Twelve months ago this week, the summer gaming draught was brought to an end in spectacular fashion with the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Five years in development, the game saw the highly-anticipated return to the cyberpunk world that'd enraptured critics and players alike back in 2000 when the Warren Spector original was released.
Given that original was a stone-cold classic and continues to be cherished as one of the all-time greats, Eidos Montreal faced an uphill struggle in convincing sceptics that what they were attempting was still true to the vision set down by the first, rather than continuing down the path of the weaker 2003 sequel Invisible War.
First revealed in 2007, the majority of the subsequent four years would see a slow drip feed of info; early art, snippets of potential gameplay details. The world got its first proper look at the new vision of the future at 2010's E3 with a stunning trailer and gameplay footage that encapsulated the direction the team were taking the series. Both suggested something very special was coming.
It was not only a turning point for the sceptics, but for the studio as well, as Dugas unearths the memory of the months leading up to the industry show as one of his proudest moments during production.
"A few months before [the building of the E3 demo], we weren't really impressed by what we had so far with the game," he remembers. "When we started creating the demo however, the game itself really started to come together! Looking back on it, I don't know how we did it all, but the team was incredible in making it happen. We went through all the highs & lows that one could imagine. There's no better roller-coaster [laughs]."
The months between then and release offered us a look at compact preview builds, self-contained missions sown tightly from start to finish and excised from the full game with almost surgical precision. The gameplay, showing how either stealth of action mechanics could be used to clear police stations or terrorist-filled warehouses was almost mundane, given the adoption of such tactics in most games this generation irrespective of genre.
However the game's heritage, and its impressive subtlety that marked it distinct from its peers came with two key points during the latter's play through. Multiple sub-objectives that could be be followed up or ignored involving the plight of hostages, and an ending that saw a tension-filled face-off with the terrorist leader that relied on guile rather than fast trigger finger to finish and the consequences which would ripple out across the rest of the game's story. An intricacy that'd only be realised when UK press and gamers sat down with the full game on its release: August 26th, 2011.
Critical and Commercial Acclaim
Deus Ex: Human Revolution debuted at No.1 on the all-format UK sales chart come its release, landing on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC the same week (with a Mac version coming in 2012), and received near-universal acclaim, and would eventually match the original's score average on Metacritic.
Square-Enix reported that two million units of the title had been shipped to US and Europe as of September 2011, and come the year's end would mark sales of 2.18 million copies - 1.38 million of those coming from Europe.
We scored it 8/10, stating that while "initially cold, distant and disconnected, Deus Ex gradually proves a sublime experience of player freedom and choice..by the nature of its branching storyline and open-ended approach to every situation it's definitely worth multiple play throughs, and afterwards discussion with your friends, as to what you did do, what you didn't, what you missed."
It's a game, and a score, that we're still re-evaluating twelve months on, weighing up whether the badly stitched illusion of a wider metropolis - and thereby making us all too aware of the boundaries of the game's hub areas - tore us away from being completely absorbed in a story that demanded that level of immersion. But even with that weakness (and those boss fights), the game's still engrossing, the meaty spin on the human augmentation argument paling in comparison to the multiple, and perfectly-designed nuances of conversational one-to-ones that became not only the highlight of the game, but our Defining Moment of 2011.
DLC, Tie-Ins and Legacy
The game spawned a single piece of DLC some months after release - The Missing Link retroactively fitting into the main story as it tracked an Augmentation-less Adam's escape through a freighter.
The game's superb soundtrack by Michael McCann was released as a commercially available 25-track album, a prequel novel entitled The Icarus Effect was also released, as well as a series of Play Arts figures.
Arguably the legacy of Human Revolution can be seen in the growing number of cyber thrillers that are appearing on the market. While EA's Syndicate was well into development come Human Revolution's release, the likes of Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, with its emphasis on computer hacking, and Capcom's Remember Me, the new futuristic IP following a memory-altering agent/hacker, suggest that there may be a renaissance of the sci-fi cyberpunk genre to come.
But given the game's now twelve months in the wild, we returned to its creators to ask their evaluation of the game, and the project, with a year's worth of retrospect under their belt.