Skip to main content

Interview - Deus Ex: Human Revolution's David Anfossi


For years, Deus Ex fans clamored for a sequel. And then they got one, and they didn't like it all that much. So, what do you put in your pamphlet to re-hook those who renounced their faith and left the Church of Denton? Simple: a whole heaping helping of what they want to hear.

Based on what we've seen of Human Revolution so far, that's definitely not a bad thing. The game's shaping up to be the sequel fans have pined for ever since they were introduced to the first game's mix of equal parts technology, intrigue, and trenchcoats.

But there's still plenty more digging to be done, so we sat down with producer David Anfossi and quizzed him about how much pressure the team's under to live up to Deus Ex's legacy, the relationship between the game's shooter and RPG sides, faithful series reboots versus those that stray off the beaten path, and plenty more. See it all after the break.

VG247: Deus Ex is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, and even though you seem to be doing an excellent job with it, you must be sweating a little. How much pressure do you feel to live up to the first game’s legacy? (Thanks, Keenan)

David Anfossi: A lot of pressure. From the beginning, you know, it’s about three years now. We started [developing] at the beginning of 2007. And it’s a good franchise, but there’s also a lot of pressure. So we just started by understanding the universe, because it’s a huge universe, you know? So what we did is we tried to capture the core values of the franchise. And as soon as we were comfortable with that – the pillars of the game, like the combat, hacking, and [inaudible] – then we had what we needed to start thinking about our conception of the game. You know, it’s step-by-step.

The pressure is there, and there is a lot of expectation, but we did our homework.

Would you say that it’s your goal to surpass the original Deus Ex?

This is not the purpose of this game. For us, it’s kind of a reboot. We respect the universe, but we’ve got a new character, a new conspiracy and a new timeline. So, this is kind of a reboot, and it’s a standalone title.

So what is Deus Ex? What are the themes behind it? What links the games even though they are very different?

This is a very specific era in the timeline where there’s a transition in human evolution. We have a very strong analogy with the Renaissance. During the Renaissance, they started to understand the human body with dissections and autopsies. This is the same thing in 2027. What we want to do is push the limits of the human body with mechanical augmentations.

So this is kind of the analogy we have, and this is where you play Adam Jensen in 2027. There are very strong bio-tech companies trying to take over this new market. This is kind of a business war, and you’re part of that. So you’ll see that at the beginning of the game with the attack by augmented black-ops mercenaries. And you’ll be injured, and you’ll be forced to be augmented. From that point, you’ll investigate to find out what happened.

The main thing on the top of that is control, because – as Adam Jensen – you lost control, and we forced you to be augmented. And you won’t let that happen again. You’ll investigate to understand that, and you’ll see that it’s all about control. Corporations that want control, the market wants control of people.

Deus Ex was – at least, initially – a PC exclusive. Is Deus Ex: Human Revolution a PC-targeted experience? Is PC development front-and-center for HR? What’s your primary dev platform? (Thanks, Keenan)

The experience will be the same on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The same mechanics – everything is the same.

I used to work on previous games where we had lead platforms, and when we were close to the release date, we had to do a port. And believe me, you don’t want to do that. For Deus Ex, we decided to work on all platforms parallel to give players the same experience.

You’ve got your shooter side and your RPG side. How do you make sure the two don’t end up stepping on each other’s cybernetically-enhanced toes? Is this going to be one of those games were a headshot can hit someone dead-on, yet the game still considers it a “miss”?

We cannot be a Gears of War on the gun side, or a Sam Fisher on the stealth, or an [inaudible] on the RPG. We have to deal with all these mechanics in the same game, so what we tried to do is work as a whole so that the player is able to do what he wants to do when [he wants to do it].

Usually, people say we’re a competitor to Mass Effect and Fallout and that kind of game. This is about action-RPG, and so that’s true. We’re in the same category. But if you look at Mass Effect, which is a space opera  with an action component, and it’s a great game. But there are things that are in Mass Effect that are not in Fallout and vice versa. So every game has its specific things – specific mechanics. In terms of visuals, this is also very different. Every game has a signature.

Another sort of old-school PC gaming classic recently got the Frankenstein treatment. Unlike Deus Ex, however, XCOM is going in a completely different direction than its series progenitor. Do you think that’s a bad idea? Is it generally best to stick with the source material?

Good question. I would say it really depends on the team. Because, you know, it’s their baby. They could do something different with what they had at the beginning. And maybe this is the way we see this franchise now. This is the way the player wants to play it. I don’t know if it’s a good decision or not.

We just decided to respect the source material because we think of that when we think of Deus Ex fans. We replayed the original games to make sure we didn’t miss anything. It’s not a question of strategy or marketing or anything.

Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski recently said that the future of shooters was RPG. Do you agree with him? Do you see RPGs and shooters sort of coalescing into a singular whole in the coming years?

I know players now want to be able to have some kind of freedom – to be able to upgrade their guns, characters, etc. But sometimes there’s a trend, you know? So I would say there’s maybe a trend for that, but it’s not the case for all games.

Read this next