As one of the year’s most hotly anticipated titles, it was with some trepidation that I took upon the task of previewing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If I’m being perfectly honest, what I had seen at the show so far was rather underwhelming, and it’s always telling when one of the show’s biggest titles beforehand, has tiny lines to play it throughout. I wasn’t especially looking forward to the possibility of calling Deus Ex “kind of shit”.
There’s no hiding from it however, and the impression I took away with me from E3 was largely in the negative. E3 is meant to be a time to put you best foot forward, but Eidos came up lame with a pretty awful demo that only hinted at the game’s potential. That there is still time for more work, especially if they delay the game like I sorely hope they do, is one thing that will at least keep me from outright defecating over DeX:HR. Otherwise, this is amongst the more disappointing games of E3.
In a nutshell, Human Revolution is boring. In a coconut shell, the game feels stiff, looks a little fugly, and appears frustratingly unambitious for a title bearing the name Deus Ex. The same deeply customizable RPG elements so beloved of the original are present and accounted for, and of the augmentations the demo gave us to try there should be plenty of opportunity to specialize your character. But without the creative design or narrative of a title like the original Deus Ex, it’s just icing on a cake filled with little but hot air.
I played the game twice at E3, one time wrapping my hands around an Xbox 360 controller with an experience that namely highlighted the need for console gamers to be able to fully customize their control schemes. Another with the PC build of the game that crashed on me twice in five minutes in a thoroughly embarrassing display that we luckily caught on camera.
Neither time was especially entertaining for me, but that latter experience of watching the game crash was particularly bad and nothing short of ridiculous for a title so close to its release date. Meanwhile on the Xbox, one of the overwhelming impressions I got is that the console is really starting to show its age. The graphical quality of that particular version looked positively ancient compared to its sharper cousins on the PC and PS3 and is clearly in need of more time in the oven.
The level design was very linear, and the game would funnel me through a series of small action sequences that showed none of the variety for which the original title is so famous for. That there is a choice between dealing with enemies lethally or humanely is not really choice when both options extend to sneaking up behind a guy and pressing the same button but for different lengths of time, or using slightly different guns that ultimately have the same effect. As far as variation in combat is concerned, only ranged weapons offered any true variety, but for the purposes of the demo at least, this variation was negated by a complete lack of areas from which to snipe enemies from. It had a feel of a corridor built outside.
As for the game’s narrative, dull would be a solid choice of verb. The cut scenes were overly long, and, apparently, despite a decade to work on direction, most of them are still a case of two characters staring stoically across from one another and spouting stiff and stilted dialogue. Annoyingly I couldn’t skip any of the scenes despite it being listed as an option whenever I paused the title. Whether this was a glitch or Eidos just didn’t want anyone skipping their ugly as shit cinematics I couldn’t tell, but either way it meant I spent ten minutes doing absolutely nothing at all but listening to people talk and occasionally running forward.
I really, really want to give this game the thumbs up. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a title I’ve personally been excited about for quite some time now, but to have got my grubby mits on it and walk away disappointed is a big shame for me. To play it was a very “meh” experience, and then to watch it crash twice in five minutes was nothing short of an epic fail. A nice long delay is just about the best thing that could happen to Dex:HR.
So here’s my final verdict then, if (and good god I hope they do this) the game is delayed and given plenty of polish on then there is no reason that Human Revolution can’t at least be a “good” game, maybe not the great game that many were hoping for but solid all the same. But the game I played at E3… no, just, no. It looked bad, had shite presentation, and only managed to hint at gameplay quality without actually showing anything tangible. It was simply a bad game and Eidos have a lot of work to do if they hope to salvage it.