Please note: the screenshots in this preview are not from the level we played through.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in 2027, around 25 years before the original Deus Ex. There is no requirement to have played the first two games to understand the events of Human Revolution, but no doubt those who have will be rewarded by way of filling in some of the back-story. Human Revolution follows Adam Jensen, a security officer working for a human augmentation company called Sarif Industries. At the beginning of Human Revolution the company is attacked leaving Adam badly injured, who is then himself required to be augmented in order to survive. This is where the player takes over to unravel the plot and thus the classic Deus Ex conspiracy theory begins.
Players familiar with the Deus Ex universe will comfortably feel at home as the same action, stealth and RPG mix returns in Human Revolution. Before having a hands-on session we were given a demonstration of a level set in Hengsha City, around half way through the game. This city is essentially two cities built on-top of one another, with a transition area called the Pangu separating the two. In this mission Adam needed to make his way up the Tai Young Medical (TYM) building in order to find a secret recording by a chap named Van Bruggen. This would mean infiltrating the building and then finding a lift to the top. All typical Deus Ex so far.
The demonstration started inside the lower levels of the biotech facility, and the developer took Adam further inside before access was blocked a guard. This is where the multitude of gameplay options first becomes apparent. There is the choice to bribe, try to blag it or simply attack the guard. Here the developer decided to bribe the guard, who accepted but warned to stay out of sight or face trouble. From here there were several routes to the first lift which would take Adam to the Pangu. The easy access routes will usually be harder to progress, so here the developer hacked a crane walkway to open a route over the security guards and cameras.
Hacking in Human Revolution is more involving than the previous titles. The hacking system is complicated to explain in writing but believe us it is a well thought-out ‘mini-game’ which involves getting to the desired files before the security tracing system catches you. This can become a tense affair though don’t expect anywhere the same sort of depth seen in dedicated hacking game Uplink. With the terminal hacked and the bridge moved Adam could climb up to the walkway to get across. Unfortunately taking the higher path meant there was an inhumanly drop to get back down again. Lucky for the developer then that Adam is heavily augmented.
Augmentations in Human Revolution are a lot more accessible and varied than Invisible War. Split into four areas - combat, stealth, hacking and social – augments can be bought and upgraded using ‘Praxis Points’. Everyone will be familiar of experience points (XP) by now – these are gained by performing stealthy takedowns or completing objectives, for example. Once Adam has collected a certain amount of XP the player will receive a Praxis Point, which can then be spent on the augments. In this deep fall situation Adam can make use of a body augment that allows him to drop down and not agonisingly break both his legs. This drop was done in a third-person mini cut-scene, but the third-person view is actually more widely used for being stealthy, as Adam can move about cover Metal Gear Solid style.
This cover system was used to sneak up on two unsuspecting guards. Here Adam can either perform a non-lethal or lethal takedown - being non-lethal earns more XP but the guards can later wake up. The developer in control of Adam took the non-lethal option – though it should be noted this was still very brutal – and then proceeded to drag the bodies into a nearby cleaning closet. Now Adam could make his way up to the Pangu – the area in-between the two city levels. Here Adam could walk around unopposed but a key card would be required to get the lift to the top level. Conveniently Adam overheard one of the workers talking to a guard about losing his card, so the developer set about using augmented strength to move a heavy vending machine into position below an air vent to the office, before using a high jump augment to actually get into it.
Clearly the augmentations are a big part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it’s clear that they have been well implemented for what is essentially a super-hero experience. Four augments can be mapped to the D-pad (or PC equivalent) so Adam can rapidly adapt to any situation. Need to see what’s ahead? X-ray vision check. Want to quickly bypass some foes? Cloak check. Surrounded by enemies and don’t know what to do? 360 degree tornado attack check. These augments use battery power though so are not unlimited in use. What works best though is how the XP and augments work hand in hand. It’s up to the player to unlock and upgrade different augmentations as they progress to suit their playing style.
With the demonstration over it was time for us to take a stab at the level in our own personal way. We did a bit of exploring first and stumbled across a scientist who needed our help as he just had an accident - the kind which damaged his bio-suit and released a load of toxic gases into his enclosed room. Fortunately we had enough Praxis Points to purchase the ‘Implanted Breather’ augment which allowed us to enter the room and shut off the gas valve without falling to the floor dead. We had to shift some debris out of the way to reach the scientist who was very grateful for our help. In addition to gaining some XP for this secondary objective the scientist said the front guard owed him a favour, so would let us through unopposed if we dropped the scientist’s name.
This we did and the guard true to his word let us through, this time without needing the bribe. Instead of taking the walkway route we opted to use the slightly more complicated ground route. Using a stun gun we disabled a security camera and then got to the room with the two security guards. Here, instead of activating the cloak we accidently hit the 360-degree tornado attack button which alerted the guards to our position. Some gun play followed but we only had use of a pistol against their automatic weapons. A gunner robot soon joined the party and it wasn’t long before we were mincemeat.
Slightly red-faced we had to start the whole sequence from the beginning (though progress can be saved anywhere), but this time we wanted to try out the combat properly. We stunned the initial guard before properly using the tornado attack to deal with the next two guards. Unfortunately for us this set off the alarms and the robot still came out guns blazing. We used an EMP grenade to disable this but more guards were on their way. We picked up the automatic guns, but our inventory was full. The inventory system works in the same way as the original Deus Ex, so we cleared some space for the machine gun. A radial inventory can also be brought up to quickly change items.
We changed to the machine gun and started to fight off the incoming guards. Sadly this fast paced combat felt clumsy on the controller and wasn’t all that enjoyable compared to dedicated shooter titles. Health is of the regeneration type but we were soon outnumbered again and were filled with too much lead before dying. Clearly it was easier to progress through the level in a slow and careful manner - planning the best route and selecting your battles - which requires more time and forethought. Hopefully when it does come to a fight the PC controls will be better suited for the raging battles.
Graphically the demo we played on the Xbox 360 wasn’t all that impressive. While the view of the city was quite breathtaking, the rest of the textures were bland and there was no anti-aliasing either. While gameplay is the most crucial component to Deus Ex our hope is again with the PC version for a more visual feast. It might not seem like it now but we have had to miss out a lot of detail in our preview. The level of in-game depth is extraordinary, with NPCs chatting to each other (including some amusing stories) and literature such as newspapers and tablets can be read to add extra depth if required. There would also seem to be a lot of optional exploring to do should the player wish to find extra quests or items to help Adam in future situations.
Overall Human Revolution looks set to blend the best components of the first two Deus Ex titles while adding a few new ideas along the way. A wide range of players should feel at home with Human Revolutions; there are three difficulty settings which can be changed on the fly and there are even video tutorials to explain all the game concepts. As mentioned before we do feel the game will be better suited to the PC as the gunplay and graphics were a little uneasy in our Xbox 360 experience. Adam Jensen came across as too brutish and cocky a character for our liking, but to fully appreciate the potential of a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution a play-through of the whole story will be required, which we look forward doing closer to its August 26th 2011 release date.