We've said it before and we'll say it again; Deus Ex: Human Revolution is destined to be one of the biggest titles of 2011. With a powerful legacy nipping at its heels, old fans are excited at the return of the bleak cybernetic future where human augmentation reigns supreme, while newer gamers are eager to jump into a high profile science fiction role playing game with flashy production values. Over the last few months we've seen plenty of trailers and read a ton of previews on Human Revolution, but that didn't stop Eidos Montreal from taking the game out for one last spin at E3 2011.
For those catching up, Deus Ex: Human Revolution puts players in the shoes of one Adam Jenson, a special agent security officer hired to protect a cybernetic implant company. You see, in the future of 2027, cybernetic human augmentation is the current fad, and not everybody sees eye-to-eye with scientists playing God. Naturally, companies developing cybernetic implants and various advanced military technology require protection and security, and that's where you come in.
Yet a game based around filing security reports and daily patrols would be boring, so Human Revolution kicks things off with the aforementioned security company coming under attack from an unknown group with undefined motives. In the midst of the chaos, Jenson finds himself at the receiving end of a heavily augmented villain. Beaten into a bloody pulp and left for dead, he is saved by the very security company that employed him, and they put him back together the only way they know how; human augmentation. Yep, you're part robot.
Though there's plenty of action straight after the opening events, our demo jumped a bit further forward in time, with Jenson tasked with investigating Tyam Medical, a rather suspicious company no doubt up to sinister things. The goal of the demo was to show us the four core elements of Human Revolution: stealth, combat, hacking and social interaction. Having jumped forward in time, this also allowed the developers to show off unlocked abilities and powers that would normally be unavailable during earlier segments of the game, the reason being that like all good role playing game players will be able to earn experience through quests and actions to upgrade Jenson as they see fit, using what the game calls 'praxis points'.
Bribing a guard to enter the facility, one thing was made clear early in the demo: Human Revolution is all about choice. Though missions will give the player a clear objective, the means by which this objective will be achieved are entirely up to the player. Sure, we bribed the guard to enter the facility, but its entirely possible that a hidden vent shaft would have allowed sneakier access, or perhaps we could have just killed the guard and taken the access code.
This freedom of choice in play hung overhead throughout the entire mission. Paying attention to the environment, it was easy to spot multiple paths and ways to tackle every obstacle. Security cameras? Sneak by them, shoot them out, or hack security systems to turn them off silently and switch security systems (such as automated turrets) to your favour. Patrolling guards? Use stealth to sneak by undetected or take him out with a shot to the head. Choice and consequence come into play with even the most seemingly trivial things. On one hand sneaking past the enemy keeps you undetected and silent, yet taking him out will allow you to search the body for clues. Maybe the guard was carrying a PDA with an access code to security or the storage room, but you'll also need to make sure you hide the body or risk alerting wandering guards. For the pacifist, let it be known that a majority of Human Revolution can be played without killing anybody, with even take-downs giving the option of lethal and non-lethal attacks.
The emphasis on choice extends beyond the actions you make in-game, and into the aforementioned role playing statistic system. Allocated praxis points not only allow players to acquire new powers, but craft Jenson to suit their style of play, and depending on how points are allocated players may find themselves discovering new areas and possible tactics. For example, choosing to spend points on upgrading strength augmentation will allow Jenson to pick up extremely heavy objects. These can then be stacked to climb fences and reach high ledges, used as shields, or thrown as weapons. Meanwhile investing in the Icarus augmentation allows Jenson to absorb the impact from high falls and jump higher, again allow access to new areas and secrets.
Oftentimes choice in augmentation and choice of play come together. Where some games would lock off some paths completely due to skill selection, Human Revolution still allows access through clever play. For example, cracked walls can be destroyed both with the strength augmentation and with explosive weaponry. Locked wooden doors can be hacked open through computer skills, or broken down by the impact of heavy objects.
In our demo, one of example of augmentation mixing with choice of gameplay came from a room full of lasers, with the game presenting multiple solutions ot the problems. Computer skilled players could engage in a hacking mini-game to bypass the laser security, while those who purchased the cloak augmentation could pass through the infra red lasers without setting them off. Those lacking the luxury of these augmentations could make their way through the laser grid by ducking and weaving, while 'one-man-army' type players could simply trigger the alarm and engage in combat with the responding guards. Though many options are available, we're told that going head-on into combat is the harder style of play, especially with limited ammunition and health management.
By the end of our demo we were assured that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is aiming to be a truly faithful role playing game. As a recipe, it's all there. A robust skill set of attributes are available to upgrade, and each enhancement appears to have a wide variety of uses. Missions are built with multiple paths numerous secrets, allowing players to approach every challenge exactly how they'd like to while rewarding adventurous explorers with experience points and equipment. Branching dialogue? Check. Extra story details and universe lore scattered throughout the game on PDAs and computers? Check. Hell, Human Revolution even has a grid-like inventory for equipment. Role playing game? Without a shadow of a doubt 'yes'.
There's no denying the bar has been set high. Not just because of the legacy left behind by the very original Deus Ex (made all the more poignant by the lackluster Deus Ex 2: Invisible War), but also because of the promises and potential brewing under the surface of Human Revolution. This is a big game, with big ideas and even bigger concepts, and it wont be easy to pull off. But having seen so much of the game, and seen what is in store for the release in August, we dare say this could be the true Deus Ex that gamers have been waiting for.
If freedom of choice and consequence of play are the most important things for you in an role playing game, then feel free to get very excited, because this human revolution is going to start with one hell of a bang.