Achieving Deus Excellence

Human Revolution, like its original incarnation, is a game with satisfying mechanics and tremendous scope for different play styles. It is also a marvel of fantastic world design, with sleek, corporate office blocks acting as bleak counterpoints to the alleyways and apartment complexes of those who transhumanism left behind. Also like the first Deus Ex, however, it’s not without its flaws.

So far the marketing campaign for Mankind Divided has been, to put it gently, just a trifle off. To put it less gently, it’s been a laughable shit-show which, while ghoulishly tempting in its dunderheaded incompetence, is probably best avoided altogether; it’s the Republican convention of marketing campaigns.

That’s not to say that the team shouldn’t be taken to task for instances such as that galling, and rightly lampooned, ‘augment your pre-order’ nonsense, or the appropriation of a social movement in order to bolster profits. There are other, more authoritative sources for those issues; this will be purely about in-game changes.

Now that’s all sorted, let’s begin with something that’s been said a thousand times over to the point of triteness:

Human Revolution’s boss battles were awful.Deus Ex HR Barrett BossThis entry will come as a surprise to exactly no-one. After being widely criticised as an unwelcome departure from what the game had otherwise been trying to achieve, with very little latitude offered beyond the strategy of running, shooting and repeating, the failure of Human Revolution’s boss battles was acknowledged, and to a certain extent rectified, in later iterations. The Missing Link DLC had a near-perfect boss level, building upon the versatile opportunities for evasion and subterfuge that the main game offers. The Director’s Cut later attempted to inject some of that formula into those first few boss battles; the larger arenas and opportunities for hacking provided a little more freedom, but never rejuvenated the encounters in a way that made them anything other than tolerable.

Part of Human Revolution’s problem with boss battles involved, well, the term ‘boss battle’. That phrasing seemed to hamstring the developers into creating segments which involved a fight to the death with a Big Bad, in a game which could so easily have turned the idea of boss segments on its head.

In addition to that, these battles actively – and heavily – favoured those who chose a lethal run. It’s an odd choice because, in every other aspect…

The non-lethal path was far, far more rewarding than the alternative.Deus Ex HR LandscapeOne of the key decisions that Human Revolution asks you to make – quite literally; before the first mission – is whether to go lethal or non-lethal. The dialogue choice is by no means binding, only affecting what kind of weapon Jenson is given at the start, but the two do constitute separate play-styles offered by the game.

The issue with this dichotomy is that non-lethal is the far more lucrative and, arguably, easier style of play: killing an enemy provides less experience than rendering them unconscious, additional experience and items can be found by circumventing enemy movements through vents and other alternate routes, and any kind of Rambo-esque gun-ho shenanigans are very quickly shot down by the ruthlessly efficient AI.

It could be argued that making the pacifist approach the path of least resistance is a method by which the game can espouse an anti-violence message. An interesting idea, but I’m not sure that making pacifism the easier option – thereby nullifying the moral argument for the approach – really has that effect. And, of course, there’s those mandatory boss battles forcefully pushing aside any qualms one may have with killing.

I mentioned the strange distribution of experience, and that’s an issue I’d like to return to with the next point…

Give me a reason not to hack.deusexhackingA smaller issue but nonetheless something which needs to be considered, the experience gained from hacking means that acquiring codes or password is basically a redundant exercise. Any exploration that yielded any such security phrase therefore felt like a fruitless endeavour.

It’s a fairly small gripe, and one with a fairly simple solution: give successful password or code entries an experience bonus!

Right, good, so now that’s taken care of, how about…

Those take-down cutscenes.Deus Ex HR TakedownAdam Jensen is crouched behind a desk. Adam Jensen waits, poised, like a hawk… a hawk inexplicably crouched behind a desk. Adam Jensen sees a guard passing across his field of view, and senses an opportunity to take him out without arousing the suspicions of any nearby patrols.

Adam Jensen stands up, taps the guard on the shoulder, waits for them to turn around and punches them square in the jaw – eschewing covert operations for his own unique brand of playground japes.