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Human Revolution: Best Game of 2011

Yeah, you heard me.

I’m surprised; going into 2011 I thought Portal 2 would be taking home the gold. And Portal 2 was a fantastic game, no doubt, but it just doesn’t quite have as much depth and intrigue. I’m sure a lot of people have placed their bets on Skyrim, but to be honest I can’t really see Bethesda ever making a game this good. I enjoyed Oblivion, and I enjoyed Fallout 3 even more, but those games have nowhere near the same level of immersion and believability that Human Revolution achieves.

And I don’t just think this is the best game of 2011. I think this is the best game in a long damn time. It’s better than Deus Ex 1, and I do not say that lightly. I love Deus Ex. That’s been well-documented by this point. But even I must admit that DX1 had some very blatant flaws, and Human Revolution is an improvement in almost every single way.

As this game approached its release date I was very excited and worried at the same time. I had so many concerns about this game, so many doubts about the different features being advertised, and with the exception of the boss battles, Human Revolution ended up putting all my concerns to rest.

Cutscenes

I knew there would be cutscenes. Every game has cutscenes nowadays. The question was how much the game would rely on them. And I must say that it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. They do not occur often, so they generally don’t break the flow of gameplay. They are concise, and virtually all of them feel necessary to the plot. They’re well-constructed, well-acted and well-animated.

I usually feel inclined to dislike cutscenes, but these are about as good as they get.

Stealth

I read that there would be stealth upgrades included in the leveling system, and stealth + leveling almost never works. Usually you either get games like Fallout 3, where a low stealth score makes stealth completely useless and nonviable while a high stealth score means you can pretty much crouch-walk right up to a guard’s face without him seeing you, or games like Alpha Protocol, where having a high stealth score gives you activation-based skills that turn you invisible for five minutes so you can run around snapping everyone’s necks.

I didn’t think they would be able to pull it off properly, but they actually did. The stealth upgrades don’t make your character better at hiding; they simply give you more insight for how to approach each situation. Each upgrade lets you see more information about your surroundings. One upgrade can let you see enemies through walls. One upgrade lets you see a countdown of how long it will take for alarms to be deactivated. One upgrade reveals each guard’s cone of vision.

This feels just right. It gives the sneaky player some tactical advantages without breaking the game in his favor or making stealth impossible to those who don’t wish to sink all their points in it.

There is an invisibility augment and a silent running augment, but neither of them are game-breaking like the abilities in Alpha Protocol. They eat up a sizable amount of energy, so you can’t use them for too long. They essentially function in the same way as the augmentations in Deus Ex 1.

Hacking

I’m really surprised at how well the hacking minigame works. It’s simple, it’s engaging, and it’s quick enough to prevent breaking game flow while still taking long enough to bring about tension. See, unlike games like Bioshock where the entire world pauses during hacking, in this game it all happens during real time. So if there are any guards patrolling, you have the added pressure of having to finish it all before anybody comes and sees you conspicuously tapping buttons on their computer.

My only gripe with it would be its over-reliance on luck. Each time you tap into a node (which is basically the hacking equivalent of taking one step forward) you have a chance of being detected by the server network thing, which is the one source of conflict and tension in the minigame (besides being noticed by a guard). This means that sometimes you’ll manage to hack the entire terminal without any adversity, while at other times you’ll get detected after hacking the first node and get stuck in an almost impossible-to-win situation.

It’s not too much of an issue, though. The minigame still works quite well, and it’s certainly better than Deus Ex 1’s approach of not even having a minigame and instead forcing you to just sit and wait while JC Denton types on his multitool.

Gunplay

I wasn’t sure how functional the combat would be in this game. I knew it was cover-based, and while I’m not a particularly huge fan of cover-shooting games, I’m not one of those people who automatically hates every cover-based shooting game either. I liked Gears of War. I liked Mass Effect 2.

Human Revolution’s gunplay might not be the best we’ve ever seen, but it definitely works well. You pretty much have to take cover because a few well-placed shots can kill you, and that fits well with the atmosphere of realism the game exudes. And I might actually rate its shooting as better than that of Gears of War or Mass Effect 2, mainly because when Adam Jensen takes cover he actually tucks his head in.

And whatever the case may be, it’s leagues better than the utterly dysfunctional and unrefined combat in Deus Ex 1.

Persuasion

Actually, I have entirely too much to say about this one. I’ll have to write a whole post on it.

Fin

This game is really damn good. You should buy it. I beat it last night, but I’m nowhere near being finished with this game. I still have to do my nonlethal playthrough and my Gears of War playthrough, and I’ll probably end up replaying it a few more times after that just for fun.

I actually feel bad about criticizing the boss fights so harshly before. Yes, they suck, but they’re a very small part of a huge, intelligent, brilliant game. And it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t find any of the other bosses as unforgiving as Barrett. I actually thought the final boss was quite good, mostly because it doesn’t really feel like a “boss fight,” strictly speaking.

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37 responses

  1. Having not played it, I can’t give any opinion on the quality of Deux Ex: Human Revolution. But have you played Bastion yet? It is my game of the year, and it’s only a $15 XBLA game. It has great action, cool weapons, and a story that completely integrates into the gameplay. Finally, the narration is the absolute best in any game, ever. I highly recommend you take a look at it.

    August 29, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    • JPH

      Haven’t gotten it yet. It’s on my to-buy list, for sure.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    • krellen

      “Kid gets up.”

      “Ground rises up to meet him as he walks. Doesn’t stop to wonder why.”

      “And then, the Kid fell to his death. … Nah, I’m just foolin’.”

      At that point, I knew I had to buy it.

      August 29, 2011 at 11:03 PM

  2. Yeah, Bastion. I’m really curious to see how you’ll hold it up to Deus Ex.

    August 30, 2011 at 4:28 AM

  3. Having not played it yet and wanting to avoid big spoilers, how good is the story? Are the latter parts as good as the part shown in the beta (everything up to fighting Barrett)?

    August 30, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    • JPH

      I’d say so, yes. There were a few twists I could see coming, but the story was great all around, and the ending was very strong.

      August 30, 2011 at 2:52 PM

  4. I hate to, once again, bother you with something off topic. I remember you once said something like, “lyrics aren’t necessary to enjoy a song,” or something similar, I think it was in the Fallout 3/New Vegas post. Would you be at all interested in listening to a song I recorded. I’m not going to lie, its not exactly a great recording, you can hear some noise, because of the poor mic it was recorded with. If you are willing to listen, I’d be happy to here what you think. And if you hadn’t guessed, there are no lyrics. I figured there’s no harm in asking.

    August 30, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    • I know this isn’t my blog but I’d love to give your song a listen. I know how hard it is trying to get people to listen to music you make.

      August 30, 2011 at 3:49 PM

  5. I made my first blog post since I stopped a few months ago. It has both of my recordings, if anyone is interested. https://maxff.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/my-songs/

    August 30, 2011 at 7:43 PM

  6. Babitz

    I strongly disagree about this game being better than the first one. Sure, it did some things better due to being modern and everything, but the original had more versatility, more freedom, more interactivity and it feels *bigger* while in HR i felt like a pawn.

    I also don’t like how HR favors stealth by giving you greater rewards for stealth than anything else. The original was “here’s stuff, do what you want to do”, in HR it’s “here’s stuff, do what you want to do, but we would like it more if you did this”.

    HR is a great, great game (goty 2011 for me), but it doesn’t have the gameplay complexity the original had. Also, the end was kind of retarded and the whole Resident Evil: Human Revolution part of the last hour of play was really disappointing; so much it left a bitter taste after a highly enjoyable session.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:34 AM

    • JPH

      I think the main reason I liked Human Revolution more is because it functions more competently. The combat is tighter, the hacking feels more engaging, the dialogue has much more depth to it (at least during those persuasion bits), etc.

      And that’s not just because it’s “modern.” Alpha Protocol demonstrated quite well that modern games don’t automatically function better than old games.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    • JPH

      Having said that, I do agree that Deus Ex 1 had a better story and that the ending was much stronger.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      • Babitz

        I understand what you mean. I agree that the conversations are better and more important here. I loved the persuasion system, though I didn’t use the social aug for it because I like the challenge. The hacking was great, but it shouldn’t have outrewarded finding codes. My main issue with the gameplay is the style preference. If you want to powergame, you will absolutely have to go stealth and hack everything, even if you have the codes. I also miss the multitools and lockpicks. Hacking everything was a lazy way out, imo, because they could have made something like Alpha Protocol. At times, there was just too much hacking to do.

        But about the combat – I like it, but I liked the one in the original better because it was so versatile allowing you all sorts of improvised stuff. I could write infinitely long paragraphs about creative uses of the environment, augs and skills combined in the original, but you already know what I mean.

        HR also has a few invisible walls. I would prefer if you could just fall to your death instead, because invisible walls always break immersion. I miss the limb based health system. If someone did a mod allowing a limb based health system, I’d be the happiest man on the planet.

        I may seem to be nitpicking a lot here, but I really like the game. We can respectfully disagree on which game is better, but we can also agree they’re both gaming’s finest.

        September 2, 2011 at 8:44 AM

      • Babitz

        Oh and while Alpha Protocol did have lots of questionable design decisions and game breakers, I still enjoyed it a lot. It had ambition and fell short. I can only hope Obsidian will do a better job next time.

        The baffling thing was that everyone was comparing it to Mass Effect 2 and complaining about accuracy problems with low weapons skills. It wasn’t following in ME’s footsteps, it was trying to follow in Deus Ex’.

        September 2, 2011 at 8:49 AM

  7. Khizan

    I don’t see how anybody can say something like “The minigame still works quite well, and it’s certainly better than Deus Ex 1′s approach of not even having a minigame and instead forcing you to just sit and wait while JC Denton types on his multitool.”

    To me, hacking/lockpicking/etc minigames are one of the worst things to hit modern gaming. This is especially irritating in games like FO3/NV, where you have to invest skill points to hack computers. The game says “Oh, all those points you invested in lockpicking? The ones that didn’t increase your combat power in any fashion? The ones that ONLY ‘pick locks’? Yeah, well, they don’t let you ‘pick locks’, they let you ‘play a crappy minigame’ that you have to beat for the lock to open.”

    These are the first things I mod out in any game that lets me do so. Running through my shooter, running through my shooter, stop and play concentration for petty cash, stop and play mastermind to hack a terminal, whatever. I hate it all.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:05 AM

    • I agree in the case of Fallout (as well as other games like alpha protocol an mass effect 2) but damn, human revolution’s hacking minigame is bloody good fun.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:32 AM

  8. Babitz

    Khizan, Fo3/NV and Deus Ex aren’t just shooters and shouldn’t be treated as such.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    • Khizan

      So their RPG elements demand that hacking should not be determined by your skill points invested in hacking, but by a minigame your skillpoints unlock?

      How on earth does that make sense?

      September 1, 2011 at 4:33 AM

      • JPH

        Going by that logic, why even have shooting mechanics? Why not just leave everything up to the character’s stats and a roll of the dice?

        Some of us tend to prefer player skill over character skill.

        September 1, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        • krellen

          Then you should stop playing RPGs.

          September 2, 2011 at 12:02 AM

          • JPH

            Why would I stop playing my favorite genre of games?

            And I didn’t say that there should be no character skill involved. I want a mix of both.

            September 2, 2011 at 12:34 AM

            • I don’t think it is your favourite genre. Not really. You want a shooter with levelling aspects, not an RPG.

              So-called “action RPGs” are, I think, the worst invention in gaming history. If for no other reason than they seem to have completely eliminated non-action RPGs altogether (not entirely true – thank you, SpiderWeb Software.)

              September 2, 2011 at 11:15 AM

              • JPH

                I don’t just want a shooter with leveling aspects. That’s one kind of game I like, but countless games I’ve played and loved are considered “real” RPGs (Final Fantasy, Diablo, D&D, etc.)

                September 2, 2011 at 11:31 AM

              • Babitz

                Deus Ex is more of an RPG than anything Bioware has released in the last 10 years. So is Alpha Protocol. RPG isn’t limited to turn based gameplay and fantasy settings.

                There is a difference between an action RPG and action games with RPG elements. The ones you are referring to are the latter: games like Bioshock, Mass Effect, Singularity, etc. They didn’t kill the RPG genre, it’s the public that did. These types of games sell more so they get made more. It’s pure marketing logic.

                It’s a shame we will never have D&D masterpieces like BG2 or PS:T again, but don’t blame the games, blame the gamers. And publishers who won’t take risks.

                September 2, 2011 at 11:54 AM

                • krellen

                  I would love a traditional, non-action RPG set in a non-fantasy setting. That’s what Fallout is, after all.

                  September 2, 2011 at 6:30 PM

                • Babitz

                  So would I, krellen. The unfortunate reality is that it won’t happen any time soon.

                  September 2, 2011 at 11:49 PM

                • JPH

                  Have either of you seen Winter Voices? Sounds like it might be up your alley.

                  http://store.steampowered.com/app/72900/?snr=1_4_4__13

                  September 3, 2011 at 12:03 AM

                • JPH

                  Whoops, forgot that Krellen doesn’t do Steam. Here’s a more Krellen-friendly link.

                  http://www.wintervoices.com/

                  September 3, 2011 at 12:20 AM

                • Babitz

                  I think I’ve stumbled upon it before, but was slightly worried because of the metascore so I gave it a pass. What do you think of it?

                  September 3, 2011 at 8:23 AM

                • JPH

                  I haven’t played it, personally. But I’ve heard good things. You could try out the demo if you want to know what it’s like.

                  September 3, 2011 at 2:22 PM

  9. Niryain

    Honestly, I feel the need to disagree here for one reason. HR is a fantastic game, boss battles aside, and one other thing that very few people seem to comment on. Lack of.. Response to your actions. Minor spoilers ahead. For example, near the beginning you’re tasked with retrieving something from the local police station. As I’m playing through the game as a sociopath Adam that shoots anything in his way, I naturally shot my way through the station of innocent police officers. No one called me out on this. Ever. It was a bit jarring. Another example would be when you need to get into The Hive. I shot the bouncer by the door in the head, and when I walked in using the keycard off his body no one batted an eye. When I needed to find Tong, I decided I could intimidate the upstairs bartender by shooting my way through all the bouncers. No dice, alright, fair enough. But when I do find Tong later he’s acting all casual and NOT like someone killed all his bouncers. Again, jarring. (Oh, and the first plan was shooting the bartender until he coughed up the information. He’s invulnerable, of course. Because he IS the guy you’re looking for -_- )

    If there’s one thing Alpha Protocol did better than this game, it was in responding to exactly what the player did. Had I done those things in AP, I damn well feel as though the game would have let me know it knew and changed things accordingly. But HR has ITS story it wants to tell and damn if how you approach things will significantly change that.

    September 4, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    • JPH

      In Alpha Protocol you’re never really given the option to be a sociopath and kill tons of innocent people. In Human Revolution you’re given the option, but it doesn’t really affect things very much.

      I’m not too sure which I prefer in that regard.

      To be fair, I did a sociopathic playthrough of Deus Ex 1 and the game rarely ever noticed it.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      • Niryain

        Eh. The option comes up once or twice. Usually when CIA agents are involved. But, fair enough, most of the time you’re gunning down people that very much tend to deserve it in AP.

        September 4, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        • JPH

          Right, now I’m remembering the CIA mission.

          I guess the reason it doesn’t bother me in Human Revolution is because I generally don’t like playing as a sociopathic killer. But that is unfortunate, and I can see why it would irk others.

          September 4, 2011 at 1:32 PM

          • Niryain

            Aye, I’m imagining the devs thought the average person who WOULD play the game in a sociopath way wouldn’t notice or care enough about plot holes/lack of response. But, I’m doing it on purpose. :P

            The game is otherwise fantastic and likely holds up from a plot sense FAR better if you play it in any way other than “I solve every problem by shooting it”.

            September 4, 2011 at 1:41 PM

            • JPH

              Incidentally, I really hope you do a stealth playthrough afterward. It does make more sense, and I find stealth much more satisfying and fun than shooting (probably because we don’t get stealth games as often).

              September 4, 2011 at 2:51 PM

              • Niryain

                I plan on it.

                September 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

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