Published Sep 29, 2011The original dystopian Deus Ex arrived in 2000 and quickly became known as one of the best PC games off all time, mixing Illuminati conspiracy theory with cyberpunk, near-future corporate malevolence and political terrorism. It was basically an interactive William Gibson or Jack Womack novel.
This third entry by new studio home Eidos Montreal, which follows through on middling 2003 sequel Invisible War's promise of player-choice and emergent game play, is a prequel setting the stage for the chaos to come. This, of course, includes the super-power augmentations franchise fans are already familiar with, which fuel the series' trans-humanist subtext about the ethics of using cybernetic technology to change humanity. (Though unlike the first two games' omnipresent nanotechnology, these augmentations to make people, as Daft Punk put it, better, faster, stronger are mechanical and only just now entering the mainstream.)
The synth soundtracked story is set in 2027 and revolves around Sarif Industries security chief Adam Jensen, just as his biotech mega-conglomerate has made great strides in "human enhancement" technology, sparking a violent backlash by anti-augmentation activists. Jenson, grievously injured in a supposed terrorist attack, gets involuntarily augmented and goes after those responsible. Needless to say, all is not as it seems.
Aside from the shoehorned in boss battles, how Deus Ex plays really does depend on the player. There are four combat types ― Combat, Stealth, Hacking and Social ― which can be chosen at will and impact how the globe-hopping game reacts to your actions. Augmentations reformat your skill sets, your choices have lasting consequences and the storyline itself is largely non-linear ― you must progress through city hubs, but have free rein within them. There are also plenty of side quests as you explore this fully realized future filled with civil unrest, class warfare, corporate corruption, media distraction and moral collapse, all brought on by trans-humanism.
With its ambitious focus on ethics, extremism and other social commentary, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a philosophical shooter and no, that's not an oxymoron. The abundance of dirt-dumb shoot-'em-ups may make people stereotype the genre, but as with BioShock's exercise in objectivism, it is possible to shoot and think at the same time. (Eidos Montreal/Square Enix)