Few games weave together game play with forward-looking social commentary quite like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The stylish cyberpunk aesthetic perfectly accentuates its futuristic atmosphere. The futuristic dystopian world is believable. There is racism between those with and without cybernetic augmentation. The futuristic buildings of Detroit are glossy and sleek and are the perfect backdrop to display the disparity and moral and ethical challenges within this modern society. The rampant systemic social-economic issues burden the dystopian world’s denizens and are integral to the game’s story.
The way the game allows one to navigate these issues makes Human Revolution my favorite in the series. One reason is because it allows itself and the player to explore the moral and ethical dilemmas that we may one day face. How would are society adjust? Perhaps, augmentations would create an even further divide between the haves and the have nots. Would lower income individuals even have the opportunity for cybernetic augmentations let alone those of the highest quality. Our obvious march toward singularity is increasing exponentially. It took one generation for everyone to carry a cellphone. More importantly, carrying a cell is now socially expected. Our evolution is tied to our technological advancements more so than random genetic mutations and natural selection. CRISPR, artificial limbs, modern medicine, laser eye surgery, and a plethora of other technologies are examples of man made techniques that greatly improve the bodies we were born with. These practices are only going to increase our natural abilities and augment their prevalence within society. Deus Ex creates a engaging and thoughtful structure so that the protagonist may not only explore these themes, but make impactful choices within them.
Human Revolution takes place 25 years before the original game. Set in 2027, protagonist Adam Jensen, is severely wounded during a terrorist attack. Jensen is an ex-SWAT specialist, and security officer for Sarif Industries, a world leader in the artificial organ industry. Large international conglomerates and megacorporations demonstrate their ability to serve as well as control society on a global scale. Jensen often walks the line between society’s white knight and a corporate weapon. The greater challenge is the moral and ethical compromises that must be made on either front. After Jensen is awoken, not unlike the Biblical Adam, he is forced to live in the world through new eyes. Jensen must both grow to understand and wield the experimental cybernetic augmentations that have been forced upon him. Adam never consented to the immense power that was bestowed to him. Nevertheless, Jensen must both wield his new enhanced body, while being judged by many in society as an Aug (augmented human).
Another favorite aspect of the dystopian world is the advent of Neuropozyne. Neuropozyne is a drug that enables the usage of a modern augmentations without rejection. Both expensive and in limited supply the drug emphasizes the precarious position placed upon the economically unstable. Those trapped in the lower class may either acquire the augmentations that rely on the scare and necessary Neuropozyne or compete in the marketplace without the augmentations within the lower class. Or perhaps the artificial organ is life saving, again trapping the person into maintaining a sustainable supply of Neuropozyne in perpetuity. Interestingly enough, Adam’s body accepted the technology without the requirement of any immuno-suppressants, adding further to the mystery behind the overarching plot.
Voice Acting / Content
The voice acting is near perfect, especially in the case of the protagonist. Jensen’s dry demeanor oscillates between humor and intensity brilliantly. Adam’s character overall is so well executed, that he somewhat eclipses the emotional value of the supporting cast. The game does a great job filling the game with emails and ebooks to round out the other characters, but it is difficult to truly feel for another NPC through an email. This however is a minor gripe in game otherwise submersed in depth.
Deus Ex is a combination of first person shooter, role-playing and stealth mission genres. Level progression mechanics allows for multiple flexible play styles. Whether Jensen values stealth and subterfuge or brute force is completely up to the user. This flexibility unfortunately did not readily lend itself to the boss battles. They felt repetitive and simplistic when compared to the rest of the combat sequences, and were the least interesting part of the entire game.
There are countless dystopian stories and games to chose from, but few truly world build with the same attention to detail like Human Revolution. Both the message and the style in which it is told are crucial to the potency of Revolution’s vision. If we are marching toward singularity, and we become one with machine, then this game might demonstrate some of the challenges we as a society will encounter. Mega corporations are already above the law – today. A global financial collapse was perpetrated by large financial institutions with impunity. The power and reach displayed by the conglomerates in this dystopian world, do not seem as fictional as the medium of the story would suggest. This game may just be an entertaining glimpse into the world we will one day navigate. After all, Deus Ex: Human Revolution did predict Justin Trudeau would become Prime Minister for years before he actually won the Canadian Election.