In all we've heard about Deus Ex: Human Revolution, customizability seems to have taken focus as the key attraction. From a gameplay standpoint, anyway. At this year's E3, we sat down behind closed doors to preview a demo presented by Human Revolution art director John Jacques-Belletête and game designer Frank Lapikas. The demonstration emphasized player freedoms in every aspect of the game, from how you augment Adam to your preferred tactics.
In Deus Ex's cyberpunk world, where biotechnology has blossomed into a lucrative global industry and economic juggernaut, rival companies often resort to sabotage, theft, and other illegal conduct, making proper security an absolute must. When we drop in on our reluctant hero, Adam is preparing to infiltrate a biotech research facility, as part of an ongoing investigation following an attack on his employers. The demo is set about halfway through Human Revolution, which ranges anywhere between 10 to 20 hours in, depending on your play style.
The facility in question belongs to Tai Young Medical (TYM), and Adam needs to reach the very top level to access the company's servers. Just one problem: the building is heavily guarded.
An RPG at Heart
From the beginning, players are given a number of choices to play with. Why kill the security guard at the door or bother sneaking through when you can just bribe the guy? Despite wearing the guise of a shooter, Deus Ex is an RPG at heart, meaning character interactions are a large part of the gameplay experience. When you encounter an NPC like said security guard, for instance, engaging him in conversation yields more creative and amusing options than "shoot or stealth."
Like with any RPG (and some shooters), exploration is another important aspect of the game. The environments were designed with a "show, don't tell" mentality that rewards more observant players. Snooping through a dimly lit closet or ventilation shaft can lead to useful discoveries like ammo or upgrades, but more fascinating is how the environments actually tell the story through visual details.
Even so, Human Revolution is really all about player choices, and that includes the choice to ignore everything but the main objective.
Not every path will be unlocked at the start. This is where augmentations come in. When exploring the TYM facility, for example, we encountered a shortcut that required dropping a long and lethal distance. Obviously the Eidos fellows knew about this and had already purchased the appropriate augmentation, allowing Adam to make the jump without breaking every bone in his body.
You'll find a number of other augmentations for helping Adam get around or rendering certain tasks more convenient. Equipping a stabilizer augment steadies his aim in combat, and strength augmentations allow him to move heavy objects, which actually comes in handy on a few occasions.
For Every Problem, A Tactical Solution
Even when surrounded by armed guards and unreasonably advanced security systems, you have the freedom to play around with the situation. Some areas, like "green zones" and "red zones," call for different tactics. Within the confines of a green zone, Adam can move around freely without problems, so long as he doesn't draw his weapons or engage in any other sketchy behavior.
More importantly, these sections allow you to interact with other characters and glean valuable information for your current task. In this instance, Adam needs to get inside a locked room, and while a confrontation with the guards appears inevitable, you can actually discover alternate means of entry just by listening in on NPC conversations. Hey, what was that? An employee lost his key card somewhere? Excellent.
Of course, choosing to take out the guards isn't any less fun, even for stealthy players. There is something distinctly satisfying about catching a lone enemy as he walks by and silencing him with a blade through the neck. For players who prefer the more direct approach, you can always open fire and send civilians into a frenzy while pissing off every armed guard in the damn building.
The level of depth in Human Revolution is simply staggering. Gameplay trailers have already shown us tons of combat footage, but few were able to capture the magnitude of customizability in the gameplay. Just about everything we've seen so far points to a solid stealth shooter (meets RPG), and the conspiratorial plot has us properly intrigued.
Learn how it all began with Deus Ex: Human Revolution on August 23, when this prequel hits Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.