Wednesday, September 28, 2011

30 Minute Playtest:Deus Ex:Human Revolution

Don't leave your drinks unattended when this guy is in the bar.

I once had a colleague, a well known and widely respected gaming journalist who had written for just about every gaming magazine you’d care to name, and he swore he could review any game after twenty minutes: get through the credits and cut scenes, play the tutorial and start the first level, that’s all you need do to find out if a game is any good or not. As a newbie games reviewer at the time, it took me only a few months to discover that nine times out of ten, he was right.

The tenth game, however, is likely to be something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

The reasoning behind 30 Minute Playtests is simple. In these straitened times there’s now an enormous contingent of gamers getting their games from rental services such as Amazon, Lovefilm and the like. They’re no longer paying for a game, they’re paying for the time they spend with it, and they need to know fast if they’ll get a decent return on their investment or if they’d be better served sending it back in favour of something else. Games have to earn their keep sharpish.

The pitfall here is that 30 minutes with a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution is just long enough to do some first person shooting. If I lived in an internet-free vacuum or were a young gamer with no memory of the original Deus Ex, what would half an hour tell me about Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

Well, it would tell me that the main character looks like a date rapist and that the stylish lighting and gold-tinged colour palette look as cool as the slightly stiff animations look dated. Between the jerkiness of the motions and the smoothness in the way your character rides up onto desks, boxes and other obstacles, you’ll get a strangely joyous feeling of PSOne nostalgia.

A game can’t get by simply by evoking the last time gaming felt genuinely fresh and creative. It needs to engage the player-and the first 30 minutes of DE:HR manages that. There’s an obvious conspiracy set-up and an almost immediate hint that there will in fact be plans within plans, schemes within stratagems.
The action has a similar hook. Solid cover shooting with a peep-and-pop mechanic meets opponents who react realistically to being shot in the face: they die, rather than shoot back. As a shooter alone, Deus Ex would keep you playing, albeit not obsessively.

And that’s it. That’s what you get from 30 minutes.

Of course, the name Deus Ex is synonymous with variable playing styles. The original was built around choice, with each level able to be carried out via sneaking, hacking, shooting or bashing, while RPG elements allow you to earn points from the action that can be spent on upgrading your weapons and body, improving the myriad skills the game lets you use. Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be no different, with its missions, side missions and an estimated 30 hour play time, all of which will sprawl beyond the confines of our initial 30 minutes. If you want to know how the many game elements mesh, whether the environments are interesting and the characters are engaging, then you’ll have to come back for our full review.

If you want a quick answer to whether it’s worth playing: Yes.