Please note that the HD3D image captures in this review are a little blurry because of how we captured the images. This is only intended as a sampling of the 3D implementation, and is not reflective of the games potential clarity.
The original Deus Ex was released in 2000, and earned critical acclaim for combining first person shooters and role playing character growth. Named the "Best PC Game of All Time" in PC Gamer's Top 100 PC games, it frequently ranked high in "game of the year" candidates. Deus-Ex: Invisible War was also successful, but didn't get as much critical acclaim as the original.
Eight years later, Eidos Montreal is taking another stab at the Deus-Ex franchise with Deus-Ex: Human Revolution. Continuing the tradition of mixing role-play and FPS action, Human Revolution is also boasting native stereoscopic 3D support. Has Eidos successfully upped the ante?
Today we find out!
Deus-Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the original Deus-Ex. The story takes place in 2027, and you are Adam Jenson, a private security officer working for Sarif Industries. You live in a world where traditional plastic surgery has gone the way of the dodo bird, and has been replaced by robotics and augmentations. In place of bigger genitals, people want stronger limbs, digital radio implants, new levels of dexterity, and all kinds of special abilities.
There is no subtlety in this new world as augmentations are rarely hidden. The warm touch of a mother's hand is easily replaced with cold metal terminator claws, and once handsome faces look like jigsaw mixes of man and machine. Sadly, this hunger for human implant gadgetry has a dangerous trade-off...rejection. It turns out that the same way the body will reject a new heart or a new liver, it is equally resistant to getting a new arm or a new chest piece. The solution is anti-rejection drugs, but they are expensive and aren't easy to come by.
The good news is your ex-girlfriend, Megan Reed, has discovered a breakthrough! She found a way for the gadget guzzlers to keep their toys and not have to buy the anti-rejection meds that go with them. Sadly, a hostage crisis breaks out, some nasty dudes kick your butt, and Megan has gone missing. Facing near-death, Sarif Industries gets you fixed up with an augmented body so you can get out there and figure out what the heck is going on.
While your new body comes with batteries included, it's not all it can be. With time and experience, you get "praxis" points that are used to activate new augments and special abilities that will make all the difference. While expensive, you can also buy praxis points to accelerate your growth.
There are three main components to the game. The first is talking and personality. You will be interacting with those around you, and what you say can decide whether you will easily walk into a fortress, or be forced to sneak and fight your way to your next destination. This is a skill that can be augmented to make you more effective, and it may be worth it. Yes, scientists in the future have come up with a way to make you a more effective talker!
The second component is hacking. This was more complex and creatively developed than anything I have seen before. Computers are all over the place, and they can either store information that will further your mission and help you along, or they are security panels that can turn off alarms or help use the environment to your advantage.
Different computers have different levels of hackability, and will require increased skill as the game progresses. It’s not just about grabbing a password, though! You need to break in, avoid detection, and if you are really sharp, pick up a few bonuses on the side. Hacking is a very important skill to have, so don’t let it go unnoticed.
Something I learned while deep in the game is that as you pick up passwords, the system automatically stores them for you to make life easier. So when you are hacking a machine, pay attention to the screen to see if the password is waiting for you before unnecessarily breaking in. Sure you get experience points for going the hacking route, but a password is much easier!
When you have enough hacking skill, you can have the turrets and robots attack their own security guards (lots of fun!). In some cases, you don’t get to see it! One time, I hacked the robots, and only found out later after walking in a room filled with corpses that it really worked.
The last component of the game is the action itself. Are you a cold blooded killer? Or is it better to knock your opponents out with stun guns and sucker punches? Being the good guy isn't easy because limp corpses can be woken up by fellow enemies.
This isn't a traditional shoot'em up though. You can pick up some brawn here and there, but even when you are loaded to the hilt, you're never going to be a human tank. It's always better to sneak around and go unnoticed rather than trying to blast your way through the front door.
The environments are usually designed for this purpose and you get experience bonuses if you can get in and out without being noticed. You can move crates around to be better hidden, you can walk through vents and ductwork, and if you really need to take someone out, you can knock them out and move their body so they don’t get discovered.
While the game is somewhat mission based, it almost has an open sandbox concept – almost. The stages in the game are divided into cities with independent buildings, or secret lairs that take up an entire level. In most cases, you can go back to where you came from, but it’s not to the degree of an Elder Scrolls or the original Crysis.
Also, while certain levels like Detroit and Heng Sha Island have merchants and side missions like a true open sandbox game, it’s not consistent throughout the title. This is a shame because you could be sitting on a stockpile of credits that could be used for new weapons, ammo refills, or new augments – and you have nowhere to spend it!
Speaking of weapons, you usually pick them up as you progress through your adventure, and can buy additional options at a local merchant. Additional options could include ammo choices and enhancements that make the weapon better. For example, you may want to add a heat seeker to your rocket launcher, or target tracking to your crossbow, etc. etc.
While the acting isn’t Shakespeare, the game gives some entertaining commentary on our own society. For example, during a side mission, you need to help a prostitute rescue her friend who is getting forced to have augments. It’s obviously not boobs, as all characters of all ages in Deus-Ex already seem to have them. The augments are likely sex toys that are more robotic...something the human mind of this day and age can’t fathom...yet. However, as crazy as the premise sounds...is it really so different from the countless stars, strippers, and aging professionals that feel pressured to go under the knife to stay visually competitive? Hah! Makes you think....
Now the big question everyone wants to know...how is Deus-Ex Human Revolution in stereoscopic 3D?
Before I comment further, I should explain what HD3D is and what the ramifications are. I would estimate that 99.9999% (give or take 0.01%) of supposedly “3D Ready” PC games are rendered with stereoscopic 3D drivers by DDD, iZ3D, and Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision. The idea is that games are not designed to be played in stereoscopic 3D, and instead have their DirectX API calls extrapolated into a left and right view by middleware software.
Drivers are great because most games can run this way, even though there are often trade-offs with visual quality settings and remaining bugs and anomalies that need to be stamped out by driver profiles and optimizations.
The exception to the rule is a handful of games that natively put out a left and right view to the display without driver intervention. The best example of this is Avatar: The Game by Ubisoft which supports almost every 3D solution under the sun.
HD3D is a proprietary left/right standard for AMD graphics cards that let third party driver developers and game developers directly interact with their GPUs. For a driver developer, it helps them maximize their compatibility with AMD graphics cards, and for game developers, it lets them put out 3D titles without having to work through a 3D driver. Nvidia has something similar, but they aren’t as public about it.
A big benefit for left/right standards like HD3D is they let game developers put out a 3D image according to spec without any translations or mistranslations by a third party driver. It is also the fastest way of getting a 3D image to the screen because there aren’t extra processing cycles being used by a middleware driver that is doing extra grunt work on behalf of the game.
As expected, the frame rate is very good with Deus-Ex: Human Revolution, and any mid-range AMD graphics card owner (e.g. AMD 6870+) should be pleased with the performance.
In Deus-Ex’s menu, you will find a stereoscopic 3D setting to turn the feature on. However, it doesn’t end there! I made the mistake of playing halfway through the game and not realizing there is a strength setting in the advanced video settings menu. It will increase the level of depth, but there aren’t any convergence controls.
While I applaud EIDOS Montreal for implementing 3D support in Deus-Ex: Human Revolution, it didn’t turn out the way I hoped. In fact, I suspect that something went horribly, horribly wrong, and I’m not sure I’m getting the result that was intended.
Problem one was getting the right format out to the display. Deus-Ex recognized my Zalman 24” 3D monitor, but failed to understand the limitations of its interlaced display. Instead of using a “soft interlacing” technique that helps keep small text readable and prevents the game from looking too jagged, Deus-Ex is using a simple interlaced mode. This means the image looks a bit rougher than normal because of the missing screen data, and the text is a little harder to read. This is a minor issue, but it is something that should be corrected if possible in a future patch.
Problem two were anomalies that had no business being there. For example, there were noticeable cases where lasers and lighting effects were disconnected from objects. I’m not sure if it was my GPU or the game, but there were also occasional flashing shadows and lighting mismatches in 3D mode too.
Problem three...and this is the big one...the game...is not...in 3D. Stereoscopic 3D works when each of your eyes sees a distinctly different picture, and your brain combines them into a single image in your mind. It’s the differences and the nuances of the differences that makes stereoscopic 3D work. This is why 2D+Depth and 3D movie conversion is controversial – because they lose a lot of the nuances that makes 3D interesting.
Below is an actual side by side screenshot taken from the game, and beneath that is the same image with the captures realigned to go on top of each other:
Clearly, this is some kind of bug because the images overlap perfectly without any differences. The exception is the HUD which has a minor 3D effect. All that is happening here is the left and right views are offset, but it’s only one camera view – not two. I’m convinced this is a bug because the performance of the game drops by nearly 50% in 3D mode, which implies that it’s not 2D+Depth, and there is something finicky going on with the rendering.
As the visual results were determined by the game developer, and had nothing to do with HD3D and what their standard is capable of, I’m hopeful that a future patch with more 3D options and bug fixes will make a world of difference for this game.
Stereoscopic 3D Driver Support
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM Nvidia GTX 585, AMD HD6870 Windows 7 64 Bit Zalmon Trimon 24" Monitor TriDef Ignition 3.3.19 Beta with Beta Deus-Ex Profile
Given the 3D outcome included with Deus-Ex: Human Revolution, I reached out to the driver developers to see if they were interested in releasing their own profile for the game. Maybe a driver could have better results than the game itself?
According to Nvidia, their software isn’t yet capable of working with this game. They are taking the position that EIDOS Montreal should add Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision support and that users should somehow encourage them to do this. We haven’t heard back from iZ3D yet.
Dynamic Digital Depth sent us a beta driver which has a lot of potential, and also needs a lot of work. DirectX 11 support is a write-off because lighting problems are too pronounced, and the driver scrapes away so much of what makes DirectX 11 look interesting that it isn’t even worth trying.
DirectX 9 holds much more promise. You can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience, the DDD laser-sight works, and on my Nvidia GTX 580, the performance is decent. Still, a lot of optimization needs to be done.
On my AMD HD6870, the performance was nowhere near what the native option offers and was much too slow to play effectively. I think that DDD’s gun object placement is poor. For example, if you want a combined depth and pop-out experience, the level of gun separation will be too wide for comfort. DDD has a great feature that lets you separate the sky, scene, and gun 3D settings, but the beta profile isn’t able to separate the elements yet – and that really holds things back. Last but not least, there are a lot of mismatched lighting errors that should really be corrected.
However, even with all these bugs, the 3D is far more interesting and dynamic looking than what is natively offered with Deus-Ex’s native support...for now.
As a game, I’m continuing to enjoy Deus-Ex: Human Revolution. It’s a fun mix of action, social commentary, and mystery. It’s not a traditional shoot’em up, and the environments are interesting from beginning to end. I wouldn’t call it game of the year material, but it’s memorable and worth adding to your shopping list.
For the fellow 3D gamers out there, it isn’t a winning proposition just yet. Unless my experience is unique, it’s not a great show horse for AMD’s HD3D until it really becomes a 3D game, and only one of three driver developers has managed compatibility with work left to be done so far.
Where HD3D succeeds is that the game’s performance is reasonably fast on a mid-range GPU in 3D mode, and it’s very easy to turn the 3D on in the game with few complications or an elaborate learning curve. One patch could make a world of difference for this game.
I have informed all the driver developers and EIDOS Montreal that should a patch or updated driver profile make itself available, we would be more than happy to update our findings. I think there is a lot of promise in what has been attempted and accomplished so far, and look forward to further developments in this area.
There is also a silver lining to this as well. We will be seeing additional titles come to market that are based on the HD3D spec, and I’m certain we will begin seeing AMD’s hand in initiatives that promote 3D video game quality as well as left/right standards. Keep an eye out!
For those interested in trying the DDD Deus-Ex beta profile, I have attached it to the related forum thread. If you are wondering how MTBS managed to get the HD3D screen captures....keep wondering! MTBS was so late in the game getting this review out, we had to leave SOMETHING to the imagination!