Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Preview: Bigger and Badder

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is more Deus Ex, and that's a good thing. 


Deus Ex: Mankind Divided feels like a bigger, badder version of Human Revolution--which is a feat, because it still maintains the same quiet moments, challenging stealth elements, and massive arsenal of its predecessor. It’s simply more Deus Ex, with a fresh coat of paint and a handful of new tricks.

The interesting thing about Mankind Divided is how different of an experience it is from format to format. Watching a live stage demo was not nearly as interesting as sitting down to actually play it. Until the tools are placed in your hand, it’s harder to appreciate Mankind Divided’s subtleties.

The demo begins with gravel-voiced Adam Jensen on a military aircraft, flanked by spec ops soldiers. He’s not wearing the same fatigues of course; rather than camp, Jensen’s augmented cybernetic limbs are on full display.

The mission commander opens the scene by barking orders at the soldiers and explaining what’s about to happen. There’s a trap set to capture a big-time arms dealer inside the guts of a vacant, crumbling building. But before the entire coup can be pulled off, the operatives will have to dig through several floor and rooms teeming with watchful guards.

Before he bravely catapults to the ground, Adam is given a number of choices to his approach. He can choose whether the mission will be lethal for the guards he finds, how he cares to approach it, and how everything will go down.

Because I enjoy the feeling of being a dark stealth ninja of death, I opt for lethal kills, my loadout consisting of a revolver and a handful of brutally violent takedowns.

Stealth is similar in Mankind Divided to how it always was. Each new challenge is essentially entering a room, marking the people around you, paying attention to their movement, then setting up and executing a plan of attack that will eliminate everyone while minimizing the risk.

This can be done in different way. Those who like head-first, third-person cover shooters can enter a room, snap to cover, and begin peppering the enemy with gunfire.

It can also be done sneakily, using Jensen’s various tools and augments to put guards quietly down and continue forward without being caught. Both are adequate and valid strategies and can even be mixed when things go awry.

Jensen’s augments are not limitless, and energy cells will have to be consumed in order to keep using them. The character view goes from first to third person when Jensen snaps into cover, augments range from explosive area of effect attacks to invisibility, and the color palette in this particular level is a healthy sampling of brown, red, and gray.

Put simply, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is more Deus Ex.

However, there is one aspect of it that is completely new: an all-new, completely separate mode serving as an in-fiction break from the regular campaign and allowing for limited multiplayer integration. 

Called Deus Ex: Breach, this mode pairs players with a high-profile hacker sending operates on missions to enter the virtual mainframe of massive corporations and expose the truth behind their corrupt dealings. To do this, players will have to fight the built-in security systems within the machines. 

It uses the same gameplay ideas and concepts of Mankind Divided, but contained within a surrealistic virtual world where a system's security settings take the form of pixelated humanoid enemies that must be defeated in order to guarantee the success of a mission. Combat is conducted in a geometric arena filled with these pixelated enemies and uses similar stealth takedowns, abilities, and gunplay options on them. Plus, there are leaderboards for players to use and compare their performance with that of others, and replayable missions to improve personal best scores and times. It's a clever way to integrate multiplayer and native stealth conventions into the Deus Ex package without taking away from the core narrative experience. 

I do have concerns regarding the way its story embraces a very on-the-nose analogy for racism, which can trivialize the real-life issues of people in our modern society if handled poorly. Rounding up people with augments and adding Jim Crowe-like laws promoting segregation and discrimination could potentially lead to some cheap emotional exploitation, although it's difficult to know how it handles nuance without seing the entire product in its finished form. 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is large and ambitious, a game with big ideas and even bigger hopes of tackling challenging subject matter. Although my time was limited, I enjoyed the structured stealth sequences, the moment-to-moment challenges presented in my path, and the arsenal of weapons and abilities at my disposal. Whether or not it all comes together nicely on release day remains to be seen, but I'm feeling largely optimistic about its approach. 

This Deus Ex: Mankind Divided preview was based on a pre-release PS4 demo of the game at an event where dinner was provided by Square Enix.

Contributing Editor
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