Deus Ex: Human Revolution – E3 Preview

Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been a long time coming. Originally announced as far back as May 2007, the game has seen its shares of ups and downs during a lengthy development cycle. With an August release date seemingly settled upon, Eidos Montreal had multiple demos running both on the showfloor and in the media-only area. We got to spend some time with the latter, and have our preview just past the jump.

Behind the big screen of the Square Enix booth at E3 lay a different version of the show. With refreshments, couches and chairs, the press were given ample room to stretch out while between theater-like demos of the various games on display. One such title was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I arrived to that area 25 minutes or so before the next scheduled showing, where I saw Lead Writer Mary DeMarle, whom I’d had the pleasure of meeting previously in November. We spoke for a few minutes before I moved on to one of the stations to get my first hands-on time with the game.

The demo shown to the press was a different one compared to that in the general attendance area. Taking place about halfway into the game, protagonist Adam Jensen has discovered that the Tai Young medical company may have been involved in the assault on the company he works for, Sarif Industries. This attack forced Jensen to become cybernetically augmented against his will, so he is out to get some answers. You start in a hallway inside one of Tai Young’s large warehouses, and begin exploring on your own. These demo stations were all hooked up to the Xbox 360, so I did have a few minutes of awkward controlling as I re-acquainted myself with that controller. It’s a first person shooter, so the controls are pretty much standard fare when it comes to moving about. I walked down a corridor and ended up outside a testing room of some sort. Apparently something had gone horribly wrong, because I was greeted by a scientist in a hazmat suit pounding on the glass window of the enclosed test lab. A chemical of some sort was escaping into there, and I was asked to help. After looking around where I was, all I found was a fire extinguisher. There was no fire, so I failed to see how this would help. I found a closed door leading to the testing room – it was locked. However, I was given the chance to hack the door.

Hacking consists of a minigame where the goal is to unlock a terminal before your activities are traced on the network. You are shown a diagram that is supposed to represent a network. Using various pieces of software visualized as different icons, you make a blueish connection from your entry point to the terminal’s location on the network. All the while, the company’s network is busy tracing your activity via a red-colored line. Should this red line come into contact with any of your activity before you are done hacking, you can be detected and presumably put up against multiple enemies intent on bringing you down. It looks a lot harder than it actually is, and without proper explanation can be a bit confusing.

Once the hack on the door was completed, the door to the testing facility swung open, and with it came a greenish-tinted environment. I obviously wasn’t supposed to go in there – something else around the area was meant for me to find and deal with the problem. However, since I knew the demonstration was going to start in around 15 minutes or so and I wanted to play all of this demo that I could, I simply decided to forego helping the now-doomed scientist and continued on with the rest of the mission. This is a perfectly acceptable solution in the world of Human Revolution. You have the freedom to not help out anyone but yourself. The consequences are then yours to bear, of course, but the degree of freedom in this game really is astounding.

Moving on, I saw another doorway leading to a different part of the level. There were semi-transparent glass sliding doors at the end; on the other side I saw an armed security guard, so I figured I should not approach him and find a way around or see if he moves from his post later on. As I would learn in the sit-down presentation, you can do so much more than that. After a couple of fruitless passes around the area, I had not found anything that could help me get past the security guard other than force. It was at this point, right in front of the door, that I started messing with the controls – that was my first mistake. One press of the right directional button was all it took to unleash the “Typhoon” move, where Jensen slams down on the ground and launches mini grenades in a circle all around him. Needless to say this caught the attention of the security guard, and like it or not I had entered the area using violence. I took down the guard, and two workers quickly fled the scene.

The rest of the demo involved some pretty high tension as other guards were made aware of my presence. One thing I noticed about Human Revolution is the scarcity of ammo. You are going to want to conserve every bullet you come across for the inevitable firefights down the road. I happened upon a sniper rifle, and began picking off security forces from a safe distance. When I was sure the coast was clear, I made my way downstairs, where I was quickly greeted by more gunfire. Some mean-looking roving turrets had come in, and would make quick work of me if I stayed. So I ran back upstairs and picked them off with my pistol. Yes, my pistol – Jensen has a handgun that seems to fire explosive rounds, and is great in a clutch situation such as this. It was at this point when I noticed a hackable computer in the center of the console I was using as a vantage point. I got in to the system, and was able to move some scaffolding closer to me. So instead of taking the path down below and risk running into more turrets or security forces, I could try to bypass all of that using higher ground. After I got onto the scaffolding and to the other side of the warehouse, I suddenly remembered I was waiting for the next presentation. I glanced at my watch – it had already been twenty minutes! From what I played it’s obvious you can spend a lot of time with Human Revolution just exploring the environment and discovering all your different options for any given situation.

Next, we were all ushered into a small almost theater-like presentation room, with Senior Game Designer Francois Lapikas playing the game live while Lead Writer Mary DeMarle explained all that was going on onscreen. It was essentially the same demo I was just playing outside the room as well as some extra areas. Remember that guard I saw through the transparent security door earlier, whom I tried to avoid? Well, turns out you can just walk right up to and talk with him. For this demo, the team decided to show a simple, effective solution – bribery. Yes, for a mere 500 credits you can simply pay to be able to stay in the area. We were told that if you are skilled enough you can also smooth talk your way in, though that may not work all the time. Once the guard left the area, Francois had Adam hack into the same computer I did earlier, only this time he hadn’t just spent the past couple of minutes clearing the warehouse of guards and sentry bots. Once the scaffolding was brought over, he simply climbed over the enemy-filled area, and made his way past the entire section without a single shot fired.

It’s examples like that, as well as deep customization options for Adam Jensen’s skills called “Augmentations” that take Deus Ex: Human Revolution from being just another shooter with an interesting setting to a create-your-own-adventure action game. The story is complex but seems easy to follow as you get more invested in it, with various corporations vying for dominance in a rapidly advancing society that is going through a renaissance of sorts. The world is highly detailed, and with so many options available to you at any given point, this is looking to be one game that you will want to play multiple times, which is becoming a rarer quality in single-player campaigns these days. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been in development for well over four years, and it appears that all the long nights the folks at Eidos Montreal have put into the game is paying off in a big way.