For every action (or lack thereof) there is a reaction.
The Deus Ex series is renowned for its focus on multiple narrative outcomes and paths, and the latest instalment is no different. The choices players make will have consequences, and the team wants these to have weight and feel real. How do these consequences play out? How does the story branch? How do choices affect how characters treat you? How are deaths handled? I sat down with Deus Ex: Human Revolution determined to find out.
For those of you who haven't been following the game, here's a quick overview. The year is 2027. Sarif Industries, one of the mega-corporations leading the way in the field of human augmentation, is attacked by armed soldiers. Sarif's security officer, Adam Jensen, steps in to neutralise the situation. Unfortunately for him, an enormous, heavily-upgraded soldier with a well-maintained Jarhead haircut throws him straight through a large computer screen and then - in what seems to be a nod to Robocop - shoots him in the head.
While Ms. Gennaro's intentions were good, she had forgotten the gun to go along with the tape.
Jensen's life is saved, but only through extensive augmentation, which actually flies in the face of his feelings about cybernetic upgrades. In another nod to Robocop, we see Jensen being frantically worked on by surgeons over the opening credits. Cut to six months later and still in the middle of rehabilitation, Adam is once again called in to investigate a break-in and possible hostage situation at one of Sarif's production warehouses courtesy of the terrorist group known as Purity First. Yes, you guessed it, they aren't too fond of this cybernetic upgrade business. Before you go in though you must go to Sarif HQ to get your 'Retina Display' fixed as it's buggin' out. Here's where your choices start to affect what happens in Human Revolution.
The receptionist at Sarif HQ gives you several options. You can head over to see Francis Pritchard, a scientist who will fix that nasty flickering HUD in your retinal display, you can go to the boss' office and have a conversation, you can head directly to the chopper so that pilot Malik can take you to the manufacturing plant, or you can loiter around the headquarters and explore every corner. How you choose to spend your time in this section will have direct consequences in the next level, and likely the rest of the game.
Ride to your missions in style.
I chose to quickly go and get my display fixed, then proceeded straight to the chopper. Malik gave me a bit of lip about taking my sweet-ass time but luckily I wasn't too slow. Taking too long at Sarif HQ would've had dire consequences - by the time Adam arrives at the manufacturing plant all the hostages would be dead, and you'd be greeted at the site by a hostile SWAT team that was forced to wait for you to clear the area before going in. The knock-on? You'll have a bad reputation amongst the cops and a number of other people, which means they're less likely to help you out in future.
Chopper Ride Load-out Selection
Once in the chopper you'll be briefed by Sarif about the scenario and asked if you'd like to take the lethal or non-lethal route. The non-lethal option equips your weapons with tranquiliser darts. Needless to say I chose the lethal route. It must be said that if you really want to, you can progress through the entire game without killing anyone (other than in a couple of necessary boss battles). You'll also be asked whether you want to take the long range or close range approach. Choosing long range will give you a rifle with automatic and semi-automatic firing options and a pistol. The close-range option will give you a taser and a pistol.
Apply 'Aim Stabilizer' to make your shots more accurate.
These choices really allow you to tailor the game to your liking. If you're after a stealth game, you can choose the appropriate load-out options and try to stay out of sight. If you're like me and enjoy machine gunning your way into a room, then the game can be played in a Rainbow 6 Vegas-like fashion with a similar cover system that goes from third person crouching to first person aiming. Make no mistake though, these options don't just allow you to play how you want - they also affect your reputation. Go in guns blazing and you'll be considered a bit of a cowboy in future conversations with people.The Hostage Situation
Upon arrival at the plant, I took the opportunity to upgrade Adam's abilities by spending some 'Praxis Points' on new augmentations. I chose to apply the Aim Stabilizer, Dermal Armor and possibly the most useful upgrade I encountered, Smart Vision. This upgrade allowed me to see through walls and get the drop on enemies in closed rooms. It's reminiscent of Batman: Arkham Asylum's Detective Vision only with a bit more balance. You can't just leave it on for the rest of the game - there's an energy bar on your HUD that eventually empties, meaning that you have to wait for it to recharge before using it again.
The 'steal their walking sticks' technique always sent enemies to the ground.
Without realising it, the choice of Smart Vision as one of my upgrades was more useful than I had anticipated. Turning it on allowed me to see where the hostages were being held in a tucked away room in the plant. In my eagerness to rescue the hostages I ran straight in, triggering a bomb with a timer in the middle of the room. The bomb has a terminal on it, giving you some choices on how to defuse it. Unfortunately I didn't find the pass code that was somewhere on one of the enemies I'd taken down, so I chose to hack into it. Hacking is a fun yet extremely tense, time-sensitive mini game that involves connecting nodes. Alternatively, there's also a vent that players can crawl through to get into the room without triggering the bomb. After successfully defusing it, I stopped to talk to one of the hostages (though I didn't actually have to), who then pleaded with me to save his wife, an engineer that had been captured by Zeke Sanders, one of the terrorists in charge of the siege. If I hadn't stopped to find this information out, I wouldn't have had as much stock in the upcoming hostage negotiation.
Zeke Sanders Stand-off
After a few more shootouts, I eventually reached the final section of my demo - a face-to-face confrontation with Zeke Sanders as he holds that previous hostage's wife at gunpoint. In an interesting mechanic, you are granted several dialogue options in order to calm him down, or if you so choose, to antagonise him into a violent outcome. With each successful reassuring comment that you give him, Sanders starts to doubt himself and Adam moves closer. If you say something he doesn't like, he will move further away from you.
Eventually I managed to talk him down by convincing him that his leader had betrayed him - cooked up a story and dropped him and his group into a meat-grinder, so to speak. This was the best possible outcome as he let the hostage go, and more importantly, he survived. This can actually benefit players later in the game, as he can meet up with Jensen and repay him by giving up some crucial information, sort of like an informant. Alternatively, had I chosen the non-lethal option in the load-out section, I could've gotten close enough to incapacitate him with the taser. He would still appear again later in the game, but from within a prison cell, though I doubt he would have been quite as helpful.
"I'm hip". "Heh, buddy you don't look hip".
Then there's the possibility that Zeke actually kills the hostage, leaving you with a bad reputation, and an awkward conversation with the husband you rescued earlier. Luckily, in my play through it was only good news and the husband offered to help Jensen out at any time. He declined, but I have the feeling we'll be seeing this character again somewhere down the track.
Even in the opening section of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the consequences of your actions stood out as important decisions that will affect the way the rest of the game will unfold. Eidos Montreal has achieved a great sense of player choice, and with several possible endings, it's going to be fascinating to see how each player approaches the game and what that will mean for their experience.