The year is 2027. Augmentations have arrived as the wave of the future, mechanically allowing humans to surpass the limits they once knew. You are Adam Jensen, head of security at Sarif Industries, a key player in the world of augmentation technology. On the brink of findings that demonstrate the feasibility of human controlled evolution that would redefine humanity, assailants attack and kill all scientists involved, destroying what research is left. At the brink of death, you are forced to become augmented to survive and tasked with finding the people responsible. In a world where no one is who they seem, where deception reigns supreme and the truth is never what it seems, you realize that there's much more behind the attack than you ever thought possible. Ultimately, the future of humanity may depend on your ability to find the answers and the decisions you make.
With the HD era under way, gamers these days expect high quality, photorealistic graphics, and rightfully so. As such, Human Revolution may disappoint visually, at least at first glance. Yes, it doesn't possess the greatest of graphics. Yes, it has some minor elements throughout that look dated. However, a great combination of cyberpunk and renaissance aesthetics still allow the game to look stunning, while also giving Human Revolution a very unique feel.
For instance, there's the amazing contrast between the old and the new. One look above and you'll notice the rundown buildings giving way to futuristic skyscrapers. One look below and you'll see a wide variety of people roaming the streets, some with and some without augmentations. Then there's the intentional incorporation of fog and smoke, as well as the obvious prominence of so called "mega-corporations" to give the atmosphere a dark, dystopian feel while maintaining the core cyberpunk style. With further accents of varying shades of black and gold you can't help but see how unique Human Revolution looks. And to further add to the visuals are the simple, yet sleek designs of the augmentations, which give a real physical presence to the fact that the future has arrived and that the very definition of being human itself is beginning to change. Not only that, the augmentations hammer in the fact that not only are the visuals unique, they are a representation of Eidos Montreal's vision of the future. And really, if the graphics alone can give off that kind of feeling and provoke such realizations, it's no wonder why I call it stunning.
One can go on and on with these examples, but the fact of the matter is, it can be seen that a great amount of effort has been put into the visuals in Human Revolution. Sure, they don't look that amazing per say (from a strictly visual standpoint) but combine all the elements together and their presentation, and you result in an amazingly realistic game. And when I mention realistic, it's realistic in the fact that it feels so. Everything you see is actually a real possibility and not just some fantasy, which to me, is something that is much better than just having a game that looks photorealistic.
Notably, the presentation is also greatly enhanced by the fact that actual foreigners are used to voice their respective counterparts upon visiting other locales.
Truth be told, an innumerable number of aspects could be discussed regarding Human Revolution. However, regardless of what's being discussed, everything can be tied together under one umbrella, the umbrella known as freedom of choice. A rising trend in recent years, Human Revolution incorporates this freedom of choice, but takes it one step further. Instead of just including it as an aspect, the entire game is built around it. What results is a game that evolves and turns into a riveting narrative, as well as a truly immersive experience.
One such example is the ability to choose how you navigate and progress in the story. Every location, every "level", possesses multiple paths to traverse and complete a given objective. If you prefer, you could use stealth and traverse the entire level without any semblance of combat, courtesy of movable objects, ventilation ducts, and various augmentations. At the same time, you can also play the game as a shooter, choosing from a wide variety of both lethal and non-lethal weapons to take down your target from close or far range. The greatest part is, no matter which method you choose, you won't be penalized, as both finding new paths to traverse and taking down enemies give experience points. Ultimately, these experience points give you Praxis points from which to purchase augmentations, which provide a large amount of choice as well, providing abilities such as dermal armor to increase the amount of damage you can take during combat and hacking upgrades that let you take control of enemy turrets or robots. Combining the ways you can accomplish side quests and the decisions you're allowed to make in terms of the main story itself, there's just an insane amount of choice in Human Revolution, making the game not only Adam Jensen's story, but your story.
However, the gameplay still has it's negatives. For instance, the boss battles. Typically placed at the end of chapters, they have a tendency to go against the freedom of choice you are typically given in combat situations. Stealth and hacking aren't typically viable in these fights, so it becomes almost purely a shooter. Notably, even switching to being a shooter is limiting in its own way, as regardless of the augmentations you have, it is still quite easy to get killed in these fights. Non-lethal weapons are of limited viability as well. Overall though, the boss battles are still done well enough not to detract from the game, and as such, it isn't a game breaker by any means.
The combat system also has minor setbacks as well, as it's extremely easy to be killed in any semblance of combat, so there is actually a slight bias toward stealth, rather than allowing for you to play the game as a pure shooter. Ultimately, this forces you into a situation where almost all combat involves you leaning against a wall and then popping out to pick off your targets one by one, which affects the pace slightly, as well as the freedom of the game. Furthermore, the combat AI, while fairly decent, does have a tendency to cause targets to perform inexplicable actions such as crowding around a point where you can easily take them all out, even if they clearly could have overpowered you. However, I can't say this is a major issue, considering the imperfections of combat AI across the board in similar genre games.
Overall though, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives in terms of gameplay. In fact, it can be said that the thrilling story, visuals and presentation, and the positives of the gameplay will mask any negatives to the point where you'd hardly even realize they're there.
Michael McCann takes the helm as the composer for Human Revolution's music, creating arguably the best work of his career. Frequently listed as one of the best video game soundtracks of the past year, it's not hard to see why. Sure, there are some tracks that are clearly better than others, but the main thing overall is that McCann's songs perfectly complement the feel and style of Human Revolution, raising the immersion level to even greater heights while creating a lasting impression that follows afterwards, even when you're done playing the game and just want something to listen to. I for one know that first hand, having listened to the main theme ("Icarus") over a hundred times in the month since I played the game.
Sadly though, the game itself sometimes doesn't seem to utilize available music to its full potential, as there are portions of the game where there isn't anything playing in the background and other portions where the themes are seemingly intentionally toned down. In addition, it's also a bit disappointing that the official soundtrack omits a fair amount of songs used in the game. There were a number of fairly good tracks omitted.
Human Revolution is one of those great games that only come along once in awhile. It's individual aspects (story, visuals and presentation, gameplay, and music) are all great, a notion that by itself, makes it a worthy game to play and own. But to say this only tells half the story, as the true greatness of the game lies in the fact that each individual aspect is made in such a way that they serve as almost perfect compliments to each other, raising the game to even further levels of greatness. Furthermore, with the freedom of choice to virtually do everything you want, the way you want, and the vast options to back up that freedom, you'll truly be hard pressed to find a game with such variety in gameplay, as well as freedom. Furthermore, Human Revolution also lasts a decent 30+ hours in terms of total gameplay duration (including DLC), and provides a large amount of replay value, as you can keep switching play styles through each playthrough to experience everything the game has to offer. To top it all off, the game also presents deep philosophical questions regarding humanity, which cater to those gamers that want something more than just a game.
The Verdict: If you're any semblance of a gamer, you have to join the Human Revolution. Available now for under $20 for the PC version and around $30 for a PS3/Xbox version, there's just no excuse not to.