Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Josh and Tim play Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Some of these blog posts are of interest only to me, and I really think this is one of them. You’re welcome to read an account of two long time friends wasting a weekend playing a video game, gentle reader, but I’m not sure how much appeal that has to anyone else.
First things first though. Since the name Zelazny is featured pretty prominently on this blog, I’m probably going to attract a bunch of random searches for people looking how to complete the Michael Zelazny subquest in Deus Ex. I might as well post a link to the solution here so as not to disappoint them.(He's in the sewers near the Alice Garden Pods.)
This will have SPOILERS, so please don’t read any further if you want to discover things on your own.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you play Adam Jensen, former SWAT officer and current cyborg. You begin the game before he gets all his augmentations, and Tim and I were pretty terrible and it took us about thirty tries and two hours to get through the prologue. Things actually got much easier after that, however, and eventually we were down to dying only once every three minutes.
It’s a one player game, so Tim and I would pass the controller back and forth once we got killed. This occasionally had me rooting for the bad guys to kill Tim, so I could get my turn. This worked out pretty well, because there was more than one occasion where we would get killed three seconds after loading a game, and then we’d have to watch thirty seconds of loading screen before we could try again, and that time goes faster when you have a friend to joke with.
I like the game because it supports several different playstyles. You can sneak around, fight your way through, hack computers or try to talk your way past encounters. What typically happened was that we’d try to sneak around, bungle it badly and have to massacre everyone in the area. This happened at a warehouse. And a police station. And a FEMA camp. And a hospital. And…you get the picture.
Another friend had warned me about the dialogue, and I didn’t think it was all that terrible. It wasn’t great, but nor was it "Jill, here's a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you" level of awful either. In fact, I would call the dialogue pretty engaging in the some of the conversation trees, an aspect of the game that I thought was particularly well done.
Fights, as I mentioned before, are pretty lethal, but there’s usually a way to avoid them. An exception is the boss fights. The first was with a soldier named Barrett, who has a minigun in his arm. I mentioned that this seemed just a touch familiar and Tim pointed out that Square developed the game. He must have killed us two dozen times before I looked up a strategy to beat him, and upon executing it, I dropped him in less than ten seconds.
I don’t know what they were attempting with the second boss. She cloaks herself and tries to execute a guerilla battle against you, which would make for a challenging fight, except that my health regenerates and hers doesn’t. She’d come charging out, we’d exchange gunfire, I’d disengage if my health got low and we’d repeat it. She eventually died when off screen and the only reason I knew is because the game went into a cutscene. I assume she blundered into something that killed her.
Other general observations. The plot twists went exactly as we expected them to. Your girlfriend from the beginning is alive, just as we thought. Eliza is an AI. Of course she is. When I encounter a character named Cassandra, I figure that she can see the future and when I meet one called Eliza, I just assume she’s an AI. In fact, when I meet women named Eliza in real life, I just assume that they’re AIs until I learn otherwise.
Sometime your opponents respond well, sometimes, they don’t. Tim and I were getting carved up until I came up with the idea to pick up a big copy machine and hide behind it. I guess detection is based primarily on line of sight and the sound of movement, and neither of those apply when I’m crouching behind a big piece of machinery that I move every time their backs are turned. At one point Tim observed “These guys are as bad at their jobs as I am!” and made the joke, “Where did he go?! Quick, ask that copier!”
I like it, though. I’m one of the few people who even liked the second Deus Ex game, and this one, while not as ambitious as the original, has tons of pop culture references, from Robocop to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. It’s not perfect, but it’s a novel approach to game-making and I wouldn’t mind seeing more games along this line.