Deus Ex: Human Revolution won't need much introduction for most players. It's a prequel to the Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War taking place 20 years before the events of Deus Ex. From a game design perspective, it's worth breaking down a little of what the hallmarks of Deus Ex have been in the first two games from my view point and then comparing them to the third.
Gameplay pillars of Deus Ex
First Person Shotter- The first two Deus Ex's were built on FPS engines (Quake and Unreal) and builds upon the FPS genre. You have guns and standard FPS controls. You shoot people and robots and they die or explode.
Exploration, multiple pathways and interactive elements- Levels tend to be sprawling and here are usually multiple ways to travel through the level. There are usually objects like explosive barrels, crates and terminals that can be hacked to assist the player again giving the player choice in completing the level.
Stealth option- Unlike most action shooters, stealth rather than shooting is usually a viable tactic and often beneficial in many respects as enemies can and do respond to sound and you will often find yourself surrounded if you go in guns blazing.
RPG Elements and upgrades- Your character is able to be upgraded like in a role playing game allowing you to increase various aspects of your character such as being able to run more silently or jump higher
Hubs instead of traditional levels- Generally each area is broken up into game hubs. Each hub is large interconnected area where you can visit bars or chat with the locals. The 'levels' in the game are either part of the game hub, such as different levels in a bar or areas that you travel to from the game hub. Your character will often return back to the game hub after you successful complete an 'off-site mission'. This gives the impression that your game is taking place in a city or organic space helps immerse the player in the environment.
Logs, stories and subquests- Very often there will minor plots and stories that can be gleaned from logs and computers located around environment. This helps give more substance to the world. Furthermore, certain facts of the world such as passwords or secret locations maybe located in these logs rewarding players for being thorough.
Does Deus Ex: Human Revolution match all of these requirements?
The answer is yes. Every single one of those things are in the game and in a fairly good way.
However, there are a couple things I would like to mention that disappointed me about the game. Some of which has been part of the series since the first game. Let me say first of all however, this in no way diminishes Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It's still very much a game I recommend playing.
Box simulator- The game has a heap of boxes and crates which serve various useful purposes mostly as a way to get up to high places and distracting enemies. At times it felt like I was playing a really expensive box simulator considering how much stacking and shifting of boxes I was doing.
Vent crawling simulator- Playing as a stealth character in the game means you spend a huge amount of time stuck in vents. I think I spent more than half my time in levels crawling through them or retreating through them. I'm not sure how else to make this less boring but maybe reduce the number of vents and increase the number of catwalks?
Yellow and Gold everywhere- Yes the gold filter is cool but after a while I did wish there were more colours than that. For example, maybe gold could be used for Detroit, green for Hengsha and blue for Singapore?
Melee combat could be better- Melee combat isn't bad but it does feel a bit inorganic since all you really do is head towards one enemy and watch a cutscene about it. If you have an upgrade you can watch Adam take down two enemies at once.
Also any melee combat regardless of whether you're sneaking behind someone or confronting them consumes 1 whole energy bar. This creates a rather strange situation where disabling three guards costs more energy than cloaking for a few seconds or lifting a large dumpster to chuck at them!
There are probably several ways I would improve this. 1) Having takedowns of various 'power levels' where you can slowly take an enemy down without energy or have a faster takedown where energy is drained. 2) Have a system where you can take down a group of close enemies similar to the Typhoon system but for melee. 3) The ability to drop down on enemies and knock them out.
Lethal and nonlethal methods- Being non-lethal is quieter and awards you more points if you knock guards out however at the same time but storywise, this doesn't really seem to affect much at all which is a bit of a shame.
More hubs and levels-There are only 2 major hubs. Detroit and China. Feels a bit of a shame considering how many different cities there are. The last few sections are linear levels and the revelations just come way too quickly compared to the drawn out nature of Detroit and Hengsha. A second or third hub would have really helped pace the game much more instead of the many linear levels that are suddenly thrown at us at the end.
Enhancement variety- I kind of miss the quirky nature of some of the other enhancements in the old games such as the exploding spy drones. I think more thought needs to be given to the enhancements in the game to make them more exciting and with greater variety. Maybe more drones or something.
More and better dialogue battles- These are definitely fun but compared to Alpha Protocol which had plenty of major characters and where each dialogue felt interesting, the dialogue battles here seem a little bland and it's sometimes hard to know whether what you're saying is working or not.
Linearity- Like all the previous games, the game is very linear except for choices at the end. Nothing you do is actually is going to affect the game missions in any real major way.
Nothing new- Throughout the game I got the feeling that I wasn't seeing anything really new in the series aside from the combat and dialogue battles. Everything else, the box stacking, the upgrades etc. the questing system are all gameplay mechanics we've seen before in past Deus Ex games. I'd like to see a more in-depth factional system in progress and different storylines with different missions. For me the linearity of Deus Ex in each game is a real sticking point for me. I understand the need for linearity but surely having multiple plot lines (even if they all converge on the same ending level) is something we can achieve more than 10 years after the original? I guess you could say Alpha Protocol has really raised the bar for other FPS/RPGs when it comes to choice.
Ending- We know the future of Deus Ex so it would be good to clarify what ending was actually canon. Why keep it a secret?
I enjoyed Deus Ex: Human Revolution with its robust combat system and multiple pathways in levels. However, at times it seems like could it use a bit more innovation in the areas I mentioned above. I think making this the final game in the trilogy would be fitting and the next game should take place in a fresh universe with a fresh storyline.