Deus Ex: Human Revolution E3 2010 Preview

By Chris Faylor, Jun 23, 2010 8:30am PDT Ten years after its release, the original Deus Ex is widely considered to be a classic--a distinction that doesn't exactly extend to its somewhat-simplified sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War.

Now, after laying dormant for quite some time, the shooter-RPG series is making a return with a third entry, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

This being the first project out of Eidos Montreal--the same studio that's handling Thief 4--the shooter-RPG prequel had many concerned, especially given that series creator Ion Storm followed the original Deus Ex with a less-than-beloved sequel. But while the game on display at E3 was only a pre-alpha build, it's looking extremely promising.

Our demonstration was led by art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete, who narrated roughly thirty minutes of real-time gameplay controlled by his coworker.

The first part, meant to demonstrate the non-combat portions of the game, took place about six hours into the main story, with protagonist Adam Jensen walking about a cyberpunk-y city full of the sights, sounds and people one would expect of 2027.

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"Something that's really important to us in this game is what we're calling the living, breathing world," explained Jacques-Belletete. "There's a lot of NPCs, they walk around, we wanted to get the feeling that they're going about their daily business, they talk to one another. They react to the player's actions [such as pointing a gun in their face]."

However, these folks milling about aren't just scenery. "They all have something to say, so I can be old-school Final Fantasy, enter a village, everybody has something to say to you," Jacques-Belletete added. "They can talk about the environment, they can talk about information about the mission you're in at that point, and you can also find side-quests."

Moving on, Jensen came across his first obstacle: a security guard that refused to let him into The Hive, a night club housing the person he needed to talk to. Here's where the first elements of choice came into play. While Jensen eventually bribed the guard to let him pass, Jacques-Belletete made sure to point out the other options players will have open to them, such as trying to find a back way in or shooting the guard dead.

"The four pillars [of Deux Ex] were really important to us and we kept them--combat, stealth, hacking and social--it's totally there and the game is highly concentrated around that. Just like in the first one, you're not obligated to play one style or another," he explained. "It is just really up to the player to either choose one style of gameplay or oscillate between the different gameplay styles."

After hitting an uncooperative bartender-shaped roadblock later, Jensen was faced with another problem with various solutions. Again, violence may be one such solution, but there are other, more subtle, methods. For example, a bouncer openly complaining about losing his "pocket device" that contained his phone numbers and access codes, a device conveniently found in the bathroom.

The second portion of our demonstration was all about combat and the various abilities that augmentations can provide. This is where things got exciting. All of the really cool moments glimpsed in the computer-generated trailer, such as Jensen breaking through a wall and snapping an unsuspecting guard's neck or someone's arm transforming into a gatling gun, are present (and possible) within the game itself.

And, again, the element of choice comes into play. Infiltrating a shipping yard, one can certainly go in guns blazing, but don't have to. In this instance, there's a big crate hiding a hole in the fence, a big crate that can be moved if you have the strength augment.

To disable the security cameras, Jensen threw a crate through a window of a nearby building--somehow, the fellow with his back to the window didn't notice--and hopped in, stealthy taking out the fellow and using his terminal to disable the cameras. Even here, players have various options depending on their skills--they can read through his e-mail, choose to disable the security cameras, open up the various locks in the yard, and even turn the robotic sentries against their fleshy companions.

Of course, violence did eventually ensue, giving Jacques-Belletete the chance to demonstrate some first-person combat and weapons--a standard pistol, a crossbow that pinned enemies to the wall--along with other attacks and the cover system.

Though combat (and the game itself) is mostly a first-person affair, the camera switches to third-person while in cover, providing players with a better view of their surroundings and the ability to move and/or roll to other pieces of nearby cover. It's a sound idea, though the transition from first to third-person is a bit jarring at the moment.

Other augmentations and abilities on display included, thermal vision, which in conjunction with the strength augmentation enabled Jensen to reach through a wall and snap some poor guard's neck, stealth camouflage, and a number of brutal takedowns that play out in a third-person view--for example, taking down two guards at once or deploying miniature explosives from his arms to take down surrounding foes.

Perhaps the coolest moment in the whole demonstration was when Jensen snuck into a warehouse--complete with Jacques-Belletete noting that there were four or five different ways in--and a giant box dropped from the ceiling, then transformed into a tank.

The resulting firefight destroyed portions of the warehouse--the various crates littered throughout were pulverized, though the numerous cardboard boxes Jensen took cover behind seemed impervious to damage--before Jensen came across a rocket launcher that had been upgraded with heat-seeking capabilities and destroyed the tank.

But for all the talk about killing and lethal takedowns, it turns out that's a choice in and of itself as well."You don't have to kill anybody," Jacques-Belletete revealed. "You can play the entire game without killing anybody."

As I said above, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is looking extremely promising, though it's still rather early. For the sake of the demonstration, Jensen had both unlimited ammunition and energy, and the game's interface was turned off as well, meaning that there's a lot of unanswered questions about how it will control, how the augmentations will be balanced, and how the game will relay that information to the player.

Still, it was an impressive showing, and I'm quite excited to see more.

Developed by Eidos Montreal, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is scheduled to arrive on PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 at some point in "Early 2011."

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