Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a cerebral take on a concept we’ve seen countless times before. It makes you think about augmentation in human terms, rather than reducing it to simple perks and brutal melee takedowns. While you can easily see the effects of the cyber-renaissance embedded in the flesh of Adam Jensen, the world itself often feels sparse and superficial. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided promises to take us deeper.
The hands-off portion of our Mankind Divided demo begins exactly how you’d expect. Adam Jensen – gruff, damaged, devilishly pointy – is rudely awoken by a request to help contain some fresh disaster. He’s holed up in a sticky Prague apartment that feels torn from the pages of a JG Ballard short. Pristine tech sits atop battered furniture, dust swirls in the slatted sunlight. It’s a welcome return to taut, neo-noir setting of the first game.
The greatest compliment I can pay Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that the stuff I saw in Prague helped me make my decisions in Dubai. I chose non-lethal methods in the vague hope that I could somehow atone for the Aug Event. I wanted to show the doubters in Task Force 29 that I was more than just a time bomb in sharp sunglasses. I managed to get through most of the level without taking a single life (except for one sorry exception, when the urge to use fist-chisels overcame me). I chose the most peaceful resolution in the boss fight, even though a reckless shootout would have been more fun. This is also a useful example of how the boss battles now offer multiple approaches. I sprint in behind line of fire, using the distraction to reach my objective unnoticed, rather than destroying everything. It’s great to have the choice, and a welcome departure from the first game.
This, then, is perhaps this is the smartest thing about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and comes back to a point made in our earlier preview. It’s a game that requires context to work. It’s not enough to know that your version of Adam Jensen isn’t a bad guy: you have to understand why your peers might distrust you, and try to win their support. That’s why the stuff in Prague is so resonant. You’re given a humane snapshot of how people are feeling on both sides of the conflict, and it tempered everything I did in my demo. There’s still a place for satisfying sniper shots and pinning people to walls with Jensen’s snazzy new nanoblades, but the emphasis on human cost adds a pleasing level of depth. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will succeed or fail on the quality of the story, but it’s already a world I want to know more about.