Deus Ex: Human Revolution – A Mini Review and Discussion
Posted by erikthereddest
Hello all! Sorry I’ve been late posting these (in-house policy says “before midnight”), I just finished finals, so I should be a little more on top of things for a while now!
As I’ve said before on occasion, I’m a big fan of cyberpunk (the sci-fi genre, not the fashion trend), and really enjoy the mix of high tech and dystopia usually present in stories like Neuromancer, the book credited with birthing the genre. Well, aside from books, there are plenty of video games that have stemmed from the cyberpunk genre, displaying a world that comes close to fully realizing Gibson’s dream of the future into an interactive medium. With this post, I’d like to introduce one such game that I think does its job well enough that we as writers can learn a lot from it, and will then go through some of the sciencey bits that I liked, next week. So, don’t worry if you’re not a gamer, I promise this won’t just be a gamer gush-fest (although I’m pretty sure there will be at least a little gushing).
Deus Ex: God out of (the Machine)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to a classic title Deus Ex, which came out in 2000 by the same company, Eidos, which is well known for this series as well as a popular fantasy stealth game called Theif. This new game takes place in futuristic Detroit in the year 2027, where civil unrest is brewing as cybernetic technology is advancing to the point where anyone who can afford it is getting parts of their body replaced by prosthetics, and edging out their pure or outdated competition. The downside is that the human nervous system rejects modification, and the immune system quickly begins to see the new hardware as a threat, leading to increasingly life-threatening auto-immune responses that can quickly disable and kill cyborgs if they are not given regular doses of a drug called Neuropozyne that keeps the body from building scar tissue around brain implants.
Through the story, you play as Adam Jenson (seen above), an ex-SWAT security officer for a big cybernetics developing company, and after a group of mercenaries break in and kill a bunch of people, Jenson is badly injured. David Sarif (Jenson’s boss) takes the opportunity to replace Jenson’s injured body parts with Sarif Industry’s top-of-the-line augmentations, saving his life but turning him into a cyborg in the process. The world itself is in conflict over the development of cybernetics technology, and the inequality that it brings to those that have it and those that do not. The world is definitely dystopian, but considering that the cityscapes you visit are in Detroit and China, its possibly a little exaggerated.
The governemental powers are actually relatively the same as today, but now there is a lot of conflict between the somewhat typical super corperations that we see in a lot of dystopian sci-fi. Refreshingly, these companies are not all evil. As an employee of one of these companies, you actually get to hear their side of things, and overall, you can’t possibly have an entirely negative view of them. While the cyberpunk genre is usually characterized by giant evil corperations, the environment of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is actually fairly positive toward corperate enterprizes, and while there are definitely poor and distressed people in the city that blame the mega-corps, there are just as many that praise Sarif industries for the opportunities they provide to the city. What we have, then, is a rare balance between some modern socialist undertones that we often see in hollywood productions with a healthy dose of good ‘ol American capitalism, and it’s left up to you to decide who’s really in the right. Myself being poltically conservative, I didn’t feel like the game was brow-beating me for believing in free-market capitalism, and could actually see quite a bit of effort to balance the ideas in the game, which I found both remarkable and refreshing.
The tech is also a very strong mix of futuristic and modern, so that it feels like a very smooth transition from our current generation. This comes in the form of weapons as well as landscapes and consumer electronics, and throughout the game I was amazed at the level of detail that the designers went into in their world-building. There are tv newscasts on screens, e-books, emails, and conversations all over that can give you an even deeper impression of the world if you take the time to look around. As a first-person shooter, this level of detail is practically unheard of, and that level of detail is something I really appreciate in a game as well as the world of a novel.
I don’t want to spoil any more of the plot here, since some of you may be inspired to pick up a copy (which you should, it’s a great game). Next week, I’d like to point out some of the concepts that Human Revolution plays with in its world, because as writers (and especially writers of science fiction), I think we can learn a lot from it. Until then, consider this an introduction into the Deus Ex world, and my endorsement of it as a great game that may in fact border on literature (or at least pretty darn good sci-fi). Until then, has anyone else played this game, or any of the others in the Deus Ex series (I’ve heard Invisible War wasn’t very good)? Does anyone else have a favorite cyberpunk movie or book that they think comes across as something more than an explosion-fest? Let me know in the comments below!