Get your William Gibson On
The next chapter in Adam Jensen’s life has finally arrived and I’m thrilled to vicariously experience the hardships of a man-machine who always finds himself in the middle of Illuminati conspiracies, private security firms and state-of-the-art technology.
Our cyberpunk hero is an experienced computer hacker, arm-sword duellist and all-round cool dude. The guy has sunglasses hardwired to his face for Gibson’s sake!
Mankind Divided is the sequel to Human Revolution; Deus Ex’s modern series of prequels—confused yet? It’s ok. Eidos Montréal thought ahead and provided a recap video to clarify the status quo and your place in it.
Post Human Revolution
After the lengthy introduction it is blatantly obvious that the people hate augmented technology with a passion. Their reasons are totally justifiable, too. You know, someone flipped a killswitch that triggered cyborgs worldwide to become murder hobos. Well, this new world order is the product of augmentation paranoia and our boy, Jensen, is among the persecuted.
So yeah, there’s a lot of ‘we don’t serve your augmented kind here’ sort of dialogue, which makes sense. Jensen has gone from being a feared private security enforcer to being some lackey for an international police counter-terrorism unit.
Oh yeah, among the early cutscenes we see a young Bob Page at a board meeting with executive-types talking about how they’re butt-hurt about the direction of humanity blah blah blah. Bob’s a familiar face from the original Deus Ex. I like that we’re seeing the build-up to Ion Storm’s magnum opus rather than a remake of the classic. Eidos Montréal is doing an excellent job at enriching the source material.
Learn the Basics
My Adam Jensen prefers the non-lethal approach and was issued a stun gun, which is a subtle nod to the original game where JC Denton was given a similar choice prior to taking on terrorists at the Statue of Liberty.
Instead of raiding a monument, however, your first assignment is to jump out of a plane, nail the landing with your mad skills and then sneak into a dilapidated facility to find some dude—that is if you choose to be stealthy. This is your typical tutorial fare.
Stealth seems to be more forgiving in Mankind Divided. A sentry might get suspicious if they see or hear you but the jig’s not necessarily up when the baddies spot you. In our last adventure, Human Revolution, when Jensen’s cover was blown he’d generally be forced into lethal gunplay to survive the rest of the encounter. Fortunately, there is more nuance with AI NPC behaviours, sort of.
At first, my boy Jensen was taking advantage of high ground, scaling up walls, crawling through vents, traipsing walkways and sniping the terrorists with his special pistol that fires stun bullets (far superior to the stun prods and tasers of old).
The mission was going so well, too. So there Jensen was, creeping around crates, knocking thugs out at close range and then he took a wrong step trying to manoeuvre around some cover, jumped up and might as well have yelled: come at me, bro.
50 kazillion armed mercenaries chased Jensen to where the secondary objective was. Sure, that was convenient; he needed to shut down some kit to help the team complete their task. Unfortunately, Jensen’s fans crowded the door threshold, scrambling for an autograph or something.
And then those submachine guns started chattering and our bullet-magnet dived for what little protection a beige crate offered. The non-lethal route was no longer viable. Jensen had been plucking ammo and SMGs from fallen dudes; the only way out was to join the conversation.
Gunplay and Parkour
Jensen blazed his way out of with precise, short SMG bursts. Burning through ammo, he filched his other pistol, that one that hurts, and he let rip while running for the next objective.
The gameplay is fun, intense and aesthetically pleasing from the metallic sheen of Jensen’s robotic limbs to the level of detail in the environment and objects. You can pick up and throw boxes and fire extinguishers. It’s quite an immersive experience.
The cover system lets you vault over ledges while the more vertical level design encourages you to drop from great heights and find tactical positions for sniping.
Welcome to City 17, uh, I mean Praha
The scripted sequence after your interpol mission is heavy-handed and might’ve been more effective as just another cutscene. Your controls are disabled and you, frustratingly, follow an on-rails path that serves as a flawed demonstration of the game engine. In my experience, Jensen clipped a few character models along the way while other NPCs stood around with vacant facial expressions.
You meet a fellow clank, Alex, and you are frequently accosted by Combine soldiers, I mean Monolith officers. That Half-Life 2 European oppression stuff establishes place quite well.
Ready for More
My first hour was satisfying and intriguing. So far, all I care about is learning more about the greater conspiracies and how Jensen changes the status quo. Early reports from other critics claim that the narrative is not as ambitious as before, which is a shame. I enjoy solid storytelling. Does that mean that we’re in for a more cohesive journey? We’ll have to play and see.