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The most amazing feature of DXHR (at least so far as I am concerned) is the level design. Both during missions, such as the factory stand-off, and in city hubs there are numerous locations to discover and countless ways to get there. It took me about 4 hours to finish the prologue and the first mission because I felt that I must survey every square inch of the game world. (My refusal to kill increased the time substantially.) Then there is the Detroit hub, which is amazing. It is an explorer’s dream with nooks, crannies, secrets, stashes, overheard conversations and so on. To give you an example, there are four distinct ways of entering the Police Station. It reminded me a lot of Hell’s Kitchen as depicted in the original, but bigger, better and more atmospheric. I’m pretty confident I found every single item, hacked everything that could be hacked (even if I had passwords), and discovered every hidden location. This took me 12 hours to do so, but I enjoyed it immensely.
Of course DXHR wouldn’t be a Deus Ex game if you couldn’t build your character via augmentations. Adam starts off with a few of them enabled, but after that it’s up to you to unlock them. There are no character levels in the game, and the XP you earn gets converted into Praxis points, which you use to get new augmentations, or improve the ones you already have. You can also buy a few Praxis points in a couple of special locations, and – very rarely – find them in the world. Augmentations themselves are designed to enhance your play-style. I opted for hacking, social and stealth ones, but those who play differently might go for strength, armor, accuracy and the like. Much like Adam, weapons can be improved via various modifications and, unlike in case of Invisible War, each weapon has its own ammo type.
Graphically the game is stunning. I was left speechless by the most brilliant art direction I have seen in a game in a very, very long time. The now-famous gold and black color scheme is recurring and has a rather powerful effect. The distinct triangular patterns work amazingly well with costumes inspired by the Italian Renaissance. I’m not a follower of fashion, but if someone ever releases a line of clothing based on these designs, they will have my business for sure. The technological aspect of bringing the story to life is quite up to par as well. Animations are smooth and realistic, and the interplay of light and shadow is sometimes breathtaking. When you first enter Adam’s apartment, the windows in the living room will do something absolutely incredible. Whatever you do – do not miss it!
Are there any problems? Yes, a few, but all of them minor and insignificant. The single biggest issue for me was the long wait associated with loading a saved game or entering a new area. Other than that, the first boss battle felt a little weird, and I was upset at having no choice but to kill him. Zooming and dragging of the map and hacking screens is awkward. Some conversations don’t always make a lot of sense. For instance, someone told me that they blame me for ruining their life, yet a moment later they were happy to hear me suggest that we should put the past behind us and move on. Datapads seem to go missing from the list sometimes, although the passwords contained in them are still usable. Occasionally a low-rez texture would make an appearance. Lastly, I think it would be a very nice touch if the saved games had unique screenshots, as opposed to generic, mission-based ones.
I’m sure you can tell that I’m in love with this game. Out of all the excellent titles I’ve reviewed this year, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the single best one by far. The story and humor are superb, the level design astonishing, and the way it handles progression is marvelous. I don’t want to sound like a hyperventilating fan-boy, but there are hardly any flaws with it at all. To me it’s no longer about whether the game lives up to the greatness of its ancestor because that is decidedly so. The question is whether it surpasses it. I won’t make any pronouncements here, but this is definitely a topic worth discussing. What I will tell you is that if you consider yourself a fan of the original, DXHR is a must-own for you. If you are new to the Deus Ex world, this is probably the best way of getting introduced to it. Go and buy it, and then let’s talk about it. Maybe you’ll even find something that I missed, although frankly I doubt it.
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