Call me paranoid, but there might just be some sort of conspiracy here. Maybe I'm just imagining things. Or maybe it's the four mysterious figures on flickering video screens, faces blanked out, talking about how they're planning to hoodwink humanity. "A few weeks of discomfort and the public will be primed for the recall," one hisses. C'mon, it's not just me, is it? These are shadowy, sinister puppetmasters if ever I saw some. Rotters! Rotters, the lot of 'em. Or are they?
The first scene of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a familiar one. Among the many, many legendary qualities of the original Deus Ex was its pre-credits introduction, which featured two of the game's major characters in full-on Dr Evil mode, choosing history's least subtle secret meeting place (underneath a gigantic, creepy stone hand, of all places) and scattering ominous plot-bombs all over the shop. Human Revolution has a lot to live up to, but also a little bit to live down - so it's warmly reassuring to see it kick off with a similar setup but a little more finesse. Blatant conspiracy this may be, but at least it's had to good grace to not immediately show us who the power-crazed conspirators in question are.
So from hereon in, we start guessing. This game of intrigue, violence and augmented humanity swiftly moves to the viewpoint of tiny-bearded, unsmiling protagonist Adam Jensen, a disgraced former SWAT bruiser now heading up security for one David Sarif. This businesslike but apparently good-hearted science genius heads up Sarif Industries, an organisation pledged to "make human-controlled evolution available to all".
Question is, how much of humanity actually wants that? Sarif has a mechanical hand of some sort, hi-tech and powerful-looking - the result of an accident or an experiment? For now, we don't know much. What we know is that he's Jensen's boss. He's also the boss of Dr Megan Reed, a slightly nervous scientist who appears to be more than close to Jensen. Missus. If you know what I mean. Just good friends, if you catch my drift. Nudge nudge, eh? Fnarr fnarr.
They're not so close that she doesn't keep secrets from him, however - a nosy dig around her quarters reveals repeated references to a 'Patient X', someone she'd really rather not talk about. Instead, she's taking Jensen to meet Sarif.
Conveniently, this involves a guided tour of the labs. This serves as both a muscle-flexing demonstration of how capable Human Revolution is in the graphics department (a particularly glossy and detailed take on Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider engine), and to set up the world.
Sarif Industries is a disorientatingly bright and optimistic place, completely at odds with the sinister paranoia and darkness of Deus Ex as we (think we) know it. In fact, the guided stroll through its hi-tech maze of chatty scientists, mechanised arms and - most arrestingly - a headless robo-torso on legs exercising cheerfully on a treadmill - most evokes the legendary train journey that opened the original Half-Life. This is a place of industry, an enclave of great minds working on great projects.
Yet there are weapons here too. An automated turret gun demonstrates gunning down multiple drones behind a bulletproof window as you pass. "Defence contracts keep us afloat," someone observes, but those contracts fund R&D that "could improve everyone's lives".
Life through death, eh? There is, as they say, no such thing as philanthropy. Perhaps that's why Dr Reed seems so sad, almost apologetic. At least she seems nice, unlike Sarif's tech guy Pritchard - a preening, prissy prat in a ponytail. I suspect I'm being gamed, however: he's so evidently unpleasant to Jensen that in turn it seems unlikely that he'd be secretly unpleasant too. I mean, he's even got an English accent - the Hollywood stereotype of villainy. For this reason, I am convinced, he isn't any such thing.
Sarif, though... I don't know, this Tony Stark act seems too good to be true. He seems nice enough in person, however, even if he's wearing a waistcoat apparently made out of metal hexagons. It's worth observing at this point that everyone I've encountered so far, even the incidental scientists, has appeared remarkably distinct. There is individuality and character to all these people. I don't know whether the game can keep that up for its duration, but within this extended tutorial it's certainly impressive.
It also means it's that much more affecting when, five minutes later, things go wrong. The bright, clean and optimistic lab? Doesn't end well. Jensen's the Johnny on the spot, sent back downstairs by a shocked Sarif to deal with this brutal incursion. He's given a gun, and it's not long before he's crawling through a vent: two of Deus Ex's mainstays, present and correct.
Outside, beyond huge glass windows, the city looms, vast and golden. Inside Sarif Industries, it's cramped, gloomy and murderous. Jensen is easily felled by the roaming goons, which means stealth is a necessity for now.
With a button press, he can dart from cover to cover: timing his moment to match where the mercs are looking, and whether they're close enough to hear. It's a pleasingly organic system, based around common sense rather than UI elements. Much more is yet to be seen - and sadly the villainous Doctor Embargo prevents me from telling you exactly what until 24th February - but already my fears that this new-generation Deus Ex would forgo thoughtful tactics and quasi-pacifistic paths in favour of sustained superheroic gunplay are assuaged.
I can't blast through this. Even in the tutorial, timing and strategy seems vital. These renta-mercs are tricky enough on their own, so who knows how Jensen will possibly cope against the faintly ridiculous cyber-mohawk lady who briefly appears on the other side of a reinforced window. She's an alarmingly skinny creature of steel, flesh and evident violence, who mercifully elects to vanish into thin air in front of his startled eyes.
Not that Jensen's reprieve lasts long. A few corners later, a scowling hulk of man catches him with a teeth-rattling sucker punch. This isn't some bullyboy beating, though. This has done damage. As the shaven-headed brute leans in, eerily neat scars on his face provide telltale signs of augmentation. Ah. No wonder. But who does he work for? What does he want with Jensen?
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Apparently, to kill him. That's when the slippery Dr Megan Reed shows up again, silently returning from wherever she ran to when this emergency broke out to gamely bash this hulk over the back of the head with a nearby piece of furniture. It doesn't achieve much. As Jensen slumps to the ground, Megan is overwhelmed by another clutch of mercs. There's a lot of screaming. Is it Megan? Is it Jensen? Both, maybe.
Fade to black.
Fade to... oh God. Noises of metal and flesh. Brief images of metal and flesh. Metal cleaving flesh. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has at least one award in the bank: Most Gruesome Credits Sequence of 2011. Jensen is alive, but only just - and that means he's going under someone's techo-augmentation knife. "Where's that cyber-arm prosthesis?" panics one disembodied voice. "His body can't take any more!" worries another. "Miraculous..." mutters someone else.
"I love you," whispers another, familiar voice. Megan Reed. Is she alive too, or are these ghostly memories of Jensen's time with her? "Sorry." There is strength and believability here, despite Jensen himself having seemed something of a growly cipher thus far. This sort of emotional punch is unfamiliar in most games, let alone Deus Ex's cyberpunk posturing and philosophising.
Deus Ex achieved and innovated many things, but one thing it didn't manage to be was a personal tale. Perhaps, this time, it will be. Scenes that appear to be part CGI and part live action alternate between images of the two of them together and images of Jensen's brutalised flesh and vital organs, ripped apart and replaced with... what?
Fade to black. Goddamn that evil Dr Embargo. Much, much more on the 24th, promise.