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PAX East 2011: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Preview

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When the presenters from Eidos-Montreal took the stage at PAX East they asked who played Deus Ex and loved it. The response was thunderous. They then asked the same question about Deus Ex 2 and the response was a shadow of the former cheers. With a smile but no comment, the developer acknowledged that there were flaws in Deus Ex 2 and to me it seemed they were determined to not make the same errors in Human Revolution. Based on the demo I saw they have no reason to worry.

click to view larger imageDeus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game in the series and it is set in a prequel time of 2027. Detroit is once again a hub of innovation, but instead of cars it is human augmentation. Sarif Industries is the leading developer of these augmentations and you will play as one of their employees, Adam Jensen. Jensen was horribly injured and given a second chance at life with an advanced series of augmentations. Now healed, he begins to search for the answers behind his attack.

The live game demo skips the introductory level seen at other events and drops us into the first true mission in the game. A group of terrorists have kidnapped some scientists at a Sarif research facility and are threatening to kill them if anyone tries to come in. This group represents the anti-augmentation faction that has sprung up to protest the work Sarif is doing. You are simply tasked with saving the hostages, how you do it is up to you and that is where the real magic begins.

click to view larger imageThe demo starts with you approaching the facility and being given a quick rundown by the police guarding the entrance. You can choose to dig deeper into the history of the terrorists or quickly proceed. In the interest of time, the demoers got the basics and moved on, but it was interesting to see a deep Mass Effect-style dialogue tree available to you right away.

Entering the facility you could choose many different approaches starting with your weapon loadout. Melee weapons, small arms, and non-lethal weapons are all available, the Eidos-Montreal rep chose to take a stealthy route and went with a tranquilizer gun. Moving through the building we could immediately see that there were a few options. You could try and tranquilizer all the guards and head in the front (risky) or search for an alternate entrance. Exploration and a quick use of the sight augmentation (which has a very cool X-ray vision mode) showed us there is a maintenance tunnel we could use.

Entering the building proper they took cover behind walls and snuck up on guards, they chose to do silent non-lethal takedowns which were very cool indeed. Every area seemed to have multiple paths whether you could go the direct route headlong into the enemy or small entrances through vents or via rooftop access. This gives a great deal of control to the player as any challenge can be approached from many different angles.

click to view larger imageThe presenters also showed us how you can change your augmentations to tailor yourself to the mission and how you want to tackle it. Because they wished to take a silent approach they amped up the vision mods and battery power so they could plan their infiltration better. The demo also gave a us a great look at the vision modes, inventory, weapon and augmentations, all of which look very cool.

To change the pace of the demo they loaded a save file that had Jensen setup as a guns blazing war machine to show off the combat. The engine is very capable as both a stealth game and a shooter. Every time you get to cover it switches to a third person view seamlessly and really lets you take stock of the situation. Armed with multiple weapons and retractable blades they proceeded to wreck havoc on the enemies and the environment. A great deal of the objects could be shattered and torn up and the weapons seemed to have a really visceral feel to them.

click to view larger imageBy the end of the demo we were all cheering as they cleaned up the enemies and more questions were raised and we were teased with a deep and complex story. The graphics are amazing and really pull in a Blade Runner vibe with the dark gritty environs balanced with bright lights and large screens.

I was a little put off at first with how nearly everything is highlighted when you can interact with it, but that faded swiftly as it seemed to be an organic change in game. I also really disliked Jensen’s voice, it is not a bad voice actor by any stretch, it is just too generically gravelly for my tastes.

Those small nitpicks aside I am incredibly excited for the Deus Ex: Human Revolutions release in August. The game has a deep dialogue system, amazing choice options in missions, augmentations that can drastically alter how you play, and a sci-fi look that is worth being excited for. Even though there was no hands-on access to this game at PAX East, it was still one of the top experiences for me at the show this year.

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.