I murdered a tramp in a bleak cyberpunk future and I am unrepentant. I shot him in the face twice – once to watch him die, twice for a more pleasing ragdoll.
The boundaries of Deus Ex: Human Revolution cannot be measured by polite words about a brave new transhumanist future. They can be reached only through a pile of dead homeless people. The law courts may judge me, but history will not.
He was sitting on a bench at the wrong end of an alley where the patrolling cops couldn’t see him. Unfortunately the noise of his dismissal put them on a heightened alert. The futuro-filth searched me out, and as I turned I found myself faced with two cops raising their weapons.
The first I used a fatal move on. I planted my augmented arm on his face and span his body until his head hang at an unruly angle. The second I dispatched with a bullet. I dragged all the bodies into the alley, and there they stayed as a permanent guilt-trip for the rest of my time in a PS3 vision of a near-future Detroit.
The fact you can so deliberately break the immersion in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the fact the game’s systems (if not the storyline) will allow you to muck around in its near-future sandbox, mark it out as a true DX game.
Commit an atrocity (say, let off a Typhoon Explosive System in a crowd on the subway and watch bodies slo-mo cartwheel into the ceiling) and the police won’t forget you – every time you return to the area they’ll be on your case.
The story won’t – and shouldn’t – wrap itself around your new life as a serial killer. (Your IT specialist, Pritchard, will only pick up on the ‘killing fields’ you create in missions.) But all this is proof Eidos Montreal has created a game world open to experimentation.
In fact much of my time with the game was spent stacking boxes to help me jump up into areas I thought the developers wouldn’t allow access to, throwing fire extinguishers at NPC heads and piling (an admittedly limited range) of objects on people’s desks for nostalgic chuckles. Human Revolution is set in a rich, deep and beautiful world – but more importantly, it has been built as something to play within.
I’m a happy augmented bunny then, but in my last DX:HR preview I promised to answer some of the questions of EG readers.
Can their dreams come true too, even if none asked whether Adam Jensen could jump up and down on a mission-givers desk having just killed a vagrant? (He can!) Here, with apologies to those whose questions I’ve rudely ignored, are the answers.
“How open do the levels get? Not just in the cities, but also in the places you’re not supposed to be.” – TheTingler
It takes a while for Human Revolution to open out into the Detroit hub. There’s a long conveyor belt Half-Life-style opening to get through first, then various missions that attach the tutorial stabilisers to DX’s varied hacking, social, combat and stealth gameplay.
Once you’re out and about, you’ll have two or three missions on the boil within a hub that’s comparatively large compared to those in other contemporary games. It’s a little bigger, say, than a Mass Effect 2 planet. The open and lonely acreage you might have felt in the very first Deus Ex, however, is lacking – or at least it is in this map.
Primary locations to explore within Detroit include Sarif Industries itself, the local Limb clinic and the Police Station – all with computers to hack into, email to read and women’s toilets to run in and out of.
Secondary locations (in answer to a question from thelatestmodel) will often be visited in the course of your investigations – but may well have room for exploration attached. At one point, for example, you meet up with a retired detective pulling a watchman shift in a block of flats. Once you’re done with him you can happily trot upstairs and burgle the apartments he’s guarding.
Don’t expect a myriad of cubby-holes. Only one can be hacked into in this case. But there are certainly smaller non-plot reliant areas scattered around, if you look for them.
“How often does the sneaky option equate to crawling through air-vents?” – Marmaduke
Eat your heart out, Arkham Asylum. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has an almost obscene number of vents – possibly the most since days of the original Deus Ex and Half-Life.
Detroit’s police station has them running behind offices and between floors. It really is quite a delight to sneak out of one, stab a tireless detective through the torso multiple times and return to the timeless safety of the ventilation system.
Vents are vital for sneaksome types, then, but it’s a system pretty much directly imported from the original game. An early mission sees you infiltrating a factory over-run by an anti-augmentation terror group to rescue essential research (and rescue some hostages if you’re an airy-fairy type). Vents, some hidden, will lead you to most points of interest.
But so will beams up in the Gods you can sneak over and snipe from and various seemingly inaccessible walkways. Every building has a multitude of thoroughfares and entry points, so it constantly feels like you’re making up your own path through the map.
“Can we have a bit more info on the non-stealth options?” – fragglerocks
Full frontal assaults are fun but tactically unsound. No matter how you’re building your character you’ll be encouraged to at least begin stealthily, because ammo is almost universally thin on the ground.
Ultimately though, especially if you’re not spending your Praxis points on stealth and hacking augs, the nano-s*** will hit the cyberpunk fan. Even on the medium difficulty, this is a tricky game – so you’ll likely be mixing up your play-style to avoid needless bullet exchanges.
Enemy AI seems fine but just stupid enough to corral into traps – much as, perhaps, it was in the original Deus Ex. Carry an explosive barrel into an enemy-packed warehouse and cause a ruckus, for example, and all the bad guys in the vicinity will come running. This means one bullet explosively added to the room will take out a bunch of your foes and provide an instant hit of precious ammo to stock up on.
During the opening hours, at least, Jensen truly is the least equipped hero of recent years. He’s often put in situations where he must incapacitate more men than he has bullets.
This is brilliant. It means you plan your assaults and grenade-chucks according to their patrol patterns, you value your arsenal and you really value your head shots. The instant hit take-downs are actually perfectly pitched – and something that you use with true tactical intent rather than for spinny slo-mo eye-candy violence.
“Is hacking actually any fun?” – Maler23
Yes. Strongly based on Introversion’s excellent Uplink, Deus Ex’s hacking is far and away the best electronic access mini-game yet devised (or borrowed).
In its simplest form you must choose a sequence of nodes to take over to reach a distant goal while, once alerted, a red line of fear pulses through the system looking for your point of incursion.
Watching your progress while the countdown timer speeds downwards to your potential doom is genuinely nerve-shredding. The action starts off easy so as not to bemuse, but as it develops it knocks the likes of Mass Effect 2’s text recognition game and BioShock’s PipeMania offshoot into a cocked mechanical hat. It perhaps even beats magisterial Sandra Bullock thriller ‘The Net’ for sheer electronics-based tension.
“Is there anyone as cool and awesome as Walton Simons?” – charming fox
Unlike so many other games, Human Revolution features a cast which deliberately spans nations, sexes and ages. Everyone looks and sounds individual, although quite whether they’re both as ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ as the game’s original characters I can’t firmly underline after only a day of play.
What I will say, however, is that if you are at all familiar with the Deus Ex universe, within this prequel you will spot a multitude of nods to the game’s intricacies (the toilets, 0451) and its most prominent people (no spoilers).
So no, there isn’t anyone as cool as Walton Simons just yet. But there’s no reason why you might not meet a younger version of the man himself. Or at least rummage through his drawers and steal a candy bar.
“Do you not think that your pilot Faridah Malik is the spitting image of Jolene Blalock, who played the sexy Vulcan in the sadly shortlived Enterprise? Who is lovely and has a nice face?” – Batsphinx
I actually made this last question up myself. But yes, Faridah looks just like Jolene Blalock out of the sadly shortlived Enterprise. On top of the many other reasons expressed above (tramp murder, vents etc.), this is the primary reason Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks set to sit alongside Portal 2 as one of the gaming events of the year.