Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Deus Ex – Human Revolution

Release date: Spring 2011
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

Okay, Okay, I admit it – I already have a healthy man-crush on Adam Jensen, the hero of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. What's not to like about the protagonist of the newest upgrade of this excellent franchise? 

Not only does he have facial hair to make his Grandma think twice (but only twice) before telling him that he looks like he sneezed in a hoover bag; but his existence would render most kitchen appliances redundant. This guy can pop the lid on a jar of pickled onions from twenty paces without breaking a sweat…or using his hands.

Deus Ex is among the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. On it’s original release over a decade ago, it changed the expectations of hardcore-gamers everywhere. It offered a freedom that was unknown to FPS fans while gently introducing them to the world of the RPG. What made Deus Ex so exciting and re-playable was primarily augmentations. These offered players the opportunity to adapt and improve their player however they chose to, whether that was vision enhancement, cloaking or aggressive defense systems the options gave the impression of being endless. Augmentations meant that gamers could complete levels in a number of ways, giving Deus Ex huge re-play value and ripping the FPS experience ‘off the rails’.

As I watch the gameplay trailer for Human Revolution, my palms are sweaty, itchy and disconcertingly hairy. It may be that I need medical assistance, or maybe I am more excited than Abramovic in a January transfer-window. So, what can we expect?

"Could I borrow a cup of sugar?" Adam asked his neighbours through
the thin walls of his new town flat.
Imagine Inspector Gadget with a massive pair of cojones and a hatred for shoddy plastering. Adam Jensen is going renovate your house and topple the sinister, power-hungry serif industries with his size-twelve carbon fiber footprint. The year is 2027 and this is a world where corporations have more power than the government. Jensen is an unwilling super-soldier charged with a quest to restore the fragile balance of power and uncover the truth about human augmentation. He must do all this with only four AA batteries to power his dirty robot heart.

Early indications suggest that Human Revolution will offer gamers the same freedom to save the dystopian Detroit as its predecessor. There will be a number of different approaches to each mission and an array of different augmentations to shape the course of Adam’s unhappy genesis. Cloaking and hacking will be amongst them, but there is also talk of more ‘social’ augmentations that might provide an advantage when dealing with the NPCs of the future. Apparently, the performance and body-language of various characters can be better understood through augmentations to reveal clues and insights to help solve some of the puzzles, although it is unclear exactly how this might work.

For the more ‘direct’ gamer, there will be an arsenal of weaponry with which to maim, mutilate and redecorate. Many of the weapons will be ‘upgradeable’, so that the evolution of you ‘little-friend’ matches your own style of play. 

Rest assured that ninja-snipers, pistoleering cowboys and juggernauting-grenadiers will all find something to amuse them, but Square Enix are also boasting a range of spectacular finishing moves for those seeking a more hands-on way to dispatch a foe. One way or another, Mr. Jensen is going to have one hell of a dry cleaning bill when it’s all over. 

If the various trailers are anything to go by, there may be, at least some, destructible environmental elements, but we will have to wait until a playable demo is released before we can know for sure.

Perhaps the most challenging obstacle for the Enix team to overcome will be the control system – particularly for its console releases. There will be a large number of augmentations and weapon upgrades to control, so it will definitely be a challenge to create a control system that feels intuitive, but also offers freedom and control in each situation. In my experience, this has often proved too big a challenge for developers and is the main reason that RPGs often fail to get the attention they deserve on consoles. Dragon Age: Origins was a good example of this. Happily, it was unusually successful and sold a significant number of copies, but I still felt that the control system was very clumsy and I too often found myself being licked to death by an over-sexed Mubari high on Scooby-snacks. Bards do not regale tavern patrons with songs of hapless heroes who were too busy sending their party out on a horticultural expedition to beat Lassie into submission. Enough said. Let’s keep our freakishly dexterous fingers crossed, folks.

One thing is certain. Deus Ex: Human Revolution will stand apart from the linear narrative of its spec-ops counter parts. The original game boasted three alternative endings, which depended on the choices that were made throughout the game. There are encouraging signs that players will be offered the same chances to influence and shape the story that unravels around them. Gamers should be able to choose what they will fight for and how they will fight. 

Watch this space.

1 comment:

  1. Are you excited about this release? What do you expect from this title?