Friday, 3 June 2011

Impressions: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

It's happened. I've played Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Although not the full version, you understand. A while ago, a preview build containing a third of the game was given to various games journalists so that they could write about their impressions of it. Not very long ago, this build was leaked onto the internet. Someone's in for a roasting. But, thanks to a kindly chap armed with a memory stick, I have played this build, and am ready to offer my opinions on it.

I'm going to say right here that Eidos appear to be perfectly happy with people doing this. See here, and especially here. See, Eidos are not only letting people discuss the leak on their forums, but Kyle Stallock, the Community Manager, has even encouraged users to share links to people's impressions. I will now provide my impressions, sprinkled with screenshots. And not sprinkled with spoilers. You can click the screenshots for larger ones. The graphics aren't great, but it runs smooth as butter on my single-core system, and it'll also have DX11 technology straight out of the box.

We saw this in one of the trailers. Yes, that is a pair of robotic legs running on a treadmill.
I'm going to mainly focus on the gameplay and mechanics here, because I'm sure as hell not going to spoil anything for you, dear reader. The opening is, mechanically, very straightforward and linear. You spend an amount of it on rails getting some merry exposition, and eventually you meet your boss in his office.

It's no secret that you play as Adam Jensen, head of security at Sarif Industries. You meet David Sarif, and suddenly all hell breaks loose.

Not pictured: all hell breaking loose and David Sarif.
Jensen whips out an assault rifle and you're left to get on with it. This section plays like a straight first-person cover shooter. It uses the same cover mechanics as Rainbow 6: Vegas 2, if you've ever played it; you hold the right mouse button to enter cover, where you can then pop out with the movement keys to take aimed shots. You can also use the hilariously useless blindfire, and switch between cover spots if you're near any you can get to. The section is extremely short, but it will take you over the basic controls.

Skipping past the story gubbins, you're deposited into the Sarif building six months after the attack. Now Jensen's all augmented up. But these, as you'll be aware if you've been following the development news, are not the discrete augmentations that the Dentons have in Deus Ex and Invisible War. These augmentations are Gunther Hermann style mechanical prosthetics. Everyone can tell you're augmented as soon as they see you, and it's the discrimination against augmented humans that seems to drive the story.

Jensen post-augmentation.
Here I should say something about the writing. Here is something: it's utterly superb. I mean that sincerely. The script is better than Deus Ex. It's better than anything I've seen in a long time. The dialogue is intelligent and natural. The writer (who's name has slipped my mind at the moment) has done a superb job and deserves an award.

Speaking of Deus Ex, there are many references to the original. You're especially in for a very pleasant surprise in the introduction, and then another after the first proper mission. This is a game that knows what universe it's in and what happened when. If you didn't play the original, you may not get all the nods and references, but they certainly are there. There's also a cute little nod with the hotbar on the HUD and in the inventory screen:

That hotbar should look familiar. The rest, not so much.
And the inventory.
Oh my word, a grid based inventory! I haven't seen one of those in a game for years. This type of old-school attitude actually permeates most of the game. After the first mission, you're able to go walkies around Detroit, and here is where everything comes together and... And it just feels like Deus Ex.

Detroit, upon exiting the Sarif building.
If you played Deus Ex and Invisible War, do you remember the hubs? We're talking Hell's Kitchen, Hong Kong, Cairo, for example. Do you remember how open ended they were and how enjoyable it was to poke around and see what you could find? This goes at least triple for Detroit. There's a hell of a lot of places to go (especially break into), people to speak to, and things to do. Detroit is handled brilliantly, has a superb look, and a superb atmosphere. If the other city hubs are as fleshed out as Detroit, many players will be spending hours just faffing around. Which is excellent.

Now, there's been a lot of very vocal complaining about one or two things. The first thing is the regenerating health. I know why people don't like it, especially having played PC games from before Halo came out. I don't particularly like it either. It wouldn't have been too difficult to implement a more traditional health system. But there isn't one. After Jensen is auged, it is explained away as being one of his implants, but it still exists in the opening, which may be a design oversight. However, there would not be enough healing items in the world to keep you healthy even on the medium difficulty setting. Don't be fooled, Jensen's essentially a cyborg, but he still takes a crapton of damage. Hell, I've been playing it in the same way as I first played Deus Ex: stealthily. Regenerating health is often too slow to save your life in a firefight, so it's not an unfair advantage at all. It takes about 10 seconds to kick in, and then it works incredibly slowly. this is not Halo or CoD. Hell, I spent the first three hours desperately wishing I had a silencer for my pistol.

Another issue is the object highlighting, which does not exist until Jensen gets auged. Whenever you see something useful, it gets an orange outline. However, this outline is actually fairly unintrusive and only kicks in when you're fairly close to the object. Plus, if you don't like it, you can just turn it off in the settings. The same goes with the objective markers, which are slightly more intrusive.

Pictured: The way the highlighting wraps around objects. Not pictured: My gun accidentally on purpose going off three seconds later. The game still let me do it, because this is Deus Ex.
Another problem people seem to have is the cover system. Probably because it's third person and some people don't like being yanked out of their character's heads. Or something. It uses the same system as the aforementioned Vegas 2, which worked incredibly well. If you don't like it, you're beyond help, frankly. You could just not use it if you don't like it. It doesn't have a lean button for when you're out of cover though. Not that I ever used it in games that had it anyway.

Jensen. Giving the wall a hug.
I should also mention the conversation system. It's different to Deus Ex's, but it works and it works well. It's essentially a conversation ring system, similar to Alpha Protocol and Mass Effect. You're given a selection of attitudes and opinions you can take, and mousing over them will show you what Jensen will say if you select that option. Of course, sometimes these examples are paraphrased, but no worse than in other titles. There's also a very in-depth persuasion system that I won't spoil, but I will give you two screens of different conversations.

I REALLY wish they'd moved the helipad, just to fuck around.
This is Pritchard. He doesn't like you. You don't like him either.
In short, I have very high hopes for Human Revolution. This is a true successor and prequel to Deus Ex. And... Do you know what? I think it's better than Deus Ex. I preordered the Augmented Edition months ago, and I suggest that, if you've been putting off making a similar commitment, swallow your pride and preorder it. it's going to be worth it.

Until next time!


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