A lot of time has passed between when the first screenshots and news of the game started surfacing, and the actual release date. And among those informations there were a few that raised some concerns in me. But the teaser videos, and live action trailers, convinced me that I need this game on release date. So I pre-ordered the collector's edition, only to be disappointed by the fact that it came with no actual physical extras, I got the same plain DVD case, that came with any game. One thing you have to admire about the nineties is back then even budget releases of games came with full boxes, and a bunch of stuff. And now in the 21st century, even collectors editions have nothing extra to show for themselves. But let's get back to the game.
If I want to summarize the game in a few words I'd say it's Deus Ex: Lite. Or Deus Ex: For Dummies. It has almost everything the original game had, only with much less complexity, and with blatant obviousness. I'll elaborate what I mean by that later. The ironic thing is that the game only shows more complexity in regards, where I don't feel the need for it. Like augmentations. But more of that later also.
I feel that the designers wanted casual gamers to have the same experience as hardcore or enthusiast gamers had with the first game. So they made every choice (both tactical and story related) in the game, so obvious that it almost shouts at you. But with that they completely annihilated the real feel of the game. Now everything feels like that it's only there for your sake. The level design including. The choice between stealth, and head on fighting is so emphasized in the game that you can't get rid of the feeling that everything is only put there for your benefit. And it's actually very easy to use stealth in the game, even without augmentations like cloak and others that enhance stealth capabilities.
The side entrances, and secret passages, are more obvious than the "regular path" in most cases. It's impossible to miss or sometimes even avoid them. For example in Detroit the map is designed in such a way, that the "secret way" takes you from one end of the map to the other in a minute. While the regular way takes you trough a five minute maze.
In the first game you didn't use the secret passages for moving around the maps, but to gain access to bases, or compounds with less or no fighting. But after clearing the bases the regular way was much more convenient and faster to move around. Here it's the exact opposite of that. It's madness that the back door, offers a more direct route, than the actual direct route.
And I haven't even mentioned it yet that if there is a vent in the game, it will be a secret passage, without exception. It's so blatant when you are on a map, and there are no vents anywhere, except one single place where you need it to easily reach your target. Compare this to Deus Ex's map design, where most vents really felt like vents, many of them lead nowhere, or gave no tactical advantage to you. Like in level -4 of the unatco base, the whole map is criss-crossed by vents in the floor, and it really seems to serve a real purpose, apart from average Joe getting the "traveller achievement".
As I mentioned in some regards the game does offer "more" than the original, but this more is only more by quantity, and not quality. Example: You can put eight separate upgrades only on how much bioenergy you have and how quickly it is replenished. But at least that serves a purpose, there are a number of augmentations that are totally useless, and a waste of space. Like the stealth augmentations. (As I mentioned stealth is already child's play without any augs.) In the first game when you get an augmentation canister, it's like Christmas come early. Here you're being showered with praxis points, but most of the time I didn't even bother to spend them, since the augmentations are so useless.
They wanted to improve the inventory too, and they managed to make it even worse than in Invisible war. That's an achievement in itself. You have to be really patient to upgrade weapons in this game, you usually have to throw out almost everything from your inventory to do it. Since every upgrade even the smallest one for the most pathetic little pea-shooter takes up as much inventory space as a tank battalion. And of course to be able to use it, it must fit in your inventory. And if that wasn't enough, upgrades also work in a lucky dip system. So when you buy one, you don't know what weapon it will upgrade. So you throw away something in the awkward inventory screen to make space for the upgrade, only to realize thereafter that the upgrade fits on a weapon that you just thrown away to make room for it. And so you have to throw away something else, pick up the weapon that the upgrade is for, put the upgrade on, then pick up the weapon you threw away the second time. It's a torture, towards the end of the game I didn't even bother with upgrades.
And back to the bioenergy thing. In the first game, you could have thirty energy cells in a single inventory slot, and each cell recharged 75% of your bioenergy. Now just one single energy jar, takes up 4 spaces in your inventory. And it only recharges 50% of your energy if you purchased all upgrades. This basically renders the whole range of skills that consume bioenergy useless. Since you won't waste the already small inventory on energy jars, you'd rather carry weapons, since the augs aren't too useful anyway.
And then let's talk about weapons. There are plenty of weapons, there were plenty of them in the first game as well. All had some advantages and some disadvantages, but they all had their uses. Here the weapons that are good never have enough ammo, and the others are completely useless. There are many weapons I only used because I had no ammo for anything else. There are three good weapons in the game. The 10mm pistol, for which there is basically no ammo in the game. The sniper rifle for which you find no ammo in the first part of the game, and find a ton later, when it's not needed. And the grenade launcher, which is just too powerful in my opinion. The heavy gun seems like a pea shooter compared to it. Even civilians take 20 hits from this "not-so" heavy gun. And you can pump soldiers in the head with it for minutes.
All these mistakes seem minor, but in a franchise that put out a game close to perfection for the first time, they're unacceptable. Not that they would be acceptable elsewhere, but at least then I'd say it's their first try.
Even the story is lacking, you almost never feel, the tension, there are no decisions that affect later ones in the game. If you help someone in the beginning of the game, they never come back later to repay the favour like in DX1. There are even some cases when you help someone and you don't even get a thank you for it, because you never meet them again. Your decisions and actions have no consequences, you can massacre freely, noone ever questions you.
Apart from getting the "ghost achievement" there is really no benefit for the non-lethal approach. You don't even get XP for not killing people, but you get for shooting them in the head mercilessly. I find that very appalling.
The ending is pathetic. And not because of the actual ending. But because how the game offers you the final choice on a silver plate. I know it's boring that I keep comparing the game to the first one all the time, but what else can I do, if everything was better there? So in the first Deus Ex you had to actually work towards things to be able to choose a specific ending. Here you actually have four buttons in front of you, and they even explain it like you're a schoolboy, what each button will do, so average Joe doesn't have to think at all.
Another problem is, that as you well know this game supposed to be a prequel to the original. But the environment, the machines, the social state of the world, everything feels more futuristic, more like in the timeframe of Invisible War (DX2). The design of buildings, guns, computer consoles, the guard robots, all felt closer to present day in DX1, than in Human Revolution. So how could I believe that this takes place before that? Did they think that the weak Nicolette Duclare reference in the game will be enough to establish the time frame? I don't think so. I think it's bad design. Just because you can have better graphics today, doesn't mean you need to make everything look shiny and futuristic.
I finished the game on the hardest possible difficulty setting, but the first map of DX1 offered more challenges than this whole game. I only got stuck once at the second bossfight, but after purchasing a specific augmentation even that become easy. The first bossfight was actually very good, it really felt like a proper bossfight., but the final one was a joke. You have to press 4 buttons, then wait two minutes, voila that's it. There was another hard part in the game when I had to enter the harvester base. There were some invincible soldiers, that I could only kill by takedown. But I think that was a bug instead of a feature, that they can't be damaged by guns. Or if it's a feature then it's a stupid one, either way it's a negative thing.
- Atmosphere (if we disregard that it supposed to be a prequel)
- Even though it's lacking compared to DX1, or DX2, still an OK story
- Graphics at a few places
- There were no game breaking bugs (it's pathetic that this is a perk nowadays, it should be an absolute given)
- Hand holding regarding choices
- Map design is too obviously tailored to gameplay instead of being believable
- Too easy even on the hardest setting
- Your approach and decisions have no consequences later in the story
graphics / realization: 8/10
story / atmosphere: 8/10
gameplay / controls: 6/10
overall impression: 6/10
The number of negatives listed like this seems overwhelming, the game is a disappointment, but only compared to my expectations. If I'd judge it alone comparing it only to current games, then it would fare much better. It's hard to step out of the shadow of a great predecessor, and this one failed to do that. It's underwhelming in every aspect compared to DX1, and in many things compared to DX2 too.