In an era where five-to-six-hour single-player campaigns for video games are quickly becoming normal, the sheer amount of emphasis given to Human Revolution's narrative is both impressive and well thought-out. Remember, what I just outlined is only the backdrop for the game's actual plotline, with only a little of the above action spilling out into the Human Revolution's opening moments. The events of Human Revolution take place decades before the events of the original Deus Ex, and though this is not technically a prequel, exploring the origins of augmentation technology—not to mention the volatile socio-economic and political divide that was its result—has effectively given the team free reign to tell an original story within the series framework, connecting Human Revolution to the rest of the series in terms of thematic design. Fans evidently have no need to worry, though—the game's lead story designer, Mary DeMarle, assured CCC that Human Revolution will be as open-ended with its narrative as previous entries in the series, and depending on who Jensen chooses to work with (as well as how he goes about accomplishing his tasks), consequences in the game's overall arc will be different, ensuring that no two players will have exactly the same experience.
By creating an original story taking place prior to previous games in the Deus Ex universe, Eidos Montreal has effectively carved out their own niche, creating one of the most suitably fascinating permutations of cyberpunk I've ever come across: a high-tech mixture of Blade Runner's brooding atmosphere and aesthetic motifs inspired by the architecture and fashion of the Renaissance. Yes, that's right, I said the Renaissance—as in the European age of reason where figures like Da Vinci contributed to one of the greatest collectives of artistic, scientific and technological advancement in recorded history. This hybrid is no mistake: augmentation stems from what Human Revolution's lead game designer, Jean-Francois Dugat, refers to as "transhumanism," an evolutionary take-off of sorts on the Renaissance's philosophic humanist movement. Using this as a basis, Human Revolution's look blends the typically cold, mechanical neo-noir world of cyberpunk with the warmer tones of Renaissance art, while injecting fashion and interior design with a dose of period flair. So if you're expecting a blue-toned, unfeeling world of machinery, you're going to be in for quite a surprise. Atmospheric light filters tint Human Revolution's world in a brilliant array of golds and oranges (there's more than a few hints of Danny Boyle's underrated sci-fi film Sunshine here); offices and laboratories are covered in decorative "spider-web" patterned overhead lighting; apartments and building facades are modeled in hard angles and interesting geometric shapes, with dominant natural elements such as wood or stone pillars negotiating the open interior design.
And while there's a bit of Mass Effect in a lot of the exterior shots, Human Revolution's interiors perhaps take another cue from Ridley Scott's traditionally busy mise-en-scene by filling nearly every indoor space with the lived-in clutter of day-to-day life—the team even created over 100 fictional brands to appear on everything from magazines to washing machines to complete the effect of a moving through a realistic world. Similarly, costume design for Jensen and several other characters are decked out in period-inspired garb that blend the sleek look of contemporary fashion with the geometric and pattern motifs worn by nobility and the upper crust during the 15th and 16th centuries. Although mostly only shown as concept art, characters in sleek overcoats with pointed shoulders as well as other subtle touches (there are some variations on frilled collars, for example) made up pretty standard costumed fare; one particularly outrageous example was of an ostentatious newscaster, shown in a getup with a large cluster of cubes and other geometric shapes jutting out from the center. When in "civilian" mode, Jensen more or less like a model ripped straight from an H&M or Zara catalogue, sporting a large black military style trench with a muted floral pattern. When it's time to get down to business however, Jensen's military garb more closely resembles an exoskeleton similar to Raiden's in MGS4, or Sam's AR suit in Vanquish. Simply put, even in the form of concept art, Human Revolution is shaping up to be one of the most visually interesting games of next year.
It's pretty rare to see a game's art direction and aesthetics tie together so closely with its subject matter, but in the case of Human Revolution, it seems that Eidos Montreal's overwhelming attention to detail is going to pay off with a cohesive sync between narrative, visuals, and thematic motifs. With so much emphasis placed on art direction and plot, can the gameplay follow suit? Stay tuned for part two of our extensive eyes-on preview, straight from the developer's studio.
CCC Freelance Writer