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