It’s Steam sale time again, which usually means my game collection begins to swell at an alarming and unmanageable rate. After all, Portal 2 for less than a couple of pints is a steal. And so what if my graphics card struggles to handle Shogun 2; I might as well pick it up for that nebulous day in the far-flung future when I upgrade my computer.
I woke up on Friday morning to discover a copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution sitting in my inbox, a thoughtful gift from an exceptionally generous friend. I loved the original, and most of what I’d heard about this long-awaited continuation had been positive (not to mention the superb trailers), so after a remarkably quick install and the obligatory hour-long update of drivers and optimisation of settings I plunged headfirst into mid-21st century Detroit, a world of augments and conspiracy.
It’s a brilliantly put together game. Atmospheric, nuanced, entirely happy for me to wander the streets of Motor City for hours at a time, talking to people, putting clues together. For the first few hours, it felt like the holy grail; a first person game with things to do which didn’t involve shooting people repeatedly in the head.
And then, just as I was falling in love with Deus Ex all over again, I walked through a door and met the first real boss fight. I’d heard the controversy over the bosses when the game came out, but I hadn’t honestly expected them to be so jarring. Fuck stealth. Bollocks to talking your way out of a fight. I was dumped in a room with a walking tank who happily absorbed whole magazines of ammunition poured directly into his unshielded face, who when I dared to take cover behind the flimsy chest-high wall cast a spread of grenades across the room for an instakill. Okay. So it’s a difficulty spike. Reload, try again.
Walk through door, skip cutscene, shot in the face. Reload, walk through door, skip cutscene, more grenades. Reload, walk through door, skip cutscene, picked up bodily and hurled into a wall (at which point the game decided I was having too good a time and let the boss pick me up a second time without a fraction of a second to escape). I wasn’t even making progress, my death occurring too fast to even scope out the room.
Fifteen reloads later, as I ran from this unstoppable juggernaut, his grenades caught on the scenery and landed at his feet. Twice. I win. By which I mean I get to move on with the game, not that I feel like I achieved anything. It’s a real shame; I played eight hours of Deus Ex over the weekend, probably the longest single-player gaming session I’ve had this year. But rather than all the fun and sneaking and nuance that I had so much fun with, my lasting memory will be of the jarring, misjudged boss encounter.
Still, there’s plenty more fun and sneaking and nuance where that came from!