Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a better shooter than most actual shooters

As everybody’s favourite humourless transhumanist Adam
Jensen steps into a beautifully sunlit Prague train station, for once
his funny little pop-up shades are justified. Imagine that, a Deus Ex
game not set during an apparent month-long solar eclipse. Already the
visual difference between Mankind Divided and its predecessor is, well, night and day. Fitting that its new engine should be called Dawn.
year is 2029, and simmering tensions between humans and humans with
robot bits have escalated into a full blown mechanical apartheid (Eidos
Montreal’s term, not mine) in which anyone with cybernetic augmentations
faces discrimination, violence, and potentially hurt feelings. Jensen
is now international covert agent for an anti-terrorist task force, but,
suspicious the illuminati are secretly pulling the strings because they
so totally are, he’s in Prague to investigate. That’s where the
majority of Mankind Divided takes place. 

In our hands-off demo there’s
an interesting early encounter between two pedestrians. A man
accidentally bumps into a lady and apologises, but upon seeing her
microchip-embedded head, his demeanour changes instantly. “Damn clank,”
he snarls before storming off. That’s always struck me as a weird thing
for Deus Ex’s society to get hung up on. “I’m sorry sir, you look like
an awesome cyborg and can jump really high, I’m afraid you’ll have to
sit at the back of the bus.” 
However, two years after Human
Revolution’s Aug Incident, in which hacked biochips sent augmented
people across the globe into a momentary violent rage, everyone is
understandably on edge. As Jensen passes a surly guard dressed in
imposing protective gear that covers his entire face (ironically an
outfit that reduces his humanity more than a metal limb does), the
terrorists initiate a surprise attack. When the dust settles, it’s down
to Jensen to look for the the man responsible, Talos Rucker. 
Augmented Rights Coalition hideout is where Jensen gets the opportunity
to flex his combat muscle. And it’s big. Banks of monitors shatter,
shrapnel flies, and bullets rip through sheet metal cover while Jensen’s
firing off nano blades and impaling people to walls, instantly warping
short distances, covering his entire body in black titan shielding,
slowing time with focus mode, landing with Earth-cracking force on
heads, customising his rifle on-the-fly with scopes, silencers, and
armour-piercing bullets, and throwing EMP grenades to fry turrets. It’s
BioShock, Crysis, and Dishonored in one.

I ask the game’s director Jean-François Dugas how Eidos Montreal
has improved combat. “By making it much more visceral. More
environmental reactions, better control scheme to promote the use of
augmentations in all circumstances, better augmentations for the combat
approach, and enemies using more augmentations to add to the tension.”
For Dugas, the latter is Mankind Divided’s ‘in-your-face’ addition, one
that “changes the odds on the battlefield.” I know I won’t feel half as
guilty stabbing a man with my retractable elbow spike when he’s trying
to do the same to me.
Combat’s more viable than before. “There
will be a bit more ammunition to find in the environments, stealth
players won’t get more XP than combat players, better combat
augmentations, control scheme that is more responsive and fluid.” Rather
than gunfights being where Deus Ex falls apart, as was often the case
in Human Revolution, it’s where this game comes together. 
can, of course, opt for less violent approaches. Jensen turns invisible
to sneak past people casually chatting in front of a greasy cafeteria
before destroying a fan and crawling through a vent. To clear a hallway
quickly and quietly, he uses the electric-bolt-firing tesla arm to lock
onto five targets and incapacitate them.

The Icarus dash, meanwhile, propels Jensen forward at great speed
to ram enemies and cross gaps. There’s also remote hacking for players
to manipulate scenery, control drones, and laugh at someone’s
embarrassing Amazon purchases without having to physically touch their
crumb-covered keyboard. Crucially, though, Mankind Divided doesn’t make
one route any more more beneficial than another.
Now for the
social showdown with Rucker. I immediately notice how vastly improved
the character models are, and far from a purely visual change, this
helps in their emotional readability – a big help during interrogations.
“We do use facial mo-cap for main characters now which wasn’t the case
in DXHR,” says Dugas. “For the more standard conversations, we also
improved our way to work with FaceFX allowing us to reach more
satisfying results.” I hate myself for using a cliche, but it honestly
looks like a cutscene.

After listening to Rucker’s spiel, Jensen can choose three
responses: justify, patronise, or turn the tables. Without wanting to
spoil things, the situation sours and Jensen is forced to evac on a
chopper as the dude glares at him menacingly. Do you think he’s the
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, there doesn’t appear to be a
single weak link. With the four pillars of combat, stealth, hacking and
social elements better balanced than before, and all equally enjoyable,
the future really is what you make it.
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