That was a surprise.
As in, game of the year surprise.
I wasn’t expecting Human Revolution to be a good game, let alone another Deus Ex. What I got however was a deep, rich experience that nested in my nostalgia-brimmed brain and hot-wired my brain, then reversed the polarity of the neutron flow (if you get that reference <3). Once upon a time Nathan Hardisty played a lot of video-games, and not all of them were memorable, the original Deus Ex was one of them and Human Revolution stands toe to toe in terms of quality. In fact, in some aspects, it even stands on its tippie toes to raise its head above its big brother.
Obviously nothing is perfect. I don’t do reviews on here, I like to stand out from the other blogs, but basically Human Revolution is nothing I asked for but everything I wanted. When the reviews started coming in and the hype-bug finally caught up with me, I had to bite the bullet and it took four days to beat this game. I spent hours in sewers, completed every side-mission possible, messed up many of the main missions and yet I was left breathless from the pacing. This is a game that slaps you and asks you to keep up, to always keep getting your augs and staying in shape otherwise you won’t be able to survive the night. It’s like if Batman suddenly discovered fast food.
I love the choice, I love the achievement for completing it without killing anyone, I love how the takedown animations never get old, I love the story no matter how corny it’s written, I love the fact it’s the best stealth game since Deus Ex, I love the black/gold aesthetic and the Blade Runner soundtrack. This is a great game with design that makes me want to drool and it asked me one of the most difficult questions that a game has ever asked me. I won’t spoil it, but the very final choice was a punch to my moral gut and I spent nearly half an hour turning it over in my head. That is the power of interactivity.
It is my game of the year. Even with Portal 2‘s ironic non-interactivity, Greek allegories and Valveness; Human Revolution still stands above it. I doubt I’ll be taking this off my pedal stool (again, if you get the reference <3) even with the likes of Skyrim and Fez on the 2011 horizon. Expect the Blogossus End of The Year awards to be filled with this game, and not just because it’s so good but because it still manages to be good despite the inconsistent quality. This is a game with problems but you love it anyway like the original Star Wars trilogy has the misfortune of being made by a tyrant, to the point where you might as well call it the Star Wars Original Trollogy.
I am so good with words.
What didn’t I enjoy in Human Revolution? It’s lack of consistency. For a game that boasts absolute choice absolutely, it’s still something which manages to ask the player to play a certain way sometimes. The boss battles have had a rather mixed response and, well, they suck. For starters, you have to kill them and the achievement for a pacifist runthrough thankfully bars all the bosses but… why not? I have a feeling it’s the big budget cutscenes which, whenever they come on, suck me right out of the game given they’re done in-engine and not in-game.
It reminds me of Fallout New Vegas, specifically its DLC Dead Money in which the final section demands you take a stealth runthrough otherwise you’re dead as a dodo. It’s frustrating and hypocritical of the game to ask me to play a certain way, when the whole philosophy behind the experience is an exercise of choice. I ended up spending 2 hours of Human Revolution with the second boss, and given I pour all my upgrades into stealth/hacking etc. I was kinda stuck on what to do. I was tempted to stop playing, but I stuck at it, even past these bumps.
Human Revolution also has the tendency to be… stupid. The AI is idiotic at times, the level design increases in quality then takes a dip, the augments are quite silly, the energy bar only recharges one cell making all energy augs useless making cloaking useless along with many other general problems. General problems. Human Revolution has the overall problem of being inconsistent, it’s only so frustrating at times because it’s so good most of the time. With some smoothing over of these issues, maybe some polish and playtesting, then this would be a game better than Deus Ex in every single way. Seriously.
Video-games tend not to be perfect, yet in that bittersweet search of perfection we sometimes find what we’re looking for. Human Revolution is not a perfect game, granted, but it is perfect in ‘some areas’ like any other timeless game. Shadow of the Colossus is as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen video-games become but it’s not over yet. BioShock was released in the same timeframe as Human Revolution and ever since then it’s like the same space of time has been open to ‘the year’s surprise’. BioShock, Arkham Asylum and now Human Revolution. Even Mercenaries 2 and Kane and Lynch 2 (Blogossus Game of the Year 2010) went on to be surprising in their lack of quality.
Human Revolution, BioShock and Arkham Asylum are all fantastic games. All of them push the medium forward with narrative and non-interactivity, licensed material and now pure gameplay choice. Yet they all fall from grace; BioShock has the bad habit of having a third act which speaks volumes of ‘We ran out of money’, Arkham Asylum has ‘that ending’ and now Human Revolution has its own problems. It has a problem with its own philosophy and own AAA-pedigree, the boss battles feel like a massive outpouring of empowerment yet the core philosophy is about transforming your dis-empowered being into a strength. You die in a few shots and there’s a lot of guys with weapons, the only way to fight them is to be different. To be human.