Published on June 21st, 2010 | by Cameron Woolsey
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Full Impressions
Eidos Montreal has a lot to live up to. When Deus Ex hit the PC scene back in 2000, it was heralded as one of the most intriguing games ever made and has repeatedly been featured in many “Best Games Ever” lists for the past ten years. Ever since Human Revolution was announced not long ago, I have felt skeptical that a new team driving the franchise would be able to recapture everything that made the original so great. However, a couple of days ago I was able to meet up with the game’s artistic director, Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, and he showed me the current build of the game. I put my skepticism aside and by the end of the demo, I do believe that Deus Ex may, in fact, have the perfect team for the job.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution stars a man named, Adam Jensen. For a time, he worked as a security specialist for a company. All that changed when one day the building was attacked and Adam loses the use of his arms and becomes augmented with highly-advanced mechanical arms. Adam, understandably, is not very happy. He decides to find out for himself who perpetrated the horrible attack, and have a little chat. Probably with guns.
When the demo starts Jonathan explains that we are joining Adam six hours into the campaign. We have the name of a hacker with information and we have a place to look: Shanghai. After Adam touches down on a rooftop, we head down to the busy streets below. Jonathan explains that each area is fully populated with NPCs who constantly interact with one-another. They all have a purpose to be there; there were people looking at shops, people wandering about, some were having conversations, and at least a couple shady characters peered at us from the shadows. Not only do these characters have a purpose in the game, but they have a purpose to Adam as well. Every NPC can be interacted with so you won’t have to hear any irritated grunts from NPCs with nothing useful to do but be scenery. Some of them will offer needed information, others can offer facts about the area you’re in or even some directions in case you need a hand navigating through the area.
Adam’s target happened to be in a local bar called, The Hive. Talking to the bouncer demonstrated the social interaction that will take place with many NPCs in the game. Much like in games such as Mass Effect, you are given a group of possible actions to take during the conversation. However, in Deus Ex the choices are more detailed. Instead of just choosing from a set of words to say, each choice includes a short paragraph outlining what Adam will say. The option will also be labeled so you can choose to speak forcefully, hoping to scare the info out of the target, or use more tact and catch the person in a lie.
The bouncer couldn’t be coerced using any sort of tactics–maybe Adam’s social skill was too low–so we simply paid our way inside. Jonathan then tells us that the player can also try different ways to get into the club such as search the outside walls for an air vent or some other way of entry. Apparently there is also an NPC around the area who knows a way to the sewer which can also lead to a different way into the club. But I think I like the stink-free choice better; we’re trying to avoid attention after all.
The conversation with the bartender inside eventually led to a man in the second floor of the club. While normal conversation will move the camera to third person, showing angled shots of the two characters in conversation. This new guy, however, was being interrogated in first-person. The action made me feel that this man is important or at least had something important to talk about. Jonathan had explained to us that during conversation players need to be alert for any kind of emotional change that takes place with the person being interrogated. During conversation with this new man, his steely disposition began to crumble under the right questioning. His face began to contort and he began to shift his weight. One question left him pacing around, his voice becoming think with rising frustration. Unfortunately, our interrogation still brought no decent lead, but we did discover one thing: the man we just spoke to knows who we’re looking for but he refuses to open the door, so we need to find another way in.
There were several ways to accomplish this goal, but Jonathan decided to show us another way. As Adam walked away from our previous target, we went passed two guards who were in mid-conversation. One of them is explaining to the other that he had just lost his ID card somewhere in the club. Perfect. A quick run around later and we find the card on the floor; the door code for a maintenance hall just happened to be on it. Going through the door, we spot a ventilation grate on the floor and move inside. We eventually find our man but before we get any info, part one of the demo ends. Which is too bad because I really wanted to find out the next step. I guess we’ll have to wait until the real thing.
Part two of the demo is all action. Jonathan previously explained that the game focuses upgrades among four different pillars: hacking, social, combat, and stealth. The first part of the demo was highlighted the social aspects of the game. Being an action-RPG, you are given points to insert into these options. If you want to handle situations by intelligent info-gathering and moving covertly, then upgrading your social and hacking skills will be your best bet.
But at this point in the demo, Adam Jensen is a badass; his combat skills are highly upgraded and ready for some devastation. Much like in the previous Deus Ex games, you can upgrade your strength to be able to move heavy objects. At the start of the demo, Adam is assaulting a barricaded hangar crawling with guards. Lifting a heavy box, we find a hole in the wall to pass through. Jonathan explains that social skills are not always the only way to find new entrances, some can be found by moving objects but you can only do that when you put enough points into the strength skill. This “commando Adam” also has a high level of hacking skills and he displays that nicely by knocking out all the compound’s security cameras. The demo continued by showing how you can navigate through an area using some fancy stealth maneuvers.
Sneaking up behind enemies will allow you to perform an instant takedown move. Pressing the right button can change the takedown from being lethal to non-lethal, which is your choice depending on how you want to play. You can instantly knock out more than one opponent as well. Sneaking across some large containers, two guards were chatting it up. Dropping down, Adam quickly dispatched both effortlessly in a very impressive fashion.
There are also silent weapons you can use if you want to keep it quiet such as a crossbow. If this game follows the first Deus Ex, I’m sure other acquired weapons can be upgraded with mods to allow some silent kills. The crossbow we found on the complex was quiet enough to kill a guard but powerful enough to leave him hanging on the wall he was just standing next to. What a neat toy.
We also got to check out the cloak mode that will allow players to go near-invisible at the press of a button. This is a great way to move around a brightly-lit area when trying to sneak up on some unsuspecting guards or by simply trying to move to the next area without being noticed. Another fancy upgrade was x-ray vision. Looking through a wall, we noticed a guard standing a little to close to the wall. If you have seen the trailer you should know what came next. With metal arms, Adam can punch through walls to grab enemies that have their backs near the wall and then kill them. Punching through brick and rebar with metal arms didn’t make enough noise to alert any guards. How fortunate.
As I mentioned before, in the previous two Deus Ex titles, weapons can be modified to match a situation. Human Revolution allows this as well. For example, if you decide to gun down some guards at a secret complex and a giant missile-happy robot is air-lifted into the compound to say hello. That is a situation. And that kind of situation calls for a heat-seeking missile launcher. Luckily, we just happened to have one on hand. Ducking down behind some boxes, we watched as Adam moved quickly from cover to cover to get a better aim at the robot. The cover system is not new to those familiar with modern day shooters; it looked to me to have the influence of both Gears of War and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Taking careful aim, we were able to get a lock-on and with the help of the heat-seeking mod, we were able to fire the missile over some cover and then it made a quick turn downward, destroying the menacing machine.
A few minutes and a bad C4 experiment later, the demonstration finally ended. As you can gather, the demonstration was varied and exciting. The best thing I took when I left the room, though, was a smile. The Deus Ex fan inside me was satisfied. And for all the Deus Ex fans out there, you can bet that I will be on top of any new information to come out of Eidos-Montreal about Human Revolution. So stay tuned, good things are on the way.