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Archive for September, 2011

Serious Sam

Take two things into account:

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that JPH loves himself some Serious Sam.

I’ve already decided that Serious Sam 3 is the next on my list of DO WANT! games. I’ve been playing Serious Sam: The Second Encounter in the meantime, which I never finished beforehand, and I’m absolutely loving it. But if there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s Serious Sam fans.

It’s not because they really like the series; after all, I really like it too. It’s not the fact that they’re over-hyping it; every Big Game is over-hyped these days. It’s not even that they use the word Serious every chance they get; I’m fairly guilty of that as well. No, what annoys me is that their reasoning for why it’s great generally doesn’t make sense.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the tagline for Serious Sam 3: “No cover. All man.”

I don’t know how much of this is rooted in nostalgia, but a lot of shooter fans on the ‘net have decided that cover-based shooting is inherently horrible and stupid and an abomination on the games industry. They sneer at Gears of War and Mass Effect, and they complain endlessly about the various directions shooters have collectively taken over the years.

As such, when a company like Croteam dedicates itself to making shooters with old-school running & gunning, they jump all over it like it’s the Software Messiah.

I’ve said in the past that I really like the old-school style of shooting, since it’s fast-paced and it’s all about movement. But I don’t think cover-based shooting is inherently bad. If it were, it wouldn’t be so popular. It’s just different. It can work quite well if it’s done properly and it fits the game’s tone and gameplay. (Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes to mind; I don’t think that game would have felt nearly as realistic and immersive if it was a run & gun.)

Moreover, if you simply praise Serious Sam because it doesn’t have cover-based shooting (or regenerating health, or the two guns rule, or whatever aspect of new shooters you hate) you’re selling it short. You’re not giving it the credit it deserves. Because Serious Sam isn’t awesome because of the features it lacks.

You can love it if you like. In fact, I encourage you to do so. But don’t love it for the features it doesn’t have; love it for what it does have. Love it for its brilliantly balanced and varied weapons, monsters and level design. Love it for its imaginative set pieces. Love it for its wonderful pacing, which always seems to follow every particularly brutal fight with a relaxing wave of beheaded dudes to let you take a deep breath and mellow out. Love it for its amazing optimization, which allows it to look beautiful while still running smoothly on relatively low-end hardware.

But don’t just love it for its lack of cover-based shooting, because that doesn’t make sense.


Borderlands: SO Not Fair!

My friends and I got really into Borderlands when it first released. We got the game, we got each of the DLCs when they came out. I played the hell out of it, but I sort of hated it at the same time. It’s a very interesting and fun concept (Diablo With Guns) with a very buggy, flawed execution. As long as you play it in multiplayer, the act of gunning down tons of dudes with your friends is just about enough fun for you to keep playing despite all the interface irritations, balance issues, occasional horrendous bugs, repetitive scenery, and other miscellaneous frustrations.

I think the most appalling crime this game inflicted upon me was a bug that occurred when I first entered Mad Moxxi’s Underdome.

First, let me give you guys some context. I was level 50, the max level at the time. I was Roland, and I’d specialized entirely in shotgun usage. Along with that I had a shotgun I’d obtained earlier, a gun that had swiftly become my most prized possession, virtual or otherwise. This gun made me feel tempted to move to Japan, because I’d heard that Japan lets people marry video game characters and I figured they would let me marry my video game gun.

It had a reasonably high damage level, it held about 15 shells, and it fired nearly as quickly as an assault rifle. Rest assured that any enemy who came anywhere near “close range” of me would be swiftly reduced to giblet confetti.

Then I entered the Underdome. After I played through the first challenge, I came back and noticed that my character was holding no weapon. Or shield. Or grenades. I opened up my inventory and noticed that everything was gone. All my weapons, my shields, my class mod, my one true love. Everything had vanished. I deliberately crashed the game so I could revert to my character’s last save, but it had already autosaved with the new, crippled Roland.

Needless to say, I was completely and utterly heartbroken.

I finished Playthrough 2 and played through the entirety of the General Knoxx DLC, and I never found an adequate replacement for that glorious shotgun. My love was gone, and I could never replace that gaping hole in my heart.

Anyway, some other friends and I decided to get back into Borderlands (minus the “back” for them, since none of them had played it before). We were playing through Ned’s Zombie Island on Playthrough 1, and guess what happened? Nemesis, the black mage from our shitty Magicka LP that never took off, he experienced a bug this time. A bug that instantly raised all his weapon proficiencies to 50 (max). Now he’s at least twice as good as all of us, at all the weapons we’ve been specializing in this entire time. He uses sniper rifles, but he can fire and reload my shotgun at twice my speed.

Fuck you too, Borderlands.

Sandbox Survival Horror

“I forgot how scary Minecraft was when you aren’t on peaceful. They should reclassify it from sandbox to survival horror.”

This is something a friend of mine said to me yesterday. He meant it as a silly little joke, but it really got me thinking. Have we ever had a sandbox horror game before?

All logic and common sense about game design would state that a sandbox horror game simply wouldn’t work. Horror demands a great deal of careful pacing, and a nonlinear game simply cannot offer that. Even a great deal of linear “horror” games fail to offer that — I’ve said as much regarding FEAR 2 and DOOM 3. I’ve heard similar complaints about the Dead Space series, though I haven’t played much of it so I can’t really say.

Still though, my curiosity has certainly been piqued, and I’d really like to see a sandbox horror game attempted. I can imagine a game where you’re able to explore different areas of a dark, scary gameworld infested by powerful monsters you have to avoid.

Interestingly, the closest I think we’ve come to a sandbox horror game would be Minecraft, which I suppose is fitting, since that’s what brought up the subject. Even though the entire world is procedurally generated, it still can be very spooky when you’re exploring deep caves spiced with monsters. The darkness of the environment sets the atmosphere. You tend to hear the monsters before you can see them, which is very unsettling. And then when the monsters suddenly attack it’s very sudden and frightening, without feeling too much like an unfair jump-out-scare.

It’s like procedurally generated pacing. This usually doesn’t affect me very much though, because I tend to turn on my own music while I’m playing Minecraft. And it’s hard to feel genuinely frightened when you’re listening to Blood Elf Druids.

The 1.8 patch has done much to add to the whole horror vibe, I think. The addition of hunger really adds to the tension, since you know that every moment you spend exploring is costing you more food. Survival elements tend to go hand-in-hand with horror — after all, the genre tends to be formally known as Survival Horror.

And then there’s the newest enemy, the Enderman.

I think the Enderman is brilliantly designed for horror.  It’s neutral to you until you look directly at it, in which it becomes hostile and opens its mouth, staring ominously. Then once you look away, it speeds toward you at a rapid pace, even teleporting if it’s very far away.

To me it feels very reminiscent of the gameplay mechanic in Penumbra and Amnesia, in which looking directly at a monster causes you to panic and give away your position. This essentially forces you to look away from the monster, which is a great way to bring tension. Humans are naturally inclined to look at everything, especially the unknown, so when we’re called upon specifically to look away from something, it’s hard to resist looking right at it. This also means we don’t get a very good look at the monster, which works really well since a monster is generally scarier the less you see of it.

So in short, Minecraft can actually be quite a scary game when played on Survival mode. I don’t think it really stands up as a horror game when compared to the likes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent or (reportedly) Silent Hill 2, but if a horror game is classified as a game that scares you, Minecraft might actually count as Sandbox Survival Horror.

Extra Punctuation: What Human Revolution Got Wrong

So for those of you who don’t know, Yahtzee doesn’t just do Zero Punctuation — he also does Extra Punctuation, a written column on The Escapist. He generally uses it to reiterate and elaborate on some point he made in the previous ZP episode.

So this week he talked about ways in which he thinks Deus Ex 1 is better than Human Revolution. And since I still ardently believe Human Revolution is the superior game, I thought I’d offer my own response.

I’m not under the illusion that he’ll ever even see this blog, but whatever.

1. You know who the danged boss characters are

This I absolutely agree with. Despite my immense fondness for Human Revolution, I have to admit that the boss fights are clumsily done, in terms of gameplay and story. They’re entirely needless and entirely horrible. I’ve heard that some spin-off novel explains who the boss characters are and what they have against Jensen, but fuck that shit, seriously. We shouldn’t need additional media just to know what the hell is going on.

2. There are danged melee weapons

I honestly couldn’t care less about this. Yeah, there’s a complete lack of melee weapons, but there are takedowns, which I think more than make up for it. They make more sense and feel more realistic, just like the rest of the game. One aspect of Deus Ex 1 that screwed with my sense of immersion was the ability to charge up and smack guards with a knife until they fall over. It didn’t really feel right, and something tells me Human Revolution wouldn’t have felt right with melee weapons either.

Also, he compares the takedowns to God of War’s special finishing moves, but the major difference to me is that the takedowns in Human Revolution aren’t quick-time-events. If you ask me, that makes them infinitely better.

3. There’s danged specialization

I agree with his point that Human Revolution basically gives you enough points to specialize in everything by the end, but truth be told, I wasn’t very bothered by this. Yes, you can take almost any approach in the final level, but the point is that all those choices are there. To me the whole RPG thing is less about how you build your character and more about how you play your character. Like I’ve said before, what matters most to me is what you’re actually doing during the gameplay, and Human Revolution has quite a variety of player choice in that regard.

4. The danged endings actually danging mean something

I don’t think Human Revolution’s endings are quite as bad as he described them, but I do agree that Deus Ex 1’s endings are much better. I’ll probably have to devote an entire spoiler-filled post to this subject, but for now let me just say that I sort of agree.


Now, this is the point I disagree with the most. How could anyone possibly prefer orange over lemon lime? That just bewilders me, and it really makes me question Yahtzee’s validity as a critic.

Human Revolution: The Guns

Despite having spent most of my life in Texas, I wouldn’t consider myself a “redneck” in many ways. I’m not big on cowboy hats. I don’t generally wear leather or snakeskin. Anybody who’s watched my videos and streams knows I have a generic, boring Midwestern accent. But one way I do resemble a redneck is in my infatuation with guns.

Guns, guns, guns. Boy, do I love guns. Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, magnums, weird crazy plasma shooter things you loot off alien spaceships. Guns are awesome. I don’t think I was always this way, and I’m not entirely sure what caused me to love guns so much. And I don’t want to go all Jack Thompson on you guys, but I’m sure my enjoyment of shooters could at least partially have caused it.

But anyway, I’m currently on my third playthrough of Human Revolution (this time I decided to go for a gun-toting killing machine playthrough) and I’ve been using each and every one of the guns extensively. Upon reflection, I think the guns are part of why I like Human Revolution more than Deus Ex 1. It’s far, far from the biggest reason, but it’s just one example of how Human Revolution feels more refined.

In Deus Ex 1, the guns felt extremely uninspired. They looked like the same generic guns you find in every game. You didn’t really feel the recoil or the impact of the guns. You couldn’t really tell how much damage you were dealing to the enemies until they were dead. They just didn’t have a lot of visceral appeal.

Most of my ire, though, I hold for the reloading animations. Or I guess I should say lack thereof. Whenever you “reload,” your weapon simply moves down to the bottom of the screen, you wait for five seconds, and it comes back up. It doesn’t really feel like you’re reloading your weapon. Half-Life 1 felt better than this.

This might sound like an extremely petty complaint, but in a game where you’ll be using these guns a lot (admittedly you don’t have to in Deus Ex, but the option is there) they should feel satisfying.

Human Revolution completely trumps Deus Ex 1 in the guns department.

The weapon designs in this game are just really damn cool. My personal favorite is the design of the Revolver, though I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for revolvers in general. The guns look unique and advanced without looking like over-the-top Fisher Price toys that we get in most sci-fi games (I’m looking at you, Halo).

Not only are the firing and reloading animations fully fleshed out, some of them feel very unique, and they feel very viscerally appealing. You can really “feel” the blast of the revolver and the shotgun from the recoil and the sound of impact. The stun gun also feels very satisfying, as it shoots out a quick surge of electricity that instantly engulfs the victim’s entire body.

HR also has some interesting guns and gun mods. The laser rifle can shoot through walls, which makes it go hand-in-hand with the augmentation that lets you see guards through walls. The revolver can be modified to shoot explosive rounds. The tranquilizer rifle can be modded to tell you where to fire to hit moving targets, though I’ve heard that particular mod is fairly screwy.

The important thing about these guns is that they really fit the tone of the game — they’re stylized, but they still feel believable. Much like the sweet spot of having accessibility and depth, it’s hard to manage both stylization and believability. Many shooters try so hard to be realistic and atmospheric that they end up feeling bland and boring, like STALKER. Other shooters try so hard to be over-the-top and awesome that it’s impossible to become immersed, like with Serious Sam and Painkiller. Human Revolution really manages to hit the right middleground for me.

The Ultima IV Manual

As I basically stated in my previous post, I think I’m done with Fallout, for now at least. I really wasn’t expecting the game to be so unforgiving. I mean, people told me it was brutally hard, but I suspected people might have been exaggerating or influenced by nostalgia. As it turns out, no, Fallout really is a brutal game. So brutal that it just comes off as obnoxious.

What surprised me was the number of people who actually supported this decision to quit. I was expecting everyone to say, “No, dude, you’ve got to stick with it just a little bit longer! It’ll get better, I swear!” But instead the resounding opinion was, “Yeah, if the game is this frustrating, it might be best to quit.”

Thanks, guys. I really appreciate your understanding.

Anyway, I want to find another CRPG in the meantime. I have a lot of options available, but I figured I’d try out Ultima IV since it’s free now and it’s considered so hugely groundbreaking and all that.

So I started up the game, I went through lots and lots of text, I went through a pseudo-personality-test, and then I experienced what might be the most horribly unintuitive control scheme and interface I’ve ever seen in a game.

There appears to be no help screen, though if there is it’s not like the game tells you how to find it. All I can do is press buttons and try to figure out what they do. Here’s what I’ve got so far: A = attack, S = search, Q = save and quit.

Christ. Okay, I think I might actually have to read the manual this time around.

Now, I remember reading an Escapist news article about a year ago that talked about how kids are so stupid because they didn’t think it was necessary to read the manual for an old game. Actually, the article wasn’t that insulting toward the youngins, but the comments in the following thread certainly were.

As I’ve said before, I utterly resent the notion that “anybody who doesn’t want to read the manual is an idiot.”  That would be like saying people nowadays are lazy asses because they’d rather drive to work than walk there. Modern technology is better than the technology before it, and you can’t blame people for becoming accustomed to it. Personally, I’m really glad games are accessible enough nowadays that people other than neckbeards can play and enjoy them.

But I figured that if I want to enjoy Ultima IV, I’ll probably have to be a bit less stubborn. So I downloaded the manual off of GOG.com and skimmed through it.

As it turns out, the manual isn’t as long as I thought it would be. It’s only 21 pages long. Granted, each page is absolutely packed with text, but at least it isn’t as long as Fallout’s manual. (124 pages, FYI.) But here’s the punchline: The control scheme is not listed anywhere in the manual. In fact, the manual says nothing about how to play the game.

You see, the manual is titled The History Of Britannia, and it’s essentially a great big brick of flavor text about the history of the world. It’s not actually an instruction manual, despite its Adobe file clearly being named “Ultima_4_manual.pdf.” I suppose explaining the impenetrable control system to the player would have counted as breaking the fourth wall.

I am at a loss for words. This is truly baffling. I understand that technological limitations meant they couldn’t stick a tutorial or a help screen within the game itself. I get that. But what’s the manual’s excuse? Had instructions not been invented yet?

This game was released in 1985; in other words, before we had Gamefaqs. How did anybody learn to play it?

Fallout 9-7-11

Stream’s up.

You know, I made a post forever ago talking about how Plants vs. Zombies is such a brilliant game because it manages to hit that sweet spot of having accessibility and depth. I’m starting to feel like Fallout is the antithesis of that; it’s both inaccessible and insipid, at the same time. The challenge comes not from any semblance of strategy or skill, but from one’s willingness to put up with an obnoxious interface, a stupidly unforgiving leveling curve, and an ugly, nonsensical world.

I’m sorry if this sentence sounds redundant after that last paragraph, but Fallout is really starting to stress me out. I said I was going to see this game through to the end, but I just don’t want to anymore. I’ve had enough. People have said this game gets really good if you learn to tolerate its deficiencies, but I’m four hours in and the game has felt akin to pulling teeth every step of the way. I’ve found absolutely nothing about it fun or engaging. I’m really not sure how it can get out of the hole it’s dug itself into at this point.

Human Revolution: Rampaging Gunman

I’ve now completed two playthroughs of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. First was my “normal” playthrough (I try to sneak around, but use whatever weapons feel satisfying and natural to me and if I get caught or put in a particularly difficult situation I’ll use lethal force and kill the enemies) and second was my no-killing, no-detection, hard-mode playthrough. For my third playthrough I’ve decided I’m going to rampage through and murder every threat. I’m going Gears of War style on these bitches.

I will confirm that what other people have said is true; if you play a lethal, non-stealthy character, you will be penalized for it. Well, you won’t be “penalized,” but you’ll be given less rewards. The game lets you play either way, but it favors the careful, sneaky player.

But tell me something: was that last paragraph a description of Human Revolution, or Hitman: Blood Money? Because the truth is that the Hitman games work in exactly the same way, and nobody complains about it in those games.

And do you want to know why? It’s because it makes sense that way. I happen to agree with what Krellen said in the comments for my previous Deus Ex post:

“This isn’t a war scenario; you’re not a soldier. The “psychopathic” playthrough is, explicitly, doing it wrong. Why should it be rewarded?”

Having now played part of Human Revolution shooter-style, I can confirm that if you’re doing so, you’re deliberately playing the game incorrectly. It’s great that the game even allows you to do so, but I think that rewarding the sneaky player that refuses to kill makes perfect sense. When I noticed this gameplay mechanic the first thing that came to mind was Hitman, since it does the exact same thing; you can run through and shoot down all your targets, as well as any security guards in the way, but doing so will have the game slap you across the wrist and tell you that you’re doing it wrong. And that’s as it should be, because you are doing it wrong.

I’m sure the reason people are angry about it in this case is because they say the first Deus Ex 1 was all about letting you play how you want and not rewarding or penalizing you for it, which makes me wonder if people played the same Deus Ex I played, because the game I played gave the non-lethal player extra rewards a number of times. Just as an example, I remember the weapons expert at UNATCO refusing to give me the reward he had planned once he heard that I’d killed all the NSF guards in the previous mission. See there? The game explicitly said “You’re playing shooter style; you’re doing it wrong.”

Deus Ex may not penalize you as much as Human Revolution, but people need to stop describing it as the game that never judges you based on your playstyle, because it most certainly does.

And besides, just because Deus Ex did it, that doesn’t mean Human Revolution has to do it the exact same way. Human Revolution is not Deus Ex 1. This may be where I lose some of you, but the reason why I was excited about Human Revolution in the first place was because it looked so incredibly different from the first Deus Ex. I don’t want more Deus Ex; I want new Deus Ex. I want a new experience with new concepts. That’s exactly what Human Revolution is, and I love all the changes they made.

Except, you know, boss fights.


When I said Human Revolution will probably be my favorite game of 2011, Nick Lester Bell recommended the game Bastion to me.

So first, let me say thank you, Nick.

How, exactly, does one describe Bastion? That seems like a challenge in and of itself. I suppose “stylized” would be a good word to start off with. Everything about this game is very stylized and unique. Beautiful art style, brilliant soundtrack, top-notch voice acting, gorgeous set pieces.

The soundtrack in particular is something I’d love to talk about, although it’d feel slightly out of place to talk about it here since this is a gaming blog and not a music blog, and Mumbles already talked about it anyway. But still, this soundtrack is probably the best I’ve ever heard in a video game. Terminal March in particular really stood out for me, though I’m sure part of that is because of its vaguely Middle-Eastern influence and my Persian heritage.

But style is not this game’s only forte. Not by a long shot.

One problem I’ve had with several big indie games like Braid and LIMBO is that it seems like their designers were too obsessed with keeping their stories ambiguous and “open to interpretation.” The result is that the respective plots of these games are all but impenetrable. They want to make sure people will discuss them on forums, so they make it virtually impossible to know what’s going on without getting on forums.

Don’t get me wrong — I love both of those games. But both of their approaches to storytelling really bothered me.

Bastion doesn’t have that problem. Its method of storytelling is completely unique, and it also completely works. Throughout the adventure you’re followed by an in-game narration that gradually explains the backstory of the world around you.

I have to admit I was skeptical about this when I first heard about it; after all, isn’t the golden rule of storytelling “Show, don’t tell?” But I’m perfectly happy to have to eat my own words in this case. The narration works perfectly to the game’s favor. It tells you enough without telling you too much. It leaves certain things to the imagination, and it gives you the pieces of the puzzle and leaves it up to you to piece them together.

It also gives you a great deal of flavor text about the lore of the world, and I have to wonder how much more I would have liked that if I was a lore buff. You know lore buffs — they’re the people who read all the codex entries in Mass Effect, all the e-mails in Deus Ex, all the tales of Andraste in Dragon Age. They’re the ones who want to know all about the setting they’re exploring. I’m not one of those people, but I still got a kick out of the story. If you’re a lore buff, you’ll love this game.

Now, I’ve heard people say that the gameplay in Bastion is mediocre and the real strong point is in its story. I have to disagree. Not about the story, mind you — the storytelling was absolutely brilliant. But I also loved the combat.

The fighting in this game really works. It’s very refined, and it demands a level of skill from the player. What I love about it is that it allows and encourages varying play styles. You acquire a great deal of weapons throughout your journey, and every single weapon is unique and offers a different approach to combat. The musket packs a punch, but it’s also very inaccurate and has a fairly long reload. The machete is extremely fast, but you have to be right up against the enemy to land a successful hit. The bow is accurate and pierces enemies, but it takes a long time to pull the bowstring all the way back, and the arrow moves slowly once it’s launched.

I’m an adrenaline junkie; you all know that by now. I love moving about at high speeds and delivering quick hits. I found myself becoming quite fond of the dueling pistols and war machete. Those aren’t the best weapons, but they fit me perfectly. If you play, you’ll probably find a different loadout that suits your style.

So, all in all, Bastion is a fantastic game. It’s unique, it’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s compelling, and I’m not too big to admit that I found the finale very touching. But with all that said I still liked Human Revolution more. Let me explain why.

Bastion is, at its heart, a game about murdering tons of dudes. Yes, there’s a great deal of backstory underneath it, and the game has interesting characters and powerful storytelling, but what are you, the player, actually doing the whole time? You’re going through levels and killing everything that moves. That’s it. It’s a game about killing tons and tons of monsters.

Deus Ex is a game about killing, sneaking, hacking, persuading, and debating philosophy. Better yet, it rarely forces any of those different aspects upon you — you get to choose yourself which ones you want to do. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that what I value most in games is what I’m doing as a player. I want to feel like I’m a part of the experience. Gameplay first, everything else second. And what I love about the two Deus Ex games I’ve played (actually, I mean the only two Deus Ex games that exist, and anybody who wants to correct me on that should be slapped) is that all the player choice is given during gameplay. It makes the game feel far more intelligent, fleshed out and meaningful to me.

So it remains in my heart as the best game series to ever exist. That doesn’t mean it is, by any objective standards, but it just chimes really well with me.

Deus Ex vs. Human Revolution

I’ve read people’s thoughts of Human Revolution all over the ‘net. The resounding opinion seems to be that it’s a fantastic game, slightly marred by the horribly atrocious boss battles. Exact same opinion as mine, coincidentally.

Isn’t that nice? It’s always refreshing to get a game whose level of quality is almost unanimously agreed upon, unlike games with polarizing opinions and mixed reviews like Bulletstorm or Dragon Age 2. We can all play the game, look at each other and agree that it’s great or that it sucks. No flame wars, no rage. We can all shake hands and be friends.

But that just wouldn’t work for me, would it? No, I had to go and make the outrageous claim that Human Revolution is actually better than Deus Ex 1. How ridiculous is that? This new game is better than the timeless classic of 2000, the revolutionary action-RPG hailed commonly as the Greatest PC Game Of All Time? Bah. Kids these days.

Honestly, by now half of you probably think I just say whatever controversial statement will get me more views. I’ve never thought about it before, but looking back on it I lambasted an age-old sacred cow, I directed bitterly negative criticism toward several relics of the Church of Shooter RPGs, and now this. If it’s any consolation, I can say with all the honesty in my heart that flame baiting was never a motivating factor for anything I’ve written. I’ve always meant what I’ve said.

Anyway, some people objected and offered some valid reasons for why they think Deus Ex 1 is better. This caused me to look back and analyze the games further.

First off, I’ve heard complaints that Human Revolution doesn’t tend to be very receptive to your in-game actions. This sounds outrageous at first, since that was one aspect of Deus Ex that I absolutely loved, but you’ll really only notice problems in extreme cases, i.e. if you rampage through the streets gunning everybody down, people won’t call you a horrible sociopath later on.

This is very unfortunate, but to be fair, Deus Ex wasn’t very receptive of that sort of behavior either. You’ll notice comments about it in the first few missions (particularly from your brother Paul), but after that you’d be hard-pressed to find many remarks from NPCs about it, especially in the late-game. It was more receptive than Human Revolution, but not by that much.

Another complaint I’ve heard is that the game favors stealth over direct combat. You get more skill points for dispatching a guard with a non-lethal, silent takedown than with a shotgun blast. You also get bonus points for completing an objective without being detected, and another bonus for making it through without triggering an alarm. The bonuses aren’t huge, per se, but they do help.

Now, on one hand I can see why this bothers some people, because it technically does favor one play style over another. But to me it makes perfect sense. Stealth is generally far more challenging and risky than combat. If you get caught trying to sneak past a guard, you’re probably going to die quickly. Especially in hard mode. If you’re going for a shooter approach, you can just hide behind cover and carefully place your shots. Death is far less likely.

It’s higher risk, higher reward. That seems fair to me.

It’s also worth noting that a stealth build demands far more skill point allocations than a combat build. There aren’t many augmentations that directly support you in combat. If you get the armor upgrades you’re pretty much good to go. But there are many upgrades that support stealth, some of which are practically required if you want to make it through some of those late-game areas without being detected. So in a way it makes sense to say that stealth players would need more points.

I suppose people who want to play shooter-style and want to powergame will probably be irked by the game’s stealth rewards. It doesn’t bother me, since 1, I don’t particularly care for powergaming, and 2, I find sneaking past a platoon of guards far more satisfying and engaging than gunning them all down.

I think the main reason I find Human Revolution better than Deus Ex Vanilla is because HR is just more functional. Babitz said in the comments that DX1’s combat is more versatile, and while that is true, the combat in that game was also horribly dysfunctional in many ways.

The tranquilizer gun is a prime example. In DX1 shooting a guard with a tranq dart causes him to run around screaming for a good half-minute or so before he finally collapses and falls asleep. It’s meant for stealthy approaches, but the result is anything but stealthy.

In HR a headshot with the tranq gun will instantly knock out a guard, while a body shot will cause the guard to flinch, remain standing for several seconds, and then pass out and fall over. Not only does that work far better from a gameplay perspective, it also makes much more sense. It’s just better.

This is by no means an isolated example. I love Deus Ex, but the game is extremely unrefined. They had too many things they wanted to do, and it just ended up being very rough around the edges. Human Revolution had a far larger budget and a more focused, prepared studio, and they were able to polish the game to a mirror shine.

Except, you know, boss fights.

I enjoyed Human Revolution more than Deus Ex 1, and I’m still ranking it higher on my Best Games Evarr list. But I can see why others would consider the first game better. It’s not exactly clear-cut.