It’s been a long time since the last Deus Ex game, and Invisible War failed to impress with its more simplistic approach to the Deus Ex design. Though announced quite some time ago, Eidos went silent about the anticipated new entry in the franchise, and with Square Enix’s acquisition of the publisher the fate of Deus Ex was unknown. Enter Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel to the original game and an ambitious rebirth of the franchise.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place in 2027, during the age of biomechanical augmentation alluded to in the first Deux Ex game. Set only 17 years in the future, Deus Ex deals with the growing practice of human augmentation, which divides the world, causing strife and unrest. You play Adam Jensen, a heavily modified human capable of incredible feats of strength, stealth, and agility, as he seeks to discover the mystery behind the strife between augmented and natural humans. As a prequel to the original game, it’s possible to play it without any knowledge of the Deus Ex universe, but there will be references to the other Deus Ex games for those familiar with them.
Deus Ex games are built on four pillars of design, which shape the gameplay experience. These are stealth, action, hacking, and social. Our demo started with the social aspect. Jensen entered a sprawling urban island-city full of seedy criminal underworlds and powerful organizations. In this demo Jensen visits a particular bar, seeking information. I noticed the streets around the bar were full of NPCs, and I was told that none of these NPCs are simply there for show, and Jensen can converse with all of them. Some will offer information, and others sidequests, but the social aspect of the game will allow Jensen to accomplish much through conversation alone.
Jensen entered the very exclusive bar through paying the guard in our demo, but he also could have used conversation skills to talk his way in, shot the guard, or snuck in a back way. Conversations with incidental NPCs may have also revealed unique information helpful to him. Once in the bar Jensen attempted to convince the information broker to reveal the information he needed, but failed. This caused Jensen to resort to stealth, and he snuck into a vent to complete his espionage.
Once the information was gathered the demo switched to a new area, as they showed off a mission. At this point Jensen needed to sneak into a shipping yard and warehouse. The shipping yard was heavily guarded, but because Jensen had a lot of strength he was able to lift some debris out of the way and sneak in through a crack in the wall. There were multiple possible routes in, and what was available depended on how the character was developed. It’s also an option to simply charge the front gates, guns blazing.
At this point, Jensen proceeded to advance towards his goal with stealth. While most of the game is played in first person, when Jensen attaches to cover the camera switches to third person, allowing better view of your surroundings both for targeting in combat and avoiding guard patrols. Jensen dispatched multiple guards with blades deployed from his mechanical arms. He also showed the trailer move of punching through a cement wall to snap the neck of the guard behind it. The skills were stylish and brutal, but they are contextual and not scripted according to the developers. They were also clear that you can choose to simply disable the guards instead if you prefer, and the entirety of the game can be completed without killing.
As Jensen drew nearer his goal, he began to deploy more advanced stealth mechanisms, including a full body cloaking device and a silenced pistol, allowing him to dispatch enemies with greater efficiency and stealth. Once he reached the warehouse Jensen was again presented with numerous options of entry, but the developer chose to take him in through the roof. After reaching the skylight Jensen dropped through it, and all pretense of stealth was abandoned; it was time for a firefight. Jensen landed between two guards and deployed dozens of small metallic balls upon landing which hovered around him, then launched outward, killing many and causing mass destruction.
As the firefight began the developers made efficient use of cover and their arsenal of weapons. Jensen primarily used an assault rifle, returning fire both in and out of cover in a first person firefight. The target reticule did not seem to be affected by Jensen’s stats, and the standard soldiers were soon defeated, but this was not the end. A gigantic quadruped mech was dropped into the warehouse, and Jensen was once again attacking and running. He picked up a rocket launcher, used it to get a lock, and then hid behind a barrier. When he shot the rocket it went over the barrier and sought out the mech, striking and destroying it. The developers explained this was one of the many RPG aspects of the game, and the rocket was able to seek because of an upgrade applied to it.
The demo drew to a close with Jensen confronted by an extremely powerful augmented human, whose arms could turn into enormous guns. It was a blast to watch, and alleviated any apprehension I had that it wouldn’t meet what I expected of a Deus Ex game. If this demo is any indication it will be a true evolution for the franchise. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a true Deus Ex game, and so far looks like an incredible experience for fans and new players alike.