Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Developer: Eidos Montreal

Publisher: Square Enix

Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC

Deus Ex, released in 2000, remains one of the finest first-person shooters of all time. Today the graphics and action might not seem like anything special, but what the game is remember for are the choices it allowed the player to make. At most points in the game you could choose your own route–sneak around a building in the airshafts and be stealthy, use hacking techiques to accomplish your goals, or just launch a full frontal assault. During a typical first playthrough you’ll miss much of the game just because you never realized that you could, say, avoid killing both Anna Navarre and Lebedev in the airfield level.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution more or less disregards the second game (Invisible War) and acts as a prequel to the original. This puts the setting back when mechanical augmentations were first being seen (around 2027), while Deus Ex happens as cyborgs are becoming outdated and being replaced by nano augmentations (2053).

I saw the Gamescom demo, which happens about 90 minutes into the game. The demo runs through the same level three times, each using a different style of play. DEHR has four pillars of gameplay–combat, stealth, hacking, and social–and the three runs utilized social, hacking, and then combat to accomplish the same goal.

The basic setup was that you want to break into the Detroit Police Department in order to examine a body in the morgue. You’re not authorized to get in, so you need to either get clever or get violent. This is where Deux Ex’s “multithreaded” environment excels and you can choose your own path. The game seems to always have options for you–a security guard who can be convinced, a conveniently placed air shaft, an unguarded door, and so on. In Human Revolution these options seem much more clear than they were in the original.

The fundamentals of the game are very much like Deus Ex. You are given a task and expected to accomplish it. To do that you can make a plan, generally trying to avoid violence, and then resort to shooting if things take a turn. You’ll gain experience for completing core task (like hacking a lock or killing an enemy) and then you can use that experience to level up your character. These enhancements, which are a callback to Deus Ex’s characters like Gunther Hermann, will make a chosen attribute more powerful.

I’m not sure sure if you can put all your experience points into swimming, like the first one, but the experience system and skill tree seem to have been very streamlined. I was told that no matter how much you do in a single playthrough you will not be able to max out all your attributes. This is a game about choices and some of those choices will have to do with your characters strengths and weaknesses.

Back to the demo, the first run through was about conversation. You walk into the station and coerce the guide to disobey his orders and let you in. It takes some time but eventually you do it. This basically gets you a greenlight to visit the body. No shooting, not explosions, and all you needed was to convince a single guy. Of course his doing this has implications for the future of the game, so while the plan immediately worked out well, it affects the game down the road (or so I’m told, we didn’t play that far in).

The next run through used stealth. This was time-consuming and risky, with you hiding behind boxes and avoiding alarms. I’m pretty sure it would have been almost impossible if the player hadn’t run through that the same scenario a number (probably dozens) of times. This seems like it could be a very effective tactic, but you have to be prepared for battle in case things don’t go as planned. You need stealth skills (like cloaking) and some hacking accumen to make this work. There is a hacking mini-game so even though you avoid fighting you can still get some excitement in.

I was told that it’s possible to get through the whole game without killing anyone, though you do have to fight and kill the bosses.

Also, the game has a cool visual effect known as “smart vision”. This is like putting on a pair of goggles that let you see all the people around you as well as all the objects you can interact with. It should be a great help in determining the path you want to take.

The final part of the demo was a full-on, kick-the-door-open assault on the police station. This was hard to judge because the demo used god-mode but it looked fun enough. As with Deux Ex, this is always a method to consider, but it’s not the best way to take advantage of the game. In order words you could play through the game like this but you’d be missing much of what makes it Deus Ex.

The graphics look really solid so far, so I’m optimistic about the polish of the game. I was even more happy to see that Human Revolution is a living, breathing world with people and lots of stuff in it. Back in 2000 this wasn’t possible, so I half expected the demo to take place in an empty field surrounding the Statue of Liberty.

That’s it for now! Square Enix said more information will be available in a few weeks.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be playable on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and OnLive. It should have a release date in February 2011.

Release Date: March 8, 2011