Deus Ex: Human Revolution had some pretty big shoes to fill. The original Deus Ex is highly regarded among its rabid fanbase as a game that respected the player and allowed them to utilize a wide variety of play styles. In that regard, Human Revolution is a success in most cases, but it still fumbles in other key areas. While the game gives you choice and freedom, it fails to engage the player in a meaningful way. There are plenty of ways you can tackle almost any mission, but I never cared about what I was doing at all.
The player takes over the role of Adam Jensen, chief of security of a large corporation dealing with artificial implants called augments. In the not so distant future of Deus Ex, humanity is evolving by utilizing technology to enhance their strength, speed and various other traits. Human Revolution offers a grand and somewhat convoluted storyline tackling this interesting subject, but somehow manages to make it all seem so drab and uninteresting. As you progress through the heavy storyline you will encounter droves of shallow and boring characters and as you near the end, the story itself will spiral into something completely ludicrous and cringe-worthy.
Another major problem I had with the game was the completely uninteresting and unrealistic gameworld. As Jensen, you will visit locations such as Detroit, China, Montreal and Singapore. All of them feel empty and fake. People stand like cardboard cutouts in the middle of the street for no apparent reason and while you can hear a constant loop of traffic, there are no cars on the street. No proof nor hint that this is a living world instead of a stage. The surprisingly dated graphics, character models and animations don’t help matters much at all, but at least the art style is very nice with a consistent and pleasing color palette. The minimalistic electronic soundtrack is very good and fits the sci-fi theme well, although it does come off as overly familiar.
Where Deus Ex: Human Revolution shines is in its mission design. Almost every mission can be tackled in a different way as Jensen has plenty of abilities in his repertoire. You can go in guns blazing, but you can also go with a more subtle approach by using stealth, finding alternate routes, hacking computers, doors, cameras, turrets, robots. Or you can just decide on the fly and mix things up any way you want, the game will never penalize you for playing the way you want to play. This is by far Human Revolution’s greatest achievement. But even here Human Revolution fumbles as it completely takes away your freedom during a few poorly designed boss fights.
The gameplay mechanics are serviceable, but none of the elements are quite as developed as they are in games which feature just one of these gameplay elements. But that is to be expected seeing as how Deus Ex: Human Revolution incorporates plenty of elements from role-playing, first-person shooter, cover-based third-person shooter and stealth genres.
In the end, I would recommend Deus Ex: Human Revolution despite its shortcomings. The design is strong, but almost everything around it fails to engage the player. There is no immersion, no sense of belonging making everything you do and all your choices sort of arbitrary. This is best observed at the very end where you will be asked to choose which button to press. And you just won’t care.