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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hands-on: Choose your own cyber-augmented adventure

Hayden Dingman | June 17, 2016
Deus Ex's famed open gameplay returns in Mankind Divided.

Of all the games I’ve played at E3 2016, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided might be the hardest to write about. Like the legendary 1999 original and the 2011 follow-up Human Revolution (we don’t talk about the other sequel), Mankind Divided seems like a game that demands an investment. A hefty one.

It’s not, in other words, a game you play for thirty minutes at a time. It’s not a game where you can watch a cutscene in isolation and have a solid grasp of the plot. It’s not a game where you take the quickest route straight to the mission objective and then call it a day.

Instead, it’s like a puzzle box. Deus Ex is about the unfolding, about peeling back layers of plot and seeing what’s underneath, or the slow progression of game-changing gadgets. It’s about exploring every path, finding each unnecessary filler document, hacking every computer.

I mean, it doesn’t have to be that. The other conceit of Deus Ex is that it’s both a stealth game and shooter, an RPG and an action game. It’s a sandbox—not an open-world one, but much less linear than your average Call of Duty level. You’re encouraged to experiment, to make mistakes, to play through a second time and discover tactics you didn’t even know were in the game your first run.

Trying to fit that into a single thirty minute demo? Good luck.

deus ex mankind divided 2

To its credit, Square’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided E3 demo is pretty decent. Human Revolution protagonist Adam Jensen is back, a few years older and a few wrinkles grimmer. Jensen’s tasked with infiltrating a Dubai hotel and safely exfiltrating a wanted criminal, which is hard enough as-is.

But it’s even harder in the middle of a sandstorm.

I decided to go the nonlethal route, taking a long-range tranquilizer gun (my weapon of choice in Human Revolution too) into the compound. Then it was time to climb the tower. And hopefully not get spotted.

Okay, I got spotted. But only once! And when I did, I died. That tranquilizer rifle is useless in a fight.

But it’s amazing how open and spacious Mankind Divided’s levels feel. On my way through the hotel I was able to spot a number of alternate paths I could’ve sent Jensen down. Some are easy to locate—a vent high up on a wall, or a stray bit of scaffolding. Others are easier spotted with Jensen’s augmentations, like weak points in the wall that he can punch his big ol’ metal fist through. Not the stealthiest method but it works.

 

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