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Review: Freedom makes Deus Ex: Human Revolution a GOTY contender

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a rare title that emphasizes player choices, control, and preferences. DE: HR allows the player to choose exactly how they want to play and gives them nearly every tool they need to succeed, from abilities to weapons to the design of the actual environments. No one right way exists to play DE: HR and there is no "wrong" way, either. DE: HR chooses to give the player nearly unrivaled freedom to play in whatever style they decide to with rarely an inconvenience. The player chooses how they want to approach the game and DE: HR allows them to do so. DE: HR, because of the way Eidos Montreal has incorporated choice into the deft blend of FPS, RPG, and stealth that comprises the title's gameplay, is a heavyweight contender for Game Of The Year 2011.

DE: HR is the futuristic sci-fi story of Adam Jensen, the head of security for Sarif Industries, a company that creates augmentations (computerized mechanical implants that grant special abilities to the user). Augmentations are a controversial issue in the world of DE: HR and the industry is very competitive. When an overwhelming force breaks into Sarif, Jensen responds and is the victim of a deadly assault. To save his life, Sarif Industries heavily augments Jensen. From there, Jensen puts himself on a path to discover the truth behind the break-in and his mysterious assailants.

The writing and dedication to the construction of the sci-fi world of DE: HR is terrific. DE: HR is very likely the best sci-fi game since the titles that comprise the Mass Effect series, at least in terms of bringing a sci-fi world to life inside a game. DE: HR has tons of story detail everywhere for anyone who wants to look deep enough into the game's fiction and discover more. The world of DE: HR is rife with conspiracies and everyone with their own take on what's actually going on, creating tension and good atmosphere that keeps the story interesting at all times.

At the beginning of the game, Jensen is asked to make a choice about how he's going to approach a mission. The choice the player makes will determine the weapon Jensen receives, but will not lock the player into any one approach. The player is free to change his or her mind and pursue a different method at any time. DE: HR enables the player to switch approaches from FPS to stealth on a dime, in addition to lethal or non-lethal approaches to enemies. Players won't really have to worry about having "chosen wrong" after investing hours of gameplay into the title and starting over.

The choices extend to the plotline as well, though: Should you kill a target or find another way to fix the situation? Should you help someone out or leave that person to fend for himself in the face of danger? Should you try to save a group of people or just finish your mission? DE: HR won't try to steer the player one way or another. The game just flows and reacts to whatever the player is doing. No choices, whether those choices are gameplay choices or conversation choices, are labeled as "good" or "evil." The player has Jensen perform whatever action or make whatever choice they think is best and the story continues onward, but the player should consider the consequences before making such decisions.

Jensen's augmentations are RPG-style skill trees that give Jensen new talents by the player spending Praxis Points, which are awarded after the player successfully fills an XP meter. Jensen can invest in abilities such as stealth camouflage, punching through walls, seeing through walls, walking silently, aim adjustment, and more. Many of Jensen's abilities have overall benefits instead of just aiding one particular play style and each one has viable gameplay benefits, so concern about choosing skills that won't help as much or having chosen skills that suit a particular style when the player would like to pursue another should be minimal. A smaller skill tree set also means that players can obtain a good number of the skills they want to without worrying about being left without a skill they'd like to have.

Speaking of RPG elements, DE: HR has giant hub worlds that contain a surprising amount of detail and room for exploration. Many buildings can be seen, many rooms can be entered, many characters can be spoken to, and much of what the player sees in the hub can most definitely be explored via one route or another. The freedom to fully explore a game world to this extent may be next to unheard of in this generation of console games. Players who explore the world fully, speak to everyone, and make a choice to discover as much as they can will reap numerous rewards for their dedication in addition to being able to discover more side quests.

Choice and freedom mean nothing without great gameplay and DE: HR's core mechanics contribute strongly to the game experience. The FPS action is solid, but with the added bonus weapon selection on the fly via weapon wheel (reminiscent of PS3 launch FPS Resistance: Fall of Man). The stealth action is very similar to mechanics found in Metal Gear Solid titles and can be expected to be nearly the same quality. Gameplay is just as much fun as choice in Eidos Montreal's latest title.

While DE: HR's side quests tend to contain plenty of variety, the game's main missions have a tendency to be very similar: large game environments populated by hostiles and security. The main mission areas are very reminiscent of levels that could be seen in titles in the Metal Gear Solid franchise. The only problem with these areas is that -- although memorable for their challenge and depth of exploration -- they are packed with hostiles, posing more difficulty for players on a non-lethal stealth playthrough. If Jensen is discovered -- which can happen very easily due to sensitive A.I. -- he is surrounded nearly instantly by overwhelming numbers who may be heavily armed. The cool down for a return to a normal state is 80 seconds, which is already a long time and can be added to due to delay for every discovery of every knocked out guard. The high odds of discovery combined with the long cool down can lead to frustration and plenty of save loading. First-time DE: HR players or those not as familiar with the stealth genre may want to consider a lethal playthrough to give themselves a chance to adapt to the stealth mechanics of DE: HR. Stealth veterans, though, should find plenty to enjoy with DE: HR's approach.

DE: HR's greatest strength is about how the game blends quality gameplay and player choice together to create a compelling experience. Few games combine genres, allow as much freedom and create as much fun as DE: HR does. DE: HR offers sandbox options on a different level: not just the ability to explore large areas with different types of gameplay, but the ability to choose how to play with an environment that accommodates most any play style. DE: HR is a major candidate for Game Of The Year and a standout release this generation that gamers should most definitely pick up.

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.

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