Below, Alec and Quinns continue their post-mortem of the year’s most exciting hands-on event to date. Now past the game’s intro, the discussion below covers the first chunk of the game proper, and includes exploration, a motorbike and the revelation that protagonist Adam Jensen is not, in fact, Captain Herobot.
Quinns: Mr. Meer, my meerest and dearest. Do you feel that weight lifted off your shoulders? We can finally talk about everything we played at that Deus Ex: Human Revolution hands on session!
Alec: I’m never going to forgive you for arranging this mere minutes before the Skyrim trailer premiere. If I could, I would strap you to an operating table and replace all your limbs and major organs with mechanical augmentations. JUST LIKE ADAM JENSEN DO YOU SEE
Quinns: That would be FINE, because Adam Jensen could probably download the trailer and watch it inside his head.
Alec: So I seem to remember we were gassed and murdered last time we talked about this. Now we’ve come back to life, where were we? Ah yes – Adam Jensen was busy being Dentonised. Following that, it’s six months later, he’s Frankenstein and his girlfriend’s apparently dead. It’s all a bit bleak, really. So let’s talk about people’s response to this new Jensen. There was quite a lot of that in Sarif HQ once he came back to work, wasn’t there?
Quinns: Yes. You’re the freak on everybody’s lips. It was perhaps the biggest stumble I felt Human Revolution make- every single pair of office workers locked in conversation are talking about you, right up to the point you interrupt them and make them stumble over their words. Yet it remains a nice, nonviolent interlude, obviously very similar to wandering around the Unatco base on Liberty Island.
Alec: There was some akwardness in people talking, with no little disgust and no little reverence, about what Jensen went through to live, as if he’s not standing right next to them. But you know what? I’ll take that. It’s making it abundantly clear that for all the posing and the sunglasses, he’s not Captain Herobot. What he went through is really messed up, and it also hammers home the idea that humanity really isn’t all too comfortable about the concept of augs. That exposition is necessary. I’m sure there is a neater way to do it, but I’d rather it was by eavesdropping than by cutscene. And as you say, it’s about setting up the idea that Jensen exists within a firm, rather than being a lone gun
Quinns: And what a firm. I love the architecture of Sarif. When I heard Jensen’s office had been moved, my first thought was “I have an office!” and went sprinting up just to look at it.
Alec: Hah, I don’t think I found mine, but Pritchard’s, the weasley tech guy, was very much of him. Messy, cluttered, gloomy – the room of a man distracted by the contents of his own head. Oh, and a motorbike.
Quinns: And a strange Stonehenge looking experiment built from CRT monitors. Pritchard, to clarify, is your counterpart at Sarif. While you’re all gristle and physical security, he’s the tech expert and in charge of protecting the firm digitally. And I think it’s a touch disappointing that he was the only character in the office who excited me.
Alec: I retain serious doubts about the characterisation in general. There’s some nice incidental touches, but no-one I want to tell people about
Quinns: And that’s the reason exploring Unatco felt so exciting. Anna Navarre, Gunther, Manderly, Alex Jacobson, Jaime Reyes.
Alec: Still, at least this isn’t going for direct counter-parts. I’ll leave the details of this to your preview, but I think the way they’ve approached the player’s conversation options and responses perhaps compensates for there being less punch in the stuff you overhear/observe. In that do you want all the cool, effective stuff to come from watching someone else say something, or do you want to be involved in it?
Quinns: Mm. It’s more subdued. What is interesting is that the game rushes you. Because the reason you’ve been called into the office is to deal with a situation, and the game is screaming at you to get up to the helipad, with serious consequences for lollygaggers.
Alec: Yes, the urgency. Which, for all we praise Liberty Island, was distinctly missing. All that “the terrorists are here you have to stop them!” And then it’s just some blokes in gimp masks wandering around a park. Here, people are going to die.
Quinns: My favourite part of Liberty Island was, by far, the calm after the storm. Once the terrorists were defused you returned home to a bunker of jittery professionals, and that’s exactly where our demo stopped.
Alec: Yes, the first major mission of HR evokes the first one in Deus Ex rather a lot. You perhaps don’t get the same openness, but it’s just a deft as offering you the full promise of picking your tactical approach, and even your basic morality. This time, too, it’s cued into a much wider debate that what sort of man are you. It’s about how much you live up to or try to difuse the fear that augmented men have lost their humanity
Quinns: You say that. Neither of us actually found the hostages.
Alec: Yes, as you say in your preview it’s pretty hard – it’s going to reward better players, because they’ll find hidden objectives such as rescuing tightly-guarded hostages. If they can keep that up, there’s just no doubt that you get a finer experience if you take your time and use your brain.
Quinns: Mm. As opposed to JC Denton’s opportunity to be the one broken cog in a bigger machine, Jensen feels more like a leader, and to engage my core geekitude and quote Vampire: Bloodlines for a second, everyone likes to take a shot at the man in charge.
Alec: Yes, Denton was always bottom of the food chain
Quinns: Not only that, the fact that after the tutorial Jensen’s struggling with both guilt and losing a lover means he’s already carrying far more baggage than Denton. I’m really curious to see how much his own personal tribulations enter into the plot. And if they don’t and the game goes barreling into a DX style focus on the entire planet, I think they’ll be missing a trick.
Alec: Jensen seems to think he’s at the top of it – and I have no doubt he’s going to be proved rather spectularly wrong.
Alec: I am concerned that Jensen’s grief – and his dark past – is glossed over. It has to be to some extent -he’s still an action hero. But I don’t yet share your faith that it’s going to explore it with much depth beyond vengeful rage (and, inevitably, the choice to resist it).
Quinns: I’m not sure that they’re going to do that, I just hope they are.
Quinns: So, we’ve got 1,500 words of my feelings on the warehouse assault. How did you feel about it?
Alec: I loved it. And I loved it because I made a total bloody mess of it.
Alec: It did the Hitman: Blood Money thing – I repeatedly cocked things up, but the systems are such that you find your way out of trouble rather than end up painted into a corner. So many problems were solved simply by desperate running and hiding and last-ditch tasering. It was tense and exciting and frightening, and totally organic. Never felt anything like ‘kill all the men to progress’. I was on an investigation.
Quinns: Right. That’s something it had in common with my favourite missions in Deus Ex, before the stockpiling of augs and items in the latter half meant you could do clean sweeps of areas. Like attacking the NSF base in Hell’s Kitchen. I remember sneaking in and out of there and only remembering to breathe when I’d made good my escape. Paying no heed to any hidden caches or datapads. It’s a bizarre feeling, finishing a level and knowing you missed chunks of it. But a good feeling. Why is that?
Alec: I like that the augs are, frankly, a bit rubbish at this stage in the game. 2 seconds of invisibility? What good’s that? In fact, it means you have to immensely tactical.And yes, that good feeling is because you knew you did it your way. You didn’t solve a puzzle, you reacted as you and somehow survived.
Alec: Speaking of somehow surviving, that’s something I’m not going to do unless I go and have a cup of tea then watch the Skyrim trailer.We are agreed that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a terrible betrayal of the first game’s legacy, and is even more disappointing than Invisible War, yes?
Alec: Oh no, wait, the other thing.
Alec: It’s looking amazing, right?
Quinns: It’s almost certainly my most hotly anticipated game. It’s so hot! Scalding hot. I need just that little bit more info so I can feel more secure in my anticipation.But I think we’ll get that in time.
Quinns: Alec? Are you there? Are you already watching the Skyrim trailer? Bastard!
Alec: My concern is the level of quality is so high in these opening missions that they can’t keep it up throoughout. But they’ve proved that they can do it and that they absolutely get Deus Ex. I am happy. And now i’m watching Skyrim. Dragonsssssssssssssss!
Quinns: Oh. Oh man. This is something. Remember what I said about my most hotly anticipated game? I might have to take that back.
Alec: The war is on. And not in an invisible way.