The first game in this franchise stands as my best game ever, but after the not-as-good Invisible War and the death of Ion Storm studio, I wasn’t expecting much from DX:HR… until I saw how much love Edios MontrÃ©al had put into it. So I pre-ordered DX:HR and waited patiently until the release date to be in the shoes of Adam Jensen.
And lots of love there is, but before talking about the good things, I’m going to talk about the “bad.” There are three main problems in the game: some conversations have jerky animations, the game uses a few low quality CGI cutscenes (I’m playing on the PC), and finally, the inclusion of ridiculous “Japanese-style” boss fights. The first two aren’t too annoying, mostly because they are cosmetic and usually last a really short time. You also don’t have to focus on them when they play.
The boss fights, though, are unavoidable and totally detract from the game’s regular gameplay. The first two fights are also extremely hard simply because you are ill-prepared to face them (lack of abilities and weapons). Now, crafty people found amazing ways of tackling them, resulting in funny videos on YouTube. Also, another problem with the boss fights is that you don’t know much about the characters involved. You see them only once or twice before they start trying to fry you. Considering how prominent these characters are in the novel Icarus Effect, it’s quite sad we don’t seen more of their backgrounds in the game itself; it would have made the fights more emotional. As it is, they just feel like roadblocks for the sake of having roadblocks. At least these fights are few and far between, so you can easily forget that they are in the game after they happened.
Now to the good stuff, and there is a lot of it in the game. First, the gameplay. Yes! A game where I can sneak around, take down most enemies without killing them or being seen, and where my brain is quite useful to find interesting ways of solving problems. Of course, you can also kill everybody if you wish. The weapons feel extremely good, which mean it’s a shame not to use them, at least until you run out of ammo or inventory space. The cover system works extremely well also, especially using the toggle mode. There is also a hacking mini-game that is really fun to do and requires more thinking than twitch skills as in most games with mini-games.
The augmentations (augs), which is the game’s “skills” system, are also well-implemented. After you get your first skill point (called Praxis point), you will have an hard time deciding which one to pick. Really, few augs aren’t useful through the game. Selecting the one you want will dictate how you will react to situations. If you don’t take the hacking augs, you won’t be able to hack your way into areas. If you don’t take the CASIE aug, you will have an hard time persuading some people to give you certain information, etc. Speaking of CASIE, this is probably the most amazing implementation of a persuasion system I have ever seen in a game. It doesn’t make sure you will get what you want, but it gives you all the information you need to do so. You actually need to think to select the right dialogue choice to get what you want.
The CASIE system is also integrated into what Edios called their “social battles.” And battles they are. Simply amazing to have your character, with the player’s selected answer, talk back, placate, and empathize with the NPCs to get or fail to get what he wants. I failed quite a few of them myself. Also, the voiceovers for many of the characters are really good in these exchange.
Also, the game offers a lot of choices. But unlike Mass Effect, where the choices are conversation only, your actions are the choices in this game: take too much time before doing something and people might die. Let a criminal go and you might get some unexpected help for a quest, etc. The whole game enters in the category of “Show, don’t tell.” In fact, I would say that it lacks exposition, but it fits with the game ambiance. You are, after all, playing a fetch-dog with few friends and not a superhero with his own special information hunter. The game world is also amazing: lots of details everywhere, good sound effects, and effective use of colors and lightnings.
Finally, the game offers four different “endings.” Most people don’t like how it ends, but I personally really liked the endings. Edios MontrÃ©al really put a lot of effort into the storyline to avoid clashing with the first game story (DX:HR is a prequel), while adding and merging backstory to the already existing lore. Now I just want more; though, not more of Jensen, but more of the gameworld. I want to see what happens between 2027 and 2052.
This is the best game I’ve played this year. If you are a fan of “action brain games,” this is a game for you. Now, it’s time for another playthrough with different choices.