find energy bars that filled up one unit in your energy meter, or packs of energy bars that filled your whole meter. In this game you only have Biocells, and those only fill up one unit. They made the problem worse in this game, so don’t expect to use your cool robot powers that you waited to level up in order to afford them very much. Takedowns alone ended up using my energy most of the time, so I didn’t get to use some of the cooler things like cloaking or seeing through walls too often.
Other than the obvious problems with that, the gameplay works really well. Stealth is rewarding, as is finding alternate paths to your objective, and that’s exactly what Deus Ex fans want out of a game. Hacking is still an important skill to have, but with the return of multitools, you can choose to play the game and never upgrade your hacking skill. But the big thing that everyone is going to want to ask after the last game is, “did they fix the boss fights?” And the answer is yes, but they fixed them by removing them almost entirely. I’m fine with that, because I don’t really see why Deus Ex needs boss fights anyway. There is one boss fight at the end of the game, which I won’t spoil for you, but I will say was very fair. I died a lot, but that was because I didn’t explore my options and see what I could do in the huge room.
Additionally, there is an online mode called Breach in this game, in which you hack into a large bank corporation’s servers as a character representing yourself in an online Virtual Reality environment. Kind of similar to what you would expect from the matrix in Neuromancer. It plays very similarly to the main game, but your goal is only to reach stations with data and escape with the data you’ve collected in a given amount of time. It’s honestly not very exciting, and I don’t expect many people to really play it.
This game is absolutely beautiful. They chose to get rid of the gold color filter that the last game had over everything onscreen, which does a lot to make things look better. And playing it on Ultra settings made the environment of the game look incredible, but did drop my framerates a bit, even on my PC with a 980 Ti and an i5-4690K. The framerate did stay mostly near 60 though, and it could be because they hadn’t added DirectX 12 compatibility quite yet, though that really should have been done before the game launched, and there should have also been Vulkan support, but I can’t say that’s a #1 priority for devs quite yet.
What I can’t really say were beautiful were the animations. If there is one thing holding this game back, it’s the way characters move. Facial animations and and body animations are awful. Maybe it’s just because I’ve become accustomed to seeing motion capture and face capture in newer games, but having hand-animated character models just looks like Food Fight to me now. This game deserves so much more than what it got in the animation department, especially given the detail on some of the character models.
As a side note, a lot of PC users are apparently having problems with getting the game to run right, and Eidos is addressing it. To those of you who are having problems though, I’d highly recommend turning down your graphics settings, especially MSAA, because this is a very demanding game. Just go ahead and turn off MSAA completely and use Temporal AA instead, it will make things look a little blurrier, but it will perform better in the long run, and you would have to deal with jaggies.
If you’ve heard the incredible soundtrack from Human Revolution, composed by Michael McCann, you will not be disappointed by this game’s music. It features a synth-heavy soundtrack that blends perfectly with the dystopian cyberpunk nature of the game. There’s not much more to say about it other than you should listen to it if you enjoy synthwave and electronic music in general.
While the game suffers from some problems, it is an incredible game and an absolutely worthy entry into the Deus Ex franchise. If you think you’ll enjoy this game, I can just about guarantee you will, and you should play it as soon as you get the chance to. I just finished the game yesterday and immediately started up New Game + to see what would happen if I went in other directions. I’d absolutely recommend this to anyone, and tell them to ignore the Steam reviews, as all the outrage is over the in-game microtransaction store (which is an absolute atrocity for a single-player game, I will say), and the day-one DLC only being able to be redeemed once (which is also ridiculous and unbelievable). But the game at its core is amazing, regardless of these external things that don’t need to be involved in the way you play the game at all.
Seriously, play the game, but still yell at Square Enix over the microtransactions. You can do both.