Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Preview: E3 2011
"... it looks like Deus Ex has been put on the track to greatness."

Ion Storm has been around for many years, but their popular series have been taken over by the folks at Square Enix's Eidos Montreal studio. Based on what we've seen and played, it looks like Deus Ex has been put on the track to greatness. Human Revolution takes place in the year 2027 and follows Adam Jensen, a private security specialist working for Sarif Industries. The company is attacked by unknown assailants, top researchers were killed, and Jensen himself was critically injured. He recovers with the assistance of many medical augmentations provided by Sarif and he becomes the next six million dollar man; Adam must now figure out exactly what happened to his company. To do that, he'll have to gather augmentations, sneak around, hack, and shoot his way to the answer, and players who want to do any of these things any more than the other will be free to choose any of these options to reach their goal.

The basic gameplay is what players will expect from Deus Ex: first-person shooter gameplay with options, options, options. While games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age give players choices in how to get through dialogue sequences, Deus Ex provides multiple solutions for every situation in the game. If you decide that you want to head into a situation guns blazing, that's your prerogative, and that's how I decided to take on my playable time with the demo. However, when Square Enix representatives began their demo for us, they snuck around and used environments to their advantage, doing things such as climbing on vending machines, and hacking their way through doorways. Each situation had many solutions beyond just "here is how you hack this door" or "you must shoot this guard," and you may be able to find multiple paths even as a stealth character. As such, exploration is a big part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and stays important throughout the entire game.

One issue that I did run into with the demo was the control scheme. It's not that it's bad - in fact, every bit of the control scheme makes sense - it's just that it's very different from what I'd expect from a first person shooter. For example, the left trigger doesn't aim you down the sights, it pulls you to cover; clicking in the right stick takes you down the sights. It took me just about my entire time with the demo to get acquainted with the controls. Still, they're crisp and smooth, and at the end of the day, hopefully they will be customizable. I can't really complain here, but it would be nice to just be able to pick up and play this title easily.

While it took me a little while to get used to the controls, I was immersed in the environments immediately. A great deal of the story is told through this exploration. Eidos Montreal made it quite clear that there's a great deal of visual storytelling; aside from just provisional cues for what's going on, there are well-crafted newspapers, e-books, and other bits of text found throughout the game. That's not to say that there aren't dialogue options, but in our part of the demo, it seemed more focused around choice rather than actual storytelling. In my demo, I saved the life of a worker of a Sarif competitor and he was able to call in a favor, allowing me past the guard of a room I needed to enter. When Square demoed it for us, they didn't do that, but they instead bribed the guard. This all happened through dialogue sequences, but we didn't get to see any cutscenes.

While choice is a big part of most western RPGs, that's not what makes a great RPG. Jensen gains experience points, and after gaining a certain amount of experience points, he'll gain a Praxis Point. These points can be distributed amongst the different cybernetic enhancements that litter his body. Praxis Points can improve hacking, visuals, gun stability, inventory management, and a great number of other augmentations. Some of the later augmentations can provide special abilities, such as the typhoon augmentation, which gives Adam a whirlwind attack that takes out a range of enemies. Beyond augmentations, weapons can also be customized with their own parts, ranging from silencers to clip expansion packs. There's quite a bit of player choice here, and depending how you play, you'll have a different Jensen than your best friend will.

There's a great deal to look forward to with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and even this preview isn't an exhaustive list of what we saw in our demo, at least in terms of customization. Players can cloak, suppress their sound, enhance their energy, gain strength, and just plain kick ass. I'm excited to see how this game pans out in its final version, but our demo showed quite a bit of promise. If Adam can be half the badass that he was throughout our demo, he'll make a good impression. Until then, we'll have to wait until August to take him for his final spin.

Preview: February 2011
"Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks to be true to the best spirit of the series while offering a more fluid, robust experience that long-time fans and newcomers alike can get lost in."

Deus Ex is a series that has given its fans both joy and heartbreak. The original is a lauded PC classic, known for its open-ended gameplay, multifaceted story, and strong degree of player choice. The sequel, Invisible War, took heat for being overly streamlined, with a shorter campaign, simplified mechanics and story, and "innovations" like universal ammo for all weapons and the removal of the RPG-like skill progression system. Fans were also treated to a PS2 port of the original that had good intentions but suffered from some of the limitations of the PlayStation 2 hardware.

So, it was with both excitement and cautious skepticism that fans greeted the announcement of Eidos Montreal's new prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, back in 2007. Warren Spector, storied developer of the original games, was not involved, and fans were unsure if the game would follow in the heavily streamlined footsteps of Invisible War or the original. Flash forward to today, when the developers have disclosed many more details and the release date is looming, and it becomes very clear that anticipation is running high for Human Revolution.

This game takes place about 25 years before the first game, and it centers on Adam Jensen, an employee of Sarif Industries. You begin as an un-augmented Adam, tasked with playing bodyguard in the midst of a major political debate on the nature of human mechanical augmentation. By the end of this sequence, Adam finds himself in a rather Alex Murphy-like predicament and is mechanically augmented to save his life. You are then charged with hunting down those responsible for Adam's mutilation and likely diving into a web of globe-spanning conspiracy, and in true Deus Ex fashion, it'll be up to you and Adam to decide who to trust.

From a visual standpoint, the game is looking stellar. The development team has created a sort of future-Renaissance aesthetic for wealthy upper-class locales and their occupants, but has placed the denizens of the lower parts of the world in a dingy, dystopian conglomeration heavily reminiscent of sci-fi classic film Blade Runner. The game's attention to detail is evident in videos and screenshots – this is a world that feels dark and lived-in. To add to this sense of realism, the development team has reportedly fabricated at least a hundred in-game product brands, but there's no word yet as to whether classic soda brands like "BURN!" and "ZAP!" will make a return from the original game.

It has also been confirmed that the game will make use of not only a system of mechanical augmentations for protagonist Adam Jensen (voiced gravelly and Batman-like by Elias Toufexis), but also a set of upgradeable skills like the original. From a gameplay standpoint, the team is working hard to keep the all-important sense of player agency from the classic titles – will you murder everyone indiscriminately or knock foes out with a well-planned stealth takedown? Will you sneak in quietly through the vents or blow the doors off the front gates? It appears that all of these options will be viable, in addition to a conversation system in which Jensen can intimidate, persuade, and otherwise mine NPCs (all of whom can reportedly be spoken to) for their valuable information. The game is primarily played from a first-person perspective, although it utilizes the industry-standard third-person cover system for shootouts and hallway sneaking.

Hacking also makes a return, though not in the form players might remember. They no longer need to hoard those handy yellow multitools, because hacking is now a minigame based on the player's skill level. Stealth takedowns also return, and like hacking, they have evolved. Rather than sneaking up behind enemies and smacking them in the cranium with a beat-stick/knife/cattle-prod/laser sword, players now utilize Assassin's Creed-style stealth takedowns, which come in both lethal and nonlethal flavors (the former of which can make use of some nasty arm-blades, also much like Assassin's Creed). Those who prefer to utilize firearms will be happy to know that their options will be plentiful and that each weapon will have its own unique type of ammunition (you can't power a rocket launcher and a pistol from the same pool of "ammo").

The game was recently delayed from its March/April release window, but is rumored to be set for release sometime in the fiscal year beginning in April 2011. Based on what's been announced so far, the team behind this new prequel appears to understand what it is about Deus Ex that people loved all those years ago, and, what's more, what they didn't love about Invisible War. Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks to be true to the best spirit of the series while offering a more fluid, robust experience that long-time fans and newcomers alike can get lost in.

We still have a while to wait before we can play Human Revolution. In the meantime, be sure to check out our massive collection of screens and videos from the game!

© 2011 Square Enix, Eidos Studios Montreal. All rights reserved.

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