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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution May Actually Be A Revolution
by Phil Kollar on Jun 16, 2010 at 07:45 AM
Platform Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Publisher Square Enix
Developer Eidos Montreal
Rating Mature

My expectations were kind of low going into the hands-off demo for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I had played and adored the first Deus Ex years ago, but Human Revolution is being developed by a brand new studio with no ties to the team that created the first game. And what current-gen game has been able to pull off Deus Ex’s particular mix of shooting, dialogue, stealth, and light role-playing elements? What current-gen game has given players the sheer number of options for completing each mission that the original Deus Ex provided?

Well, it might be this game. I was totally shocked and very pleased to discover at this demo that Human Revolution just might pull it off.

Like the original Deus Ex, Human Revolution will focus on numerous abilities that can be used to achieve your goals. These abilities can be handily split up into four areas: combat, stealth, social, and hacking. The augmentations that you choose to equip as the game progresses will help determine which of these skills you excel at.

In the demo I was shown, protagonist Adam Jensen is flown to an island off of Shanghai where he’s tasked with hunting down a notorious hacker with ties to the Triads (a group that calls back to the first game in a way that should make fans smile). The first location Jensen searches is a packed night club called The Hive.

On the way to the club, Jensen can choose to talk to the many NPCs filling the streets. Each of these characters has dialogue options, potentially giving you more information on your location or even presenting a sidequest. Upon getting to the Hive’s entrance, Jensen is stopped at the door; only “members” can get in. There are numerous options here. Jensen could talk to NPCs in the area to figure out an alternate way to gain access. He could sneak around the back and find a different entrance. He could simply kill the bouncer blocking his path. In this case, he chooses to hand over the money for the membership so as to avoid causing a scene before he’s even in the club.

Once inside, Jensen stalks the club for a while, asking random people where he can get more info on finding the hacker. Eventually he makes his way to a gruff bartender who seems to know more than he’s letting on. What blows me away here -- perhaps more than anything else in the demo -- was the NPC’s eyes. Eyes are a notoriously difficult body part to make realistic in video games, but in Deus Ex the eyes and the motions during conversation seem completely natural. At one point, the bartender tells an obvious lie; I can tell by the way his eyes look down from Jensen’s without his moving. Later, he tells Jensen that he doesn’t know what he’s getting into and turns his whole body knowingly. Matched with the very detailed character models, these subtle movements are a touch that makes the conversations significantly more effective than in the average conspiracy-driven video game storyline.

Though the bartender is unhelpful, Jensen chooses to leave him alone and seek answers elsewhere in the club. Wandering down one corridor, he overhears two of the Hive’s armed guards talking about a misplaced security card. This eavesdropping is done completely intuitively by positioning yourself near the guards and listening in – the game wisely doesn’t need to pull you into a cutscene or take away control for you to gain this necessary information. Needless to say, Jensen locates the missing the card, which contains a keycode that he can use to go deeper into the facility.

After this portion of the demo focusing on the game’s more adventure-y aspects, I got to watch a second level that showed off the combat skills. Jensen begins by using the strength augmentation to lift a heavy box out of the way of a secret path toward a warehouse he’s looking to enter. Past that, he moves another box over to directly below the window to a small guard outpost. Jumping onto the box, he’s able to silently open the window, sneak inside, and perform a stealth takedown kill on the unsuspecting guard. This opens up his path, though I’m promised there are “at least five different ways to get into the warehouse.”

The takedowns, which all look incredible, are automatic kills that can be triggered when up close to an enemy. They could make combat a lot easier than it needs to be, but they also serve to make the stealth gameplay very approachable and satisfying. In one great takedown I saw, Jensen drops down from a crate, landing next to two guards who he almost immediately stabs through the neck with blades that pop out of his elbows. Does taking out a mere two guards with a single move not seem impressive enough? In another, he drops through a ceiling window, this time landing directly in the middle of four guards. Jensen then spins in a circle, releasing a ton of shells that fly toward the enemies around him and explode on impact. Four enemies dead with one stylish button press? Hard to complain about that.

The most questionable aspect of Human Revolution so far is the actual full-on gunplay – the kind where you’re not being stealthy and just taking dudes out with an assault rifle. This was also arguably the weakest part of the original Deus Ex, so it makes sense to be wary. That said, the cover-based shooting mechanics looked totally passable and potentially even a bit enjoyable. They just weren’t nearly as interesting or unique as all the other cool stuff that was shown off during the demo.

One element of the gunplay that looks kind of neat is weapon customization. At the end of the demo, Jensen is attacked by a giant robotic creation. Jensen puts away his machine gun and grabs a rocket launcher for this fight. Luckily he’s upgraded the gun with heat-seaking rockets, allowing him to stand far away behind some boxes for safety. From that position, he fires into the air and watches his missiles move in an arc as they lock onto and destroy the robot.

In a final cutscene closing off the demo, Jensen is confronted and attacked by a giant, muscle-bound bad guy with a nose ring and a slight Southern drawl. This unnamed opponent talks Jensen’s ear off and then draws his weapon: a chain gun that appears out of the cybernetic enhancements in his arm. This villain seems like he’s straight out of a Metal Gear game, and I say that in the best way possible. The gameplay of Human Revolution is already capturing my imagination. If the story can pull in some of the wild inventiveness of a Kojima narrative, Eidos Montreal may have one of the most unexpected franchise revivals ever in its hands.

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Deus Ex: Human  Revolutioncover

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
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