Posts Tagged ‘ Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Happy Hour – September 9

OK, I lied. It’s actually the wee small hours of the 10th right now. I’m up late waiting for Windows 7 to install for a second time. The first time it didn’t clear away the hard drive, and I really didn’t feel like rooting out all the old files from the previous installation.

Tomorrow is likely to be grim, but hopefully I’ll be going into it with a vastly superior gaming rig. Some great friends spotted me a new power supply and a GTX 560 video card, and I just bought myself an ASUS 27-inch monitor, along with 8 gigs of RAM, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7. This should get me through to next year, at least. Longer, if consoles keep acting as an anchor on hardware requirements.

This is probably the only weekend where I could fit this in. For the rest of the month, I’m on reviews duty, with no end in sight. This upgrade needed to happen now or never, and it’s a load off my mind knowing I’ll be hitting the major releases with the great hardware. But before I get to reviews, I think I’ll have to install Crysis. Crysis, Sengoku, and Age of Empires Onlines should occupy my weekend quite nicely.

But what about my weeks? I haven’t done a great job of explaining what I’ve been up to lately, but the truth is I’ve kind of been everywhere of late. For instance, you can find me on the last couple Gamers With Jobs Conference Calls, talking about Deus Ex: Human Revolution and other things.

We’ve also been going great guns over on Three Moves Ahead, what with Soren Johnson killing some lazy summer days by spending time talking strategy games with us. It’s been impressive to see the spike in listeners. We do a good show over at 3MA, but a guy like Soren packs the house when he’s headlining. It’s great to count him among 3MA’s fans and recurring panelists.

I also made an appearance over at the mighty Rock, Paper, Shotgun, writing a review of the surprisingly good (yet still somewhat unfulfilling) Tropico 4. It’s thrilling to find myself writing at a place that was such a huge influence on me when I was starting out as a freelancer. To my relief, the RPS readership seems to think I fit in pretty well over there. Some of them didn’t even guess I was a Yank.

I’ll be popping up in some other unusual places over the coming weeks, and I’ve got some projects I’m really excited about. Hopefully tomorrow (today) I’ll be working on one of them with my pal JP Grant. Preferably with some brews in hand.

The Real Conspiracy Is Color

There’s a lot to like about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It has the style and mood of Christopher Nolan’s post-Insomnia work: a moody action epic with brains, one that’s as interested in characters as it is in firefights and explosions. From the opening titles, Michael McCann’s score evokes Hans Zimmer’s work on films like Inception and Dark Knight, shot through with strains of Vangelis.

But there is one area where Human Revolution starts to look like a second-rate blockbuster: it’s gaudy, exhausting visuals and two-tone color visual scheme. This is an exhausting game to look at for 20 or so hours, and the tragically limited palette annihilates any hope of setting one location apart from another.

To see what’s going on here, and it’s worth reading this great piece on digital color-grading in modern films. You’ll learn all about teal and orange, and why filmmakers distort their images toward those extremes.

Now the funny thing about Human Revolution is that it wouldn’t seem like this should be a problem. Unlike film, game developers don’t have to work with real actors or lighting. With film you can understand how a hack director might want his movie to look “better”, for actors to stand out more. A competent cinematographer and sense of visual style could also suffice for those purposes but, hey, Hollywood is Hollywood.

Good thing every TV screen in the world is literally teal and orange.

But, as in so many other things, games follow Hollywood straight over a cliff. So we get Human Revolution: a very good game with some legitimately great touches, undercut by visuals that bend over backwards to emulate the same kind of visual drama we see in theaters every summer. Now the orange is obvious in Human Revolution, but if you look closely, you’ll see that every other shade of gray or green is slightly bent toward teal. Look at these pictures that showcase Human Revolution’s visual diversity.

In isolation, this all looks cool. But this is nearly every scene in DE:HR.

The subway has been redone in teal and orange, and the cardboard is nicely fluorescent.

Notice that even the grays are greenish. And even the Illuminati can't resist orange lighting.

A more desaturated scene, mercifully muting the palette, but it's still recognizable.

The detectives' bureau at the police station appears to have been moved to Rapture.