Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a perfect game. I would even go so far as to say it’s better than the original Deus Ex. Please send your hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not worth getting into a DX vs. DX:HR debate now or ever, and it doesn’t really matter for my purposes here. Point is that the Deus Ex formula was fantastic when it was in the first game, and it remains fantastic in the newer ones. I’m talking about the sort of choose-your-own adventure, branching-but-interwoven structure, where you follow a linear story but can make a bunch of choices that affect the details along the way. The freedom to tackle levels in several different ways, shooting your way in, neutralizing your opponents non-lethally, or sneaking / talking / sciencing your way past them. A character you can customize to suit your play style. FPS elements. Stealth mechanics. Dialogue trees.
The style of games like Deus Ex is one of my absolute favorites, and Human Revolution polished it to a mirror shine. It’s one of my all-time favorite games, and yet… A bit like Doom 3, DX:HR is a strange mix of emotion in my head — of undying love and intense disappointment.
I watched that teaser trailer way more times than was probably healthy in the months leading up to the game’s release, which somehow gave me a very wrong expectation of what it would all be about. The trailer makes it seem like a much more personal story; like the issues of transhumanism will be explored through the perspective of Adam. All this is forced on him: cybernetic implants that make him smarter and more resilient, mechanical limbs that make him stronger and faster. As his body gives way to the machine, does he hold onto what makes him human? Or is something lost? Is this the future for humanity, or the end of it?
But if you’ve played Human Revolution, you’ll know that Adam… doesn’t develop as a character at all; and that the transhumanist angle is more like set dressing than anything else. It all takes a back seat to the generic (but admittedly very Deus Ex-ian) conspiracy story. And pitting a man up against some Illuminati nonsense will never be as interesting as pitting him against himself.
As it stands, DX:HR one of my favorites, and that’s despite the tremendous sadness I have any time I think about how lame and uninteresting the story is. If Human Revolution had actually been what the trailer made me think it was? Flawless, amazing gameplay plus a moving, human story? I can’t even imagine how obsessed I would be with that game, and I hope someday somebody gets it right.