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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.

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25 responses

  1. While I get what you’re saying, I never felt that stealth was , quote ‘higher risk, higher reward’. If anything, stealth done well eliminates any and all risk.

    Entering an open shootout with more than three enemies is incredibly dangerous, because if they flank you and get some good shots in, you’re pretty much dead. Plus there’ll be alarms and reinforcements to deal with. In constrast, if you do the stealth-silent-takedown mambo well, you pretty much eliminate all semblance of danger… and IF you get caught, it’s not even that big a deal, because the lack of proper combat augments (armor, true, but the anti-electricity aug is so useful that my sneaky guy picked it up anyway) means you’re pretty much on the same combat level as a ‘dedicated combat player’.

    I guess that would be the point: there’s a lot of options to improve your stealthings, but there are hardly any options that are straight combat. Armor, typhoon, recoil and reticule growth, as far as I can see, and that last one is pointless anyway in a cover-based shooter. Maybe if the game offered a little more options for the ruthless psychopath demographic, people wouldn’t feel pressured to play stealthy so much. Because as it stands, if you’re not going to sneak, a significant part of the augments is just kind of pointless.

    September 5, 2011 at 2:36 AM

    • Niryain

      As someone that’s going through a rampaging playthrough now, I’ll agree on this. At the beginning of the game it doesn’t seem like it’s too hard, but that’s because you’re fighting street thugs. The period between the first and second boss fights, which I just got through last night, was pretty brutal, as suddenly you go from fighting gang members with 10mm pistols to a room with 5 well trained and armored dudes and a robot all using something automatic. There were times where I basically shot a few guys then ran for the next area.

      There are all of three augs that really help a combat build, armor, typhoon, and the recoil thing. After that, all my points are going into utility mods like sprint-based ones. Because, hey, being able flee faster is always useful. But, I foresee myself having about the ‘sameish’ combat capability for the rest of the game. Which isn’t THAT much.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    • JPH

      I can see what you’re saying. I’m starting to feel like even comparing the challenge of shooting to the challenge of stealth is a waste of time. It’s like when the Band kids and the Orchestra kids argue over whether the trumpet is harder to play than the violin.

      September 5, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    • krellen

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

      September 6, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      • Because Deus Ex is, at the core, a game about allowing the player to go through the game in any way they want. And while that’s certainly still possible, it feels like Human Revolution gives me the tools to shoot my way through levels, then slaps me on the wrist and says “No, you’re doing it wrong! Now stealth more!

        September 6, 2011 at 3:37 PM

        • I disagree that the game is about letting you go through the game however you want, and agree with the game that you are, in fact, doing it wrong. You can use multiple methods to solve problems, but there is a preferred way of doing it. You’re a secret agent, not an unfettered adventurer.

          September 6, 2011 at 5:43 PM

          • I suppose the attitude with which you approach the game is a big determinant in how you feel about this issue.

            September 7, 2011 at 7:22 PM

      • I AGREE MAN! A true bad ass can enter a room filled with bad guys and get everything he needs to done without anyone knowing that he was even within a city block. (except for those select few who wake up in storage closets and air ducts wondering how they got there)

        September 15, 2011 at 2:02 AM

  2. Icyn

    Don’t know what’s been said before about the differences, but here’s my two cents:

    I still consider DX1 better than HR, for the simple reason of story. I’ve never been too bothered with clunky mechanics as long as they work somehow.

    Best example that comes to mind in regards to writing in the games is the three “boss fights.” (which btw. didn’t bother me anywhere near as much as everyone else it seems) In DX1 we get Navarre, Hermann and Simmons, as mentioned before. All of whom you meet before and who you can talk to and even relate to some degree. You get to know these guys during the game before having to fight them. You know your antagonists. In DX:HR you never learn anything more than small snippets of information of the three cyborgs. You barely even learn their names. There’s some small hints that two of them liked each other but that’s it. No reason for us to care.

    I got the same feeling with the main bad guys in the games. In DX1 you had a good well fleshed out story about the conflicting conspiracies and you were brought in on all that went on before a the end. In HR you don’t even know who you’re fighting against until at very late stages of the game. Even then they don’t do much more than clumsy hints at the conspiracies. The game is a bit confused at who we’re supposed to be fighting against. And while that is probably intentional I found it detracts from the story. Any DX1 fan can probably puzzle out more from the emails and other references but I didn’t find it anywhere near as compelling as it was in DX1.

    But that’s just because I value story above anything else in games. And even with those few nitpicks I put DX:HR somewhere on the top of the “best games I’ve played” -list. Just not above DX1.

    September 5, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    • JPH

      Fair points. I’ll absolutely agree that DX1 had a better story, and a much better ending.

      I guess the big difference here is what we value most in our games. To me it’s gameplay mechanics, to you it’s story.

      September 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      • Having now finished it, I honestly think that Human Revolution had the better story, especially the ending (my choice even made me tear up a little).

        This is only by a slight amount, mind you, the general theme and structure to the story in both games is very VERY similar so differentiating them is a little difficult.

        September 5, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        • JPH

          Really? That’s interesting. I definitely did like Human Revolution’s ending, and its story in general. But the ending of DX1, that was just something else. It very deeply affected me. I’ve actually been meaning to write a post about it for a long time now.

          September 5, 2011 at 4:40 PM

          • I look forward to reading it. Which one was the one that affected you? I found Tracer Tong’s ending worked the best for me.

            September 5, 2011 at 5:27 PM

            • JPH

              My favorite ending ended up being the Helios one. It’s hard to explain why, though I’m going to try to. :P

              September 5, 2011 at 6:30 PM

              • Yeah, it would be hard for me to explain why I like the Tong ending as well. I think that might be why I prefer Human Revolution’s ending more, since I can justify why I made the choice that I made, why I found it interesting and how I felt it completed to story of Adam Jensen.

                September 6, 2011 at 5:54 AM

  3. Babitz

    You make fair points, but I would argue against stealth being harder. Stealth was a lot easier in HR than combat, to the point that I finished the game without really feeling a challenge or getting stuck. I played on ‘Give me Deus Ex’. Yeah, I had a blast, but I’m reluctant on replaying it with a more aggressive playstyle because I like to reach my full potential in RPGs. It’s not only the stealth that’s more rewarding, so is hacking. Finding codes is useless since you will miss out on XP if you don’t hack. Sure, it’s not a lot, but it piles up over time. I think finding codes should have been rewarded too because it’s an effort as well. A lot of you probably don’t care about this, but I get all OCD in RPGs regarding stats and potential.

    I also hated the cinematics in HR. I believe that every cinematic cutscene apart from the first and last ones were unnecessary. They were kind of low res and they took me out of the game because I could comfortably leave my controls and stretch out. It was especially weird in scenes like when you find ‘windmill’ where you have a cinematic cutscene dialogue which switches to your regular ingame dialogue and then the game resumes. It’s not a game breaker, but I just really didn’t like it.

    I have to say I loved the dialogues which felt like they were the real boss battles. I also loved the story up until the last hour of play where it just fell apart for me. But for me, the writing steals the show. It’s not your typical Bioware copy / paste level design where everything looks the same. When you enter a janitor’s closet, you see mops, toilet paper rolls and whatnot. Every location has stuff that belongs there. Like workplace emails and a shitload of other stuff. It’s the little things like these that make games shine in my eyes and immerse me. Also, not having lazy designed chest high walls everywhere just for the sake of gunplay is great. Huge hubs were also fun. I had a blast platforming and getting lost.

    I’d argue that the combat in the original tends to be broken pretty much only because the AI tends to be hilariously bad, but I guess we’ll add this one to personal preference.

    To me, the greatest difference between the games is the genre. HR is not an immersive sim, primarily because object interaction felt to me like it was there only because of necessity. You could basically pick up only crates, fridges and vending machines, all of which were used for concealment, improvising a staircase or a weapon and for hiding a ventilation shaft. You can also flush toilets and use faucets which felt like a nice nod to the original. In the original, however, you can interact with virtually anything within some reasonable boundaries. I remember entering Paul’s apartment for the first time and I could pick up and throw around his dishes. I could throw around microscopes, balls, trophies, flags and whatnot in UNATCO HQ. It had no purpose, but the developers said “Why the fuck not?”.

    Yes, the original has problems, but it also has such depth and complexity few (if any) games can match, HR being one of those that can’t. I could write ages for what I liked better in each game and my various reasons for it, but this wall of text is already too long so I better stop before I outdo your post’s word count.

    Tl;dr I agree with a lot of your points and I see why someone would prefer HR.

    One more note, though. You like well told stories and characters, right? Did you ever give Planescape: Torment a go? If you haven’t, you really should. No game can match it in that field.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    • Babitz

      Oh god this is so long I feel embarrassed.

      September 6, 2011 at 10:19 PM

      • JPH

        Mine is longer. :P

        I agree that using codes should have given you the same amount of XP, or at least some XP. And yeah, the AI is my main issue with Deus Ex 1’s combat, and its stealth.

        I haven’t played Planescape yet. It might be sitting in my brother’s closet; he has a lot of CRPGs lying around. I got the original Fallout trilogy, Icewind Dale 2, and Baldur’s Gate 2 from him. So far Baldur’s Gate 2 is the only one I particularly liked, at least until I got stuck on that damn room with the umber hulks.

        September 6, 2011 at 10:41 PM

        • Babitz

          I’m pretty sure you’re aware of it, but you can get PS:T on GOG for 10$. Alternatively, you can torrent it and Black Isle doesn’t exist anymore so it’s not like you’re holding your money away from them.
          It’s not a game for everyone, though, since 80% of the game consists of reading.

          September 6, 2011 at 10:47 PM

          • JPH

            Yeah, that’s my main concern. I’m alright with text in small doses, like in (say) Amnesia, but if it’s going to encompass most of the experience then I might get sick of it.

            Guess it wouldn’t hurt to try, though.

            Incidentally, I’ve been considering doing a text-based LP of Baldur’s Gate 2, or Ultima IV since I got it for free off GOG, or one of those other CRPGs. How would that sound?

            September 6, 2011 at 10:54 PM

            • The story of Ultima IV is more emergent, which I think would make for a better LP. The “plot points” in Ultima can be tackled whenever you like, while Baldur’s Gate has a more linear story with things happening in a certain order and in certain places.

              The path to the Avatar could be quite different depending on which eighth you get first, while the story of Baldur’s Gate will unfold major plot points pretty much the same no matter how you play.

              September 7, 2011 at 4:18 PM

  4. Babitz

    Dunno. I’ve never really read any text-based LP, but I guess a try wouldn’t hurt.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:58 PM

  5. rlilewis

    Both games have their up and downs but I still think the original is much better.

    The augs and gameplay are heavily biased towards stealth. When I got the game I wanted to spec to be a terminator but although you are a mech aug rather than nano your character is incredibly weak, add into that a lack of ammo and rubbish weapons (assault rifle with 20 rounds? This is the future riiiight!?!?). My nano aug in dx felt much more like a terminator – ballistic protection + ballistic vest + energy shield + super fast run/high jump + missile detonation + plasma rifle/flamer/gep gun = utter devastation.

    I imagined the mech aug in dxHR to be kinda like the cyborgs in syndicate wars (able to soak up tonnes of damage) or the cyborg commando in tiberian sun and have like a arm mounted plasma/flamer combi weapon or have a gatling cannon bolted on. Instead I feel like a gimped nano aug.

    Also wtf is up with the energy required to knife people? That is so lame, people say its for balance, well I say why not just have much more enemies and smarter AI (they are so mentally handicapped in HR its almost funny). Not to mention that its so loud that everyone in a mile radius knows you just killed a guy.

    The original dx did have boss fights (kinda) but you could bypass them if your character was specced for tech/stealth.

    Personally I just think that the original made you feel like much more of a badass. I’m not hating on HR, I just completed it (on hardest difficulty) and will probably replay but I think my playthrough is going to feel almost exactly the same given the game is so biased towards stealth and the combat augs suck.

    September 22, 2012 at 8:41 AM

  6. rlilewis

    I want to add more cos I’m not finished. You are wrong about the tranq crossbow in DX, if you shoot them in the head/neck with decent skill they will drop instantly from what I remember (I haven’t played it in a few months), not to mention you have the stun prod. Also the crossbow is more useful imo for creating distractions, you can shoot it at walls and stuff so enemies go and investigate kinda like the noise arrow in thief.

    I’m really not a fan of the story in DX HR, I was often finding it hard to follow and half the time I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be doing or why I should care. They would quite often just put a new character in front of you and Adam would be like “oh hey its you … blah blah blah” and I’d be like *who the hell is this guy!?* The original DX story and most importantly the conspiracy aspects were SO much better and I think it correlates exactly with what is happening in real life – false flags, reduction in liberties to “protect us” and the idea of a man made virus and controlled supply of a antivirus by a powerful corporation. Also there definitely seems to be some strong anime influence over HR (just look at the picus girl plus the stealth boss and the chinese aug company boss), which I don’t like and seems to pair up with the more fantasy story.

    I still play the original every few months and think the graphics are really good for its age, plus there is the HDTP, there are also gameplay improvement mods (shifter mod) and some fans have recreated entire levels (I was gobsmacked at how good and professional they are), plus there is even a fan made game “2027” that focuses on a mech aug, which I highly recommend any true DX fan to play cos in that you really can be a terminator and its just an amazing mod (again an extremely professional build).

    Overall I would say HR was a good game but it had tonnes of potential that wasn’t exploited and I don’t feel there was enough choice in augmentations to back up the combat line.

    September 22, 2012 at 9:11 AM

  7. rlilewis

    OK still not done again lol. I want to speak about the level design and music.

    First off is the music (and ambiance); this in my opinion is hands down better in DX. I listen to all the tracks often and they are AMAZING! Other than the main DXHR theme tune I can’t really think of any tunes that I want to go back and listen to. The DX tunes just have so much character and make you think… oh yeah I remember this part, thats when you do such and such. I listen to the 2 hour dx music compilation on youtube all the time and I can pretty much remember and visualize exactly where I would be and what I would be doing in the game to the music playing. (FF7 also has this effect)

    Second the level design. I think the Hong Kong and versalife areas sum up the game for me – really cool industrial espionage/sabotage. I didn’t get this same feeling in DXHR, nothing in DXHR really seemed that top secret or amazing. I mean DX had friggin aliens in labs and chemically altered agents that had glowing red eyes and grey skin.

    Hands down better imo.

    September 22, 2012 at 9:28 AM

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