E3 2011: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Show Floor Hands-On

Though our writer Phil Hornshaw is actually covering Deus Ex, I had a chance to play a bit on the show floor and thought I would share my opinion of the demo.

One of my most-anticipated games of the year is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. As a huge fan of the first game I was tickled pink when the new game was first announced, and brought to tears when it was delayed. But today I got to play it for myself and all of the great anticipation has led to… mixed feelings.

I had seen a lot of footage of stealth, non-lethal play, so I decided to go for a more action-oriented, killing machine run. The game, however, didn’t seem to like that. To be clear, even if I had wanted to go the long sneaky way around my enemies, there was just no distinct indication of how to do so. I bounced around like an idiot for several minutes trying to get on a pile of boxes to climb up to where I had assumed I could go for a vantage points on my enemies. But alas it was not so.

My first kill, fortunately, went well regardless. Sneaking up behind a foe allows for you to choose either a non-lethal (tap B), or lethal (hold B) takedown. I don’t care what kind of character you want to play but please, for the sheer enjoyment of the animations, choose lethal. Stabbing a dude in the calf with one arm blade before disconnecting the junction of his spine and brain with the other is just a blast.

Moving from my first target things started to get a little rough. The cover system is terribly awkward. You have to hold LT to switch to a third-person view of Jensen, except for when you don’t have to hold it and you’re just there. I couldn’t really figure out a consistent system. And switching from cover back to the first-person view is very disorienting, particularly when in confined spaces. There’s a reason most games stick with one view or the other, and I think it’s largely to avoid this jarring transition.

Ammo was incredibly scarce and I quickly ran out entering my first real fight. Trying to sprint away left me dead twice. I found a computer terminal, thinking I could try the hacking but was disappointed to find only unlocked emails. I had spent points on the Typhoon skill, an ability that lets the player disperse several miniature bombs from Jensen’s chest, but there was never a safe opportunity to use it. This was one of the coolest looking abilities from the early trailers but now I realized that it’s only been shown while Jensen falls from the ceiling. When in the real game will it ever actually make sense to use it?

After a few tries I eventually managed to scurry past this troublesome encounter with my tail between my legs. I took out two enemies in the next room with my last few bullets. “There is ammo on the bodies”, the rep told me earlier as he watched me die repeatedly. Unfortunately, at least for this duo, there was none. I now entered the last hall (that I would see) where two troops patrolled. I had zero ammo and no alternate weapons. Guess it was time for the stealth. Although the guards were on cautious alert I hid behind a crate and waited for the first target to pass. Instead he walked right up and shot me in the face. My only choice was to rush in, praying for a melee option, but I was killed, yet again, and decided that my public embarrassment level had reached its healthy maximum level, and I (not so) gently returned the controller to its holder.

If there is anyone that wanted to be blown away by hands-on time with Deus Ex, it was me. But my faith has been shaken and I worry about the final release. Let’s pray I was just awful and the game will still rock.

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