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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Lowdown on Deus Ex 3
1:14:53 PM EST - vrap

The latest issue of UK magazine PC Zone is now out in the hands of subscribers, and as promised by the last page of the previous issue, there is an exclusive first look at Deus Ex 3. CVG posted a teaser of the article on their site, no doubt the full preview will surface there in due time. In the mean time we will have to make do with scans of the images from the article which someone has kindly posted on their Flickr.

This is the first substantial set of information we have received about the game since the teaser trailer, and I've been very eagerly awaiting it. Most of the art in the article is concept but there are a few blurry in-game screenshots too. The art design certainly seems to be illustrating the described art direction of the game, apparently a mix of cyberpunk and the Renaissance movement. It's a strange combination to be sure, and I'm not seeing a comfortable settling between the two, but if they can pull it off it will be something quite unique and distinctive. Another difference from the previous games' aesthetic lies in the fact that the technology of the augmentations will be mechanical, as opposed to nano-based (ie. Gunther Hermann as opposed to JC Denton). This means that there will be visual differentiation between the various augmentations equipped, departing from the one-look nano-augmented agent idea. The screenshots don't tell us much, other than the game looks next-gen enough. At any rate, we do know a little bit about the engine as it has been used for the recent Tomb Raider games. It seems fully capable of giving us nice eye-candy, what remains to be seen is if it can deliver a robust RPG Shooter experience.

It's encouraging to hear that the project has received the blessings of Warren Spector and Harvey Smith, and what's more, they intend to bring on board Sheldon Pacotti for consulting. I'm happy to hear the promises of a "powerful, layered" plot but this means nothing until we get to really see the extent of it. I do hope they can tie the plot into the other games, the more they change in the core game staples the more they need to hold on to what was important in the series.

The gameplay tidbits have a few points to be concerned about. One of the first things that stood out to me was the auto-heal feature - reminiscent of the Halo and Call of Duty games. I don't think this feature has any place in a Deus Ex game as a core ability. The first Deus Ex had a health regeneration augmentation and I don't understand why it can't be implemented in the same way here. The series is known for its slow-paced, explorative nature, so I would expect to quickly heal after any encounter. It is an unnecessary change that will remove tension. Another alarming issue is the converging of the stealth system into a cover system. Instead of relying on the shadows in the environment, it appears there will be an explicit cover operation that will pull you behind obstructions to hide from the enemy. Again, this is completely unnecessary in a game series that has a perfectly adequate design for the implementation of stealth. I would have thought that with the advancement of engine technology the game could have made full use of true dynamic lighting and shadow, like Invisible War promised but never delivered.

The choice to separate the combat mechanics from the stats-based RPG mechanics is an interesting one. BioShock went down this route as well, making the game primarily a shooter. The problem most people had about this was that it distilled the core gameplay interaction down to combat, shifting the fundamental focus of the game from its spiritual predecessor. I think that the decision is a lot more dangerous to make with a game like Deus Ex, because unlike System Shock 2, the game was completely viable as a non-agressive RPG for the majority of the game. Making shooting a core aspect of the gameplay will improve the combat mechanics but may endanger the balance of gameplay styles fans expect in the series.

All in all I have mixed feelings about the information released so far, but am getting the tingle of the hype machine and cannot wait for the inevitable flood of previews now that the embargo has been lifted.

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