A few of us in the office have been playing the first ten hours of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for the last few weeks, but we weren't allowed to tell you much about them until today. The trouble is, it's incredibly good. So all that pent up excitement has turned itself into a series of diaries: today I'll talk you through what happens if you try to play the game as a cyborg psychopath.
Tomorrow Graham will tell you about his hacking-focused style, and on Friday Rich will try to talk and sneak his way through the whole thing. We'll avoid specific plot spoilers, but inevitably we're going to be mentioning situations you'll encounter yourself when the game comes out in August. In the meantime, you can read our general impressions in my preview , and all our spoiler-free impressions in a Deus Ex special of our podcast .
Deus Ex: Human Revolution starts with a conference call between four or five shadowy figures. It's possible they're conspiring. I'm not going to talk about that, and I'm not going to talk about the next half hour: it's an only semi-interactive intro, so it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the game.
I'll start from the first meaningful choice you get: you're flying out to stop terrorists from stealing a secret new augmentation prototype from your employer, Sarif Industries. Sarif himself is, for some reason, your personal caddy in the chopper on the way over. Would sir care to murder his opponents or render them unconscious? Murder? Very good. And would sir prefer to engage at range or close quarters? Close quarters murder, an excellent choice if I may say.
That gives me the revolver. Hang on, I have a 5,000 pixel wide picture of it somewhere.
Dropped in front of two SWAT agents, I suddenly get the urge to use it. I've already played this first mission sensibly, at a hands-on event with the console version. So this time, I ask the question every gamer must ask themselves at some point in their lives: "Can I just, like, shoot these guys and take their stuff?"
BLAM. Yep! His colleague is appreciably startled, but only gets one shot off before I switch my aim to him. Friendlies aren't invincible in this game, it turns out. And mouse control makes shooting people in the head much, much easier.
The SWAT guys in the next room are alert but not hostile - they heard the shots but didn't see who did it. It's an unsolvable case, guys, give up. It definitely wasn't the guy with the revolver now ducking behind a crate to pick you off.
This is harder: three armoured guys at once. I get the captain easily, but have to take cover as the other two spray fire back. The switch to third person when you hide feels much nicer now that I'm playing on PC - it's almost identical to the way Rainbow Six: Vegas works, and that's one of my favourite shooters.
One SWAT guy reloads, the other pushes forward. I peek out to shoot the reloader, then stand up to melee the other. Giant chisels flick out of my wrists, I stab him in the throat and spleen, then smack him to the floor.
Wow, I am a terrible person. With a free assault rifle.
I go easier on the terrorists, only breaking their arms and jaws with non-lethal takedowns. I dive into cover and bring out the revolver when things get out of hand. Pretty soon I find the hostages - they're only an optional objective, but I screwed this up badly during the console hands-on session. This time I've already found the defuse code for the bomb in someone's' e-mail, so I stroll in and save everyone easily. Then, I wonder.
How will the game handle it if I save the hostages, then kill them myself?
"Pritchard," Jensen radios in, as he stabs both fist-chisels through a woman's ribcage. "I've found the hostages."
"I'm relaying good news, I hope?" Jensen throws the woman's limp body onto the sofa and turns to the next.
For science, I headshot the rest of them and sneak out the vent. Deal with that , game.
Later in the mission, I get my first Praxis point. These are how you buy or upgrade augmentations for your now semi-mechanical body. It costs 2 to buy a new one, so if you want to spend your first right away, you can only upgrade what you've got. One of the upgrades for your arms lets you haul and throw heavier objects, so of course I went for that.
First thing to throw: a goddamn turret. I have to sneak by a security camera to get behind it, so I pick the whole gun emplacement up and hurl it at the camera. It smashes, naturally, and I leave the turret facing a corner like a misbehaving child.
Finally I face the lead terrorist, Zeke, who has another hostage. Negotiate? Sure, I'll negotiate with bull- hang on, missed. I'll negotiate with- oh, he's killed the hostage. I'll negotiate with- well, yes, I just shot him in the end, so that's not really negotiation.
I also shot the guy who burst through the door immediately afterwards, before I even realised he was SWAT. Then I shot all the other SWAT troops on the helipad, then I shot all the other SWAT troops on the top floor, then I discovered the entire complex had been completely repopulated with SWAT troops. And I did the whole mission again, in reverse.
It's like Hitman: these guys aren't hostile until they see you attack, so you can stalk them carefully, get them on their own, and puncture them with your fist-chisels without alerting their friends. I have no idea why Eidos Montreal thought I might go through a whole 90-minute mission backwards after I'd already completed it, but they accounted for the possibility. And for a deranged serial killer like my character, it was fun in a whole new way.
I'll skip the debrief, it's story stuff I don't want to spoil. But the characters at Sarif HQ react quite convincingly to my bizarre rescue-massacre, correctly acknowledging that the hostages died. No-one knows I did it, of course, but I'm impressed that completing the 'rescue' objective didn't lock everyone into "Well done!" mode - the game actually checks if they're still alive. The only small slip-up is a newspaper article that claims the bomb went off, when in fact I defused it.
The next time you leave Sarif HQ, it's not by helicopter but the front door. You're in Detroit, the game's first city hub, and the point at which it really opens up.
It's not a full city like GTA or Oblivion - the closest point of comparison is the obvious one, Deus Ex. It's a few blocks of streets and backalleys, and while you can't go in every building, it's actually more explorable than Deus Ex ever was.
I find an arms dealer in an abandoned gas station and buy a shotgun from him. I find a gleaming LIMB Clinic, the surgeries where augs are normally installed, and buy some Praxis points to upgrade my own. And finally I wander into an apartment complex to talk to an ex-cop, now a security guard, about a side quest I've just picked up.
He's helpful, but- well, science. I have to find out if the game will let me kill him. I head up to the apartment he's guarding, hack my way into someone's flat and pick up their fridge-freezer. It's a bit of a trek to get it downstairs, the strength aug slowly draining my energy, but I manage it with enough power left to hurl it into his head. He's knocked onto his desk, confused and understandably hostile, but by the time he's stood up I've picked up the fridge again and hurled it into his chest, killing him. Sorry, friend. It had to be this way.
Exploring the apartments of Detroit is fascinating. I keep stumbling across scenes and scraps of story that seem like they relate to something important I haven't discovered yet. In one, I hack my way into an apartment containing nothing of interest but a gun on the desk and a locked door.
It's beyond my hacking skill, so I'm about to leave disappointed when I notice a grill in the door. I crouch down and peer through - there's a light flashing within. I'm doubly annoyed that I can't get in there, and even more irritated when I realise that's probabaly an explosive - proximity LAMs flashed like this in Deus Ex. If games were logical, I'd just be able to shoot through this flimsy grille and hit the mine, probably blowing this door clean off.
This is Deus Ex. It might actually be that logical. So I try it.
It works. The blast is enormous, not simply breaking the door but obliterating it. Inside, there are credits, ammo and grenades galore, as well as a computer to be hacked for some background on the guy who lives here. He's clearly into some bad stuff.
I never discovered how bad on this run, but when our other diaries go up watch for any reference to O'Malley - there's a lot more to this.
I finally find what I'm looking for, the apartment of someone involved with a theft I'm investigating for a friend. While snooping through his computer, though, I hear someone approaching. Esc! Esc! Esc!
I press myself up against the wall and look round the bedroom door. A punk with a pistol is prowling the apartment, shouting for me to come out. I decide not to oblige, and blind-fire with my new shotgun.
The crack is vicious, but the cloud of lead only glances him. He fires wildly at the doorway until his clip is empty, at which point I swing out, take aim at his neck, and hit him with a more accurate blast that sends him sprawling over the living room table.
He's not the guy, but I know where to find him now. He's loitering by a skip outside, and I know from his e-mails that he has the recording I need on him. When we talk, he gives me a Robin Hood justification for his actions, and says he'll only give me the recording if I deal with the drug dealers who've been hounding him.
I consider it, then hit him in the face so hard that his head hits the skip.
Not everyone is OK with this. Most of the hobos and punks in the alley cower, but two pull uzis and open fire. I'm hit before I make it to cover, but alive - barely. When they split up, I lean out and headshot one, then skewer the other as he tries to flank me.
This is why you make a game this way: if the quest you've written isn't compelling to a certain kind of player, or they don't feel the reward measures up, they can still end up having an awesome time. I wouldn't have minded having to kill some drug dealers - I do love killing - but even if I hadn't been on a psycho playthrough, I just didn't feel this guy was in any position to send me on an errand. The game let me express that, with fists.
The final treat in the apartments of Detroit is something I missed until Rich told me it existed. The block's entrance is locked, but if you stand precariously on a barrel and jump up to the fire escape ladder, you can get in. And there's a man slouching on a desk, hood up.
It's not the man. It's the silencer he sells.
He doesn't know my character, but I'm not the right guy to sell a silencer to. I shoot his bodyguard in the back of the head with a gratifying thud , then spin and shoot him in the face before he can level his shotgun. Most of his merchandise is locked up in the heavy boxes around us, but he has some good stuff on him too. I slip out.
One of the most substantial sidequests in Detroit comes from a prostitute on Derelict Row who claims to know you. "Jensen, over here!" She says as you walk past. I walk over and slam my robot fist into her face. Everyone screams.
Um. Look, I know how this is going to sound, but I honestly didn't mean to do that. I just switched my melee key to what I normally use for 'Interact', and my muscle memory kicked in.
She's out cold, and depressingly no-one much cares that I hit her - no-one with a gun, at least. On her body, I find a thousand credits and a rare weapon mod. Well, no sense letting this stuff go to waste. I mean, sure, she'll probably wake up soon, but... look, I'm just going to take it. Judge away.
The last thing in this build of the game is the mission Rich saw last week . It's a fun mission, but there's less scope for a psychopath to experiment with, since everyone in it is already hostile: killing them seemed like stating the obvious. And it ends in a boss fight that's the only major disappointment so far: we've all searched, but there seems to be no non-violent or alternative way around it.
In general, the hubs are where most of the richness and flexibility of Deus Ex really shines. The missions work well to give you renewed purpose and a chance to put any new weapons and augs to a tougher test, whether it's a stealth or combat one. But I hope the full game sticks roughly to this pattern: a few missions per hub, with at least as much of your time spent exploring the world and its story. There are three city hubs in total and the game takes around 25 and 35 hours to complete first time, so the maths suggests exactly that.