That’s how the first 30 minutes of Deus Ex: Human Revolution wraps up, with a gorgeously animated opening credits sequence that shows security expert Adam Jensen being outfitted with cybernetic implants, or “augs” as the game calls them. That’s when the game opens up, evolving from straightforward first-person shooter to something more complex, more tactical and far more challenging.
After our mostly on-rails introduction to the Deus Ex universe and its major players and Jensen’s cyber-surgery, the game kicks in again, six months later. Adam’s fully recovered, we learn and back at his employer, biocorp Sarif Industries.
We’re given the freedom to explore Sarif’s complex. We speak with office workers, janitors, tech slimeball Pritchard, and our helicopter pilot, Faridah Malik. Some of these conversations offer response choices from Jensen: be confrontational, persuasive, or sympathetic. It’s a soft introduction to a mechanic that has serious impact during later conversations.
Sarif’s factory, we learned, was under the control of armed purists. There were hostages—Sarif Industries employees—but they were our secondary concern. Mr. Sarif only wanted to ensure the safety of the Typhoon prototype, a powerful aug.
(We were warned before playing the demo that if we spent too long goofing around at Sarif Industries HQ, looking at datapads, engaging in conversation, there would be consequences. If we’d idled long enough, even after repeated warnings from Sarif, the hostages would already be dead on arrival.)
En route to the factory, David Sarif gives us a choice: how we want to deal with the purist situation. We’re going in, but what are the rules of engagement? Lethal or non-lethal? Attack from a distance or up close? I chose non-lethal and long range, thinking I’d play it stealthily. I was given a tranquilizer rifle for my answers. Choosing differently would give the player a stun gun or a revolver.
We learned a bit about one of the suspects, Zeke Sanders, an augmented war veteran. Well, formerly augmented, as Sanders once sported a cybernetic eye, but had it removed, thinking it was controlling his thoughts.
As we touched down at the factory, the game paused a moment to tell us about two things: inventory and augmentations.
Inventory was something that Human Revolution art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletete seemed particularly proud of. He compared it to a Resident Evil 4-style inventory grid, one on which you carefully managed your equipment and supplies, sometimes playing a little “inventory Tetris” to make it all fit. There’s also a quick inventory access option, a button press that pop-up a radial menu. Handy.
Our look at Deus Ex’s augmentation tree will be different from how we’ll play it in the final game. In our hands-on demo, we’d been given six Praxis Points to spend on upgrades. The cost is two for a new aug ability, one to upgrade that new ability further, unlocking new skills. There’s a deep tree here, extending to Jensen’s cybernetically enhanced eyes, ears, arms and legs.
Since I was trying to play it stealthy, I bought into the Stealth Enhancer upgrade path. It gives Jensen the ability to see enemies’ cones of vision, lets the player visualize the range of their own sound of movement, and pinpoints your last known location, after being spotted by an enemy. I also upgraded Smart Vision, which lets you see the outline of enemies through walls and invested in a Cloaking System, which renders Adam invisible for a painfully brief three seconds.
I entered an airy warehouse, full of places to hide and places to be discovered. At least four guards here, so I decided that a stun grenade might make it easier. I blinded myself with a bad lob. I fired wildly, turned invisible to escape the fray. I cold-cocked guards and unloaded reclaimed pistol rounds into them—I was constantly starved for ammunition. It wasn’t pretty, because I didn’t play with smart stealth tactics, but it got the job done.
Why did I flail, even with Adam’s superpowered cyber-gifts? An aspect of the augs I wasn’t taking into consideration was their battery-powered nature. Cloaking for a few seconds drains one completely. Cyber-punching bad guys in the face drains one. Seeing through walls slowly eats their charge. Adam can reclaim a single battery cell by letting it slowly recharge, but filling the other cells can only be done by eating energy bars.
The next section I crept through more cautiously, peering through walls with my Smart Vision, luring guards to a locker room one-by-one to take them out slowly.
Eventually, I found those hostages by veering off the path that made sense and into an air vent. The room was filled with Sarif Industries scientists, but I foolishly walked through a trip wire, killing them all. Trying that again, I disarmed the bomb, saving lives on my second attempt and being rewarded with experience points.
During one attempt, I played my hacking safe, doing the bare minimum to access security cameras, but failing to hack into an automated turret and security robot that blocked my path. I used brute force and crates as cover to bypass that obstacle instead.
After plugging through more firefights and digging through more Sarif Industries PC terminals—its employees love to leave their passwords lying around on datapads—I found my way to my target, Zeke Sanders. He was armed and with a hostage. What to do?
I had the option to fight of negotiate. I chose negotiate, because I didn’t think I’d be able to put a bullet in Zeke before he put one in the middle-aged woman he was using as a shield. I reasoned with him. Then I empathized with him. Then I humbled him, just a bit, all through choosing verbal responses with varying tones. Eventually, I had convinced Zeke that he’d been set up. He was a patsy. No reason to die for a cause that’s played him for the fool, especially since I was here for Typhoon, not for him.
It ended in a way that Jonathan Jacques-Belletete, who’d been watching me play the entire time, said he’d never seen. There are numerous outcomes to that situation, Jacques-Belletete says, and my personal experience was new to him.
By the end of it, I wasn’t thinking of Deus Ex: Human Revolution as a simple shooter anymore. I was only thinking of different tactical considerations to employ next time, the ways in which I’d prefer to evolve Adam Jensen, given a second chance, and how I might want to try shooting Zeke in his eye patch when we meet again.
We’ll see how that works out when Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC later this year.