Generally, when a game is going to be bad, I can tell. Even a year away from release, I can usually spot a stinker a mile away, as there are certain things that time simply won't fix. Bad design decisions, poor gameplay flow, a lack of creativity. These are all things that jump out and bite games journalists in the face. You hope things will change, but, 95% of the time, they won't.
With "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," I had no clue whether it was good or not until I played three hours of it last week. The last I had seen of it was at E3 2010. What was shown was a very action-heavy demo where the developers spoke about player choice, but didn't do a very good job showing it. In truth, it was a way to show the world that "Deus Ex" could appeal to the "Halo" crowd. As a fan of the previous games, all it did was make me worried.
Last week, I took a trip up to Eidos Montreal to play the first three hours of the game. This, indeed, would be plenty of time to determine whether the last four years of development time was well-spent.
A ROUGH START
To be honest, the first fifteen minutes had me a bit worried. The game starts with an extremely linear prologue with no player choice, no character customization, no nothing. It played like the first level of "Halo: Combat Evolved." Things were popping out, I was shooting them, but that was basically it. Where was the multi-path gameplay I was promised? Thankfully I didn't have to wait long.
After that initial action-packed prologue, the game shifts dramatically. Certain events transpire and the game's hero, Adam Jensen, is forced to get cybernetically augmented to keep him alive. The game picks up six months after the prologue, as Jensen is returning to his job at a place called Sarif Industries.
Suddenly you're in a large, three-level office building filled with people to talk to, offices to break into, computers to hack. Suddenly I was playing a "Deus Ex" game. For fans of the original "Deus Ex," Sarif Industries is your UNATCO. It's entirely combat free (for the time being, at least) and entirely optional.
Your boss radios you and tells you there's something urgent he needs to see you about. Many players will likely bee-line to the boss's office, get the lowdown, and head off on their next mission. That whole process might take 5 minutes. I spent about 40 minutes exploring. Every single NPC had something different to say (usually about them being surprised I was back so soon and trying to ignore the fact that I had metal eyeballs now). Conversations clued me in on possible side-missions which lead me to offices which had computers with emails and passkey codes for other offices which had vents and credits hidden and so on and so forth.
For those that appreciate this sort of deep-dive exploration, "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" will not disappoint. The developers even said that this sort of open environment was small in comparison to some of the city hubs later in the game. If you want to follow just the main mission line, you can. If you don't, you're going to have plenty of other things to keep you occupied. Suddenly I was beginning to understand why this game took more than four years to make.
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