Deus Ex is quite possibly my favorite game of all time. It's flawed, but it does so much right that it's difficult to not love it. Everything, from the cheesy cyberpunk story line, to the completely unsurpassed level design, stands up to this day, and it's rare to find someone who has played it and doesn't love it.
Unfortunately, Deus Ex is also a rather forgotten franchise. The sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War remains an example of how to not do a sequel, and it's so bad that further Deus Ex games, such as Project: Snowblind, removed the franchise name. It's understandable that I'm hesitant about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, especially considering that it's being developed by a new team. The E3 demo gives me hope that the developers could make a game that lives up to the original title's legacy.
Taking place roughly 25 years before the events of the first game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is actually a prequel to the original Deus Ex. Humanity is dealing with a technical revolution based on the idea of augmentations, or augs, which are cybernetic replacements for human parts that grant their users amazing abilities at the cost of their humanity. By the time of Deus Ex, such augs are being phased out for more powerful, nanomachine-based parts, but in this title, they are just starting to become a fact of life.
Players take control of Adam Jensen, a private security officer who is badly injured in an accident. When he awakens, his injures have been repaired with augmentations, and he finds that he must track down the person responsible for the accident. Along the way, he'll discover a conspiracy that involves the entire world and has the potential to alter the future of humanity for the better … or worse.
The first sequence that we saw in Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place on a small island city near Shanghai. Adam is looking for Tong, an information dealer who frequents a club named The Hive. This sequence shows off the non-combat aspects of the game. Adam, wearing a heavy trench coat to disguise his augs, makes his way through the city streets. It isn't a very busy city, but there are a number of NPCs who are talking and giving out info about the setting. We were told that every NPC will have something to say, even if they're just discussing the weather. We also see that it's best to not pull out your gun in public. When Adam takes out his pistol to check it, a nearby citizen panics and begs for his life. Fortunately, we did this away from the crowds, but reckless gamers should pay heed.
Adam eventually makes his way into The Hive after bribing the guard at the front door. We're told that this is one of a few possible ways to get into the club, and violence or stealth could also be an option. The club is a fairly busy place, but Adam makes his way to the bartender and asks for information. The conversation system is a bit like Alpha Protocol or Mass Effect in that Adam doesn't have entire lines but picks the tone of his responses. You get a one-word tone and a brief summary of the specifics. Adam attempts to sweet-talk the bartender into letting him see Tong, but to no avail, so he has to find another way. While wandering around the bar, he hears two guards talking about how they lost a datapad with the code to Tong's hideaway. After searching a nearby bathroom, Adam finds the datapad and code. There are a few ways to get the code. Adam can hack the keypad, although we didn't see how the hacking mechanics work in our demo. The keypad is also made for manual entry, and since we found the code, it's shown on the edge of the screen.
Tong's hideout is guarded, and we get our first glimpse of the cover system. By pressing up against a wall, Adam will hide against it, and the camera switches to a third-person view, allowing him to peek around a corner. When the patrolling guard in the hallway turns his back, Adam darts out and knocks him out with a takedown. Once the guard is down, Adam drags his body out of the way, preventing discovery by other patrolling enemies. Then he finds a good ol' Deus Ex standard: the illogically placed ventilation shaft. By prying off the vent cover, he sneaks inside to Tong's hiding place. This activates a lengthy cut scene that reveals the information Adam is looking for, although Deus Ex faithful may be sad to hear that this scene is completely out of the player's control and takes place in a lengthy cinematic.
The second sequence that we saw is more action-oriented. If the previous section is Deus Ex: Human Revolution's version of a Hong Kong setting, this sequence is more akin to an action-oriented set piece. Adam has changed his outfit. Since he's not worried about blending into the crowd, he changed his trench coat for light body armor. We don't find out if the armor has any gameplay value or is purely cosmetic, but it seems like it would give players an indication of what to expect in the area. Being in combat armor doesn't mean that you won't talk, and being in a trench coat doesn't mean that you can't fight, but it certainly looks like you can infer the tone of the area from your clothing.
Adam attempts to sneak into a heavily guarded warehouse. The first option is to go through the front door, but that would sound an alarm and bring enemies rushing down. Instead, we see him use his arm augmentation to move a heavy crate, which exposes a gap in the fence. This section is basically indistinguishable from the original game, except for the addition of the cover system. Even the crate-carrying animation is pretty much the same. The cover system feels a bit odd but, at the same time, it looks quite smooth. Players can easily jump from cover to cover at the touch of a button, and it seems to improve the field of vision. Fears of this being an entirely ground-level game are slightly assuaged when Adam pulls a crate to a nearby window and uses it to sneak up and inside.
As Adam sneaks inside, he finds himself alone in a room with a guard. Sneaking up to him, he performs a context-sensitive takedown, killing the enemy brutally and silently. The takedowns seem a little lengthy for a stealth game. Adam would move behind the enemy and brutally kill him, taking a few seconds do so in the most cinematic way possible. It seems like it would be a problem when multiple guards are patrolling the area. We saw Adam perform an Assassin's Creed 2-style takedown of two guards at once, which is a pretty neat idea, although it seems more limited in its use than in the crowded marketplaces of Assassin's Creed.
After killing the guard, Adam slowly and stealthily makes his way through the base. We see a glimpse at a few of his powers, most of which seem like traditional Deus Ex-style augmentations. The leg aug lets him leap high onto a crate and take a different path outside of enemy patrol routes. He switches over to a crossbow with a built-in scope that allows him to snipe enemies quietly from a distance. The crossbow has an auto-adjusting aim, so after targeting for a moment, the scope modifies the crosshair, showing us where the player needs to shoot to adjust for the arc of the crossbow bolt. Adam uses his augmented eyes to look through a wall and find a guard who is on the other side. He can use his arms to smash through the wall, killing the guard and making a new entrance into the area. It's an interesting power, although one wonders how freely it can be used.
Adam makes his way through the guards, using takedowns and weapons until he reaches the rooftop and comes across a skylight with a large number of guards visible below. We see the Icarus landing system aug in action. Adam leaps down through the glass and lands in the middle of the crowd. He follows up with another aug that starts a slow cinematic of Adam releasing bombs that blow up everything around him. Of all the moments in the demo, this felt the most scripted. The other augs seem to be added smoothly into the gameplay, but the Icarus and bombing augs stand out as feeling like cut scenes, as if the movements aren't under player control.
After taking out the guards, Adam must deal with the fact that he loudly burst into the warehouse, and this leads to a fairly traditional boss fight against a giant guard robot. Adam hides behind boxes and pops out to blast the robot with a rocket launcher, which has a "heat-seeking" weapon modification attached. Weapon mods were in previous Deus Ex titles and allowed you to alter weapon properties, so it's nice to see that they'll make a return in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. After dispatching the robot, Adam makes his way upstairs to the room where his target is supposed to be. Instead, he walks into a trap and is forced to dive out a window to avoid an explosion. The demo ends with a large and heavily augmented man attacking Adam in a cut scene, shortly before turning his robotic hand into a nasty-looking gun and aiming it at Adam's head. The screen fades to black as the sound of gunshots fills the air.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is shaping up quite well. Based on our E3 demo, the developers seem to have a good idea of what makes Deus Ex such a great game. The promise of multiple paths through a level and numerous things to discover lends a lot of hope that Deus Ex: Human Revolution will provide an experience somewhat similar to the original title. There will be plenty of new and modern mechanics, although we didn't see a lot of them in action. The HUD was turned off for our demo, so we can't say how health and bioaugmentation energy works, although there are indications of a regenerating health system. A few things stood out, such as the overly lengthy takedowns and the seemingly pre-scripted appearance of the Icarus and bombing augmentation, but they are not enough to distract from all that the things that the demo did right. If Deus Ex: Human Revolution can live up to the promise of our brief demo, it can be a worthy follow-up to the original title.
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