Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut

It astonishes me that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is six years old this month. Having bought it on day of release and loved it to bits (albeit with some minor foibles), I still remembered a lot of the game well enough that, going back to it six years on, I could still pull off some of the better tricks. Only thing is, this time I played the Director’s Cut version on Wii U (I previously played it on PS3).

I have to give compliments to this version, because everything it changes and adds fits really nicely. The Missing Link, a “midquel” DLC mission pack of sorts that slotted within the events of Human Revolution, is included and has been inserted into the appropriate point in time. On top of that, Director’s Cut alters all of the bosses in the game to make alternative defeating methods viable – this makes them a slightly less miserable experience, but they’re still about the weakest part of the game. Once you’ve finished the game once, you can now also choose to rerun it in New Game+ mode, which carries over your augmentations – this is a fun one early on because you can, for example, immediately break into every office in your first visit to Sarif Industries if you have Level 5 hacking and harvest money and items early on.

Anyway, in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you play as Adam Jensen, whose life was saved after a brutal attack that also killed his partner by “augmentations” – robotic additions to the body that give you mildly-superhuman powers. Following his recovery, he goes on the hunt for his attackers to avenge her, all the while living in a universe where these augmentations are a point of contention amongst the human race due to the back-alley markets, crime etc they have created. The world draws parallels to real-life ways in which people have historically been segregated to establish what’s occurring.

The game is overall superb fun, and also a formula rather unique to gaming at the moment. The worlds featured in the game are explorable and presented as open-world, but are deceptively small all things considered, and at heart it is a linear experience. You can choose to nose around each set piece, harvesting money, weapons, ammo, healing/augmentation recharging items etc, as well as finding people who will provide you with optional side missions set fully within the single area. Once you progress far enough through the main story, the game will then give you a little warning that moving on will cancel any incomplete side missions, and you will be whisked away to the next place to continue.

Detroit and Shanghai are visited twice during the game, each time different to previous. Excluding a couple of other areas, most other locations you visit are structured more like actual levels – still fairly open ended to allow you to approach missions however you feel best (you can essentially turn the game into shooter Call of Duty, espionage game Metal Gear Solid or planet hacking Watch Dogs depending on how you want to go about things) – I tended to go for a hybrid of all three, initially using a mixture of stealth and hacking and then murdering every living soul in a blind panic when I actually made my presence known.

It’s balanced relatively nicely in Human Revolution. After a fairly short tutorial (which is expedited a little further in Director’s Cut’s “New Game+” option) and a visit to your new work HQ (which you’re given the ability, if you so choose, to explore a little), you get your first mission. David Sarif, your boss, lets you choose your arms between short range and long range, and deadly and tranquillising, after which the level’s structure nicely hints sequentially at each way you could go about progressing – strategically placed cover, vents, hidden areas etc.

My one complaint with this progression is that, for me, the explorable city locations are the best part of Deus Ex. I love their complexity and how much is always going on – you can find so many little things throughout Detroit and Shanghai that add colour and flavour to a world that could so easily have been lifeless – Human Revolution has Fallout-levels of world-building lore, with the e-books, newspapers, emails etc painting a breathtaking picture that really adds to how immersive and believable everything is.

Why is that a complaint? After your first visits to these cities, both of which occur early into the game, you never really get to experience that again. Your second visit to Detroit has it overrun by police that have cordoned off massive areas in it in the wake of a major plot point. The second visit to Shanghai is pretty much exactly the same as well. In both cases, huge areas that were part of the game’s earlier missions, such as the Detroit police station and the Chinese nightclub The Hive, are now inaccessible. Sure, they’d be pointless to revisit, but in locking them off entirely, I really want to go back in them!

Once your second visit to Shanghai has concluded, which by my estimation is still only about halfway through the game, you never get the joy of a city setting again – and there’s still a ways to go. This issue (which won’t be an issue for everyone I know, but is for me) is actually exacerbated in Director’s Cut, because it’s during this that the inclusion of Missing Link adds a handful of extra hours of content to a game that is already over 20 for a casual playthrough (and over 30 if, like me, you’re the sort of player that will comb through everything to loot as much as you can carry and harvest as much XP and as many augmentation upgrade opportunities as you can achieve).

While the game is incredible, it has its problems too. Bosses are still awful, just less so than in the original version of Human Revolution. Whereas previously your only option was to brute-force kill them (in a game where brute force killing is the least practical way to play the game due to ammo scarcity and how much better other methods tend to be), you can now go about things in other ways.

But these ways still aren’t that fun. Due to the constant threat of trigger happy bosses in the vicinity, they feel less like you’re using brainpower to determine the best solution to a puzzling situation, and more like you’re playing a game of “spot the interactive thing”. If it lights up in a boss fight, it’s there to help you beat it – you can hide in the vent, you can turn the valve to gas the boss, you can hack the computer to have the turret aim for the boss, you can climb the ladder to find a hiding place.

The worst boss in the game is the one where there is an electrical disturbance throughout the entire area causing your augmentations to fail, so while there are a few select new places you can hide out, you’re still limited to peeping out, opening fire at a target with the power of invisibility, and then retreating until your health is regenerated. It’s tedious, it takes a while, and it’s not fun – and the constant flickering of your UI augmentations repeatedly going through the pretend reboot sequence they also do when you’re hit by a chaff grenade is migraine-inducing.

But these are small parts in a big, brilliant game. Even when not in the throes of America or China, it’s a game that has you playing it however you want to – you can run through the entire game as a pacifist (since in Director’s Cut you can now incapacitate the bosses too rather than killing them) – you can also get through most of it without ever even alerting the enemies that you were there. Or you can mow them down like the augmented psychopath the anti-augmentation protest groups would have you believe you are.

And while I’d say Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has the edge, Human Revolution hasn’t dated a day in six years. It’s pretty, it’s vast, it’s fun, and it’s cheap now – so it’s recommended.

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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