Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Preview - E3 2015
Adam Jensen returns, in a society torn apart by hate and discrimination
The legacy of the Deus Ex franchise is unquestionable, and it was a pleasant surprise when 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution managed to carry on the legacy of the original game with its own great experience. It wasn’t perfect, but to release a great sequel 10+ years after the original (and 7 years after Invisible War) was a commendable feat. We won’t have to wait quite as long for the next entry – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was revealed earlier this year, and we got a chance to see the game in action at E3 2015.
Mankind Divided will carry on the cyberpunk stealth/action RPG elements. The game is set in 2029, two years after Human Revolution, and features the return of hero Adam Jensen, this time with new technology and body augmentations. During the past few years, society has shifted again. The humans are now more against augmentations than ever due to the Panchaea Incident – a cataclysmic event that caused millions of augmented individuals to mindlessly attack others. The tension is high, and there is more class separation between regular and augmented humans. The setting envisioned by the developers is a mix of Deus Ex and District 9 film.
Jensen now works for the Interpol, focusing on anti-terrorist activities. He must deal with terrorist groups demanding equality for augmented individuals – but he also strongly suspects that his own Interpol bosses are being influenced by the shadowy Illuminati organization. Our demo took place in Praha, a futuristic version of a city in Czech Republic. Jensen plans to meet a contact at the train station to discuss a recent operation in Dubai. After he meets the contact and they walk along the platform, the pair is frequently stopped for random police searches. They discuss the Dubai operation, as well as theories on Illuminati. Suddenly, an explosion occurs, and Jensen is caught in an apparent activist attack on the train station.
Some time passes, and Jensen is now tasked with investigating that very same attack he was a victim of. His bosses tell him the attack was likely caused by the augmentation revolutionary movement, so his first stop is to visit the town where most of the augmented humans reside. This area is quite a bit out of town, and looks like a ghetto or slum for lower class citizens. The cultural and societal divides and parallels that Mankind Divided is trying to recreate are obvious here. To reach our target, a local rebel leader, we opt to choose the stealth approach. Jensen’s classic augmentations make a return, such as the ability to temporarily cloak and move cover to cover without being spotted. The hacking game will return, but it has been upgraded with traps and fog of war to create a more dynamic minigame. You can also still bash through walls, if available.
There are new augs too, such as the Tesla Gun Arm – this lets us quietly take out four enemies at once with an electric shock. A new remote hack aug allows Jensen to disable cameras and operate doors from afar. The new blade aug, as seen in the trailers, shoots a blade out of your arm and silently staples enemies to the wall. Level design promises more verticality, as we observe Jensen find a high point and jump down, performing an aerial takedown on the foes below. There are different ammo types for your weapon, swappable on the fly, and for the stealth approach the EMP ammo was used to great effect to disable turrets and cameras.
To move through the multi-path, multi-solution environments, Jensen can use his dash ability to move vertically, horizontally, or even to ram enemies. Smart Vision aug is also back, but it now offers more information about enemies you observe. The option for lethal and non-lethal takedowns will remain, of course. Fan-requested changes have also been made, such as Jensen performing takedowns from cover while staying in cover, instead of exposing himself. As we make our way through the level, our radio contact tell us of an elevator we can take for quick but more direct approach – Jensen chooses instead to take the classic air vents path.
As we draw closer to our target, the demo host opted to show a more aggressive approach, and use combat for the rest of the way. The developers say they’ve worked hard to make the action-focused playthroughs more visceral and enjoyable, just as stealth has always been. New augs come into play here, such as the body shield seen in the trailers. Your offensive options are also expanded with rifles, grenades, and customization. For example, coming across a turret, we used our EMP grenade to temporarily disable it, then swapped to the rifle, changed the ammo to armor-piercing, and took it out. In the next room, a group of bad guys were waiting for an ambush. Jensen shot his blade at the ground – he didn’t miss, instead he used the blade’s remote detonation function to flush enemies out of cover. The developers note that even after going into combat mode, there are still options to sneak around most enemies that are looking for you, if you change your mind.
Upon finally reaching our target, the game wanted to show off a “social boss fight”. In a situation such as this, Jensen must resolve matters by dialog, so the developers put a lot of work into the facial and body animations to give players hints as to the moods and intensions of the characters. The confrontation we saw certainly did a good job of showcasing these animations and attention to detail. However, the encounter itself felt very limited. During what essentially amounted to a very long cutscene, we got very few dialog choices, and simply watched the conversation most of the time. Hopefully in the final game, there will be more player input, because the encounter certainly didn’t feel very involving, even for a normal conversation in Deus Ex, let alone a supposed boss encounter.
The battle was apparently lost because Jensen failed to read the emotions of the rebel leader and accused him of crimes he did not commit, instead of trying to be sensible. It didn’t matter, however, as the leader suddenly had some sort of stroke, with his augmentations going haywire, killing him. At this point, it was time to go. But before making our escape, the developers point out that if the conversation went differently, we could have had some peaceful time to actually explore this environment in the boss’ high-rise home. But alas, enemies were rushing in from every direction, so Jensen began his run across rooftops to the extraction point. Using the gun arm, and Focus augmentation to slow down time, we picked off a few foes as we ran. Eventually, a cutscene kicked in as we reached the VTOL in dramatic fashion and made our escape.
During our demo, the developers hoped to show off the four main Deus Ex pillars – social, combat, stealth, and hacking. They’ve certainly succeeded in doing so. While the social engagement felt underwhelming, the rest of the experience looks and feels like Deus Ex. Building on the success of Human Revolution, there’s no doubt that Mankind Divided is shaping up to be yet another excellent follow-up. Look for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 in 2016.