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Deus Ex: Human Revolution Gamescom 2010 In-Depth Preview

Deus Ex remains one of the most widely acclaimed and well received PC games of all time. However after the disappointing 2003 follow-up Deus Ex: Invisible War and the closure of development studio Ion Storm, the series seemed finished. So, it was something of a surprise when a third instalment, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was announced to be in development by Eidos Montreal. GameOn were recently treated to an in-depth showing of the title at Gamescom. Has it been worth waiting for?

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

Deus Ex: Human Revolution has remained something of an enigma until very recently. With an impressive showing of the game at E3, publishers Square Enix and developers Eidos Montreal seem to really understand what made the original title truly special. In fact the development team spent the first 4 months of work replaying the first games, in order to get a better idea of how to construct this new entry into the franchise. With similar complex open-ended gameplay and an intricate story promised, there is certainly a lot of potential here.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots 

Taking place prior to the original game, this prequel focuses on events which created the world seen in Deus Ex. You play as Adam Jensen, a security worker for the multinational Biotech Corporation. The company develops biomechanical augmentations, which act as a precursor to the nanotechnology from the first title. After being injured, he is augmented in order to survive, continuing to work for Biotech as they come under attack by a group of anti-technology terrorists known as Purity First. Much of the remainder of the plot is shrouded in secrecy, although we were promised that Jensen will find himself embroiled in a conspiracy.

Our demonstration of Human Revolution consisted of the same mission, played in 3 different ways in order to demonstrate the enormous range of options available. The level we saw was set in a police station and the surrounding streets as Jensen was tasked with recovering a cerebral augmentation chip. The device is situated in the head of a dead terrorist whose body is locked away in the morgue of the police headquarters, under strict supervision. From here it soon becomes clear that in true Deus Ex style, you have a plethora of options available for how to approach this delicate situation.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

The game's visuals are impressive and stay true to the general visual style of the series, with futuristic locations that have a distinctive grimy and downtrodden feel. As Jensen worked his way through the streets, homeless people milled around aimlessly while litter blew along the gutters. It was atmospheric and brought to mind the early Hell's Kitchen levels of the original game. Futuristic cars and advertising billboards were prominent along the skyline which was also littered with high rise buildings. Here one of the developers pointed out Jensen's own apartment, which acts as a base and will also feature a selection of secrets and tasks that can be accomplished as the game progresses.

Back to the mission at hand, Jensen arrived at the police station, immediately identifiable by its guard outside. To begin with, Jensen took the least subtle approach and simply walked in the front door, all guns blazing. This gave the developers the chance to show off a number of unusual innovations, some of which look truly spectacular. Human Revolution is primarily a first-person game, though it has a "contextual" third-person camera, which activates when in cover, performing takedowns and various other actions. After walking into a restricted area, the entire police station turned hostile forcing Jensen to improvise. Using his strength augmentation he picked up an entire photocopy machine and placed it in the centre of the corridor, before taking cover behind it. Here the third-person camera seamlessly kicked in allowing him to take out several guards from relative safety. Despite being initially sceptical about this system, it had won us over by the end of the demonstration as it really appeared to enhance the gameplay rather than acting as a gimmick.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

As Jensen continued to battle his way forward, the enemy AI showed some rather impressive tricks, including characters attempting to flank and others laying down suppressing fire. In order to counter this, the developers had to use some powerful explosive ammunition to thin the police officers' numbers and use an X-ray vision augmentation to see them through walls. In combat non-lethal means are also available and Jensen finished off the last few opponents with an energy weapon which emitted a concussive blast. Upon reaching the morgue it was necessary to breach the locked door with an explosive charge, before Jensen recovered the chip and made his escape via the sewers.

Eidos Montreal were quick to stress that combat is designed to be a challenging option and won't be as straight forward as most other first-person or third-person shooters. Perhaps most controversial has been the announcement that Human Revolution will use a regenerating health system. While many see this as a simplification to cater for the console market, the developers emphasised that the decision was made in order to maintain the flow of the game. When replaying the previous games, the developers felt that constantly breaking off the combat to backtrack for health machines or extra medical supplies killed the pace and this was something they wanted to avoid. During the playthrough this certainly seemed to be the case, but how it will work across the different difficulties remains to be seen.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

Moving onto a "social" playthrough, the developers adopted more subtle tactics. Approaching the police station this time, Jensen talked to one of the guards outside, who happened to know him from his past as a security officer. Learning that an ex-colleague is now in charge of entry to the station, he headed inside and proceeded to persuade him to let him into the morgue. Using a mixture of different emotion-based responses he was able to subtly manipulate the man by exploiting his knowledge of his past in order to get free rein of the station. The developers also explained that it would have been possible to blackmail him using a special speech augmentation, which would have forced him to let you in. However, your actions will have consequences as later in the game you may run into characters again, who will treat you differently depending on how you approached them to begin with.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

With the ability to go anywhere on any of the floors, this made accessing the morgue incredibly easy and opened up a plethora of new characters to talk to. This also allowed Jensen to pursue a new range of side quests from both inside and outside the police station. While talking to people he was constantly earning experience points, which replace the augmentation canisters and are used for upgrading your various enhancements. For example in Human Revolution you are no longer limited to one leg augmentation and instead can spend experience points on augmentations within the same slot. However, Eidos Montreal made it clear that you would not be able to upgrade all of the slots fully and would still have to make a tactical choice. Similarly, the inventory system is based on space, as in Deus Ex, so players will have to choose very carefully what equipment to take on each mission.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

After descending to the basement in an elevator, Jensen was simply able to walk into the morgue and collect the chip from the pathologist. Earning a lot of experience for subtly infiltrating the building gave him a series of boosted points with titles like "ghost", which will presumably be in place for every level. From here, he was able to walk back out of the building with no opposition without having harmed anyone. The developers stressed that it was possible to complete the entire game in this manner, with only certain situations where you will be forced to dispatch opponents.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

The final playthrough was an entirely stealth based option, with Jensen having to infiltrate the building without being seen or detected. This would mean having to sneak past the police officers, laser grids and cameras: a difficult but viable choice. Choosing to explore a side alleyway by stacking a series of crates next to a fence and leaping over, revealed a number of possible routes into the building. Both the sewer system and the roof would provide access, but Jensen chose to use a doorway on the first floor. Using a hacking augmentation on the locked entrance initiated a mini-game where Jensen had to hack the computer mainframe without being detected. The game seemed surprisingly complex, and was oddly reminiscent of a scaled down defence grid game mechanic.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

Once this was cleared things became quite tense as Jensen had to make his way through the patrolling guards. Here the X-ray vision mode worked really well, allowing each guard's route to be mapped out in advance. Using a cloak augmentation allowed him to slip past some of the more difficult sections, including a bustling office. However, the developers emphasised that this was a very energy consuming option, meaning it could only be employed in short bursts. Reaching the basement of the police station, a laser grid presented an impassable obstacle which could only be deactivated when an officer walked nearby. Sneaking up behind him, Jensen silently incapacitated him before dragging his body close the laser grid to deactivate it. This allowed him access to the morgue and the data chip.

What became so clear was the sheer range of things to see and do in Human Revolution: whether this was exploring the hub-worlds of Detroit or following the main components of the game. The title really felt like the original, with the same broad scope and the accommodation for so many different styles of play. Eidos Montreal clearly has a lot of respect for the original games and this prequel looks like a very worthy entry into the classic series. With a release date scheduled for early next year, there is still plenty of time for more information to surface and here at GameOn, we can't wait.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution Screenshots

evilgiraffeman | 26th August, 2010
Dead Alive's picture
To be honest, I'm still not impressed by how this is sounding.

I like the sound of the variety, like the original, but I'm worried they can't keep it up for the entire game.

I hate the sound of regenerating health no matter what spin or reason they put on it. I hate the fact they've taken away one augmentation per limb (again, no matter what nice way they put it), and I also really, really dislike the fact it shifts to third person.

I know people are seemingly being impressed when they see these things in motion, but to me it takes away exactly what Deus Ex was.

You have one augmentation per limb at a time, there was no mixing and matching (even if you can't max out everything). This added more tactical play than simply leveling up and choosing where to spend points. I liked the fact going back for health and such was there, it added to the tension, having to avoid guards/robots while I was near-death.

As for third person, that's a personal preference, but I really hate the sound of it in Deus Ex. Crouching behind cover with a lean function would suit my tastes more. Which is a point, is there a lean function?

Good preview though, it's explained the different things well (even if I have been pissy about the whole thing ).

EDIT: One more complaint; one-button takedowns for groups, let alone one person seems a cop-out over luring guards away and dealing with them one by one.

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