Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The First 10 Minutes
Conspiracy. It’s at the heart of Deus Ex: Human Revolution (just read the synopsis on the game’s official website), and you know it within seconds of the starting up the game. In fact, the entire opening 10 minutes — which I got to mess around with last week (and more, which you’ll get to read about on Thursday) — revolve around some kind of conspiracy at work against, or at least involving, Sarif Industries.
In a very Mass Effect 2, Elusive Man sort of opening sequence, we see a man in a suit holding two conversations, and each is equally cryptic and menacing. The first, in audio, has the man talking about dealing with Sarif Industries and its apparent “discovery.” The voices of the other conspirators — there are four, arrayed on a large display in front of our man with their pictures blacked out and their voices digitally distorted — are suitably international. No one is happy about Sarif and something must be done.
But another conversation is going on at the same time, in text, overlaid on the display. It concerns a woman, and has a very “what needs to be done about her” vibe. The text discusses “getting to her.” Whoever “she” is, things don’t look good for her.
But then we’re off — to Sarif Industries and the office of one Dr. Megan Reed, the company’s chief scientist. Sarif is a biotech firm headquartered in Detroit that deals with mechanical human augmentation, the precursor technology to Deus Ex’s nano augmentation. We find Reed talking with Adam Jensen, Sarif’s head of security and your main character, a man apparently not too fond of the company’s leader, David Sarif. Meanwhile, Megan’s preparing for a trip to Washington D.C. to address Congress. She’s discovered something — something she may not have come to ethically, it appears — but she isn’t sharing with Jensen, and it’s not his job to know.
Megan and Jensen leave her office and walk through the bustling labs to the elevator (a section on rails, but you get a little bit of control over where Jensen’s gaze falls), where we get a taste of what Sarif Industries is up to. A large part of the company’s business is in augs like prosthetics, but the revenue driving portion, super-soldier-craft, it would seem. Jensen clearly doesn’t enjoy working for a company dolling out technology that’s used to kill people: an ex-SWAT specialist for the Detroit Police Department, since disgraced, we get the impression that he’s a man capable of force, but perhaps not entirely fond of it.
Sarif Industries is a big place, sterile and white, but bright and busy, as well. Jensen and Megan stop to watch an aug get demonstrated for an upcoming Defense Department contract, but the pair also pass a surgical team at work on a patient, and another man running on a treadmill beside a pair of robotic legs, which match his movements. By the time the pair gets to the elevator, there’s a distinct impression that Sarif is actually a two-sided coin — on the one, a company that could be creating some pretty horrific weapons. On the other, a place filled with the potential for human progress and discovery, that can make people’s lives better.
But what Megan’s really excited about, we gather, is augmenting the human brain.
There’s clearly something between Jensen and Megan. During their elevator ride, the tension is palpable. They previously lived together, that much is obvious, and Megan has unfinished business with Jensen to at least some degree. Their conversation in a lift taking Jensen up to see David Sarif is interrupted, however, by Jensen’s security tech chief, and weaselly guy named Frank Pritchard. Megan departs — she’s headed elsewhere — while Pritchard heads up to Sarif’s office with Jensen.
Immediately, it’s obvious Pritchard and Jensen don’t like each other, although when it comes to work, they seem to have a mutual respect. Pritchard holds up to talk with Sarif’s middle-aged, amicable secretary, while Jensen pushes on to meet the man himself.
When we find Sarif for the first time in person, he’s animatedly demanding his PR chief Lyle secure the help of a Pulitzer-prize wining biologist to stand next to him during the talks about Megan’s research. Lyle departs and Sarif talks excitedly with Jensen about the possibilities of what Megan’s discovered. He’s charismatic but down to earth — the huge, wall-spanning tech display in Sarif’s office is all about Detroit Tigers baseball — and has an aug of his own: an artificial arm.
Before Sarif and Jensen can get down to the ins and outs of the trip to Washington and the security concerns therein (Sarif Industries is having trouble with Purists, a militant group of anti-augmentation protesters), a shoe drops in the form of alarms and red lights all over the otherwise bright, tasteful wood-and-techno office. Sarif dispatches Jensen to go check things out back on the lab level, and in the elevator, Pritchard notifies him that according to Megan’s tracking implants, she’s in the lab, there are fires, and she seems to be running.
An automatic weapon comes out and we’re suddenly into some tutorial-style action as Jensen, with full control for the first time since Megan’s office. As he enters the labs, he’s finds them in a state of chaos. There are fires everywhere, and before long, Jensen starts to find scientists’ bodies. None of them, so far, belong to anyone of note from the earlier part of the tutorial.
Jensen hits a corner before long where two scientists are brutally murdered in front of him and he watches through fireproof glass. Their killer is a heavily modded soldier who looks just huge — and during the course of the events, his mechanical hand transforms into a gun. Cool.
Right afterward, Jensen’s clearing debris from in front of a vent. A little further on is a big room that holds our first fight, and the first moments of getting into and out of cover. Jensen can take cover on just about any surface by holding down the Left Trigger (I assume it’s L2 on PS3, but my experience was on the Xbox 360). Doing so quickly bring you out of first-person mode to a third-person view, where you fight more or less in the style of Mass Effect 2 or Gears of War — pop-up-and-shoot-style fighting.
Behind cover, you can move from position to position doing SWAT turns and dives by tapping a button. This is key to stealth, and you can exercise some here — as long as you’re behind cover and the line of sight is broken between them and you, you’re not detected. Jumping from position to position can keep you hidden if you time your movements when bad guys aren’t looking your way, so expect to spend a lot of time watching enemy movements.
Two enemy soldiers appear at the top of a flight of stairs nearby, where they shoot a scientist. It’s possible to sneak by them altogether, just about — but that the very least, you can position yourself to ambush them before they separate and start patrolling at the bottom of the stairs. Open fire on one and the other will run back up the stairs to higher ground; a pretty smart tactic, considering.
I should note here that Human Revolution uses recharging health, like most modern shooters, and does away with health packs. Also worth noting is the fact that enemy fighters will tear you apart if you give them the chance. My demo experience was on the Casual difficulty, and the devs on-hand mentioned that the build we were using had some balancing issues — but it was easy to get thrashed. As Eidos Montreal Lead Writer Mary DeMarle mentioned before we started, this is not a game in which running and gunning is going to cut it.
After the first fight, we’re clear to move on for a while. There’s more scenery of more dead people before we hit another set of doors that opens on a big room. Inside are three patrolling soldiers, two of whom are having a discussion.
Jensen takes cover against the edge of the doorway and scope the room. Nearby to the soldiers is a green canister — before the finish talking, I step out and put three bullets from my SMG into it. The canister blows open, filling the room with a cloud of noxious green gas. The soldiers sputter and collapse.
We’re free to blow past these guys — looting bodies isn’t necessary because during the tutorial there’s no HUD, no ammo counter and no inventory — and head back into the hallways to the next lab. That’s when we see a security officer fleeing for his life, before being ripped apart by bullets. We hit the corner in time to see a black-clad woman tearing through more security troops with SMGs, one in each hand, before cloaking herself and leaping straight up into an air vent, 10 feet overhead. A second later, as a scientist catches sight of Jensen through the bulletproof glass into the next lab, she drops down and murders him, too — then disappears.
The glass slides clear and Jensen can enter the lab beyond. He’s on a walkway above a lab below him. A patrol of enemies shows up immediately afterward, and Jensen is forced to take cover and assess the tactical situation before engaging them, since there are five of them. There’s not much of a reasonable way to engage all five of them without a plan.
Fortunately, there are more of those gas canisters scattered around the room. A few seconds of watching the patrols and seeing where they end up, and Jensen puts a few shots into a canister, taking out half the enemy squad. Another canister (the AI isn’t smart enough to avoid them, it seems) downs another enemy. The last gets in close beneath Jensen, but a quick headshot thanks to his gun’s laser sight puts the opposition down.
Down the stairs and to the left is another hallway between the labs. Up ahead, a portion of the wall is flaming, having been blown out. We step up — when Jensen takes a punishing hit to the face and goes down as the tutorial enters a cutscene. He tries to fight off his attacker, who is a big guy, and seriously augmented, before the assailant picks Jensen up and throws him bodily through a display screen.
Glass shatters everywhere as Jensen lands against the wall beside Megan, who looks to have been captured. He finds himself facing his attacker: the big modded guy crosses toward him some more as Jensen tries to pull a pistol, but it’s already too late. We can see Jensen actually has guts hanging out of him, his body is already so torn up. The augmented guy lifts Jensen by the throat, meaning to finish him — when Megan smashes a canister of some of that same acidic green stuff against the enemy’s arm, causing him to drop Jensen.
Lying in a pool of his own blood, Jensen watches as Megan takes a blow to the face of her own, and then three modded soldiers — the gun-armed guy from before and the invisible woman, plus the guy who has basically killed Jensen — look over him, with Megan’s crumpled form nearby. That’s when the big guy picks up Jensen’s gun and shoots him in the head.
As the credits roll, we’re treated to bits of the process meant to save Jensen. Before, he wasn’t sure if he wanted augments: now Jensen needs them to stay alive. It’s a brutal process, the melding of machine and man, and Jensen’s in a lot of pain. We hear doctors shouting in the haze about prostheses and components — about expecting Jensen to die, then in awe that he’s surviving. The opening sequence fades to black as Jensen hears the faint words, “I love you,” sound around him.
Already, Jensen’s been tested, and whether Megan is dead or alive hangs heavily in the air. From a story standpoint, the man who comes out of that fade is not the same man who went in — he’s under your influence. But even in just the first 10 minutes, Human Revolution has built an interesting world with some tragic figures, and they all felt like they could have been real people.
Check back on Thursday, Feb. 24, when the embargo list and we can post the rest of our hands-on impressions from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.