Most people won't want to rush through Deus Ex: Human Revolution. With a vast conspiracy at the heart of its story and a deep upgrade system that lets you outfit yourself with a variety of cybernetic augmentations to suit your own preferred play style, this is a role-playing shooter where a measured, methodical approach is often the most rewarding one. But it's not a game that tells you what to do, so if you'd prefer to play like an unhinged maniac with an itchy trigger finger and a deeply held distrust of others, well, that's a path you can take. In fact, it's one we tried for ourselves with Human Revolution's Electronic Entertainment Expo demo--with the help of some serious role playing.
Unlike our most recent string of previews--each based on multi-hour play sessions--Human Revolution's E3 demo was a relatively short 20-minute jaunt through a research lab just outside of Shanghai. Your quest is a simple one: Get from the ground floor of this towering facility up to the top. Between you and your goal stand a number of enemies, including well-armed security forces (this is a lab working on highly valuable cybernetic augmentations), as well as dozens upon dozens of scientists. Yes, we decided from the outset that science was our enemy. Hey, this is a role-playing game. The role we decided to play just happened to be a guy who hates scientists.
Sneaking through the halls of the lab, we passed by a fellow caught in a gas leak pounding on the window of his research chamber. He asked for us to help him out by looking for the source of the leak and fixing it. No doubt this guy would have some sort of nice reward in store for us that would come in handy; perhaps a credit chip or an access code to a locked door. We told him we would help him out. And then, we immediately forgot about him. He was probably doing bad science anyway.
In the next room, we encountered a security guard whom we had to bribe with some credits to let us pass by him. We did so, and he was kind enough to look the other way. Then, we noticed a lab-coat-wearing scientist in the corner that we believe was silently judging us for not being man enough to use the "intimidate" option on that guard. (See, our version of hero Adam Jensen not only hates science, but he's also incredibly paranoid and self-conscious.) So we did the only thing we could do; we shouted "Why don't you judge this?" and threw a grenade right at him.
This triggered a bit of a commotion because a number of guards then started coming after us from all directions. We took them out with a high-powered revolver, but the sentry robots that arrived a moment later proved to be more challenging. For these things, we had to take cover, let our health regenerate, and roll a grenade right under their robotic undersides. This managed to do the trick quite nicely, and it was onto the next area.
What came next was a maze of hallways, locked doors, and security guards. By this point, we decided that our version of Adam Jensen was of the opinion that stealth is for babies, so we ran through the hallways like a crazed maniac. We fired off pistol rounds like they were on sale, threw crates at anything with a face, and bounced grenades around blind corners just to be on the safe side. The result was a string of dead guards, more than a few dead scientists, and lots of expensive lab equipment that would need to be replaced. If we could have left a Post-it note that read "I.O.U. $500,000," we would have done so. Well, probably not. Our version of Adam Jensen hates Post-it notes.
Soon after, we managed to find an elevator that led up to a less-secure area, with a number of civilians relaxing on couches or looking out at the expansive view of the city below. There was one fellow who immediately caught our eye. Standing out from the throngs of scientists was a guy in everyday clothing sitting down entranced by some sort of book. If this guy wasn't a nefarious scientist yet, he was clearly studying to become one, so we hatched an idea to save him. In short, we grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and hurled it straight at his head to knock all the science out of him. Unsurprisingly, this just wound up killing him and terrifying everyone else nearby.
Having run out of objects to throw at people--and feeling a need to quiet everyone down lest more robot guards come scrambling our way--we simply picked up this guy's corpse and hurled it at a cowering civilian. We wish we could say it was a sort of "face your fear" training exercise for the scared civilian, but really, we just wanted to shut him up. And maybe, we also wanted to see what would happen if we threw a dead person at a living one. Turns out you wind up with two dead people. Who knew!
After this, there was some more armed combat with guards, an environmental puzzle in which we had to stack boxes to climb above a pool of electrified water, and some air ducts that we had to sneak through to bypass a few locked doors on the way to our final goal. We managed to make it there relatively unscathed, though the fact that we were playing on easy difficulty certainly helped quite a lot. But overall, we walked away impressed by just how much of a complete crazy person we could be in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and still get through the game. Yeah, playing as a stealth assassin on a higher difficulty is probably much more rewarding. But at the same time, there's something oddly reassuring about the fact that this carefully crafted game doesn't require you to play with anything resembling caution; in fact, you can play like a deeply disturbed lunatic and still feel like you somehow have a place in the story. No matter how you choose to play the game, you can expect to see Deus Ex: Human Revolution released on August 23.
Editor's Note: No real scientists were harmed in the writing of this preview.