Developer: Eidos Montreal, Straight Right / Publisher: Square Enix / Played on: Wii U / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol]
Evaluating Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut on the Wii U is extraordinarily tricky. Not only is it a re-release with a raft of new features that may or may not appeal to you, but this edition is also launching at lower prices on the PC, 360, and PS3. There are tons of factors to consider: whether you’ve played the game already (and how many times), how much you enjoy touch screen controls, and so on. If you own a Wii U and haven’t yet played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I can save you some time—buy it right now. The rest of you, well, the story’s a little more complicated.
Here’s a quick recap for the unlucky SOBs that missed out on the game the first time around: You play as Adam Jensen, head of security for Sarif Industries, a biotechnology company on the cusp of a massive breakthrough in human cybernetics. On the eve of presenting this breakthrough in Washington, mercenaries break into the building, steal Sarif’s lead researcher, and royally bust up Adam in the process. Rebuilt with the best cyber implants Sarif has available, Adam must now investigate the reasons behind the attack while coping with his new half mechanical existence.
In gameplay terms, Human Revolution is extremely faithful to 2000’s Deus Ex. It alternates between open world exploration and dedicated levels with enemy-stocked rooms and traditional boss fights. You can spend your upgrades on tougher armor and aim stabilizers to go for the direct approach or opt for stealth and acrobatics to avoid your enemies. Everything that made Human Revolution an amazing game in 2011 still works today.
Director’s Cut adds a clutch of new features and tweaks to the original game, all of which enhance the experience but have their own particular problems. My favorite is the developer’s commentary, which pulls back the veil on the game design process as well as revealing interesting details about the game that may go unnoticed. Topics range from the game’s use of pre-rendered cutscenes to the evolution of the infamous subway dancer.
The commentary has a few small issues though—for one they’re not as neatly edited as Valve’s commentary as heard in Portal and Half-Life. You can hear stammers and occasionally the devs talk over each other. Additionally, the triggers for the commentary can be so small they’re missed, and there’s no indicator telling you that you’ve listened to a piece of commentary or not. I’ve heard some commentary tracks 2-3 times because of this (and you can’t stop one once it starts playing either).
The other biggest addition to the Director’s Cut on the Wii U is the touch screen controls, which are well thought-out even if some are obligatory. Accessing Human Revolution’s menus is extremely easy now, with each screen mapped to an easy-to-hit button on the edges of the gamepad’s touch screen. During normal play, the gamepad also shows a blown-up map of your immediate surroundings which works wonders for navigation in addition to removing UI clutter from the TV. Touch controls are also a godsend to Human Revolution’s hacking minigame. Tapping on nodes and issuing capture commands feels cool and futuristic as hacking should. And while this is just part and parcel with being on the Wii U, I really enjoyed playing exclusively on the gamepad. For several nights, I spent my final moments before sleep running around in future Detroit.
Oddly, my biggest control gripe doesn’t come from the forced touchscreen controls: There’s a larger-than-normal deadzone on the analog sticks in this version of the game, meaning you have to tilt the sticks quite a bit before Jensen will move or look around. It makes all your controller inputs feel lagged and loose, and there’s no way to tighten them up. It’s a fundamental problem that affects every second you spend with the game, and I wish there were a way to adjust it.
Other issues are smaller but easier to ignore. For instance, when you aim down a scope your view switches to the gamepad. You don’t use gyroscopic controls to aim, and the TV isn’t used for anything else while you’re staring at the gamepad. It’s there just ‘cause, which is a little strange. There are a few other menu quirks, like “ok / cancel” not directly mapped to A / B but are instead selectable menu items. That’s the story with most of the re-worked controls: they’re good ideas with just a little bit of awkward friction dashed in.
The mechanics and content of the game itself haven’t changed much, which is just fine given that the original game was almost impeccable. Human Revolution’s most criticized sections—the boss fights—have been retooled. Even so, and I don’t want to be too critical because I can’t be sure I’ve experienced the breadth of the new options available, but I never found an alternate solution as elegant as the original Deus Ex’s kill phrases.
Using the Barret, the first boss fight, as an example, you can access a second level with a hackable computer. If you have the requisite skill, you can open a door to a pair of turrets that can be reprogrammed to attack the boss for you. It’s somewhat more nuanced than being forced to shoot the boss to death yourself, but only just meets the marketing promise that you can beat all the bosses without firing a bullet. As previously mentioned, it’s possible there are neater solutions that I didn’t discover, and at least that potential has me motivated to go back and explore more.
The last new feature worth noting is the graphical additions. The revamped lighting fits the game like a glove. Room and environments are smokier and thicker, giving the game a more noir, Blade Runner-look. It’s a great frame for Human Revolution’s already-superb environments. The animation system is sadly untouched, though. A good deal of the game is spent in conversation, and the limited points of articulation in characters’ faces makes them look jerky and robotic (a joke I used two years ago and intend to use again).
By now you’ve probably noticed a trend—all of the additions in the Director’s Cut are nice but miss their potential in one way or another. As such, it’s hard to pin down whether or not it’s a good fit for you. The director’s commentary is completely worth it, especially if you’re a big fan of the original, but you can get that on other platforms for a cheaper price. At the end of the day, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game that Director’s Cut only makes better. You should absolutely play it, but weigh your available platforms first.