Eidos Montreal has a lot to prove. The freshman developer's first project is a daunting one: the next game in the beloved Deus Ex franchise, subtitled Human Revolution. Yet based on what we saw at its behind-closed-doors demonstration of the game, the development team really understands what made Deus Ex so groundbreaking in its day. According to lead writer Mary DeMarle, Deus Ex: Human Revolution revolves around four pillars of gameplay: combat, stealth, social, and hacking. Choice is the key element here, and players will be able to follow multiple paths to achieve their goals.
Human Revolution takes place before the original Deus Ex--in 2027, to be exact. It's an age of chaos and conspiracy. Protagonist Adam Jensen is a security specialist for a private company that manufactures nanotechnological augmentations. When the firm falls under attack, it's up to Adam to uncover the plot behind the violence. The demo we saw picked up about six hours into the game. Adam is following a lead, seeking out a hacker on an island located near Shanghai. We see a gunship flying above the waters and a brightly lit neon cityscape in the distance. The gunship lands, and your female companion gives Adam a rundown of the situation. We find out the hacker is a member of a triad, which as Deus Ex players know, is a mafia-type organized crime syndicate. Once his comrade flies off, Adam is left to pursue the lead on his own.
Adam makes his way down a stairway and past a cafe. The urban environment has that neon-lit, grimy sci-fi look that the Deus Ex series has always done so well. The area is teeming with pedestrians involved in conversations and going about their daily business. They aren't oblivious to your presence, though: An innocent pedestrian reacts with horror when the player points a gun at him. According to DeMarle, you can go up to any non-player characters to talk to them and can even obtain side quests that way. One thing is for sure: Human Revolution has a gritty look, exemplified by the seedy nightclub Adam approaches, which is called The Hive. The bouncer there isn't too excited to see Adam and isn't prepared to let him in without a little cash to massage the situation. The player chose to pay the bouncer off, but according to DeMarle, there were other options available. You might find a sewer or roof entrance, locate another way in by talking to nearby passersby, or simply kill the bouncer.
Once inside, Adam talks to the bartender and asks for his contact, Tong. The bartender sends Adam to the VIP lounge, where another bartender awaits--this one sporting a freaky-looking cybernetic arm. An aggressive conversation follows, and clearly, this man has no intention of letting Adam speak to Tong. We see several dialogue choices throughout the conversation, and each time they are presented as "advise," "insist," and "pinpoint." Adam has no luck with the bartender and, instead, must find alternate means. Fortunately, he overhears two guards mention that they've lost a PDA with an important passcode on it. Adam finds the PDA and uses the code to open a secure door and enter the club's basement.
From within these confines, Adam sticks to cover and waits for a patrolling guard to turn his back, then attacks him with a gruesome-looking fatality-type kill. One detail of note: While you generally play Deus Ex: Human Revolution from a first-person point of view, you move to a third-person view when taking cover and performing these kills, which are called takedowns. Adam then drags the body out of the way and enters a nearby vent. From here, he's able to locate Tong--who happens to be the very same bartender who refused you access. Tong is conversing with a comrade, and as it turns out, he knows a lot more about the situation than he let on.
The second half of the demo focused on pure action. In it, Adam makes his way around a dock cluttered with shipping crates, slipping from cover spot to cover spot to avoid detection. This is where augmentations come in handy. For example, because the player has given Adam the strength augmentation, he is able to move some heavy boxes out of the way and reveal a path that would have otherwise been unavailable. Once through this opening, Adam plunges a sharp weapon through a guard's midsection in another disgusting-looking takedown move. According to DeMarle, takedowns are always contextual and not scripted, so the takedown you perform conforms to the circumstance.
After a bit more sneaking, Adam infiltrates a security station, stabs the seated guard in the back, and hacks into the camera system. With hacking, you can take control of cameras or even read private e-mail that provides even more helpful information. The player continues to creep along the grimy dock and eventually leaps onto a crate and finds a combat rifle hidden inside. From here, he drops down between two conversing guards and takes them down in a single, expert melee move. Then, he activates another augmentation, which allows him to see through walls--at which point he punches through the wall and chokes the foe lurking behind it to death. Eventually, Adam finds the explosives he's been looking for and then takes advantage of another augmentation--one that turns him invisible. He slinks unseen to a nearby enemy, aims his pistol, and boom! The guard crumples to the ground, a bullet lodged directly in his brain. A few aggressive takedowns later, and Adam needed to enter a warehouse. Again, the player gets to make a choice. This time, he makes his way to the rooftop and breaks through the glass on the ceiling. Another awesome-looking takedown follows, and then--a boss fight.
The boss is a terrifying transforming robot that launches grenades toward our scowling hero. The player takes aim with his standard weapons, but the submachine gun he was using isn't really doing the trick. Luckily, there is a rocket launcher nearby, and Adam is able to apply an upgrade to it: heat targeting. This allows Adam to essentially shoot the robot without it being in sight. One rocket is all it takes, and the robot explodes in a shower of sparks and flame. Adam finds the trigger to the explosives he was looking for, but the effect he gets isn't the one he expects: a countdown timer signals a local detonation. Adam leaps toward a nearby window, and while it cracks, it does not shatter. Adam leaps a second time, just as the explosion occurs and thrusts him outward. Yet there is another surprise waiting for Adam once he dusts himself off: a hulking supersoldier with a rural accent and a nose ring, with a minigun built directly into his arm.
We'll have to wait to see where Adam's adventure takes him next, but it looks to be worth the wait. The build we saw wasn't extremely polished, but it made it very clear that the development team understands the franchise and wants to stay true to its roots. No release date is yet announced for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but you should expect to see this single-player-only, role-playing/shooter/stealth hybrid on shelves sometime in 2011. It will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation3, and PC.