Deus Ex is in an odd place right now. Due to the lack of recent activity from publishers Square Enix or developers Eidos-Montréal, it seemed as though it would be some time before Adam Jensen or any alternative protagonist would deal cybernetically enhanced justice once again. Yet with the recent sales of Eidos, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montreal to Swedish video game company Embracer, there's new hope that Deus Ex will be rejuvenated by its new owners. With six mainline games and 12 million copies of the two most recent installments sold, the death of the acclaimed Deus Ex brand would leave a major hole in the gaming landscape.
Regardless of whether the franchise is suffering a damaged image from the poor sales of Mankind Divided or if it has aged beyond repair, Deus Ex is in danger of fading into obscurity. Reigniting love for the franchise starts with rediscovering the glory of the games themselves. Although it may not be clear where to start across the series' scattered and sometimes confusing chronology, heading back to near the start of the Deus Ex timeline with Human Revolution is the logical choice.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Is a Cyberpunk Enthusiast's Dream
Deus Ex had always focused on exploring the challenges and sociopolitical tensions that arise in a society dealing with rapid technological advancement. However, Human Revolution was one of the first games to really embrace and realize the true potential of a full cyberpunk aesthetic. With a striking palette of shadowy blacks, glimmering golds and hazy sepia, Human Revolution remains a game with a true sense of place and style, a visual identity that immerses the player in a world so lovingly and carefully crafted by developer Eidos-Montréal. Cyberpunk 2077, which has quite clearly continued the legacy of the Deus Ex series, owes so much to the very particular style and feel of Human Revolution.
The way a game looks, however, is only a single obstacle in a sequence of barriers in the hunt for perfection. While Human Revolution isn't without its flaws, its effective marrying of striking visuals and rewarding gameplay make it one of the series' finest entries. Melding a soft RPG base with stealth and FPS mechanics, the third game in the Deus Ex canon manages to be rewarding to a wide variety of players without ever sacrificing its own identity.
Why Human Revolution Is the Perfect Place to Start
Human Revolution occupies a convenient place in the Deus Ex chronology, both in terms of when it was released and with regard to its in-game setting. Released in 2011 and set in the year 2027, Human Revolution still holds up well aesthetically and mechanically and establishes many of the key themes of the series as a whole, introducing its most iconic protagonist, Adam Jensen, in the process. With a whopping Metacritic Score of 90 for the PC, the acclaim held for the game is evident.
Of course, Human Revolution is not the only installment that's looked upon favorably in the series. The original Deus Ex is still considered a masterpiece of its time and genre, but its twenty-year age has started to catch up with it, making it look increasingly outdated and of another era. Deus Ex is still sublime and immensely important to its genre's history, but returning to a release from 2011 is a far less jarring experience. Moreover, the original Deus Ex, set in 2052, drops players further forward in the franchise's chronology than Human Revolution, meaning that the latter is much more effective for players looking to get a handle on the overarching narrative that the game seeks to establish.
Human Revolution was never without its faults, with its arbitrary boss battles and some technical issues preventing it from quite closing in on perfection. But as an introduction to the series and its fundamental qualities, the third Deus Ex title is hard to beat. Better yet, 2013's Director's Cut introduced a revamped energy system, more intelligent AI, lighting upgrades and non-lethal pathways for boss fights, offering an even more polished version of Human Revolution for those looking to experience one of gaming's most underrated series.