While June 14, 2011 will be forever known as The Day of Long-Awaited Sequels due to the releases of Child of Eden, Alice: Madness Returns, and Duke Nukem Forever, there’s a fourth title that needed just a couple more months to be ready for prime time, namely Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s ships August 23, but we happened to have gotten a headstart on this cyberpunk action RPG, having played about five hours worth of this near-future adventure.
Our initial impressions have been cautiously positive, that Eidos Montreal might very well have pulled off the balancing act of both living up to the legacy of the original game while giving Human Revolution an identity all its own. It took about half an hour, but the moment that I felt this really was a Deus Ex game was when I was asked if I wanted to accomplish my mission using lethal or non-lethal means and if I wanted a long range or short range weapon. It’s one of the many nods to the original game and is an extension of the series’ trademark “play to your style” appeal.
Before we get into that, I’d like to point out that if you approach this game with a Japanese RPG mentality, HOSTAGES DIE! Seriously, this happens in the first mission. After the exquisite open credits, your main character Adam Jensen, now retrofitted with the latest in nanotech augmentations, begins the game proper in the Sarif Industries HQ lobby. He is promptly notified by his boss of a hostage situation and to meet him at the chopper on the heliport. But I just started the game and this is a building filled with new characters with interesting conversations. So of course I’d like to think the hostages can wait while I converse with co-workers to get information, or better yet, special items. 10 minutes later, having tweaked Adam’s neural implants and chatted with everyone in the the lobby and adjecent rooms, I headed off to the helipad. On my way there, I get chewed out by said boss for taking long and as a result, the hostages died even before we left HQ! What I initially thought was a scripted event was actually a negative result of my own doing. Yet since this was not the primary objective of the mission, it was not ‘Game Over’; the mission to confront the hostage-takers continues.
If the total playtime of Human Revolution is anything like the length of the original game, I know I would be in for quite a time commitment. It was all the more reason to make this initial playthrough count. After all, you only get to experience a game with fresh eyes once, right? Which is why I decided to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution on both its hardest difficulty setting (named ‘Show Me Deus Ex’) AND going for the stealth-centric ‘zero kills’ achievement. Let’s just say that this first mission took a little over 2 hours. Naturally, much of that time was spent watching enemy walking patterns, using my limited ammo wisely and mastering my close quarters takedowns. Of course I got caught from time to time, but I haven’t had this much fun with stealth gameplay since Metal Gear Solid 3, which obviously says something.
There’s definitely a sense of tension when having such limited amounts of ammo, even more so if you’re going for no kills. Yet any Deus Ex fan will tell you that they wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t say that resources are scarce (it helps you can loot unconscious or dead enemies for items), but it is certainly a nice change from the luxuries of picking up 400-round ammo clips in Gears of War.
I was especially curious how my conservative use of ammo and my current inventory would benefit me during the mission’s boss fight. What actually resulted was a duel of the mind, specifically the art of hostage negotiation. By choosing among a variety of responses themed on empathy, humility and other replies, I started to feel like Samuel L. Jackson (or if you will, Kevin Spacey). This ability to sway others on a cerebral level is one of the many upgradeable abilities in Human Revolution, a topic of which I’ll delve deeper in my review.
With the mission completed, can you guess what I ended up doing next when I returned to headquarters? As much as there were engrossing plot developments awaiting me from Adam’s findings during the mission, I really wanted to save those hostages! So I loaded an earlier save and was much more punctual in getting to the chopper. Unfortunately I have other games to play and articles to write so I comprimised and killed some terrorists this time around, while making reasonable attempts in dealing out rewarding non-lethal knockouts. Yes, you actually get more experience for not killing someone, as opposed to dealing five shots to the chest. Yet, you can get XP if you’re good with headshots. Tough choices, no? Every action is a judgement call which is what makes this and the original Deus Ex so great.