PS3 Preview – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It has been eight long years since Deus Ex landed its futuristic conspiracies on the PlayStation 2, and seven years since the latest entry in the series. Eidos Montreal recently invited us to their Canadian studio to take a sneak peek at the upcoming third entry in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and we’ve got a preview right here.

A club in the not-too-distant future.

While the original Deus Ex took place in the year 2052, and its sequel in 2072, Human Revolution is actually a prequel. It is now the not-to-distant year of 2027, and instead of humans being modified via nanotechnology as in the first two titles, body upgrades are performed via bio-mechanical means. Humanity is going through another Renaissance of sorts, this time in the realm of transhumanism – evolving the very notion of what it means to be human.

Human Revolution stars a new character, Adam Jensen. He is a mercenary of sorts to the Sarif Industries conglomerate, one of many gigantic companies vying for power. According to Mary DeMarie, Narrative Game Designer, this game, while technically a prequel, is a self-contained story. So people who may not have played the prior titles in the series should not be confused at any point in the story. There will be foreshadowing and references to the other games, but it had been implied that those are mostly for the fans or to further flesh out the overarching story.

The Deus Ex series has been known for open-ended gameplay, and with Human Revolution being created for this generation of consoles that has really been expanded upon. There are multiple paths and solutions for many aspects of every level. The game itself also has multiple endings. In fact, during Eidos’ presentation we were shown a single segment of a level three separate times, and saw three completely different ways to tackle a level with three different outcomes.

You must become adept at hacking.

The level in question involved Adam Jensen needing to obtain some technology from someone who had been killed and whose body was currently in a police morgue. On the first playthrough, the player simply blasted his way through the police and retrieved the item. The second time around, the player found an alternate route on the side of the police building, and once inside knocked out a guard. He then dragged the cop’s body to a security door, and got inside via a pass on the body. But perhaps the most interesting way to get inside the morgue was by using Adam Jensen’s social aspect. The player spoke to the cop at the front desk, and through multiple branching dialogues was able to coax him into letting the player through the restricted area that he had fought his way through on an earlier playthrough. Suddenly, everyone who normally would shoot him on sight were going about their normal routine, and the player was able to get into the morgue, pick up what they needed, and leave the police station without so much as a single gun raised. According to Eidos, there were even more ways to go about this single segment, such as using the sewer system to pop directly into the morgue through the drain.

Players can increase their abilities in Human Revolution through the use of Augmentations, which can be combined in numerous ways. In an earlier level, for example, the player used X-Ray vision to see through a wall, then a wall-punch/extreme strength augmentation to rip a hole in the brick wall and eliminated an enemy. Later, in that same level, he dropped in on some unsuspecting guards using a fall-reducing/ground pound augmentation. Immediately after, he launched another augmentation which fired small explosives all around him. The enemies were dead before they knew what had happened. This all made for a very cinematic presentation, with the camera panning out to third-person for actions such as going into cover, climbing things and using certain augmentations.

Weapons in Human Revolution are more grounded in reality than earlier entries in the series. With the events here taking place only 17 years in the future, as Lead Game Designer Jea-François Dugas mentioned, the world is not usually too different in such a short time. Sure, technology progresses rapidly, but weaponry is still mostly ballistics-based. With that in mind, most of the weapons shown during the presentation looked just slightly futuristic, with better sights or occasionally some sort of advanced targeting system.

A two-story city is the main environment here.

The game looks great. We were shown some screenshots taken in-game, and it looked very close to some target concept art they had also shown. In motion, the game is highly detailed. It is so detailed, in fact, that much of it may be missed by the average player, at least on a conscious level. This is by design, according to Eidos. The team created over 100 brands that can be seen within the game’s sprawling metropolis. This metropolis, by the way, is actually a unique two-story city. Think of it as one city stacked on top of another one. While it may sound far-fetched, the idea actually came from a proposed project Hong Kong had considered at one point since they were running out of space to build on. Again, since the game takes place less than two decades from now, a lot of the architecture does not look too far removed from today’s modern cities.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a great-looking and sounding environment. When walking around the city, the player is bombarded with flashing lights and sounds, and there are people everywhere doing their own thing. You can listen in on conversations all over, and hear people talking about some of those over 100 in-game brands and the latest products they’ve come out with. The audio is crisp and slightly futuristic-sounding. The demo we were shown was hooked up to a surround sound system, and caused many people to do a double-take to make sure no one was talking in our actual room during gameplay.

Eidos Montreal has been working hard on this game since at least 2007, and the effort is appearing to show itself very nicely. The game has great ambiance, a living, breathing world, excellent sound design, and numerous branching paths to take and explore in nearly every portion of the game. We managed to interview four team members who have been integral in this game’s production, and will be releasing those interviews soon, so stay tuned for some exclusive information on Human Revolution that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is currently slated for a Spring 2011 release.