Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is really pretty sweet.

I could talk about Deus Ex: Human Revolution forever and a day - that's one reason you haven't seen a lot of updates recently, in fact. Maybe I should channel some of that here.

For the moment let's leave aside the story and theme; why not? I'll tell you all about who I think the most dangerous person at Sarif Industries is (hint: not visibly augmented) at a later date. I'll just say that I created a conspiracy flow chart for this game, and I can connect elements of the US government to both sides of the augmentation conflict. So there.

Let's have a few words about gameplay experience. Bioware makes all my favorite video games, and while they've made some serious strides with, say, Mass Effect 2, historically they are not known for games with what we call excellent gameplay, but games with excellent narrative and characterization. That's what I love about them. None of my favorite ME memories are about "Oh, that fight with such and such." Not that there aren't great fights, especially in the second game! Garrus' recruitment mission comes to mind. But on some level, the fights for me are always something you have to do to get to the next conversation or twist in the narrative. There's a moment in Mass Effect where (SPOILER ALERT!) you have to choose which of two major characters will die. That is probably my all-time favorite moment in gaming. I was floored, I couldn't handle it. I think I may have dropped the controller. Not that you don't get sadistic choice moments in other games, but I had never gotten one with characters I was so invested in. Neither (SPOILER ALERT!) Kaidan or Ashley is a red shirt given a line about their sweetheart back home so you get some emotional payoff when you avenge them; these are serious, mature, likeable people who have been given literally hours of characterization.

Those are the moments I live for. I may dig that new gun, but ultimately what I want is story content, characters experiencing drama and letting me experience comedy.

Human Revolution is turning that somewhat on its ear. I love the story, don't get me wrong, and I could probably spend ten minutes telling you my thoughts on Tai Yung Medical and Picus News (there's a but there, and it's reflected in the fact that I just mentioned two factions rather than two characters, but that's another tangent), The gameplay, though, is for once really making the experience. I think the first story I told my girlfriend about the game - she loves Mass Effect 2 and both Dragon Ages, but doesn't play many other games - was how I used some crates to build a platform I could use to jump across a courtyard - and there was something on the other side. This game rewards innovation and exploration at every turn, and not in that annoying, spend-fifty-hours-of-your-life-looking-up-the-location-of-every-secret-item-in-an-FAQ way - if you poke into a dark corner, there's probably something cool there for you. At the very least, they'll toss some experience your way, and sometimes you find a new path that lets you complete an objective in a completely different way.

You should play Deus Ex.

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