Saturday, October 15, 2011

Augmented Virtuality

My exposure to the Deus Ex franchise consists of playing the demo of the highly-acclaimed original classic, and spending a fair amount of hours on the often criticized yet well-made Deus Ex: Invisible War*, on the original Xbox.

Encountering the much anticipated Deus Ex: Human Revolution is quite a thrill, a game boasting an intricate storyline and production values so high as to rival the similarly themed Mass Effect series. In a black and gold dystopian future, and set 25 years before the original, Adam Jensen, an ex SWAT agent turned security specialist, suffers an near-deadly attack, and he is reconstructed with nanotechnology, a staple of the series.

The game portrays the first days of nano-augmentation at Sarif Industries and its competition, via an intricate world and detailed writing, which are the best I've witnessed in a long time. In spite of all the polish, the great advancement in role playing the series strives to present is the ambiguity of existence; your best bet may be to "trust no one." In the Deus Ex universe, it comes down to people trying to survive in complex situations; the game conveys the feeling of one big, unscripted masterpiece, with city hubs that are outstanding, recalling the city maps of The Darkness, only more sophisticated.

The combat mechanics reminded me of Quantum of Solace, switching from first person to third, takedowns included; something which was most welcome, since I regarded QoS as brief but quite remarkable. But there are stealth elements thrown in as well, in a manner reminiscent of The Chronicles of Riddick. Add to this hacking mini-games and you get a title which outshines most similar offerings.

Games are no longer about graphics, but art direction; the Renaissance and Baroque periods DE:HR has taken as two of its themes, may coincide with another exciting new era of creation taking place in gaming, which may very well rival motion pictures. While retaining basic visual and literary landscapes of the original game, DE:HR manages to bring into the new generation a fascinating and sophisticated futuristic world. In truth, the game depicts a reality not dissimilar from our own, with ipads, gene therapy and prosthetics technology.

The idea of self-guided evolution, as presented in the game, is very much alive in reality; Bela H. Banathy's "Guided Evolution of Society" focuses on these concepts. We have entered the anthropocene, "man has become the most influential force shaping the long-term future of the planet. This endows us with a historical responsibility: for the very first time in seven million years of our evolutionary saga it is within our power, indeed it is our moral duty to become the designers of our future, the guides of our own evolution and the evolution of life on earth and possibly beyond."

Yes, there are weak points, such as the boss battles, and the clichéd "russian" enemies. Similarly to how the above-mentioned Mass Effect employed a new composer for their third entry (well, not really), so have the developers of Eidos; in DE:HR, Alexander Brandon's electronica has been replaced by Michael McCann's more experienced, yet less ambient-like compositions, which nonetheless get the job done. *Being able to choose factions on the go, still impresses me to this day.