Detroit, Michigan and its scenic district of shipping containers has become video game shorthand for "industrial wasteland", and it's this crate-and-factory heavy town that is the home of Human Revolution's cyberpunk noir. Somewhere in between the pavement and its car manufacturing hubs is the beating heart of a slightly generic looking yet familiar metropolis, but in this Blade Runner-esque future Detroit's plainness has been accentuated with grime, dim-lights, and the faint sense of an area that's been forgotten.
So welcome to the FEMA map level of Deus Ex which ushers you toward an abandoned textile factory in the middle of town. You are ex-cop and brooding muscle-man Adam Jensen, roaming this dark cybertown in the year 2027, exactly 25 years before the original Deus Ex. In the events that lead up to the demo we're told a hacker has died. And as the game's foremost investigative problem solver you aim to retrieve a part of his augmented brain - a chip that leads you to an area in the factory for reasons unknown.
Human Revolution loyally follows the game design approach originally seen in the 2000 original. A single obstacle can be overcome using a handful of different methods depending on a user's play style. This time we watch an Adam Jensen in thorough stealth form, a gentle Jensen who sidesteps gun fights and killing blows for perfectly timed cloak-and-roll manoeuvres behind crates and moves that only leave enemies incapacitated.
Despite his future-cop qualities, his stealthing methods aren't necessarily futuristic as they are standardised after years of stealth-based levels that have hammered out the form of covert gameplay into the marble slab of FPS titles. The game might have a 21st century environment but the path it follows is well-worn, particularly in an industry where spotting enemies through walls and applying cloaking abilities is less a thing specific to science fiction than a staple of all stealth gameplay.
However even with that sense of over-familiarity the game's grip on Warren Spector's title from over a decade ago is tight - we're shown how entire sections can be played with Jensen darting between crates and shadows if you choose to pace yourself.
We watch as Adam slowly wanders around the factory, making its way to the bowels to find out why the hacker's brain-chip sent you to the area. His X-ray vision highlights the silhouettes of enemies, computers and security cameras, giving you the space to plan your next move - whether it's to perform take-downs on security or to find the fastest route to a hackable terminal where you can receive new software by capturing networks.
Similarly he can mark up to seven targets - something which becomes necessary for successful stealthing - allowing you to spot enemies through walls along with their distance from you without using the standard X-ray augmentation. Using augmentations slowly eats through your energy - visible on screen in bar form - which encourages you to only use them when necessary or alongside a steady supply of actual energy cereal bars which help you regain your power.
Lethal take-downs attract attention from any nearby crew of enemies so Adam crouches behind walls, eye-balling a silhouette using his augmented vision and waiting for the moment when the enemy begins to walk nearer to his stakeout where he can quietly and non-lethally take them down without raising suspicion. When he accidentally does trigger the attention of a military crew the game goes from a matter of counting the patter-patter of your footsteps to a buzz of enemies attempting to find your position, but we're shown a Jensen who stubbornly continues to avoid facing a stand-off as he uses his target marking to measure his distance from enemies.
Previous previews have spoken about Deus Ex's approach to exploration but Jensen's augmentations prove that it's possible to create a more pre-planned and tactical approach beyond blind exploration, even when only using a minimalist handful of abilities. There's still that faint whiff of the overly-familiar here. An all too common crate and factory environment does nothing for its cyberpunk noir set up, but the strength of the game, as always, appears to be in the power to choose how to play.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution will be released on August 26 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.