E3 2015: ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’ Refines Rather than Innovates

By | 1 year ago 

Like Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Good, because Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks like more of the same.

That’s not a knock against Mankind Divided. Human Revolution is a great, if uneven, game, and the developers at Eidos Montreal could certainly be following a worse template. However, judging by Square Enix’s E3 presentation, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided refines the formula instead of reinventing it.

With one exception: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s story is all-new, of course. The game takes place two years after Human Revolution. After the events of the last game, a wary public has turned on the “Augs,” people who have decided to enhance their natural abilities with cybernetic implants. Deus Ex hero Adam Jensen – an Aug himself – works as part of a strike force that investigates and eliminates Aug threats. But Jensen doesn’t trust his mysterious overseers; that’s why he’s working as a double agent, feeding information to other organizations.

It’s not the simplest premise, especially for series newcomers, but Eidos Montreal does a pretty good job setting everything up. The E3 demonstration was split into two parts. The first, an interactive cutscene (think Half-Life 2; players still control Jensen, but everything that happens is pre-scripted), in which Jensen meets up with his mission contact, does a lot of the heavy lifting of setting up Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s dystopian setting. Like in Human Revolution, Jensen’s so dour and cynical that it’s almost funny, and the dialogue’s cheesy, but it the whole thing works.

That scene ends with an explosion, which rips through a train station and kills a score of people. That’s when the second – and more interesting – half of the presentation began. Jensen’s sent to hunt down Rucker, the head of the supposedly pacifist Augmented Rights Coalition and the lead suspect in the bombing. That’s when the real gameplay starts.

First things first: as expected, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is stunning. Human Revolution isn’t a bad looking game, but it’s a few years old; with the power of current-generation consoles, Mankind Divided’s horrific future couldn’t look better.

Rucker’s hide-out is an abandoned storage area, where Augmented cast-offs have transformed storage crates into houses. Quite simply, the scale of the area is huge. Stacks of crates stretch as far as the eye can see, blocking both the ground and the sky. There’s always been an element of Blade Runner to Deus Ex’s cyberpunk setting, and that’s never more apparent than in this scene, which is simultaneously beautiful and disgustingly grimy.

This is where the Eidos Montreal representatives showed off Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s gameplay; this is also where things started to feel familiar. The rep played through the first section via stealth. Each level supports multiple approaches – so fighting or hiding work equally as well – and contains different routes to the main objective.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Mystery Villain

Basically, it’s all standard Deus Ex gameplay (the rep even joked that it wouldn’t be Deus Ex without ventilation shafts, where a lot of the demo took place). Some new augmentations (basically, Jensen’s superpowers) made the journey a little more exciting, especially the Tesla Gun Arm, which takes out four enemies at once with a non-lethal blast, and the Icarus Dash, a horizontal jump that propels Jensen between platforms.

From there, the Eidos Montreal team moved on to combat, which the main representative claimed has gotten a complete overhaul. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, he said, was skewed towards stealth; in Mankind Divided, the experience should be more balanced.

In the demonstration, combat looked fluid and responsive – there was lots of diving behind cover to flank enemies, and more augments like Jensen’s nano-blade (which pins corpses to nearby walls) or Titan, which turns Jensen into an armored, human-shaped tank – but it was also an E3 demo, played by someone with a lot of practice. It looked fine, but it was nothing groundbreaking, and it’ll be hard to tell how it really handles without getting our hands on it.

Finally, Jensen reached Rucker’s office, where the Eidos Montreal team showed off Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s social gameplay. Jensen and Rucker argue about Rucker’s role in the bombing – he denies it, of course – and the larger ethical concerns involved. The dialogue here wasn’t great (Rucker goes into a long diatribe, which includes the way-too-on-the-nose line “I am more than a leader. I am a symbol!”; it got worse from there), but Deus Ex isn’t exactly a series that thrives on subtlety.

Eidos Montreal promised that, like combat, Mankind Divided’s social system has been upgraded, but again, this was hard to see. Players can choose from three different “debate tactics” (which are really just different options on a standard Mass Effect-esque dialogue wheel), and the non-player characters will respond accordingly. It was hard to tell if there was any actual strategy behind the dialogue decisions, or if players have to guess what the right response is and pray for the best.

Whatever the case, the rep lost the debate, and Jensen had to flee as guards attacked (some other stuff happened too, but for spoilers’ sake, we’ll leave that out). If Jensen had won, the scene would’ve played out pretty much the same way, but the guards would’ve been slower to respond.

After some fast, brutal combat, Jensen left, and the demo ended. This preview sounds more negative than it actually is; honestly, the game looks fine. It’s just not that innovative. Ultimately, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks like it’ll be good – better than Human Revolution, as long as the heady and complex plot doesn’t spiral out of control – but it’s also more of the same.

That’s probably for the best. Like they say, if it’s not broke, why fix it?

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided comes out early 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

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