Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hands-On Preview - Part 2
Written Thursday, February 24, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Having explored Jensen's journey from ordinary security specialist to augmented super being in the first preview a few weeks back, today we turn our attention to the meat of the game – the first mission. We pick things up 6 months after the events told in the prologue with Jensen – having done a 360, coming back from the brink of death to become the half-cyborg super beast he is in the game's present day – waltzing through the Sarif Industries lobby.
The Sarif Industries HQ in Human Revolution effectively serves as an in-game hub; somewhere where players can prep for their upcoming mission, speak to the employees that litter the halls and even do a few side missions and reconnaissance work. For us though, it was an excuse to explore the halls and investigate how the free-roam aspects are shaping up.
The first proper mission of Human Revolution tasks you with the infiltration of one of Sarif's downtown properties, which is currently under-siege by a group of anti-augmentation zealots. The purists, under the leadership of the formerly augmented Zeke Sanders, have taken control of Sarif's Milwaukee Junction factory and it's your job to get in, grab Sarif's highly valuable and sensitive piece of technology and get out. If you're feeling particularly heroic, you can even free the hostages that Sanders has holed up in one of the factory's offices.
Before we head out to attempt to become Sarif's saving grace, we have a nose round the particularly big HQ of the corporation. The lobby of your employer is as vast and expansive as it is suave and sophisticated. In front of us sits Cindy - the receptionist who nonchalantly remarks that it seems a little early for Jensen to return to work – who acts as a valuable source of information about the in-game hub. In typical Jensen fashion, the "aug" is as amusing and dry as he is dark and mysterious. "I don't suppose we moved the helipad, did we?" he smugly remarks moments before we head up to Pritchard's office.
Upon arriving at the floppy-haired S.O.B's office, we spot a very futuristic and cool looking Tron-esque bike in the one corner and the poster for Final Fantasy XXVIII on the wall, again demonstrating the attention to detail we touched upon in the first preview. Pritchard, however, is as annoying and closed-off as he was the first time we brushed shoulders with him, but in a conversation with the character, this time we give as good as we get. "Maybe this time you'll actually save people," he comments, before we fire back with a confrontational response – which incidentally was one of two we were able to select, the other being ignore. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to break Pritchard's stride as he follows that up with a response about Megan – Jensen's ex-girlfriend that saw her demise in the prologue. Again, we press the techie in his lab and go for the confrontational response, which Pritchard seemingly sidesteps before tweaking Jensen's augmentation's settings. Dammit Pritchard, we will smite you before the game is over. Mark. My. Words.
It's here where we get a chance to see how Jensen will level up throughout your time with Human Revolution. The menu that pops-up on-screen reveals the 7 areas where Jensen will be able to upgrade: cranium, torso, eyes, back, skin, arms and legs. With no experience points to spend at present, it will be a few moments before we'll have chance to get into the nitty-gritty of spending experience points.
From there we continue to explore Sarif Industries, including the lobby, the surrounding offices, Jensen's office – where we pick up a pocket computer and some painkillers from his draw – as well heading up the lift to David Sarif's office, where Athena, Sarif's elderly but rather sweet and helpful assistant, advises us that the founder is not available at present.
The look and feel of the whole in-game hub reminds us of those futuristic havens that are plastered in neon, as depicted in films like Blade Runner – heck, even the toilets of the HQ have fancy neon ads caked on the walls – but much more clinical. Nevertheless, that's enough dilly-dallying around, it's time to head to the helipad and descend upon the events that are transpiring at the Milwaukee Junction factory. Incidentally, if you spend too long in the in-game hub in this instance, it can have unpleasant implications for the mission ahead – namely, the hostages can snuff it.
On our way to the chopper, after hitting the roof we pass various employees who've snuck out of the hustle and bustle of office life to grab a quick smoke under the neon-polluted clouds. Our pilot, Malik, seems concerned – like Cindy the receptionist – about how quickly Jensen's been rushed back into action. Like the consummate professional though, we assure her we're ready to kick some terrorist butt and slip on board.
In a pre-mission sequence aboard the chopper, in a conversation with our mission contact, we're asked how we're going to approach the situation – which determines what tools we'll be given to assist us. In this short exchange you pretty much choose your rules of engagement and what sort of range you're looking to adopt – we opted for a long distance approach with non-lethal measures. Naturally, we got a tranq rifle. It's worth mentioning that you're not bound to these though, as when it got down to it, we were killing anyone who crossed our path more often than not.
With Pritchard on comms, we're on-site and now able to select our upgrade paths. For the purposes of this hands-on, Square Enix had opted to give us enough points for 3 upgrades – which is well ahead of how many you should have at this point. Being a bit of a stealth nut we opted to select the Reflex Booster, which allowed us to takedown multiple targets in quick succession with melee attacks; the Smart Vision, which allowed us to see through walls; and the Typhoon Explosion System, which shoots projectiles in a 360 arc, causing significant damage to anyone in its reach – 8 metres is the first upgrade's reach. Yes, I do realise the Typhoon Explosion System is as close to being stealthy as Hugh Grant is to being a good actor... and yes, friendly fire is possible too – the SWAT team agents on the roof will attest to that. Sorry guys. After getting some valuable information from the remaining SWAT team that are awaiting safe retrieval of our primary objective before storming the place, we head inside.
Like the prologue, the opening mission serves to act as a tutorial for many aspects of the game, including hacking, dodging surveillance, silent takedowns and so on. So essentially, you've learnt the basics, now it's time to learn the necessary skills to be successful. Speaking of silent takedowns... THWACK! 'Achievement Unlocked' and the outer perimeter scout on his lonesome taken down in one swift move. Before we set off to make our way in, we stash the body in the shadows and pinch his gun, then circumnavigate the rest of his patrol that guard our way in. It's typical stealth for us, watching patrol routes and zipping from cover to cover when their back is turned, but of course, it's up to you how you play.
Our first room in the factory we have to traverse is a huge warehouse. Taking advantage of the ladder on the far side of the room, our Smart Vision – that allows us to see bright orange skeletons of the potential bogeys – and the height of the warehouse, we were able to get ourselves into a vantage point with where we wanted to head in sight. Using the dart rifle we take down one of the 5 or so guards that patrol its floors. The reason? A decoy. After feeling the brunt of our tranq dart and dropping to the floor in plain sight of a fellow guard, the remaining members rush to his aid. With their back turned we slip further into the complex.
Zipping into the offices that connected to the warehouse, we continued to watch patrol units, keeping an eye on their patrol route and making advancements where possible. Sometimes it was necessary to take a few of them down, be it with the gun we'd picked up from the first guard we snapped in two, a melee takedown or the tranq darts we'd got pre-mission – headshots are instant takedowns.
Exploration is just as key here though, allowing you to filter through emails – most of which are irrelevant but no less engaging – but more importantly, pick up supplies: namely nutrients to recover lost energy. At this stage we have two energy cells worth of juice, with large over-the-top acts like takedowns and a blast from the Typhoon taking up one whole cell; and much smaller acts like using the Smart Vision slowly eating away at one cell – incidentally, once deactivated, so long as you haven't used all the juice up from the bar, it'll regenerate.
A quick hack later, and while using the frankly invaluable Smart Vision, we spot a densely populated group of individuals – the hostages! All that stood between myself and a group of 6 or so individuals who were tied up and held against their will, was a group of heavily armed footmen. Could I sneak around them? Sure. Could I take them down one at a time and then make my way up to free the hostages? Sure. Did I want to do it that way? Hell no! As the footmen argued about who had taken an innocent's life in the laboratories, we sneak from cover to cover, making sure we weren't seen. When we were within touching distance of the group we sprinted from the cover towards the group and activated the Typhoon. Whoosh! One epic slow-mo cinematic with a third person view that pans around Jensen later and the entire group was down for the count. If that isn't epic, I'm not sure what is!
With free passage to the hostages, we head up the stairs and in through the front door. Upon doing so though we had inadvertently triggered the alarm. D'oh! What then took place was a scene from Benny Hill, as we desperately bounced around the office looking for a way to disarm it. Unfortunately for us – and more so for the hostages – we were out of time and as soon as the bomb started to release its harmful contaminants we bolted leaving them to a horrible death.
I've watched enough 24 to know that you can't let it bring you down. Unperturbed and unaffected by such atrocities and Sander's blatant disregard for innocent life, we soldier on. Around the next corner were a couple of guards, both isolated. As the one walked past, we ducked out of our cubbyhole to take him down. Unfortunately for us, we weren't able to move his body before the security camera picked up the distressing image. Thankfully though, after I'd taken all the guards out from the previous room, the local guards that were summoned consisted of one individual who proceeded to take a bullet between the eyes as he rounded the corner. Gotta love that Smart Vision!
We continue from there, traversing through vents – picking up 100XP for being an "Explorer" may I add – crossing through labs and heading deeper into the facility. It's there where we find our main objective, but it's not as simple as that. As we step into the server room of sorts, an augmented individual appears to be wired into one of the computers there. What's that? He has a gun... Before Jensen can react though, the individual has turned his gun of himself and proceeded to line the ceiling with part of his own temporal lobe. Nice! Why though? Well, that's part of the overriding mystery of what will make up Human Revolution's main plot. No spoilers!
As of this point, our mission was effectively complete and extraction – and getting out with the mission objective – was a necessity. After powering through the offices with an Uzi, stealth was just a buzzword that had no bearing on the events – like Splinter Cell: Conviction's final few levels, although this was our choice here. Not long after we'd started our aggressive streak we encounter Sanders with yet another hostage.
Right away we're given the option to shoot first, ask questions later or approach Zeke and attempt to reason with him. Considering what had happened with the last lot, we were looking to make amends here. As the dialogue options popped up, we attempted to empathise with his situation – after all, Jensen's demise before his augmentation was entirely down to one of these cyborg super soldiers. Continuing to probe further we try a more humble approach. Judging by the tone in Zeke's voice though, he's too clever for Jensen's mind games and realises he's being played. It's clear that humble isn't the way forward and on that note, Sanders vacates the scene with the hostage in tow.
Moments later a burst of gunfire comes from outside the door as Sanders clashes with the SWAT who had been ordered in following Jensen's successful retrieval mission. I say successful, but one group of hostages gassed, one dead hostage that was on the resulting end of that blast of gunfire and Zeke Sanders escaping isn't really that much of a successful day at the office. We did complete our primary mission I suppose. After making our way to the roof, getting an earful from Malik regarding Sarif's decisions before boarding the chopper, the mission is over... which is a shame, as we were just getting started.
Like I said in our last preview though, having access to that amount of code not only demonstrates a level of confidence about the product, but it actually does the title a lot of justice. Even after the first few hours though, we felt as if we'd hardly scratched the surface. Leafing through the abilities for instance had us giddy with excitement at the huge potential Human Revolution can unlock. If there's one thing that's abundantly clear out of all of this though, it's that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is on track to not only win back fans of the original, but to stamp its presence on this current crop of gamers. It's coming... and it's shaping up to be something truly special.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is planned to release in Square's fiscal 2012 line-up (April 2011 – March 2012).