Four years ago, Deus Ex: Human Revolution stealthed onto the scene, punched through a wall and brought a new generation of gamers into the dystopian world first seen in 2000’s seminal Deus Ex.
With little in the way of new information circulating about the future of the series, other than a maddeningly vague blog post from last year, I thinking about what we’d like to see from the next game in the series – and no, we don’t need any more Safety Dancing.
As much as Deus Ex has been and always should be a single-player experience at its core, there’s a lot to be said for a multiplayer mode that fits neatly into the canon, and doesn’t detract from the main campaign.
Take The Last of Us for example. As well as a stellar single-player adventure, the game’s multiplayer mode was nothing to sniff at either – and crucially, adding it in didn’t cheapen or take away from the core single-player mode’s length or depth.
There are so many factions fighting for dominance in the darker corners of Deus Ex’s world that there’s bound to be a great multiplayer game in there. Ideally it would play along the same lines as the single-player campaign – players would select augmentations they like, and save them on a soldier (ala loadouts from Call of Duty) – then battle it out in one of the game’s ‘hub’ areas.
Developers could make use of ‘verticality’ and have teams using all their augmentations to the maximum, turning invisible at will, jumping to obscene heights and punching through walls.
Plus, keep the team sizes small, and working together to snatch victory from your similarly augmented enemies would become a tense game of cat and mouse – especially if you fill the hubs with NPCs, like Assassin’s Creed’s excellent multiplayer offering.
Such a mode should force gamers to think creatively to flush out and kill enemy agents – much like the core game, Deus Ex’s multiplayer should feel free to play outside the lines.
Plus, you could create maps drawn from the series’ deep lore, such as Area 51, Hell’s Kitchen or the vertical city of Hengsha.
Proper boss battles
If there was one criticism that appeared in every review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it was the boss battles. Farmed out to a company outside Square-Enix for some unknown reason, DE:HR’s final encounters broke the flow of the action completely, and committed a cardinal sin of Deus Ex: denying the player choice.
Ideally, the next Deus Ex should still feature climatic boss fights, but you should be allowed to use your brain, guile, luck and augmentations to avoid them, or win them in a way other than by repeatedly shooting your foe.
Take Anna Navarre and Gunther Hermann, for example. This pair – mechanically augmented and embittered UNATCO agents – could be killed in the original Deus Ex by discovering their ‘killphrase’, which upon being spoken would cause them to self destruct, saving you valuable bullets and time. Alternatively, they could simply be avoided entirely, if your stealth skill was high enough.
This kind of freedom to choose is at the heart of Deus Ex, and should certainly extend to the boss battles too.
Deus Ex and Human Revolution both suffered from the same issue when it comes to the awesome augmentation technology the series is built around – power.
Both JC Denton and Adam Jensen boasted an amazing selection of cool augmentations, from the ability to see through walls to a tiny spy drone deployed from the eye, to powerful, strength-boosting muscles – but if you ran out of bioelectric cells (DE), or candy bars (DE:HR), then you were essentially buggered.
Many a gamer no doubt found themselves in a firefight after discovering they couldn’t punch an enemy down in Human Revolution because they ran out of bloody Mars Bars.
No, what’s needed is a rechargeable battery system built into the hero’s torso – one that charges the batteries beyond the first ‘bar’, and won’t leave you gasping when you need to make a quick escape.
A good example would be the Crysis series’ Nanosuit which, while powerful, required careful monitoring at all times, and had you walk a line between all-powerful superhero and crawling failure.
Make the more powerful augmentations suck power like an Xbox One power brick, certainly – but don’t make us beat up a vending machine to use them more than once a level.
Interlinked and unpredictable storylines
The Deus Ex storyline spans many decades now, from the bleak early years of augmentation in Human Revolution in the 2020s, to Deus Ex’s cyberpunk 2052 dystopia and Invisible War’s neon-lit 2072. Throughout it all, a decent storyline filled with betrayal, conspiracy and rebellion runs – and we’d like to see the next chapter bring them all closer together.
While details on the next game in the series, and the ‘Universe’ concept alluded to in Square-Enix’s October 2014 blog post, are vague, we suspect the next game will be set somewhere between the events of Human Revolution and Deus Ex.
While Human Revolution did an adequate job of revealing the early years of some of Deus Ex’s characters, this time period would allow a deeper exploration of the events that defined the original title. (Deus Ex nerdgasm/spoiler alert ahead).
I’d love to see an exploration of the birth of UNATCO and the schism between the Illuminati and Bob Page’s Majestic 12. Then, what about the nanoaugmentation project? What about the creation of JC Denton and his brother – were there failed attempts before the ill-fated pair?
Keep us guessing, SquEnix, and you’d be on to a winner.
With the ‘next’ Deus Ex featuring “trans-humanism segregation”, and “a “ghetto-city’ voluntarily built in order to separate the classes”, the stage is set for some truly spectacular ‘hubs’ to play in.
All three Deus Ex titles were at their best in their respective ‘hubs’. Deus Ex’s New York, Hong Kong and Paris hubs were a delight to explore, rammed with side missions and things to see and do.
Similarly, Human Revolution and Invisible War’s hubs had a magic of their own, and all three allowed the gamer to explore and enjoy the feel of moving as an augmented human in a changing world.
With the next title, we’d like to see more made of these hubs. They need to be bigger, and boast more activities than ever before. Give us side missions, mysteries and murders until we never want to leave, and harness the power of next-gen consoles to populate them with a mass of NPCs going about their business.
For example, imagine a multi-tiered ‘ghetto-city’ filled with NPCs, moving and rioting and fighting – all of which the player can move through and influence. As the story advances, the hub will change dynamically around the player, showing day by day the effects of the player’s interaction and choices made.
Deus Ex’s brand of conspiracy works best in such environments, as the knowledge of events influencing the game world empowers the player – and makes every decision matter all the more when they can see the effects first-hand.
What do you want to see in the next Deus Ex game? Leave a comment below.
Article first written for Pass The Controller