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Deus Ex: Human Revolution diary – The Hacker

When I get back to Sarif Industries, I'm given a mixed reception. Some people congratulate me for the hostages I saved, some praise that I did the mission without killing anyone, and some angrily suggest I skip the funeral of the woman I failed to rescue. Sarif is just pissed that I let Zeke go.

I don't much care. At this point, I'm sent out into Detroit, the game's first city hub. It's somehow so cool that you get there not in your helicopter, but by simply walking out the front door of Sarif Industries' headquarters.

I spend a while just walking around, talking to people. The city isn't a true open world, but a chain of streets and alleyways with places to explore packed into every corner. There are apartment buildings to break into, alternate routes and hidden locations to discover, a police station, a LIMB clinic, five side missions and a few main story missions.

There are also prostitutes, one of whom waves at me as I walk by. Her name's Jenny, she's an old colleague of Jensen's, and she's working as an undercover cop. If I'm interested, I could help her on an investigation into a corrupt detective called O'Malley, who has been moving drugs, running guns and working with a local anti-augmentation gang in the slums of Derelict Row.

I'm interested, and Jenny explains that I need to meet with O'Malley, pose as an assassin, break into his apartment to find evidence, knock out a witness so he can be taken alive, and confirm that the gang's weapon stash was supplied by him. This is just a single side mission, but it's vast.

My first stop is the police station. O'Malley likes to smoke in the alleyway out back, and he's expecting to meet me there. The alleyway is fenced off, though, and I lack the jumpy-legs required to get over it. My only way in is through the front door.

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Haas, the cop on the front desk, is another old friend, this time from Jensen's old job on SWAT. He's torn up with guilt over something , though I won't say what. You get the chance to absolve, plead or crush. * I'm playing as a good guy, so I absolve him till he simpers, thanks me, and lets me inside.

I need to find an exit to the alley out back, but I can't. I've just seen a sign that reads "Armory". The nice thing about being a hacking character is that you know there's going to be a way in to wherever you want to go.

Unfortunately, while I've been allowed in by the guy on the front desk, that doesn't give me free run of the building. The police officers on the second floor don't like that I'm there, and they're easily pissed off. Entering the armory causes them to draw their weapons, and if you don't immediately run away at that point, they'll shoot you dead. I know this because I tested it. A few times.

This is going to take a little finesse. Down a corridor, I find a vent and clamber inside. It leads in two directions, one of which is an empty office, the other of which is blocked by a laser security system.

Luckily, the office I can get inside contains a computer and a device for turning off those lasers. I hack the computer first.

The world is littered with computers like this, as well as doors and security terminals, each of which has a password or security code you can enter to access to the system. If you don't know either though, and if you have the required hacking level, you can take a shot at breaking in.

This chucks you in to the hacking screen. Each system you enter has a different layout, and Eidos Montreal clearly have a designer dedicated just to making them. The one in front of me now is simple, but some are fantastically complex, almost beautiful in their spiralling designs. Human Revolution will win 2011's PC Gamer award for the best spider diagrams in gaming, no question.

Each point on the diagram is a node, each linked by a single- or multi-directional pathway. You have a starting point, and a clearly marked goal that will give you access to the machine. You have to capture the nodes in between to reach it.

Every node has its own security rating and a chance that you'll be detected. If that happens, the system will start trying to find your access point, the tracer flowing out from somewhere on the grid, checking every node for you. It turns hacking into a tense race to reach your goal before you're caught.

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It also forces you to make moves tactically. You can aim to capture special node-types that alter the state of the machine, lowering the security rating of adjacent nodes or unlocking XP bonuses. You can fortify each captured node, to slow the trace should you be detected. Or you can deploy special, consumable programs, like a Nuke that lets you capture nodes without any chance of detection or a Worm that briefly halts the computer's trace entirely.

The computer in front of me only has a few nodes, and I capture it without problems. There are a few emails on the machine, and it turns out I'm in the Captain's office. There's a background check on Zeke here; for a terrorist, it turns out he's a pretty good guy. All his attacks have been on abandoned buildings, and while there have been a few injuries, there were no fatalities. Until the woman earlier tonight, I guess.

Afterwards, I hack the laser security system and deactivate it. I'm rewarded with a Nuke program for my troubles.

Following the path of the vent now brings me out inside the armory, just behind the police officer inside. I crawl out, close the door so we're not disturbed, and perform a non-lethal takedown on the cop.

Non-lethal moves don't bring out Jensen's fist-chisels, but that doesn't make the animations any less satisfying to watch. Here, he loops his left arm around the cop, punches him square in the face, grabs hold of his head and hurls him head-over-heels onto the ground. It happens fast and looks amazing.

Unfortunately, this doesn't actually gain me anything. All the weapons and ammo are stored in a locked, glass cabinet. Luckily, there's another PC.

This machine is much harder than the one in the office, as there are two goal nodes at opposite ends of the diagram, and both need to be captured to gain access. Any failure will set off alarms and turn every cop in the building hostile.

There's a 50% chance that the first node will lead to detection, but while I have the Nuke program I won hacking the laser security, it doesn't matter. Getting detected on the second node would still get me caught before I can gain access; I've no choice but to risk it and hope.

My little blue line pours out from my entry point and...