(Deus Ex – Human Revolution)

My spacial awareness tends to get in the way of enjoying runny-hidey games. I never really got into any of the Thief games, and while I was impressed at how shiny the original Deus Ex was, I kind of bounced off it. I was impressed with a game that allowed you to get your legs shot off with the result that your viewpoint was lower and slower until you healed.

It amuses me that in the rest of the genre you have your basic human badasses (Duke Nukem type), or your hard-suited combat droids (Halo type), and your fragile cover-seeking soilder types (Medal of Heroes type), and the series where you are a generally a human with a series of increasingly badass and terrifying high technology augments is one where you’re one of the most fragile things in the world.

It took me a while to grasp the mechanics to the necessary extent. My first mission I spent dying a lot as I went “Sneaky sneaky sneaky, oops, spotted, better gun them down” and in turn got gunned down. It took me most of Saturday to finish the first mission, partly because of my own incompetance, but mostly because before the patch that hit on Saturday night, the loading times were hefty to the extent that I went and did something else while the levels loaded. Then I spent ages, defragging, system checking and optimising my system to see if I could make the load times tolerable. In a game where you can die in three seconds due to turning the wrong corner, it’s entirely beyond acceptable.

With the patch, it’s not noticeable at all, so that’s fine then.

I love the style, but I’m not fond of the graphics. This prequel is further-future than the original game was – which is a bit weird – and for all the city style is pulled out of Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, the black and gold that fingerprints every screenshot as being of this game and no other is nice to see. In a field overrun with brown cities surrounding grey corridors, it stands out. The graphics I like less. The hand-painted face styles seem too gritty for the future they’re in. The soundtrack is heavy on the deep synths and plonky foreboding and constantly sounds like it was lifted from an alternative soundtrack to Mass Effect.

I’m not that deep into the game (Steam says I’m eight hours in, but a lot of that’s repeat) but the mechanics are working well. The game’s not out to trick you, and behind every mistake and every death is the solid knowledge that it’s the player who screwed up, and should do it differently next time.

Except boss fights.

I’m not generally a fan of boss-fights anyway, but in a game where I can run and hide and sneak around every enemy and every turret in the game, the boss fights seem like a massive hole. It’s like a nintendo game. You enter a room, the door slams behind you, and nothing will open until you find out how to beat him. Having levelled up on hacking and stealth and non-leathal death, being ripped apart like tissue-paper without a chance to outsmart the enemies in the way the rest of the game allows you just isn’t fair, and just isn’t fun.

The game’s fun, though. The mechanics are sound, the voice acting and writing not noticably awful and good in parts, and some of the locations are beautiful in their integral stories (Jenson’s apartment tells an interesting story), the quest hub areas are well designed and thought out, but the internals of buildings – where you spend a lot of your side-quest time – bland and templated.

The augment system is nice, and the ability to upgrade anywhere means I tend to save a few upgrade points in case, for example, I suddenly need to be able to fall from a high building in an emergency. Or lift a heavy crate I didn’t expect. Or shoot some unexpected dudes.

Anyway, despite being not a game-type I generally enjoy, I’m enjoying it a lot. Play Deus Ex.