Without going too heavily into the specifics, the most encouraging thing about this sequence is its understated confidence in dishing out exposition - both in terms of the characters, and the game world as a whole. You're introduced to a number of hefty concepts - Sarif's business, the details of something important the company is about to do, and the reaction of the (so-far unseen) outside world - but this information is doled out in a believable, organic way. Similarly, when we learn of Adam's romantic involvement with a particular NPC, and the tension that exists between him and a co-worker, we are alerted to these things via subtle shifts in tone and body language. There's plenty of intelligent, well-delivered dialogue, but it's the things that are left unsaid that seem to tell us the most.
When the bullets finally do start flying, it's gratifying to find a similar degree of subtlety in the game's combat. Prior to the start of the play session I'm warned about the difficulties in adopting a gung-ho approach, and my initial few firefights end in unexpectedly violent failure. Even on the standard difficulty, a smattering of hits will snuff out Adam's life, although thankfully this is also true for your foes. Even with the help of an assault rifle, it seems like suicide to take on two or more opponents at once. A far better approach is to creep around, picking people off with careful headshots. Initially the controls feel a bit slow, but you soon realise this is a deliberate design choice, encouraging precision and neatness over run-and-gun tactics. The hit animations look great, too: while headshots are clearly the order of the day, there's something joyously evil about the way enemies react to being shot in the stomach - staggering back with a hand clutched to their belly in alarm.
While the gunplay feels reliable and solid, it's the stealth that really impresses. By holding the left trigger when you're near a suitable surface, Adam will obligingly duck into cover. The camera immediately switches to a third-person perspective at this point, providing a more helpful view as you shimmy along the object in question. Reach the outer edge of your cover, and you'll often have the option to throw yourself over to another hiding spot nearby, launching the transition with a single button tap. In short, it's a classic Gears-style setup, but while the mechanics themselves are nothing new, their implementation is far more successful than most first-person titles that spring to mind.
Naturally this is largely down the fact that Human Revolution ceases to be a first-person game when the perspective no longer suits its purposes. It's a risky move on Eidos Montreal's part, given that it's tampering with the immersive quality that helps to make first-person titles work in the first place. The change is pretty much instantaneous, and initially the jump can seem a bit jarring, but by the time I reached the end of my three-hour playtest I was fairly oblivious to the shift. For now, at least, it seems as if the gamble has paid off.
Then again, by the time I'd reached the end of the demo, I had a whole bunch of other things on my mind. We'll have to wait a couple of weeks before I can talk about exactly what these were, and to be honest it'll be a relief to be speak a little more freely. What I can say right now is that I was absolutely thrilled by what I played a few weeks ago. As a long-term Deus Ex fan, it's clear that Eidos Montreal wasn't bluffing about its love for the original games. There are clear nods to the Ion Storm's work at the turn of the millennium, but there are also new ideas - both thematically and structurally.
And even if you're totally new to the Deus Ex universe, I can tell you right now that you need to have this on your radar. If the rest of Human Revolution can match the quality of what I've played so far, it'll be one of the best games of the year. Check back here in two week's time to find out why.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.