A Prodigal Son Returns


It's hard not to get too gushy when talking about the return of this fabled franchise. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was on display at E3 after an announcement and trailer that had us frothing at the mouth, and the reality largely matched the hype. While we didn't see enough to convince us that all the nuances we appreciated so much about the previous games survived the long hiatus, it is clear that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a labor of love from people that appreciate the special qualities of the franchise. Plus, it's only appropriate that this new version of the game reflect all that has been learned about development, story, and gameplay mechanics in the long interval since Invisible War. There were still plenty of rough edges visually and promises of elements to the game that weren't on display, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution at a year away from launch can still raise more excitement than most of the games we're playing right now.

Jonathan Jacques-Belletet, Art Director for Eidos-Montreal, talked us through two levels while an Eidos level designer, JP, controlled the action. Is it just coincidence that these two guy's initials (JJ and JP) were a variation on the name "JC Denton," the main character in the first Deus Ex game? This is just the kind of paranoid rambling that wove its way through the earlier games, the stuff that we picked up on scraps of paper or in bits of conversation snatched in passing from hallways or behind closed doors. Our greatest concern for Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that it will go too far down the Action/Shooter path. There was definitely a huge focus on blood-and-guts gameplay, including cut scenes triggered by special actions. We heard that the game can be completed without any killing, through stealth infiltration and hacking, but didn't get to see that element of gameplay. What we saw was promising, however.

The first sequence was a city mission, where you head through a bustling metro area toward a club called The Hive. Our immediate impressions were that the city is bustling and full of life, busy and dingy with wear and tear. The club scenes were drawing from exactly the opposite aesthetic, sporting bright and clean design, still bustling. Entering the club required a bribe, but could have also been accomplished through violence or pure stealth. Once in the club, there is some exploration that leads up to some physical altercations and an interrogation. The social element of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is something that its developers are proud of, so you can expect to have lots of conversations with in-game characters, some more difficult than others. When you reach an impasse, the game gives you choices and different ways to respond. The NPC responses came across as smart and well scripted.

The second part of Human Revolution we saw demonstrated was more of an action sequence. At this stage, you are in full attack mode, complete with some of the crazier weapons we've seen in a while. Crossbows that pin enemies to walls (a trope at this year's E3, by the way), exploding mines, and deployable spikes attached to your arms for slicing into enemies are just some of the ways you can take out the opposition. The upgrade system returns in this game, so it's not as if you'll have all these cool abilities at the very beginning. And, if you don't like violence, you can always develop your hacking skills to the point that you can subvert security measures or remote-control turrets. The action was definitely fast and furious, so it seems the Shooter gameplay is there for the taking; the only problem is that we really don't need another good Shooter on the market, as much as we need a thoughtful game that aims to tell a story.

Nothing we saw during the Deus Ex: Human Revolution demo led us to believe that this game is going in the wrong direction. The developers seem sensitive to the story behind this character, skilled at envisioning a dismal world of 2027 we'll hopefully never see, and steeped in the spirit of the two earlier games. We'll have to wait a while longer to get our grubby little hands on Human Revolution, but we're eager to play what looks at least like a thinking-man's Action/Shooter title.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Square Enix