Thursday, 7 June 2012

Deus Ex vs DX: Human Revolution


Back in 2000, ‘Deus Ex’ was one of the most revolutionary games, managing to add its own influence into the gaming world and to successfully fuse the RPG and FPS genres together in a single game. A few years later a sequel came out, ‘Invisible War’, which received very mixed reactions from critics and fans alike, and then for a long time the franchise was pretty much over… or so it seemed. There had been rumours of the 3rd instalment for a long while, and then finally in 2011 ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ came out. Many consider it to be a much more successful addition to the series than ‘Invisible War’.

In this list I’ve decided to make a detailed comparison of the original ‘Deus Ex’ to the ‘Human Revolution’, tackling numerous aspects of the gaming experience. Has ‘Human Revolution’ managed to surpass the original, live up to it, or is it not even worthy of a rival? Well, let us find out.

***WARNING! SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!***



1)      The Story

The first aspect I’ll tackle here is the story. A great story is pretty much one of the defining characteristics of the Deus Ex franchise. In my opinion both games managed to show a very accurate and at the same time intriguing view on a possible future, about greed and conspiracy, power and corruption.

 There were lots of nice twists and turns in both games, and although Human Revolution did great, I think the original Deus Ex’s story is almost unbeatable. Things such as completely changing sides undoubtedly had a strong emotional impact on many gamers out there. JC was pretty much thrust right into the thick of it. The choices he had to make, being torn between following his brother and quietly following orders without questions was a powerful emotional dilemma. And even after the choice was made, things were never the same. Revisiting UNATCO for example after the escape from MJ12 base, it was so different. You knew you wouldn’t be coming back there again. Some of those people you were working with you’d see for the last time ever. You would be forced to move on, make new allies.

 Human Revolution had its own emotional moments as well, especially when finding out the truth towards latter parts of the game, but I didn’t quite think those emotions were as powerful and acute as what I felt when I played the original for the first time.

Deus Ex +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (1) : Human Revolution (0)



2)      The Atmosphere

The atmosphere is affected by several aspects, such as the visuals, the soundtrack, good dialogue, intelligent enemies, and so on. However, I thought I’d make it as a separate category just to see how both games did in general in regard to how intense and immersive they’ve been. Needless to say, both Deus Ex and Human Revolution can certainly boast with their intense atmosphere. When I play either of those games, I feel like I am in there, in the game’s world, getting into the role, experiencing the events unfold, and making the decisions on behalf of the leading characters. Since both games have vastly succeeded in this, I’d have to say that in terms of atmosphere it’s a tie.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (2) : Human Revolution (1)



3)      Visuals

First thing to note is that the games are more than 10 years apart. Human Revolution obviously has way better and more realistic graphics. The characters look more lifelike, the environments have more detail, the cinematics are stunning, and so on. However, there is one trump card that the original can pull out. It has way better looking visual aesthetics. The environments and locations are all full of colours and nice colour contrasts, whereas Human Revolution is mostly limited to golden, brown, and black. Of course HR’s style makes it atmospheric, but then the original managed to be atmospheric too but without this sacrifice of the aesthetics. For that reason, in terms of visuals, I pick the original as the winner.

Deus Ex +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (3) : Human Revolution (1)



4)      The Soundtrack

Another feature that made the original so well-received was its amazing soundtrack, ranging from the main theme, to the various tracks playing during missions. Deus Ex music is simply unforgettable. Now, I think many fans were pleased that Human Revolution too had a fantastic soundtrack. Its main theme, Icarus, especially stands out, delivering masses of emotion just within those 3 and a half minutes. But Icarus is not the only good song on the Human Revolution soundtrack. There are plenty of other good tracks, most being quite atmospheric and perfectly suiting the dystopian feel of the game’s world. Weighing up both ends, I have to make this one a draw as well, since both soundtracks are mindblowing.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (4) : Human Revolution (2)



5)      The Protagonist

Now we’ll take a look at our leading protagonists – JC Denton and Adam Jensen. I think from their choice of attire, as well as witty dialogue lines, and general style, we can conclude they’re both really cool protagonists. They share a lot of similarities and both undergo big, emotional events that shape their outlook on the outside world and the people around them. So which of them has more depth and is more efficient at what they do? Well, even in this regard I think they are pretty evenly matched. Both have travelled the world and battled numerous foes to uncover a conspiracy and to change the course of events.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (5) : Human Revolution (3)



6)      Supporting Characters

So now we know the leading protagonists are pretty strong in both games, we should take a look at other characters. Have they been developed well too? After all, good supporting characters which have recognizable and relatable personality traits are important for the immersion into the game’s world. In the original we had JC’s brother, Paul, as well as other people working in UNATCO, and then we also had all sorts of powerful people, ranging from MJ12 to Illuminati. They all played a role and made an impression on the overall story. What about Human Revolution? Well, here it’s the same thing. We have well-developed co-workers – Sarif as a cool boss who really cares about the augmentation projects, Malik as a female helicopter pilot who is always there to support Jensen, Pritchard as the tech guy and his constant yet funny arguments with Jensen. And then we have other great characters too – the special ops assassins, the politicians, the billionaires. So to conclude, I think both games have fantastic supporting characters, all of which showed depth.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (6) : Human Revolution (4)



7)      General Combat Mechanics

All right, and now for action. On our journeys we’ve come across all sorts of enemies, obstacles, and the like. Well, this is where I definitely think Human Revolution made an improvement over the first game. Now you take cover during gunfights, which is very helpful. And the cover system itself is very well done, because you can easily move from cover to cover without problems, and you can also aim from cover at the enemies in front. This allows gunfights to be smooth and realistic. For this, Human Revolution gets the point.

Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (6) : Human Revolution (5)



8)      Stealth and Up close

Now then, undoubtedly many players choose to play stealthily through both games, and in fact these games do encourage this sort of gameplay more than all out run and gun. There are always multiple ways to solve problems and alternate strategies that can be taken to avoid an upfront encounter. This also brings us to the up close fighting. In Human Revolution, melee weapons were completely replaced and in their stead we have the takedowns. Now takedowns are really great, because they offer an instant kill or K.O to an enemy, providing they are right next to the protagonist. Most of these takedowns look really cool and stylish and greatly spice up the stealthy aspect of the game. In this regard I think HR had yet again made an improvement. The stealthy gameplay is great in both games, but the inclusion of takedowns earns Human Revolution a point.

Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (6) : Human Revolution (6)



9)      The Enemies

One of the most important aspects of any game are the enemies. They are the main challenge and therefore they have to be designed properly as well. They have to be interesting, diverse, and to keep the player on the toes. Let us take a look then at the great enemy selection of both games.

 In the original Deus Ex, we’ve had a massive variety of opposition. First of all the people – we had thugs, NSF troopers, UNATCO/MJ12 soldiers, as well as Men and Women in Black, and also Commandoes. Secondly, there were 5 types of bots (small security bot, medium security bot, large security bot, small spider bot, large spider bot), and lastly, we’ve also had the alien beings (greys, greasels, and karkians).

Unfortunately, in Human Revolution the variety was much smaller. In HR we’ve only really faced thugs, military men, and security bots. Sure, not all military men were the same, but they sure felt like they were. There weren’t distinct differences between them. In the original for example, you’d never mistake an MJ12 trooper for an MIB or a Commando, because they looked way differently and they also provided a different level of challenge/danger. In HR, most of these soldiers are just generic military men, the robots only come in 2 types, and there are no alien or other animal beings at all. The final level did provide us with a slightly different enemy type though, and that is why I like that level, but that is still not quite enough, because even then, those enemies were just people. To summarize, I think the enemy selection was better in the original due to the sheer diversity of who you encountered.

Deus Ex +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (7) : Human Revolution (6)



10)  The Boss Fights

This is perhaps the only area where Deus Ex series in general doesn’t put much emphasis on, and in a way I prefer it that way. Boss fights are more suitable for your typical adventure games and not so much for story-rich FPS RPGs as Deus Ex. In the original you faced a handful of bosses, but those fights could be tackled in another manner, and some of them could even be ignored completely. It wasn’t such a good idea to just go all out in those fights, unless you were loaded with heavy weapons and defensive augmentations.

 In Human Revolution you had to face a few bosses too, but these ones were compulsory. You couldn’t skip them or simply run away. Additionally, there were no alternate ways of dealing with these bosses either, apart from simply fighting them head on. In fact, this aspect of the game received a lot of criticism as it did not allow for stealthy solutions to defeating these bosses.

 Overall, I think boss fights are a weak point of both games and in a way I am glad they were not emphasized so much, so this one is simply a draw, because neither game really prevails over the other in this aspect.

No points

Total so far:
Deus Ex (7) : Human Revolution (6)



11)  The Locations

Now let’s take a look at the stages, or probably more accurate to simply call them locations. Both games have a mixture of locations. Some are cities where you converse with NPCs and do side quests, whilst others simply involve you to be constantly in action. I’ll have a look at both of them.

 Now both games certainly did a terrific job in the action locations. In the original, some of the most memorable action missions were The Airfield, VersaLife labs, The Cathedral, Vandenberg base, and of course the grand finale, Area 51. In Human Revolution there were a few memorable action missions too, although those were mostly in the second half of the game, missions such as Hengsha docks, Singapore facility, and Panchea. However, after looking at everything, I think the original had a lot more diversity in these locations and also the kind of tasks that needed to be done. Some of the places were simply unique, like the Ocean Lab for example, which completely deviated from the rest in its style due to the fact that you were all alone in an underwater facility overrun with alien creatures and rogue turrets. In HR, apart from the above mentioned, all the other action mission locations sort of seemed to be the same to one another.

 But let us look at the city locations as well, the times when we take a break from the intense action missions and do more investigating and such. In the original Deus Ex there were three such locations – Hell’s Kitchen (which you visited 3 times in total), Hong Kong, and Paris. All three of these were fantastic locations, especially Hong Kong, which was especially charming in its style. Human Revolution had only 2 cities, each of which you visited twice. Detroit I thought was done well, but Hengsha was a tad disappointing due to most streets looking the same and the city simply being too big, causing long, unnecessary walks whilst solving side quests. I wished there were more city locations in the game. Instead of visiting Detroit and Hengsha the second time, perhaps we could’ve had an extra city or two. So with both, city locations and action locations, I think the original Deus Ex beats Human Revolution.

Deus Ex +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (8) : Human Revolution (6)



12)  Hacking

One of the big aspects of gameplay of both games was hacking into security terminals and computers of various sorts, as well as locating codes and passwords. In the original, when infiltrating a base or facility of some kind, it was always fun to hack its security system and at times to even turn it onto your side. In the Human Revolution this aspect has been taken to a whole new level. Now in order to hack, one must play a mini-game and attempt to take over the security node before the system recognizes your presence and boots you out. This mini-game is such a major part of the gameplay that there are even items and augmentations to help you with it. And as for attaining codes and passwords, HR has done wonders here too. You no longer have to memorize the codes that you read in the pocket secretaries or from someone’s email. Now your protagonist remembers it in-game, which makes life a whole lot easier for us. So when it comes to hacking, Human Revolution definitely wins.

Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (8) : Human Revolution (7)



13)  Weapons and Items

Now this one is pretty tough, because there is a large variety of weapons and items in both games. In terms of variety I think they both did a great job. However, how good are these items? How effective are the weapons? How original and ingenious are these things?

 Let’s first look at the regular firing weapons. Both games have pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, which seem to be about the same in HR as in the first Deus Ex. But they also have a lot of other weapons. Both games have a crossbow. However, the original’s miniature version that fires tranquiliser darts is a lot cooler and more useful. Both games have a rocket launcher. Once again, the original’s GEP gun is much cooler and more intriguing. The original Deus Ex also has a far better sniper rifle. In HR, we have two sniper-like weapons – a regular sniper rifle and a transquiliser rifle. Sniper rifle is loud but deadly. Tranq rifle is non-lethal but silent. However, the original’s sniper rifle is both, or technically speaking it’s just loud and deadly at first, but one can equip a silencer to it. Now in HR, if one wants a silenced sniper rifle, they have to get one with the DLC. Tsk tsk. Sneaky. OK, well both games also feature weapons that another doesn’t. HR has a really cool magnum revolver and a heavy rifle (sort of like a minigun), both of which are nice additions. It also has a laser cannon and a PEPS gun, but let’s not get started on these, as they are kind of subpar. And the original… well that has a Flamethrower, which is a pretty sweet weapon. I am still kind of puzzled as to why this was not included in HR.

Melee weapons. Well, HR kind of replaced these with the option of making takedowns, which is a fair trade in my opinion. Although one cannot deny that the original Deus Ex had some really awesome melee weaponry, such as a retractable baton and the Dragon’s Tooth blade, not to mention the pepper spray.

Grenades. Both games sort of have similar grenade types here, so they are probably more or less even. Although one should take a look at functionality too. In HR there was a cool option to turn grenades into mines. I must say I thought that was a great idea. However, the original already allowed this option but without the need of acquiring mine templates. In the original, one could both - throw a grenade and to plant it on the wall like a mine.

And then we have all the other items, such as food, alcohol, buffs. I think with these both games did all right, though would’ve been nice if HR had those tech armors like the original had, things such as HazMat suit, Ballistic armor, etc.

To conclude, I think it’s a pretty close one, but the original wins out by a fair bit, because its weapons were a little bit more original and more interesting.

Deus Ex +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (9) : Human Revolution (7)



14)  Skills and Augmentations

Both Deus Ex games contain plenty of RPG elements. Skills and augmentations are pretty much how these elements are represented. A player gains experience points in-game by completing objectives and exploring so then he/she can use them to ‘level up’ so to speak. The idea of augmentations is the same in both games, but it’s executed slightly differently. In the original Deus Ex, we had two separate categories – the skills (natural abilities more or less) and the augmentations (the engineered/inhuman abilities). In Human Revolution, the two categories kind of merged.

Now there are many great skills to learn in both games. The original blew me away, and I was impressed that Human Revolution managed to deliver this feature in all its glory as well. To compare and to decide which one has better augmentations is a bit hard. The original Deus Ex had some really great ones, like the Aggressive Defence, Spy Drones, Synthetic Heart, all of which HR lacks, but on the other hand HR has some of its own new ones, like the Typhoon, Icarus landing, as well as abilities to punch through weakened walls, extend your inventory space, and a few others.

One more thing to note is that in the original the number of experience points and upgrade canisters was very limited and also some of the augmentations were mutually exclusive to each other. This meant that the player could not go for all available options and really had to decide hard on which he/she would need the most. In HR, one can pretty much gain most (if not all) of the available augmentations by the end of the game. Although this is a big difference, I can’t really say that one way is better than the other. The original allows for more replayability, but limits the player, whereas HR allows more freedom but also decreases the replayability.

So, after taking all these factors into account, both games are evenly matched when it comes to skills and augs.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

Total so far:
Deus Ex (10) : Human Revolution (8)



15)  The Endings

One of very distinct features that made Deus Ex stand out back in its time was the aspect of multiple endings. Not only was this option given, but it was executed spectacularly. In the final level of the game, the story goes such a way that each of JC’s allies ends up suggesting a different course of action, and so it finally comes down to JC having to make a moral decision, a decision which future of the whole planet would depend on. Each of the three endings carried a strong philosophical meaning behind it.

 Human Revolution certainly wasn’t going to miss out on this feature, and as a result we have multiple endings here too, except this time it’s done slightly differently. First of all, there are 4 endings rather than 3. Secondly, the endings do not require a separate quest path. The decision is actually made right after the final boss fight, literally with the press of a button. And thirdly, the ending cinematics are done differently. The difference was that instead of showing an animated, action-packed cinematic, we actually get to see lots of clips of real life people and places, and on top of it there is Jensen’s voiceover about his decision. The first time I actually was a bit disappointed with this approach, but after having viewed each of the four endings, this style grew on me and I was really touched. I think the combination of clips, Jensen’s strong words, and beautiful music really made the end of the game very powerful. Now which game did it better? This is a very tricky decision, because both games provided endings with strong philosophical concepts and very subjective themes. Because of that, one cannot call any ending a good ending or a bad. They’re all grey area endings, and this is why I loved them so much in both games. They were simply fantastic.

Deus Ex +1
Human Revolution +1

The Final Score:

Deus Ex (11) : Human Revolution (9)




Final Conclusion

So then, the scores tell us that the original Deus Ex slightly prevails (at least by my analysis), but the games have been evenly matched on many levels and Human Revolution certainly lived up to its predecessors and made for a great Deus Ex game. The original set the bar extremely high, reaching perfection of gaming pretty much, and to beat it would’ve been incredibly hard. However, Human Revolution, although didn’t beat it, managed to be a very worthy rival. It might’ve fallen down a bit when it came to variation and diversity of in-game material, but it managed to add some cool new features which greatly spiced up the gameplay.

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