E3 2011: Deus Ex, Human Revolution
Andrew has gotten one of his favorite games in the can with Hitman: Absolution. Now our coverage of Square – Enix continues with one of the hottest games of this year’s E3 (and last year’s), Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Happily, I get to save some time writing you an article on this game. Last year we were invited back behind closed doors to chat with the developers about the game. As such, pretty much all of the info we got can already be found in some writing of mine from last year. Why don’t you check that out here?
However, Andrew and I did get to try out a new level in the playable demo, so, even though I already knew the game’s scenario and controls , it was still full of interesting surprises for me.
The level in question highlighted the game’s hacking system, which had been under construction last year, and was more or less unseen. The mission found us inside of a corporate building, where various chemical and biological technologies were being developed. My mission was simply to get to the roof, where an elusive target was hiding. However, along the way, the mission became more… complicated.
On the second floor, there was a chemical leak, and several employees were trapped inside, choking to death on toxic fumes. I had the option to leave them behind to die, and focus on my mission, or to help them out. Not being a guy to pass up a subquest, I opted to help them. This required me hacking into the security locks on the blast doors that covered the lab to get them out.
The hacking system is a series of puzzles… and I’m not sure exactly what everything does yet. There are a lot of symbols, some of them of questionable function. I watched the game system’s developer play some hacks, and he moved so lightening quick, I really couldn’t tell what he was doing. It was pretty amazing. In basic, there is a green target ball at the end of a series of branching paths. The player has to choose the right pathway, using hack-skills against various roadblock files that stand in the way. Each target is hacked with a simple click, but also has a percentage chance of getting the player detected by the guards watching the system, who then dispatch gun-toting security bots to stop you. Hacking is complex, but you can learn to make it easier, both as the player and in character. The more you do it, the better you become, and you can also pick up enhancements and one-off items to blow through the difficult puzzles.
Ultimately, I ended up messing up the hack a couple times, had to shoot some guards to death (easy thanks to exploding gun rounds and a cloaking augmentation) and then rip the door open with my beefy arms to get everyone out. I was shortly killed off by some toxic fumes that I wandered into.
I was later told that my rebreather augmentation would have saved me…. thanks for telling me after the fact, demo guy. Oh well, it was cool anyway.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the strongest demo they could have shown. The corporation and its labs were maze-like, not as directed and focused as last year’s dock battle. However, it did highlight both the hacking system, and a series of branching mission paths. Stealth, again, was the ideal way of getting through a mission, but it wasn’t the only way. You could apply brute-force and still accomplish the mission, or charisma your way through. It was great to see that any mission could be accomplished in whatever play-style fit you best, and that even if you messed up one path, another was still open to you. You were never just stuck.
As Andrew, who was also in the screening room, pointed out, some of the extreme role-playing elements of the game have been downplayed since our last walk-through, as whipping out a gun didn’t have the impact it probably should have. Not talking about the guards, but the civilians that we needed to interrogate for info. I mean, I’m a 6′ tall cyborg dressed like Neo, walking around a lab. Its pretty obvious I don’t belong there. I walk up to a scientist, and pull a gun out at them… and they just stand there. You look at a game like Mass Effect, where characters you talk to get intimidated and run away when I pull a gun out mid-conversation… well, it just seems a bit less immersive.
Still, the world the Deus Ex team have crafted seems deep and detailed. The story, beyond a doubt, is the thing. The cinematic quality of Human Revolution seems to be top-notch, and as a fan of cyber-punk, I still consider this installment of the series to be a must-play for 2011.