E3: Deus Ex: Human Revolution


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not have the depth of the original, but damn if it doesn’t look good.

In the HD era, developers can’t take chances like Ion Storm did in 1999. The original Deus Ex was a passion project that presented an open-world filled with a myriad of narrative and strategic possibilities. For instance, you could focus on upgrading your lockpicking ability and use it early in the game to unveil a major narrative twist eight hours early. Revolution may not offer the same depth in its world and narrative structure, but it gives players a wealth of options in how goals are accomplished.

Square Enix presented a behind closed doors E3 demo of Revolution, which took place during a mission halfway into the game. Protagonist Adam Jensen must break into a medical facility and steal surveillance footage – getting caught in the act and firing upon security is just one of the many ways the mission can play out.

Unlike previous Revolution demos, the alternate paths in this mission were less obvious and restrictive, requiring the player to have certain upgrades in order to use a shortcut. At one point in the mission, Jensen discovered a drop in the ventilation system that he could follow down in order to get to a security booth. With the Icarus Landing System augment, he is able to slide down the shaft without taking damage from the drop. Without it, he would have to find another way in or fight security guards directly.

The demo focused on all the different augments available to the player, which either make combat or avoiding combat easier. These augments are purchased through Piraxis points which you obtain as you level up your character. Using these augments wisely is the key to survival and the only way you’ll be able to complete the game with only non-lethal takedowns (with the exception of bosses). Other examples in the demo included a double takedown ability that would make Assassin’s Creed‘s Ezio blush; Jensen picks one guard up, violently tosses him into the other, and then knocks them out while they are on the ground.

Even if you have augments unlocked, you still need resources to use them. Each augment takes one section of your ability bar to use. The player has one ability bar that replenishes, but the rest (which you gain as you level up) need to be replenished via items.

Along with expanding your inventory, you can spend Piraxis points on augments that will help you navigate hazardous areas. One area was had an electric field, preventing intruders from entering. With the right augment, Jensen could step right through it but without it, it provided a platforming obstacle course. Augments are not always flashy, some are just practical. Later in the demo, Jensen needed to reach the floor above him, surrounded by security, in order to proceed. By augmenting his arm strength, he repositioned a convenience machine and used it as a platform to jump on to and reach the balcony above.

Revolution is a great looking game with a focus on shiny metal and blacks and golds. It’s a futuristic vision unlike the grey and brown ones we’ve been playing over the past five years. However, some of the character models look lifeless and strange. It’s not Fallout 3 levels of “oh god, what is wrong with that guy’s face,” but it’s not going to be mistaken for Mass Effect 3‘s detailed face models. Equally impressive is the soundtrack, which sounds like the score of Inception, shifting from loud to quiet, mixed with elements of the original Deus Ex reinterpreted.

In many ways, the original Deus Ex mirrored a Zelda title in its structure. Throughout the game, you entered large cities filled with civilians, hidden areas and mission areas (read: dungeons). It worries me that the demo’s presenter pointed out Revolution‘s civilian areas, as we were shown a hallway with NPCs walking about. For a next-gen sequel, I expect even larger, more detailed areas than the original – not a hallway with a couple characters ready to delivery some expository dialog. However, the demo took place during a mission, so perhaps we will see larger civilian hubs in the finished game.

We’ll be able to see just how faithful Revolution is to the original when it comes out August 23 for PC, PS3 and 360.

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