Science fiction has always been a good medium through which to examine certain subjects, and one that keeps coming up time and time again is the idea of human augmentation. The very concept that people will one day be able to change themselves, to alter their appearance, their bodies, to gain powers and abilities is one that writers keep coming back to.
It’s not hard to see why, the concept raises questions about what it would mean to be human, if there’s a point where you could alter yourself enough that people would say you’re not a person anymore; and seeing the way our current society treats people like transgender people who transition it’s not shocking that these stories feature violent push-back against body modification, because it’s happening in our world today.
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The Deus Ex series has always had these themes involved in its text. From the very first moments of the original game you’re introduced to a world where people have augmented their bodies with implants, where they’ve changed their human limbs out for robotic replacements. The series seemed to treat this as a normal part of the future world they’d crafted, where it was pretty commonly accepted. It wasn’t until Deus Ex: Human Revolution that the series actually made it a more important part of the story.
Where the other games in the series put global conspiracies and shadowy cabals at the forefront, Deus Ex: Human Revolution made trans-humanism the main focus. Going backwards in time to an early point in the franchise, the game put you in the shoes of Adam Jensen, a security officer working for Sarif Industries, a company that has been creating artificial organs and body part replacements. When a group of terrorists called the Tyrants attack the building Adam is severely injured, and is essentially rebuilt using augmentations. After months in recovery Adam is dispatched to hunt down the Tyrants, and to bring them to justice.
Like with previous entries in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a first person shooter with a lot of RPG elements thrown into the mix. Whilst the majority of the game-play sees you exploring different environments, solving puzzles or engaging with enemies in combat, there are also a lot of times where you’ll be choosing how you want to interact with people, picking out different things to say depending on the results that you want.
Much like the first game this new entry in the series allowed players the freedom to approach levels however they wanted, often giving you several options for how to tackle your objectives. If you want to play stealthily you can sneak through air vents and use cloaking mods to get behind your enemy and take them down with non-lethal means. Alternatively, you can smash your way through doors with your enhanced strength, throw furniture around the room and shoot the place up with your guns. This freedom extended to the story to a certain degree too, as there were times where the game allowed you to choose in what direction it was going to go, as well as a number of different endings that you’re able to unlock based upon your choices.
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The biggest issue with the game, however, were the boss fights. You’ll be hard pressed to find a review or retrospective of the game where people don’t point out how bad these moments are, even if the rest of the game gets a glowing review. Whilst the rest of the game lets you play how you want the boss fights don’t. They will often force you into a single way of dealing with the bosses, even if it doesn’t fit your play style or the augments you have. It will even make you kill the bosses, killing being something you can go the entire game without other than these moments. There’s even an achievement for finishing the game without killing that has to point out the bosses don’t count, because it really does force your hand.
Despite these moments the game was pretty good, and it was one of the most enjoyable times I’d had with the series since the original more than a decade before. It took the series in an interesting new direction, including the big global conspiracies and shady machinations yes, but putting a more human story at its heart. Whether you’re new to the franchise, or have been playing it since the first game. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is sure to entertain even a decade on.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released on 23rd August 2011.