Monday, 3 October 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Let me tell you about my time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution:

So I start the game. It gives me the New Game Difficulty question, but this one is different from the norm: Instead of asking me to choose between Easy, Normal and Hard, it asks me what kind of game I want to play. It asks whether I want to be told a story, to have a moderate challenge, or to try and prove my HARDCOR3 L33T G4M3R SK1LLZ.

I choose to be told a story(Easy mode). I no longer have the tolerance for having to restart at the last checkpoint over bullshit that isn't my fault anymore. Easy mode will make it so that I have to really screw up on my own terms to fail, instead of the game snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for no good goddamn reason, the way too many games today do.

I can skip some cutscenes, but not all of them. There seems to be no indication for what cutscenes can or cannot be skipped. Very long, useless scenes can't be skipped. Half-second long cutscenes can be skipped. 

I was completely apathetic to this game before playing it. Not even the desperate attempt to be Blade Runner covered in urine appealed to me. Although I never played the original games, so I didn't have the fanboy in me to help the hype-train move along. But I start to see the appeal as I'm playing. Even though the game doesn't give me a hud.

The controls in this thing are unwieldy. What kind of a weird button is X on a 360 controller to interact with everything? That's the reload button in pretty much every other game. I keep forgetting the controls for sticking to and away from cover as well. I press the button the game tells me to in the tutorial to silently take down someone in one hit. Nothing happens. I wildly press every button I can think of, until I give up and shoot him before he can shoot me.

Boy, I'm really feeling like the badass on the cover and in all of the advertisements now.

Once again, a game developer has found out precisely when to put a checkpoint in all of the wrong places, and forgot to put them in any of the places where I need them. So I have a lot of progress to catch up on after dying multiple times because there's no HUD, and thus no radar or ability to track how much health I have. (I learn I can't have that until a little later, after my character has been "augmented").

It's not exactly telling me a story here.

Okay, first real mission. I have to go into a place and either kill, sneak past or silently incapacitate armed troops. There's more than a dozen, I know that. If you don't do it fast enough, they kill some hostages. But the game doesn't give any indicator for how much time you have. The first time I take it slow. I choose the stealth route, and ask for a non-lethal weapon. Against a lab full of people with guns who want to kill me, they give me a sniper rifle with 4 tranquilizer darts.

What the fuck is this, Resident Evil? "Adam, you need to take down or get past like 18 guards. Here's your FOUR rounds"? Someone at Eidos Montreal flunked Math.

I can understand having to sneak past most of them, and simply knocking out a few soldiers on the way. But that doesn't account for the fact that the sniper rifle DOESN'T FUCKING WORK. You shoot a guy, and the tranquilizer dart goes through him. The hit-detection for this weapon doesn't exist, and it's the only thing I have to defend myself with. So even if I do my very best Solid Snake impression, that still leaves me -5 darts.

Only a fool would think this was enough on Easy Mode.

I think maybe if I look around(wasting even more time that will get the hostages killed), I can find ammo. I check the bodies of soldiers too. They never run out of ammo in the times where they shoot at me, but whenever I loot their unconscious bodies they're always on their last bullet. And it takes more than one to take them down. And in this environment, the only ammo I can find is for a Stun Gun I don't have. And it's all tight corridors with too few opportunities to snipe them from a distance.

Why the fuck would this game offer me something if the developers knew it was completely ineffectual for the job? And why would it be one of the only two options I'm given?

After retrying my third time, I give up on the peaceful solution because it's obvious there's no fucking way to avoid killing people in the game that told me you could do just that. So instead of the peaceful route, I tell my boss in this game that I'll go in guns-a-blazing, because why would I want to do anything else in a video game these days, lolrite

He gives me a revolver. In this futuristic, neo-noir setting with cybernetic implants and far-out weapons technology, I get a six-shooter. I don't even remember if he gave me an entire clip. My friend who recommended this game to me told me you have the option of the revolver, pistol, combat rifle, sniper rifle and stun gun. I don't know what game my friend played, but this one only gave me two options: A shitty useless gun, or a different shitty useless gun.

On both playthroughs, I amass a mountain of Stun Gun ammo. But I never have even remotely enough ammunition for the only things I'm allowed to use.

I get to an encounter with a bad guy with an eye-patch holding a woman hostage. I choose the dialogue choice I think would make the most sense in this situation and would appeal to his interests. He immediately flees with the hostage, and I hear her get shot. He escapes, and I hear the hostages died anyway.

I go through yet ANOTHER playthrough of this same fucking starting mission. I speed through it in record time, taking out guards silently and efficiently when I have to, aggresively when I must, and avoid them when it's possible. I get to the hostage-taker guy. I choose any other option besides the one that would make sense. And for some reason THAT's what this game wanted me to do. To sound retarded.

Bad guy gets away, hostages are still killed.

...Really? REALLY???

This is the big, Game of the Year purchase everyone is talking about? The one that boasts about having choice, and then slaps me on the wrist for choosing incorrectly? And then when I do choose the options the game designers wanted me to, it rewards me with... failure? The whole point of this game is that you'll never do anything right?


A great game about morality and choice will make the player ask if there is truly a perfect, "right" choice. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game where every choice is wrong, and you're an idiot for trying. After being punished by the developer for daring to experiment and try different solutions(which you'll note is exactly the appeal the game is being sold on), I had enough.

I've had some pretty bad experiences with games that hurt their overall quality, even at no fault of their own. Sometimes the experience of playing a game is just as important as the game itself, the same way a rowdy audience can ruin a trip to a movie theatre.

I don't care if it "gets better". I don't care if you liked it, or if it didn't give you this shit. That means nothing to me. I don't know how long it takes to finish, and I will never know by experience. It could be one hundred hours long for all I know. All I know is that 97 hours of unbridled awesomeness can never make up for the three hours it stole from me. It couldn't compensate me for that even if it ends by transforming into a hot nymphomaniac cheerleader in my bedroom.

Life is too short for Deus Ex.



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