If you could upgrade your senses by having a chip inserted into your brain, or make yourself stronger by having your arms upgraded or your back covered in armour, would you do it? What if it meant you were dependent on a lifetime of expensive drugs to stop your body rejecting the changes? And what if it meant you had to fly around the world hiding behind boxes and hacking into people’s email?
For Adam Jensen, head of security at Sarif Industries and the protagonist of the excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this isn’t even a choice. He’s brutally attacked at the start of the game and has to be augmented to save his life, and spends most of the rest of the game investigating why. (He doesn’t have to hack into everyone’s email, actually, but in our hands he couldn’t help himself.)
By now you’ve probably made a good deal of headway in Human Revolution, if not actually completed it, and you’ve probably acquired up a bunch of augmentations using Praxis Points earned by gathering XP or bought at LIMB clinics. Having finished it several times through, we’ve used pretty much all of them, so we thought we’d run through our favourites and what they brought to the email-hacking party.
When we first started playing Human Revolution, we refused to get our hands dirty. We refused even to be seen. As such, we became very familiar with the game’s loading screen, and spent a lot of time sat bathed in its orange glow, waiting to respawn behind a fridge and have another go at sneaking through a Chinese gangster’s apartment without being detected.
Stealth feels like the purest way to play the game, and if you want to get good at it you probably want the obvious tools first, like being able to see enemy cones of vision. But rather than max all those out – wasting Praxis Points on being able to see your last-known-position during an alarm state, for example – get yourself a cloak.
A fully upgraded invisibility shield gives you nearly 10 seconds of total anonymity per segment of your energy bar, allowing you to move almost freely across large areas. By the time you’re crawling through some of Heng Sha’s nastier districts that could be the difference between perfect stealth and – gnrnrngh – raising Suspicion among cameras, robots and henchmen.
Hacking: Capture – Robot Domination
Then again, there’s a difference between being seen in plain sight – clearly a badge of dishonour – and making your presence felt from the shadows. You’ll probably hack into a fair few computers that let you deactivate security cameras and after a while they will also include references to security robots and turrets, but you won’t be able to do anything with them.
As well as sounding like a late-generation PS2 game in a Japanese RPG series, “Hacking: Capture – Robot Domination” changes that. Robots in Human Revolution can be the little droid guys who look a bit like mobility scooters with mounted machineguns, but they can also be massive, stompy adversaries who look like Arsenal Gear from Metal Gear Solid and will kill you in seconds, so being able to disable them, and knowing that being spotted won’t mean auto-death, is a boon.
The other option, of course, is to change their targeting from “Default” to “Enemies”, altering their priorities somewhat. Then all you have to do is stride past them and pick up the pieces of anyone who is left over.
Icarus Landing System
According to the Human Revolution augmentation menus, the Icarus Landing System is “an EMF decelerator generating a fixed-focus electromagnetic lensing field, projected downward along the plane of the drop, which pushes against the Earth’s magnetosphere and slows the user’s descent to a manageable velocity”. All of which means that a) someone at Eidos Montreal has done some fine reading on Wikipedia and b) you can jump from tall buildings and take no falling damage.
Coupled with one of the stealth augmentations that lets you land silently, and the jumping augmentation that sends you up to 3m into the air, this can really save you time all over the place. Never again will you have to watch the stupid ladder animation to descend a fire escape or enter a sewer.
One mission in particular, about halfway through the game, sees you ambushed in a hotel complex with a big central courtyard and three rings of walkways. You’re on the top walkway skulking around and the exit is tantalising, just a few metres away as the crow flies but hundreds of metres away in terms of all the sneaking you’ll have to do to evade the dozen or more guards stalking staircases, walkways and corridors below. So: scoff some energy pills, activate the cloak, activate silent running, and take a running jump. With a bit of skill and a flashy Icarus-assisted descent, you can be out the back door without anyone noticing your hilarious parabolic antics.
Typhoon Explosive System
We put off getting the Typhoon for ages. It’s the first augmentation you see anyone use in the game – Vasily Sevchenko demos it for a US General in Sarif’s labs before the initial attack takes place – but even though it looks really exciting, it just seems so at odds with the way we wanted to play the game.
Sometimes it helps to be pragmatic though. To be more specific, it helps during the unavoidable boss fights that turn up to blight your experience every six hours or so. There’s no way to play these other than direct confrontation, and being able to fire powerful explosives in a 360-degree arc for the cost of a single energy segment is much better than having to use a bunch of rifles and launchers that you haven’t previously bothered with.
If the Typhoon is the side of the game we didn’t imagine we’d want much to do with, then the Social Enhancer – our fifth and favourite augmentation on this list – is one we’d happily spend a lot more time with. It allows you to analyse people and persuade them to follow certain courses of action.
To help with that you get an “optical polygraph”, a wavy line that indicates how persuasive you’re being; a “personality analyser”, a list of character traits; and a “synthetic pheromones proagator”, which tells you their personality type and lets you target them with an appropriate pheromone.
Between them, it allows you to tangibly affect the outcome of a conversation. You can have debates with your boss about the semantics of company security and clearly out-argue him, and you can convince guards to give you the full run of their facilities without having to hide your presence.
Rockstar’s L.A. Noire was rightly celebrated earlier this year for its amazing facial animation and the way you could read suspects’ mannerisms and responses, but it fell down constantly because of inconsistencies and gaps in information or logic. With the Social Enhancer on your side, Human Revolution is quite the opposite: a logical, rewarding game of verbal jousting backed up by sharp but hammy writing and a great sense of personal decision-making.
All the things we wanted from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, encapsulated in one handy augmentation. Would you sacrifice your essential humanity to hack a few more inboxes, then? Absolutely.