Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
With Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's release around the corner, we visited Eidos Montreal for a deeper dive before it hits this summer. While some of the footage we played was similar to what we touched upon in our May 2015 cover story, we were nonetheless introduced to other locations, levels, colorful characters, and an entirely new mode called Breach, which will release with Mankind Divided.
This cyberpunk sequel takes place in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, which saw a magnitude of horror due to the Aug Incident, an event that forced cybernetically enhanced people to go violently berserk. Now, with millions dead, Mankind Divided presents a near-future world that cowers in fear, and points an unforgiving finger at those that are half-man and half-machine. Adam Jensen is much more bitter this time around after failing the save the world, but with better control of his abilities, and with a clearer target in mind, he's fiercer and more driven than he's ever been.
Here are our seven biggest takeaways from Mankind Divided.
Combat Is Beefed Up
One of Human Revolution's criticisms is that the combat felt below par in comparison to the polished stealth. Eidos Montreal is looking to rectify this problem with Mankind Divided, and the results of this effort were readily apparent during my hands-on time. Both combat and stealth feel much more balanced. The game doesn't lean one way or another: the preference is up to you, even with boss battles. With a wider range of augmentations and more in-depth tools at his disposal, Jensen is much more adept at not just dodging bullets, but shooting them himself. His nano-blade comes with a well of improvements, which can be shot out of his arm like a bullet to impale enemies to walls, or be used as a bomb by charging the blade and launching it towards enemies, where it perilously explodes into tiny fractals.
Weapon modifications, from switching a scope to changing the ammo type, can be toggled at your leisure in and out of battle, which makes for dynamic and strategic gunplay. For example, armor-piercing ammo is more effective against strong enemies, and EMP ammo can be used against a turret or camera. Gunplay itself feels much smoother, along with a refined cover system, where you can take down an enemy stealthily while hidden in one swift movement.
Novel Augmentations Come With Easier Access
Jensen is no longer unaccustomed to being augmented; he's more comfortable with himself, and sees his mechanically-enhanced skills as a toolset. He didn't ask for this, sure, but now his initially unwanted abilities have become essential assets. Many familiar augmentations return from Mankind Divided's predecessor, such as the Icarus Landing System which prevents injury from tall drops, and C.A.S.I.E., a social enhancing biochip that adds depth to dialogue puzzles. However, there are plenty of new additions, including Icarus Dash, where Jensen can speedily dash from one point to another, similar to Tracer in Overwatch. Both combative and stealthy augmentations exist, such as Tesla, which allows Jensen to target and disable up to four enemies with darts that shoot out of his knuckles, and the PEPS gun-arm, which shoots a concussive blast to knock enemies off their feet.
These new skills are a lot of fun, and are much easier to access, since they can be mapped to the d-pad and left shoulder button in whatever patterns you want via the augmentation wheel.
Adam Jensen, World Traveler
One of the confirmed city hubs in Mankind Divided is Czech Republic's Prague, a city that became a pro-corporate haven for augmented individuals. However, the tables turned drastically when the Aug Incident hit in 2027. Because the city has the highest concentration of cybernetically enhanced people in the world, it has now become the most rigid at enforcing segregation. Jensen lives in Prague, and you'll be quick to notice that just a normal stroll down the street is not without harassment from authority or civilians who fear what you are.
Outside of the Czech Republic, Jensen will also visit Dubai, though it isn't as sizeable as Prague. The level I played was an early tutorial mission. I had to infiltrate a derelict hotel where a black market arms deal of dangerous augmentations was taking place. While the level itself was more linear in gameplay than other sections, what was most striking was its setting. Sand would swirl in the air as a sandstorm approached, and the half-constructed hotel was filled with blocks of debris to use as cover or to hop onto to reach higher destinations.
In The Shoes Of An Outcast
Because of the mass confusion surrounding what caused the Aug Incident, both the public and authority figures have responded rigorously to the worldwide attack, particularly in Prague. In Mankind Divided, the cybernetic industry is collapsing, and Sarif Industries has shut down. Jensen instead works for a government-run, anti-terrorism operation known as Task Force 29. Even here, Jensen is likely the only augmented soldier in the force, and this can result in shunning from coworkers, or a general prejudice aimed at him. He may be called a clank, a derogatory term for the mechanically augmented. Roaming the streets in Prague, he might be stopped by a guard for paperwork, or be forced into the "Augs-only" line in the underground subway system. I only saw glimpses of this societal divide in the demos I played, but they were enough to demonstrate that playing as an outcast will be an intriguing, and at times tough, perspective.
Introducing The Mini-Campaign Breach
Breach is a new mode coming to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, accessible via the main menu. Described as Deus Ex with an arcade twist, these series of stealth platformer levels take place inside a digital world. You are part of the hacker faction of Rippers, attempting to breach the server farm known as the Palisade Bank. This digital storage company holds secretive information from several large corporations in Deus Ex, including VersaLife, Tarvos Secuity, and Steiner Bisley. Each company is its own sequence of levels, with differing visual styles representing the mentality of each corporation. In Breach, your objective is to infiltrate each corporation's servers, by extracting the data, escaping in a timely fashion, and exposing it to the world. You can take either a stealth or guns blazing approach. Be warned: if you're detected by the central A.I. of the room, you'll be marked as a hostile, leaving sentries, turrets, and digital patrolling guards attempting to kill you on sight. From what I played, Breach is both fun and challenging, and the first-person platforming, such as lowering or heightening blocky pillars to access new areas, added a whole other layer to the gameplay.
A Higher Bar For Storytelling
Human Revolution set a high standard for narrative, with a fascinating storyline of conspiracy and corruption. While you'd get the gist of the story by listening to cutscenes, taking the extra time to read emails or talk to civilians would give a deeper understanding of the world and the people in it. In Mankind Divided, hacking computers and reading emails still offer a large chunk of additional lore. Now, instant messaging is an added component, where you can assume a person's online identity in a chat to find out more about them or a situation they're involved with. With an emphasis on visual storytelling, you can enter a city and understand its struggles just by looking at politically-driven graffiti or exploring the homes of NPCs – some of which you've met earlier in your journey.
Hacking Returns With Key Changes
One of Deus Ex's iconic mechanics is hacking, where you can infiltrate security terminals to reprogram turrets and cameras, or enter restricted areas. In Human Revolution, hacking would prompt a puzzle minigame, where you capture nodes to eventually unlock access. Mankind Divided will see the return of this minigame with not just a facelift, but with new softwares and upgrades at your disposal. Additionally, remote hacking is a new skill that allows you to hack cameras, laser beams, and more from a distance. It similarly comes in a minigame form, though it's simplified. You are given three tries to attempt to breach the system, by following timed cues to eventually gain access.