Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided

The past re­mains the fu­ture

EDGE - - GAMES -

PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Cy­ber Re­nais­sance is dead. Deus Ex:

Hu­man Revo­lu­tion showed us a world el­e­vated by tech­nol­ogy, then torn apart by it. Mankind Di­vided presents the af­ter­math, where peo­ple are forced to get by with what they have left. It’s neatly re­flec­tive of Ei­dos Mon­treal’s chang­ing goals for its se­ries. If

Hu­man Revo­lu­tion was the grand rein­ven­tion – ap­ply­ing new tech­no­log­i­cal power to the aged Deus Ex for­mula – then Mankind Di­vided is some­thing like up­cy­cling, tak­ing those same pieces and making some­thing bet­ter out of them.

The mo­ment we be­gin play­ing through the game’s tu­to­rial-cum-pro­logue, an anti-terror sting set in the crum­bling con­struc­tion site of a Dubai ho­tel left derelict, things feel fa­mil­iar. The cam­era swoops from first- to third­per­son as re­turn­ing lead Adam Jensen squeezes be­hind cover, be­fore en­gag­ing in heavy, al­most clin­i­cal com­bat. In a couple of playthroughs, we see straight­for­ward paths through the level, with op­tional ex­tras de­signed to al­low for stealth (ac­tive camo and rangy jumps en­able us to tip­toe through a crate-strewn store­house with ease) or com­bat (that same store­house holds a cache of grenades). It’s less an in­tro­duc­tion than a reac­quain­tance, even offering up many of the late-game up­grades we’d screwed into Jensen’s poly­car­bon­ate ex­trem­i­ties last time around. How­ever, that’s some­thing of a trick. In a Metroid Prime- like tease, Jensen has those up­grades taken away from him (seem­ingly be­cause he has a build­ing fall on him at the end of the level), and it’s when we’re forced to work with the ba­sics that Ei­dos’s ef­forts be­come clear.

We’re trans­ported to the Dvali The­atre, a rain­swept square of old-world bricks and mor­tar that will make up a small part of the fi­nal game’s Prague set­ting. Our only ob­jec­tive is to reach the build­ing’s base­ment of­fice, with no fur­ther in­struc­tions given. To sim­u­late the var­i­ous up­grade paths play­ers could’ve taken up un­til this point, we’re given a choice be­tween three sep­a­rate load­outs of items and aug­ments.

Hu­man Revo­lu­tion built it­self around com­bat, stealth and so­cial abil­i­ties (with

hack­ing, Ei­dos’s “fourth pil­lar”, sup­ple­ment­ing each of the oth­ers). While we’re told that our load­outs here are for com­bat, stealth or bal­ance, it feels as though Mankind Di­vided’s ap­proach is more nu­anced and sit­u­a­tional than that of its pre­de­ces­sor. The ‘com­bat’ build, for in­stance, of­fers a shot­gun, a ri­fle, three types of ex­plo­sives, and the new Ti­tan aug­men­ta­tion, which shields Jensen against all but the most pow­er­ful weaponry (at least un­til his en­ergy bar runs out). And yet, when we at­tempt a frontal as­sault on the the­atre – blow­ing off its front door and at­tempt­ing to storm the stalls – we come up against pa­trol ro­bots that just won’t go down. The os­ten­si­bly stealth-ori­ented Tesla abil­ity, which locks onto en­e­mies and arcs elec­tric­ity into aug­mented hu­man parts, is ac­tu­ally the best weapon here, able to shut ro­bots down in a sin­gle hit. Sim­i­larly, the su­per­heated pro­jec­tile Nanoblades Jensen can launch in the com­bat build tend to serve far bet­ter as ex­plo­sive dis­trac­tions than as ef­fi­cient weapons in a firefight.

The in­ten­tion is clear. We’re no longer meant to be blindly fol­low­ing an ex­pected ideal for game­play; we’re sup­posed to be cre­at­ing our own, in­ter­pret­ing sit­u­a­tions based on the abil­i­ties we’ve cho­sen, rather than forc­ing Jensen down cer­tain paths be­cause they seem to suit. That sit­u­a­tional ap­proach is clear­est in the new on-the-fly gun cus­tomi­sa­tion: hold the reload but­ton and Jensen now po­si­tions his weapon to al­low you to change ammo types or add a sup­pres­sor. You’re ac­tively en­cour­aged to change how you play mid-mis­sion.

With this new fo­cus on flit­ting be­tween com­bat and stealth ap­proaches, the ob­vi­ous miss­ing piece here is the so­cial side of the game. We’ve pre­vi­ously seen a “diplo­matic” boss fight re­solved us­ing words alone, but our hands-on here of­fers no op­por­tu­ni­ties to talk it out. Whether it can fit along­side the other two el­e­ments quite so seam­lessly seems doubt­ful – it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine Jensen mur­der­ing a room of men, then set­tling down for a chat with a sur­vivor.

In talk­ing to the dev team, the idea seems to be for so­cial to be more re­ac­tive in its own way. While still not fi­nalised (per­haps a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the game’s lengthy de­lay un­til Au­gust), the plan was for choices made to af­fect not only how you travel through the game, but also why – for ex­am­ple, one player’s Jensen might have very dif­fer­ent rea­sons for end­ing up at the Dvali than an­other. It’s this kind of in­ter­nalised think­ing that ap­pears to de­fine Mankind

Di­vided at this point. Ei­dos Mon­treal doesn’t – per­haps can­not – aim for a game as stri­dently new as Hu­man Revo­lu­tion, but its think­ing in how to shake up the struc­tures that de­fined the prior game are as re­source­ful and in­ge­nious as the char­ac­ters in­side.

It’s when we’re forced to work with the ba­sics that Ei­dos’s ef­forts be­come clear

Hu­man en­e­mies are eas­ier to dis­patch, but pa­trol er­rat­i­cally. Ro­botic en­e­mies have set paths, but are of­ten bet­ter avoided al­to­gether. To­gether, they can be deadly

ABOVE Deus Ex’s po­lit­i­cal di­vides have switched from haves and have-nots to aug­mented and unaug­mented. Jensen’s more invisible aug­men­ta­tions place him some­where in a grey area be­tween

TOP LEFT Close-com­bat take­downs re­main prac­ti­cally un­changed, still offering a choice to knock out or kill tar­gets, and play­ing out as a minia­ture cutscene.

The Dubai in­tro­duc­tion is among one of the only times a DeusEx level has been set dur­ing daylight hours – a con­scious de­ci­sion to un­set­tle fans

Jensen’s now a mem­ber of an in­ter­na­tional anti-terror task force, making the peo­ple he en­coun­ters a slightly more colour­ful bunch than the cor­po­rate types he used to hang around with

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