Why Deus Ex 3 is the best game i’ve played this year

As i mentioned on twitter a while ago, i recently played through Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which is just easier to refer to as deus ex 3 or DE3) which i managed to borrow off my brother. It’s been one of those games that i’ve had half an interest in; one of those games that you wouldn’t buy on initial release, but wouldn’t mind picking up at a good price. I’ve alluded to the fact that it plays like a mix of Metal Gear Solid and Metro 2033 (actual normal play more like Metro than MGS, but there’s certainly a good few MGS elements in there), though there’s a bit of Borderlands in there too. And the inventory seems to have been nicked from Resident Evil. But it’s a unique enough game in its own right that i wanted to pen down a few things about the game and my playthrough.

Upon first playing in the game, i did an intial start and just played a little to get used to the controls and see what you can actually do. The game is fairly liberal in how you can play it. You can go for your american all guns blazing approach and murder everything that moves, you can sneak past and be stealthy, or anything inbetween. For me, i went for the stealthy approach, since there’s two 100G achievements for not setting off any alarms and not killing anyone, and i just like playing games at the highest difficulty possible thesedays, because i just find the challenge a more engrossing and rewarding experience. So with this stealthy approach in mind, i restarted the game, ran as far through the prologue bit as possible as quickly as possible, chose the Tranquilizer Rifle as my weapon (i had initially chosen the Assault Rifle on my first playthrough), and set about playing the game proper.

As there’s an entire achievement for not killing anyone, but there’s too many enemies to simply sneak past in many situations (unless you have a ton of patience), takedowns soon became my method of choice for incapacitating foes. It doesn’t help there’s achievements for incapacitating 50 and 100 people in a playthrough, either. The tranq rifle was employed in a few instances where enemies were further away or i wanted to take down a couple of people quickly, but as ammo seemed to be fairly sparse, it was used sparingly. Sneaking around can be done either by staying crouched and/or moving slowly to quiet, but else you can use parts of the game’s cover mechanic. I haven’t actually seen a cover mechanic employed well in quite a while. It allows you to stay hidden and round corners or dive to the next piece of cover. But part of the excellence in it is that you don’t have to use it at all if you don’t want to. Its entirely elective, doesn’t try to do too much, and does what it does well. My only gripe with this is while it seemed to almost be lifted out of MGS (there is a liberal amount of MGS worship going on throughout the game, it’s clearly no accident things are similar – it doesn’t try to hide it either, which is nice), i would have loved a knock sound button that can attract enemy attention. So many situations would have just been so much simpler if i could lure a guard round a corner and take them out.

Both in and outside of mission levels, the settings in DE3 are what i’d call semi-open. Not quite as open as a sandbox game, but hardly a linear corridor either (particuarly since there seems to be a minimum of two routes to any given objective). And i like it this way – it means you’ve still got area to explore, but what area you have been given has been given a lot more attention to detail than, say, GTA. The first time i got to Detroit and Hengshua, i didn’t even attempt to go to the objectives. I just went around exploring. Through this i entirely accidentially stumbled into finding there are optional, secondary missions. Which kicked in my completionist tendencies, so i really got to learn area.

Except Hengshua. Fuck Hengshua.

Where the borderlands-ish elements really show is the augmentation upgrades. These upgrades activate new abilities or upgrade existing ones, and there’s enough there to be able to pick and choose a lot of abilities. One i didn’t bother with until later on, for instance was the cloaking. As in, invisible. Something you’d think i would have gotten a lot earlier on, but it doesn’t give you invisibility for too long, and i was busy sinking in every upgrade point i got into the hacking skills. There’s also the obvious stuff like taking less damage (which i never bothered with) , jumping higher (which i got, but didn’t actually use that often) and sprinting further (which i honestly got just for running past things while cloaked and traversing city hubs a little faster.) But there’s also some interesting ones that are lovely little features. Like the icarus landing system, which means you don’t take any damage from falling (and even get an opportunity to stun enemies you land near), the social interaction monitoring upgrade (so you can get information on people’s personalities and how persuasive you’re being, to bend people to your will), and tracking enemies through walls (which i suppose could easily be done with something like thermal vision, but the way it’s done in DE3 is just nice and clean.)

What really makes the game for me though is the little things, some things that many people wouldn’t give a second thought, but i really liked. Things like:

  • Health regeneration. Yes, there’s health regeneration, and yes, you can basically just sit behind a wall until your screen stops being red, but you still get a number and a visual representation of how much health you actually have left. And, call me crazy, but i actually liked the fact it took a little while for the regeneration to kick in. It forces you to actually think about what you’re doing.
  • Difficulty Choices. All too often a game will give you EASY, MEDIUM, HARD. Often in more modern games they’ll decide Hard isn’t really hard and add something like LEGENDARY or VETERAN above those too. DE3 gives you Tell Me a Story, Give me a challenge and Give me deus ex. It’s obvious that this is just analagous for Easy, medium and hard, but these difficulty settings and the little descriptions they give are just nice. I like the idea that by playing at the highest difficulty i’m playing the game as it’s intended to be played, not some sado-masochistic difficulty for when you’ve played the game once and are now bored. But i also appreciate some people will just want to play for the story and enjoyment of playing a game, and these options cater for that too. Or maybe i’m just a sucker for nostalgia and this reminds me of Hurt me plenty.
  • The HUD. Lots of games have HUDs. Not too many acknowledge they’re even there or give an explanation for why they’re there. Right at the beginning, you have to have your optical augmentations rebooted to properly calibrate them. It’s an obvious ‘hey, this is why this information keeps floating in front of your eyes like those worm shapes half the internet pretends they can see.
  • The hacking minigame. Lots of games have these too, but this one is simple enough to pick up but complicated enough to have some strategy required. Or you can ignore it entirely – as i’ll explain in the next point.
  • The messages. If you hack or access people’s computer terminals, or their pocket secrataries, there’s usually a few messages on there. Thing is, these messages have clearly actually been written with the game and your location and progress in mind. Many of them will have access codes for doors and terminals so you don’t need to hack a lot of things. But a lot of them are just interesting little tidbits of information. There’s an awful lot to learn about DE3, and they’ve given you lots of information if you want it. And there’s a recurring joke of nigerians who want billions of credits and a bit in the Omega Ranch from the security people who don’t understand why they’re still getting through and think they may be a sign of a system intrusion.
  • Boss fights. Remember these? And no, i don’t mean the systematic SHOOT X, SHOOT Y, THEN YOU CAN SHOOT Z crap either. Actual, retarded boss fights. Ones with insane abilities that kill you over and over until you can figure out a strategy to kill them. And not just one strategy either. There are plenty, and they all depend on what you have in your inventory. Look around the internet, there’s plenty of people discussing so many different strategies, and plenty of them make you feel really stupid. The first boss, Barrett, after dying a couple of dozen times trying to altenate between concussing and tranqing (i had no actual guns on me), i eventually figured out a ridiculously easy way to kill him – get your stun gun, and just keep stunning him before the previous stun wears off. This even worked on the next boss too. For namir, if your augmentations still work, some people worked out you can glitch the game and perform a takedown when he jumps over a wall to take him down with a single punch.

A lot of Deus Ex 3 isn’t original. They don’t pretend it is – a lot of elements have clearly been lifted from other games, and i’m not sure how much comes from the first two games (they are fairly old now.) But it doesn’t matter. These elements are good elements. And they work well together without trying to do too much. Combined with a unique setting, story, and characters, this collection forms a unique game. A good one at that. A very good one. You could do a lot worse than getting Deus Ex 3.

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