‘Deus-Ex: Mankind Divided’ is being released in two weeks and, needless to say, many of the internet’s core websites have been covering its mechanics, graphics, and story in great detail.
It is always exciting to see a game like Mankind Divided being released five years after its immediate predecessor Deus-Ex: Human Revolution; credit where credit’s due, Eidos Montreal haven’t fallen into the annualised franchise trap. They could have released this game as early as last February, but much like their peers at CD Project Red, they have shown that game releases don’t have to be two-week annualised wonders like what many cynics see Call of Duty or Assassins Creeds as. Instead, Eidos’ team have spent five long years working on this to make sure that what they produce is not going to be a game that is played & forgotten after a month, but something that will hopefully be cherished for years to come.
I have seen the gameplay releases, and I’m satisfied with the game’s aesthetic, atmosphere, and gameplay improvements; the HUD has been improved, you can finally attack enemies from corners, and you can seemingly shoot electronic bolts from your prosthetic arm to stun your enemies. What’s not to like, really? For those of us who played Human Revolution it would be safe to say that, while it did have a great story and atmosphere, the gameplay truly let it down.
This does not seem to be the case for Mankind Divided. It seems that Eidos have taken on the flaws of its 2011 outing and have turned them into something players will love. Another major flaw of Human Revolution was that some of its open maps were simply boring; there was an effort to create an open, living, breathing world, but the technology just didn’t allow them to create the in-game world they wanted to at the time. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be a problem any more as they have created an environment that is not only large, but dense as well, as verticality has been added to the game’s open areas; this not only adds choice but also variety to the player’s experience. That said, this has already been done before in gaming to great effect, with games as old as Bethesda’s critically acclaimed game Dishonoured, which was released in 2012. Better late than never, I guess.
Deus-Ex will always have a cult following; I must unfortunately admit that I was never given the opportunity to play its first installment when it was initially released in 2000, but I can foresee Eidos’ attempts to strike the balance between accessibility for new players and loyalty for the devout fan to great success. This will be a challenge for Eidos, even though the game has gone gold already despite not being released. The addition of incremental patches to address day-one issues have always been helpful, but if hardcore fans do not appreciate this installment, Eidos could always install a hidden mini-game in a pocket secretary or even an email from one of the first game’s characters. To risk sounding cynical, I will make the assumption that hardcore fans will never be completely happy with Mankind Divided, as the gaming market has just become far too competitive to not pander more to casual gamers. The happy medium for me has always been to install the mini-games, side-quests, and readable content to evoke passionate (if not augmented) memories of devout Deus-Ex followers. One of the best examples would definitely be 2014’s ‘Wolfenstein: the New Order’: there was a room in the game where you could find a bed to sleep in, the catch being that every time you slept you could play the original classic, Wolfenstein 3D.
These are all surface issues that can be addressed both pre-emptively during development and in the immediate aftermath of the game’s release, though what could be a problem for the game is the theme itself. Deus-Ex was never shy to hide away from its own controversies, especially as a defining theme of the series is the issue of human augmentation itself. Judging by the fact that the world we live in today is facing major uncertainty, the reason I feel that Mankind Divided could be a great game because it could show that fiction may in fact be stranger than truth at times, but that doesn’t mean that the fiction itself is related to the truth we all live in.
‘Deus Ex Mankind Divided’ is exactly what it says it is. Continuing the story as Adam Jensen, you are in the middle of a conflict: not between nations, races, or religions, but between humans and augmented beings. The tension between the two groups calls back to the climactic ‘Aug incident’ which happened at the end of Human Revolution. In short, the incident caused mass fear of augmented beings and therefore, segregation occurs. While there is no gameplay shown in one of Eidos’ trailers, their five minute live-action Mechanical Apartheid trailer made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, as I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this world created by Eidos and what is happening in the real world today. They say that art exaggerates truth, and while I still agree with that stance, seeing the dystopian cyber-punk world created for Mankind Divided only enhances my interest in the story and atmosphere of the game; hopefully, its similarity with reality will help people to see parallels between our world and Jensen’s. If you are a real-life proponent of South African apartheid, how would you feel playing this game? Similarly, if you were a radical left-winger, sympathetic to violent causes, how would you feel? Mankind Divided will not be a game to take sides as you, the player, will ultimately make the choices throughout the duration of the game. It will, however, certainly try to put you on the spot as you make morally questionable choices through the story. This may be something that people hate, but for me, it only serves enhance my experience as I can re-play the game to see what happened had I made other choices. Or, if I’m lazy, I can just re-watch the endings on YouTube in glorious HD to save the time. People can approach this game as casually as they want to, but to ignore the game’s themes would be regrettable, as Deus-Ex’s writers have put as much effort into this game’s story as its developers have into improving its player experience. As sorry as I am to say this, but while it’s fun, Deus-Ex is not all slicey smashy shooty, it is a game with a theme and a story.
Regardless of how it pans out, I am looking forward to experiencing it, and hope that after you consider the relevance of the story from reading this article you might eventually play it. Games like Half-Life, that have a great story, great gameplay, longevity, and a resonant theme, are a rare occasion. I am not saying that ‘Deus-Ex: Mankind Divided’ will be one of those games, but it certainly has the potential to be judging by the gameplay and trailers released at the time of writing. I certainly hope that it will do this, though we’ll all find out in two weeks regardless.