Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s approach to visual design is striking. Our conversation back in April with the game’s art director Jonathan Jacques Bellete revealed a host of influences, from the original game to cyberpunk to Renaissance-era fashion and art.
In the first of our ‘The Art Of’ image-led features, we highlight some instances of these inspirations by looking at Eidos Montreal’s concept artwork for the game.
Our full interview with Jonathan Jacques Bellete can be found here.
Impassioned Fashion
In our interview with Bellete he was clearly passionate on the subject of fashion. In his words: “Fashion was important to us. We thought about the characters less in terms of character designs and more about fashion design… My role is to give them cool clothing, actual fashion.
“We think so often in the games industry that character is about designing big armour or big guns, but it’s so much more than that. People like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood have a tendency to pull a little bit towards that Baroque, or even Renaissance, aesthetic, so that helped us quite a bit.”
That kind of aesthetic is clear to see from a number of concept sketches that focus on character clothing.

Click image for a more detailed view.

The old fashioned ruffles, flower patterns, exaggerated shoulders and high collars are offset and modernised by hip hugging skirts, high heels and on-trend hair styles. The characters displayed in these concept art images are made to look even more cyber-Renaissance-y due to the fact that they are skinny, attractive and seemingly fit and healthy… imaginings of a high-tech future so often feature these kinds of ‘beautiful’ people, as though the future will see us rid our current obsession with obesity.

These designs of the game’s security force personnel initially seem like fairly standard videogame fare. However, on closer inspection, the Renaissance inspiration becomes clear. The extrusions from the body armour on the right-most character reminding of ruffled collars and elaborate scarfs, the textured detail on the arms of the left-most design staying true to the intricate attention to detail (complicated pleats, for example) displayed in Renaissance-era fashion.
The central design perhaps shows the most obvious link to Renaissance dress. As this comparision between it and this Renaissance-era military helmet shows:

Gold on Black
It’s not just fashion from the era that has influenced the game’s aesthetic. The heavily contrasted colour palette used for many of the game’s locations and pre-release promotional material comes from the same base.
“The gold and black palette of the game comes largely from the Renaissance,” Bellete told us. “If you look at painters from the Baroque-era – Vermeer, Rembrandt etc – a lot of that stuff is very black and gold because they would often paint by candles at night and that kind of thing.”
This influence can be seen clearly below:

Click image for an expanded view.
The stiff lighting of the above generating golden hues with a view to creating a similiar effect to Rembrandt’s ‘Philosopher in Meditation’:

The Replicants
Where the Renaissance’s influence seems less obvious is in the design of the game’s environments and architecture. Many cyber-punk projects that have come to fruition since the launch of Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) have had the priviledge and curse of being closely compared to that most quintessential image of the ideal/movement/design.
The original Deus Ex had the comparison and Human Revolution will also. While Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s environments are missing the clutter of people and dirt that populate the world of Blade Runner, the same themes of claustrophobia, stark contrast and mutli-tiered cities prevail.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution concept art:

Blade Runner concept art (by Syd Mead):

Continue to check out for more ‘The Art Of’ features in the future.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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