Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hands-On Preview - The First 30 Minutes
Written Thursday, February 03, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
One of the first things anyone who’s been doing this games reporting malarkey longer than 20 seconds will tell you, is that the more access and the more hands-on time you are given to a game and its development team, the more potential the title has. It’s a sign of confidence and it’s usually a sign of quality. Last week we played Deus Ex: Human Revolution for a good 2 or 3 hours, and when hands-on sessions normally run from 30 minutes to an hour, I think that level of access speaks volumes on its own.
In the first of two previews - the second of which will follow later on in the month and will cover the first proper mission of the game - we will touch upon the prologue of sorts which sets the scene for Adam Jensen's journey into the unknown. It's a relatively short sequence of events that's designed to introduce the player to some of the key elements of the game, but rather than opt for a training course of sorts like the original Deus Ex did, Human Revolution's opening chapter looks to teach the player the key gameplay mechanics while also feeding them valuable background information. Questions like; who is Adam Jensen?; How did he become an "aug"?; What is his personal stake in the story?; and who is David Sarif and what is Sarif Industries? are all answered in the first 20 minutes of Human Revolution and the rest of the game is all set-up for the better because of it.
Taking place before the events of both Deus Ex titles, Human Revolution is set in the year 2027, and as the title suggests, humanity is on the verge of human controlled evolution thanks to Sarif Industries and a certain Dr Megan Reed. Sarif's proprietary technology is the result of Dr Reed's ambitious research and her game-changing discovery, which is referred to as "Rosetta Stone big" within the game. With Jensen on the Sarif Industries security team, all that Reed needs to do now is present her research to a committee in Washington to make waves and it's Jensen’s job to make sure she gets there. Things don’t go as planned.
As the opening cutscene indicates, there are certain third parties who want to make sure this research doesn't turn up at the pre-planned meeting and this shadow group are eager to cut short Sarif's celebrations. Interestingly, the cutscenes in Human Revolution that we were treated to throughout the entire time of our hands-on were a little muddy and almost dated at best, but thankfully, as soon as we were thrust into the game world itself, things took a surprising U-turn and the beautiful visuals that we had been treated to in other hands-off looks at the game were right before our eyes.
When we’re finally unleashed upon the game world, we're transported into this fantastically realised near future world, but our adventure starts off in a very small enclosed box room. Behind us lie stacks of scattered papers and an overpoweringly bright holographic presentation board. In front of us, an equally as messy desk, a digital magazine called the Picas Daily Standard, Dr Reed's computer and an impatient Dr Reed. It's a mouth watering glimpse at a potential future in truth. Not the impatient woman part... that's very much the now... you must not have met my ex.
Rather than make our way straight out the office door and into the lab, Human Revolution's writer, Mary DeMarle, urged us to snoop around first. It's not like we need to be told twice to do that. It didn't take long to notice the incredible attention to detail that exists within the game. The Picas Daily Standard can be read to get up to date on the breaking news from the world of 2027, you can ask Reed about the photo on her desk and you can even snoop through Reed's emails - to which Jensen nonchalantly reminds her that she ought to keep them locked away from prying eyes. Smug and ironic. Love it.
Reading through the emails only serves to raise more questions than they answer, although it's not like we had any just yet. For instance, in an email between Reed and Sarif, Reed's anxious correspondence reveals that she's worried that the committee will ask where she got the first sample and who is patient X, revealing that things may not be as straightforward as we once thought. The emails also act as a decent source of information and will do throughout the game, so it’s in your best interest to snoop around. Here, we also find out that Reed has a mom and a dog... thrilling stuff. My sarcasm aside, later on in the game these tidbits of info may prove invaluable... and I'm sure they'll provide their fair share of key code passes, right? I mean, that's a requirement for a game that involves infiltration... or is that a faux pas?
After absorbing every morsel of information from Reed's office, we finally made our way into the lab with Reed, where we are steered on-rails as the conversation picks up. As the pair converse with one another and various other scientists that populate the lab, you're given free reign over where Jensen looks but that's about it. Soaking in the atmosphere though is pretty special on its own, and watching dozens of scientists go about their tasks and robot arms whiz around you is almost enough to take your attention away from the conversation. If it wasn't though, the guy dropping a stack of boxes directly in front of you as you make your way through the lab or Reed's associate, Vasili, showing a General their recently developed Typhon Explosion System almost certainly will – more on that in the next preview. Incidentally, I feel I should mention that the huge diversity in NPC character models and their different canned animations in this sequence does wonders for maintaining an impressively high level of immersion.
Stepping into the elevator, Jensen and Reed's relationship becomes much clearer as Reed discusses her dog and becomes almost sentimental with Jensen and their future together. Enter a fellow colleague, Pritchard, at possibly the most inconvenient time ever. Pritchard is a floppy haired, leather jacket wearing cocky son of a bitch who’s another employee of Sarif Industries. Regardless of Pritchard’s intervention, Reed was about to jump out anyway, and his arrival – like pretty much everything up to this point – forms yet more questions than it answers. While Pritchard discusses the suspicious demise of Jensen’s SWAT career and Eidos Montreal plants the seeds for yet more questions, it's hard to look anywhere but straight out of the elevator window at the golden skyline and twinkling river that divides the city; both of which are doing just enough to distract even the most staunch opposer of anything architecturally stunning.
David Sarif's office is Jensen's final destination, where the security specialist is getting a debrief from the company head honcho. If Sarif's office is a reflection of his inner-self, the existence of the pre-21st century art on the walls, the contemporary spherical art that decorates the ceiling and the inexplicably expensive chessboard on his desk are all an example of the sophisticated - and ultimately materialistic – exterior of the CEO, while the streams of work lying around his office, the log fire burning in the corner and the digital report of the national baseball league on the big holographic screen show his softer and more grounded side. While we sat there listening to Sarif go on, admiring the scenery as per usual and struggling to pay attention, our tunnel vision gaze was disturbed by the sounding of a deafening alarm. Ladies and gents, it's time for a little action.
At first, the flashing “Environmental Malfunction” message on the huge screen and the constant wailing of the alarm are played down by Sarif and co., but after punching a code into the elevator keypad and making your way to the incident area, the decimated walkway walls, scattered corpses and distant screams of pain and anguish kind of give away the fact that something more sinister is clearly going on. It’s during this sequence of events where the game will prompt you to hit back for a tutorial on the game’s mechanics, including how to duck, enter cover, look down the iron sight, stick to different surfaces in cover that are adjoined – which is bloody handy! – and more of the basics.
Walking through the once clinically clean corridors, which have since been turned into a smouldering wreck, a huge hulk of an “aug” – a person taking advantage of augmented technology – on the other side of a security window effortlessly slams scientists around the room without a care in the world. Moving through various labs, vents and corridors, we roll into cover and take down various small patrols of unaugmented soldiers who have breached the facility. As far as the shooter aspect goes, Deus Ex doesn’t have the same fluidity in its controls than say your average Call of Duty, etc, and does feel a little stiff when you first get your hands-on it, but after playing with the sensitivity options and understanding its subtle nuances – and taking advantage of cover, of course – Deus Ex started to feel worlds better. You begin as an inept and uncoordinated security specialist, but by the end of the tutorial - once you’ve gotten to grips with the controls - you’re Adam-frickin’-Jensen, disgraced ex-SWAT – or so Pritchard says – and ultimate badass.
“Jensen, thank God” yells a scientist through a sheet of heavy duty glass as we crawl under a half-closed security door. Moments later another “aug” drops through the roof with her invisibility cloak enabled; one decloak and a round of bullets from her duel-wielded uzis later, and she’s cloaked back up and vacating the scene of the crime. All you can do is stand there, helpless.
Moving around and into the very same room, a patrol crew of four soldiers enter the scene. Taking them head on is completely foolish – trust me, I tried it – so anyone thinking this will be a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of shooter will have to think again. Even on medium difficulty, you won’t take many bullets at all – especially in the prologue when Jensen is just a regular Joe like you and I – so working out what to do and when is the key to advancement and survival. DeMarle labelled the first person combat situations as a “thinking man’s shooter,” but then again, that term seems to be a tad overused these days. After watching a couple of the guys that grouped together walk past a couple of toxic gas canisters, a blast with the assault rifle was enough to cause an explosion big enough to take them down. However, in doing so, I had alerted the rest of the patrol to my presence. It was then a case of using the cover, moving around and adopting a pop and fire technique to make short work of the remaining two. Once they were down, it was time to advance.
Our mood was soon dampened by another one of those augmented rapscallions though, this time in a cutscene by one donning a Mohican and looking as mean and as pumped as Arnie after a night on the 'roids. Jensen gets knocked through walls by the unnamed assailant as easy as a hot knife slices through butter, and with Megan finally in sight, our main man is completely helpless and knocking on death’s door. As a last chance hurrah, Jensen manages to shoot a canister of harmful toxins, covering himself and the assailant in the green substance in the process. Almost unperturbed by the 'hail Mary' from Jensen, the assailant – sizzling from the layer of acid that covers his skin – glances over at a lifeless Jensen. Battered, half beaten to death, covered in acid and wallowing in his own pity as his mission to retrieve and protect Dr Reed, the love of his life, has failed, Jensen’s sorry state is the last visual before the credits roll and the prologue comes to an end.
And that’s just the intro sequence...
Look out for the second part of this two part preview later on in the month, where we talk chapter 1, augmentations, conversations and infiltration. It’s one not to be missed.