So I stealthed my way through most of the level, ignoring side corridors in order to hit the half-hour mark while falling back on my Human Revolution patterns. The mission area is huge and packed with patrollers, which made for a challenge. Still, it was enjoyable enough.
The problem is I have very little idea of how the game plays, still. Missions were already one of Human Revolution’s weak points. Deus Ex is more a series about the choices you make—when talking to people, or in missions, or building out Jensen. By focusing on a mission here, the Mankind Divided demo does a good job showing off the active systems in the game (i.e. combat, stealth) but does little in the way of highlighting the writing or the branching story. How could you, in a short little demo like this?
The problem is I don’t think Deus Ex is that great on a systems level. Competent, maybe, but this isn’t a game I’m playing for the stealth or the shooting. Those are just obstacles in the way of my next story beat.
This came to a head when I tried out the game’s “Breach Mode”—an asynchronous multiplayer mode divorced from Jensen’s story. It boils down to challenge rooms, which you’re supposed to sprint through as fast as possible in order to put up the best times.
I’m sure there’s a group of people—maybe some who haven’t ever played Deus Ex before, even—who will find this mode enticing. But me? I just don’t quite get it. To me, Deus Ex is a game built around story. Take that away and you’re left with some subpar stealth mechanics, mediocre guard AI, and a bunch of seemingly-identical rooms to “rob.”
What’s the fun in that?
And so I’m reserving judgment. I had an exciting time playing the demo mission—it felt good to take over Jensen again, to see him suited up and crouch-walking and knocking guards out with a single punch.
I simply don’t know yet whether Deus Ex can deliver on its story. It’s certainly ambitious, this whole “mechanical apartheid” storyline they’ve got going. Now I just need to have it in my hands so I can peel back all those layers.
But I’m calling it right now: The Illuminati did it.
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