Deus Ex: Human Revolution starts, as you'll know if you read Tom's diary yesterday , with a mission to stop terrorists from stealing a prototype from one of Sarif Industries' labs. The difference is that where Tom decided to play as a psychopath - "play as" - I'm making my way through the game as a stealthy, non-lethal hacker. I sneak by enemies, and if I can't sneak, I snipe them with my tranquiliser gun, and if I can't snipe, I punch them so hard they go to bed.
I'm basically roleplaying Batman.
Being Batman is hard. He makes it look easy because he's Batman, I guess, but this is too early in the game to upgrade any of Adam Jensen's augmentations. At this point, I'm just a regular guy with robot arms, robot bones and sunglasses embedded in my forehead.
I compensate by crouch-waddling wherever I go, but every terrorist I meet spots me eventually. I've been shot at by almost every person in the building, through warehouses and stairwells and laboratories. I'm not so much stealthy, non-lethal hacker as a cowardly, non-lethal guy who runs away a lot. With sunglasses embedded in my forehead.
Which is how I find myself up in the rafters above one of the science labs, looking down at four patrolling terrorists. There's not much to hack this early on, but there are man-sized vents everywhere, and one has led me to the perfect spot to pick people off with the tranq gun.
I target one, fire, and a second later he flops to the ground. The perfect crime.
Until his friend sees. Uh oh. He screams, "I've got a man down!" and runs over to wake him up. All the other terrorists in the room turn alert; they're not hostile yet, because they haven't seen me, but they're looking now.
I target the now crouching samaritan terrorist, fire, and after a second he flops over the slumbering body of his friend. The perfect crime.
Until their friend sees. Uh oh. The process repeats twice more and by the time I'm done, the corner of the room is a tidy pile of sleeping men, snuggled together like bear cubs. It's a good thing terrorists can't look up.
The other end of the beam I'm crouched upon leads back into another vent, which winds down into the room where the hostages are being held. I rescue the shit out of them, resist the urge to non-lethally punch them for fun, and slip back out via the vent.
The perfect crime.(opens in new tab)
Partway through the first mission, I get my first Praxis point. This is the point where I make a real decision about how I want to play the game.
First, a confession might be useful: I've never really played the original Deus Ex. I missed it when it first came out, and although I've since tried - again and again - I've never reached beyond its opening mission. It's partly how the game has aged, partly having every other game in the world to play, but really there's not a good reason for it. I've just never made the time, no matter how often it appears at the top or near the top of the PC Gamer Top 100. *
But I've read a lot about Deus Ex, and if there's one thing I know, it's that it isn't supposed to be about simply running into rooms and shooting people. I put my first Praxis point into hacking, so I can find more thoughtful ways to destroy my enemies. It immediately comes in handy. At this point in Tom's story, he snuck by a camera, picked up a turret and threw it at the camera to destroy it. I slipped into a side room instead, hacked a computer terminal and turned off the camera from there.
OK, so Tom's solution was probably cooler in this case, but the hacking is surprisingly robust. More on that later.
Eventually, I reach the final room of the mission, where terrorist leader Zeke is holding the last hostage. At key points in this conversation, you're given a choice of what to say, and I try to talk him into giving himself up.
It doesn't work. Zeke leaves with the hostage and I hear a number of gun shots outside. By the time I get there, Zeke is gone, escaped, and the hostage is lying dead on the ground as a SWAT medic tries to save her. It's not clear whether Zeke killed her or if she was shot in the crossfire.
It gets worse. Outside the building, I meet one of the hostages I did manage to save. He's the husband of the woman now lying dead inside, and I have to tell him what happened.