Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Human Revolution has myriad faults, but they hardly matter to me. Square Enix Montreal’s first crack at replicating Deus Ex is a perfect example of how the right creative decisions can make up for any number of constraints.
The clearest example is in the game’s first ‘hub’ area, Detroit, which functions as ground zero for both the creation of augmentations and the social economic tensions that arise from their use and misuse. Except the engine and budget wouldn’t stretch to a city as we’ve seen them today in open world games, and so you’re time is mostly spent wandering a few backalleys, talking to a few loitering NPCs, and looking at the dropped leaflets on the ground which represent a riot that happened before you arrived.
This does not matter at all. In fact, Detroit contains everything I like about Deus Ex. The city isn’t large or bustling, but it’s layered. Depending on your chosen upgrades and playstyle, you can traverse its terrain from the street or the rooftops, enter every building from multiple angles, and each new approach is rewarded with story and character and detail.
Deus Ex has a reputation for offering you meaningful choices, but there are all kinds of ways in which, again, Human Revolution feels hamstrung. There are options available to you that do not feel well rewarded – rescuing Malik, for example – and the ending is still determined by a multiple choice question. Yet again, despite dreaming of how this might be better, I do not mind. Human Revolution offers me choices in how I play, gives me enough options to feel as if I can inhabit Jensen as a character as well as a pair of fist-chisels and faceshades, and does so consistently across plot and side missions alike.
It’s in doing a lot with a relative little that Human Revolution best mimics the success of the original game. Robot-fingers crossed that Mankind Divided does the same, expanded budget and scope or not.