Ten years ago, we were whizzed forward to the year 2027, where the light is golden, the corps are mega, and the first keycode is 0451. Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out on this day in 2011, with new developers reviving Ion Storm's immersive sim series eight years after the second game. Thinking about it again today, yeah, I do fancy a replay. Today is also five years since the launch of its sequel, Mankind Divided. How do you feel about the revival now?
Made by Square Enix's Eidos Montreal studio, Human Revolution is a prequel to the merry adventures of JC Denton. It stars gruff cyborg Adam Jensen as he uncovers a global conspiracy by crawling through vents, stacking crates, hacking e-mails, and ejecting ball bearings from his hide at great velocity like murderous whiteheads.
I remember being torn in the run-up to Human Revolution's launch. At the time, I was still replaying the original Deus Ex every year or so, and more Deus Ex sounded great. While it clearly wouldn't—couldn't—be more of the game I love, maybe it could scratch that itch a bit. It did, largely.
"Despite its obvious visual console shackles, this is a game that remembers what PC games were once all about, and honours them," John Walker said in our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review. "It's a refreshing reminder of what games can be in the current swamp of six-hour follow-em-up shooters, and stands shoulders, chest and waist above. When games get close to the glory of Looking Glass, our expectations can rise extremely high. That Deus Ex: Human Revolution meets so many of them is a remarkable feat."
While I don't think even the original Deus Ex lived up to the dream of Deus Ex (as I talked about with Pip), Human Revolution definitely is less open, less surprising, less charmingly weird, and—I say with great affection—less pontificating and posturing. Still some some good cyberpunk sneak-o-shooting, mind. Pretty too, controversial golden glow and all.
The mandatory boss battles were gash, of course—enough that they were rebuilt and expanded in the eventual Director's Cut. Square Enix slipping one beloved character from the original into store-exclusive pre-order DLC was some real 2011-grade garbage. And the game's fear that players might miss details and options was patronising. The tonal shift, hand-holding, and enthusiasm for cool knifearm murder did disappoint some fans of the original. Someone even made a Deus Ex mod parodying Human Revolution:
A decade on, I'm remembering it quite fondly. Human Revolution is not the Deus Ex I usually get urges to revisit, but it is maybe the one I'd recommend to newcomers with low tolerance for old games. And it is, sadly, still one of the most recent shiny big-budget first-person singleplayer sneak-o-shooters. Thank god we still have Arkane Studios making games like the excellent Prey reboot. DXHR did get a sequel, mind.
Released on this day in 2016, Mankind Divided seemed to draw less enthusiasm because it was kinda more of the same. A shame. As Graham said in our Deus Ex: Mankind Divided review, "There still aren't that many games like Deus Ex around and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an excellent game like Deus Ex." But that was only five years ago and I have less to say at this point.
Anyway. Ten years. And no sign of a third/fifth/sixth/whateverth one. How are you feeling about the revival these days, gang? Gonna join me and jack back in?
Oh, a casual boast to end on: there's a wee nod to me in one of the e-mail chains scattered across Human Revolution's computers. Okay, bye.