The debate over human augmentation hangs heavily over the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If you replaced your arms, legs, heart, or brain with cybernetic augmentations, could you still be considered you? Where is the tipping point from human to something else? If you have been following our previous coverage, then you already know that protagonist Adam Jensen had the decision for augmentation made for him after his employer, Sarif Industries, was unexpectedly attacked. From that starting point, we recently went hands-on to play through (roughly) the first five hours of the Xbox 360 version of the game. It brought together many familiar locations, let us explore the hub city of Detroit, and tackle a few side quests. Humanity's revolution has just begun. [Spoiler Alert: This preview details a small number of story elements from the first five hours of the game].
Before we could dive into the unknown, Jensen had to make his fateful transformation. The opening attack on Sarif Industries went off without a hitch, forcing us into a firefight we were destined to lose. As the fight started, we realized that Human Revolution rewards careful fighting and punishes carelessness--just like the previous games in the series. If we stuck our neck out too far in a fight we were dropped in no time. That isn't to say a direct confrontation wasn't practical; in fact, we purposely took the direct approach during our time with the game. We just had to keep moving. Enemies followed a strict pattern of targeting our last-known location and would try to draw us out by flanking us, or by or tossing a grenade our way. Moving through cover let us repeatedly surprise our foes by popping out a few feet away and opening fire. At this point, the enemies would assault our new location until they spotted us again somewhere else.
Navigating through cover was a breeze. Human Revolution gives you the option to either manually put Adam into cover by pressing and holding the left trigger button, or to have him automatically take cover with a single press of the trigger. When we approached a break in cover, we could either tap the A button to hop to an adjacent spot or hold A to rotate around. This let us move around corners or crates without having to expose ourselves to gunfire. Even with these techniques, the intruders still emerged victorious, and Jensen ended up in the hospital. The opening credits followed, showing Jensen's transformation from human into something more than human. After an unusually fast recovery, our hero returned to Sarif Industries to find it packed with security guards and hushed whispers about another attack. This time, a terrorist group had taken control of a Sarif-owned manufacturing facility.
Our mission was to go in ahead of SWAT and secure a prototype weapon system, as well as rescue the hostages. After shooting our way through the facility, we reached a hostage-negotiation sequence with the terrorist's leader. Dialogue sequences such as this are all about breaking down your opponent with a verbal barrage. Oftentimes, what we were going to say was already determined, but how we were going to say it was up to us. Aggression, sympathy, and cold logic were out typical choices, and striking a balance among the three was key in getting our target to yield. The conversation spanned numerous breaks for us to choose our next line, and we could see it in the terrorist's body language that we were making an impact. At times he would drop his shoulders with regret or furrow his brow in disgust. Finally, he agreed to release the hostage--but we won't spoil what happened next.
After making it through the game's opening areas, we got the chance to venture off the beaten path onto the filth-covered streets of Detroit. While there were impressive landmarks--such as Sarif Industries and the LIMB clinic--they were surrounded by the homeless, the violent, and the desperate. From this hub city, we restocked our supplies at a local arms dealer, purchased medicine at the clinic, and received a side quest from a colleague. Apparently, he was being blackmailed into stealing some medicine manufactured by our company and handing it over to a street vendor for distribution. Our charge was to recover the incriminating video the dealer had on him. The only lead we had was that the video might be on the dealer's home computer, which was across town.
In lieu of having a burly security guard or a bunch of laser beams, the dealer's building was protected by a giant gate that we needed to hack through to get inside. The gate required a level-two hacking skill; however, we were still level one. Thankfully, we made sure to carry an extra praxis kit (the currency used to upgrade Jensen's abilities) for this exact situation. After beefing up our hacking ability, we bypassed the gate and entered the building. The video wasn't there. However, there was an armed thug looking to get his fix that freaked out and shot at us on sight. We dropped him easily, and as an added bonus, we dragged his corpse onto the dealer's bed as a sort of "Thank you" for all the trouble he was causing us. Speaking of which, according to an e-mail on his computer, the dealer was supposed to be meeting our colleague not too far from his building; we decided to pay him a visit.
The dealer was standing outside, leaning against a dumpster. He was alone, so we hoped we could scare the video out of him with our gruff attitude and intimidating trench coat. After a brief chat, it was obvious that he wouldn't help us unless we "dealt" with a few overeager customers who were threatening him for more of his product. Resisting the urge to just blast him in the face and possibly find the video on his person, we tracked down the dealers and blasted them in their faces instead. A brief alleyway firefight ensued, which featured us chucking a basketball at an enemy in a last-ditch maneuver after we'd run out of bullets. Upon our return, the dealer launched into some wild story about how he was the modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Our hard-nosed Jensen was unmoved. He just called the dealer some vulgar name and took back the video. After handing it off to our grateful colleague, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done.
The remainder of our demo followed Jensen's investigation into the attack on Sarif Industries. The case itself had been closed prematurely, and there were still too many unanswered questions; namely, who it was that had attacked us. After sneaking into a police station and conducting a massive invasion of privacy, Jensen arrived back at the FEMA facility seen in our previous coverage. This time, we stormed the place with guns blazing. From the enemies we killed, we looted money, ammunition, and other items, as well as snatched up their weapons (which usually dropped nearby). If we knocked an enemy unconscious, we quickly learned that it was a good idea to drag his body into a dark corner so that his buddies couldn't find and wake him. Once the Jensen rampage reached the bottom of the facility, we found ourselves face-to-face with three of the highly augmented individuals that had made us into the person--or thing--we had become.
Two made their escape, leaving Jensen alone with the largest of the group. This juggernaut of man and metal contorted his bionic arm into a machine gun before turning it on us. A boss fight was fast approaching, and we were not prepared. Our opponent's tactic was simple: Walk toward us and fire his gun. If he got close enough, he would cave our face in with his fist. After a few rounds of trial and death, it was obvious our tactic of running around the area with our tail between our legs wasn't panning out. During one of these panic-stricken rounds, we noticed a few caches of EMP and stun grenades. After tossing every EMP and stun grenade we could get our hands on to incapacitate our foe, we finally decided to pop a toxic smoke bomb on him and dive into close range with our shotgun. It was a risky move, but it got the job done. The target went down with an explosive finish, and our demonstration came to a close.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution feels like an immense game. Around almost every corner, there was another computer to hack or air duct to explore. However, it was not without its setbacks, particularly the visuals. The game's dystopian world was packed with details big and small, such as Jensen's personal copy of Living With Your Prosthetics sitting in his home office. We noticed that some character models had something of a flat look and occasionally had strange lighting, but keep in mind that we were playing a work-in-progress version, and that this issues should hopefully be addressed. We're still excited to see how developer Eidos Montreal brings it all together for the game's release later this year. You can find Deus Ex: Human Revolution this August on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.