Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hands-On - Part 1

It's been almost eleven years since the (now defunct) studio Ion Storm brought the world Deus Ex, a game that continues to hold a comfortable position in the personal "best of all time" lists of many who've played it. It was a game that deftly wrapped action, stealth, and deep conversational and role-playing elements in a conspiracy-filled cyberpunk storyline, while providing deep and meaningful choices to the player. Choice and consequence permeated both the minute-to-minute gameplay and the overall storyline in a way that very few games have managed to achieve since. Deus Ex: Invisible War, the misguided (and oft-maligned) sequel released in 2003, ended up alienating fans with its relative simplicity. Last week, I got to spend some time playing through the first couple of hours of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the upcoming prequel developed by Eidos Montreal. In this part of the preview, I'll talk about the first fifteen minutes or so of the game, leading up to the opening credits. focalbox Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in 2027, during a period of technological Renaissance. Bio-tech corporations have become incredibly rich and powerful by developing and marketing all sorts of physical augmentations - for those who can afford it. Players take on the role of Adam Jensen, a private-security specialist employed by corporate augmentation giant, Sarif Industries. It's also interesting that while he works for a company that makes augmentations, Jensen doesn't begin with any of his own. In the game's opening cinematic, an unnamed, business-suited individual holds a conference call with several remote participants bearing different accents and using vocal distortion. A conspiracy involving Jensen's employer seems to be afoot, and it may have global implications. The action then moves to the the Sarif Industries lab in Detroit, where Dr. Megan Reed, Sarif's chief scientist, leads Adam on a tour through the bustling lab. They pass by several rooms where some of instances of the company's bio-tech are being tested. I couldn't help but note the absence of nano-technology so prevalent in the first game, which further reminded me I was in a world that preceded JC Denton's. In one of the labs, the shrapnel-like suit augmentation (seen in the cinematic trailers) was being tested. In another, a man in a red track-suit and a robotic lower-torso and legs ran side-by-side on adjacent treadmills - six million dollar man-style. Before the pair reach the elevator, we learn that Dr. Reed is on her way to testify before Congress, though she doesn't share the specifics with Adam. There's also a duality to Sarif Industries: the tech on display there seems to be a combination of both weapon-based and helpful, life-improving augmentations. Adam seems conflicted about his employer. When Dr. Reed notes that Sarif Industry's tech is available to everyone, Adam reminds her that much of the clientele is "DOD" [Department of Defense]. Furthermore, some recent history (and tension) between Jensen and Dr.Reed is hinted at - they used to live together - but is not deeply explored. Sarif Industries' chief security-tech Frank Pritchard interrupts the scene as Megan leaves, joining Adam on his ride up to meet with big-cheese David Sarif. It's immediately clear that Jensen and Pritchard don't get along well on a personal level, but that they're at least able to work together. BOOM video 7409 Jensen then meets the boss in his office. David Sarif is disarmingly relaxed and charismatic - more politician than CEO, at first blush - and is also augmented with some of his company's tech: a mechanical arm. Before he can get into too much detail about arranging security precautions for his trip to the Capitol, alarms sound, indicating Sarif Industries is under attack. Adam hops back into the elevator to head back down to the lab, after Sarif informs him that Dr. Reed is in danger there. As Adam re-enters the lab and the player assumes full-control of Adam Jensen for the first time, he finds the place in chaos. Unchecked fires burn, and screaming and explosions can be heard in the distance. Combat rifle at the ready, Jensen makes his way through the lab, learning to run, jump, duck, and take cover. Rounding a corner, Jensen sees two scientists trying to flee from a particularly large augmented invader on the other side of unbreakable glass. The first scientist is grabbed and hurled into the glass like a rag-doll, before the augmented brute's hand transforms into a machine gun to mow down the other. After a bit of vent-crawling, Jensen comes upon his first opportunity for a firefight as two soldiers burst into a lab area. The default perspective in Human Revolution is first-person, but Jensen can be made to take cover by holding L1, which snaps the camera to third-person, giving greater situational awareness. Though balance-tweaking is still taking place, I was warned before the demo that running-and-gunning was a sure way to get killed, even on Casual difficulty. It was a fair warning. Even as early as the first enemy encounter, it became clear that paying attention to enemy line-of-sight, staying in cover, and watching enemy patrol patterns, and not making too much noise were important keys to success. Firefights have a vibe similar to those found in games like Rainbow Six. Enemies will take cover, communicate with each other, and try to flank you - and it only takes a few shots to take you down. Stealth is also a viable option, even in the first few encounters. During my second playthrough of this section, I managed to sneak by the first two soldiers without being detected. The little taste of stealth was very satisfying.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution hero, Adam Jensen, ponders his life decisions.

It should be noted that in this pre-credits "tutorial" section of the game there's no player HUD and no real resource management. Health regenerates when the player remains in cover. It's really designed to teach players the basics of how to handle combat situations, before introducing other gameplay systems like ability augmentations. In another area of the lab, Jensen comes upon three more soldiers, two of whom are in conversation. Sneaking remains an option here, though shooting a nearby canister full of green (and therefore, toxic) gas will also do the trick. Shortly after this battle, another augmented invader is witnessed killing some more scientists before cloaking herself and vanishing. The final pre-credit combat section consists of another room, this time with five bad patrolling bad-guys. As before, both stealth and combat were viable options. After dealing with the last set of troops, Jensen heads down a flight of stairs and down a hallway where part of the wall has been blown out. As he approaches the flaming opening, he's grabbed by the augmented soldier he saw wreaking havoc earlier, and thrown through a wall, shattering through the glass and electronics on the other side. Dr. Reed is there, and tries to save Adam, whose guts are literally hanging out at this point, before being punched and kidnapped by the modded invaders. The huge augmented soldier then grabs a gun from the floor and shoots Adam at point-blank range. The opening credits roll, and the imagery on-screen makes it clear that Adam Jensen is being "rebuilt" using the technology of Sarif Industries. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has some big shoes to fill, but the opening moments of the game make me very optimistic. The characters introduced all seem multi-dimensional, the subject matter itself is rife with moral gray-areas, and the story hints at many different layers. More importantly, players are allowed to approach each combat situation according to their own play-style, with both stealth and shooting that rely as much on tactics as they do reflexes. Even from the onset, Adam Jensen also seems like a character that I wouldn't mind spending dozens of hours with. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our Deus Ex: Human Revolution hands-on this Thursday, which will focus on the two hours of gameplay that follow the game's opening credits.
This preview is based on a closed-door press event held by Square Enix in Irvine, California. Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hands-On based on non-final debug code on the PlayStation 3. Square Enix invited Shacknews to the event, and provided one night's accommodations for the purposes of previewing the game.