Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - power and choice in cyberpunk Prague

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This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 285. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.

Deep in a theatre in rainy Prague, bionic commando Adam Jensen is trapped in a closet. The door is the only exit, and that’s guarded by a bipedal robot loaded up with machine guns. There must be a way out; Deus Ex is all about choice.

I search for a vent, because there’s always a vent. But with the exception of a big bin, the room is empty. I have fled into the most featureless and poorly ventilated space in the Deus Ex universe. I consider my abilities: my electric dash will get me killed slightly faster than ambling into fire. Cloaking isn’t going to help either. I press a button to bring up my gun. From here you can switch ammo types, add silencers and tweak your scope. No armour-piercing rounds. Damn.

A frag grenade! Robots hate frag grenades. I open the door, toss the egg and close it again as the robot opens fire. WHUMP. I use my augmented vision mode to see through the wall and spot the robot lying still on its side. I crack the door. There’s a terrible whirring noise. The robot stirs, righting itself in a hideous tangle of legs. It’s not dead. It’s not dead at all.

I retreat into the room. This is Adam Jensen’s life now, this room. It’s an incongruous end for a man who has dedicated the two years since the events of Human Revolution to becoming the perfect walking weapon. Human Revolution Jensen was the improvised, slightly buggy prototype who could only punch two people before having to recharge his batteries. Mankind Divided Jensen is colder, harder and deadlier. Eidos Montreal refer to him as Jensen 2.0.

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Jensen 2.0 has just come up with a very stupid plan. With the right upgrades Jensen can lift huge objects, like the massive bin sitting in the corner. I open the door and grab the fridge-sized object, hugging it against my belly for dear life. The robot opens fire, and the bin soaks up the bullets—it’s working! I bump the robot backwards. The robot’s guns fire point blank into the bin as we perform an absurd rotating waltz into the corridor. I’m a genius. I silently thank Prague council’s commitment to bin sturdiness and slowly back away. I make it fi ve steps before the bin breaks. I’m an idiot.

I’m also dead, but laughing. In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, even a tiny and almost featureless room can create moments of emergent absurdity. “That’s exactly the kind of story that we look for,” gameplay director Patrick Fortier tells me. “We really believe in the strength of spontaneous moments. They’re really powerful, and we believe that they’re as exciting for players as the big scripted moments.”

I’m inclined to agree, and happy to discover that Mankind Divided is a solid continuation of the Human Revolution formula. In Mankind Divided Jensen flies all over the world as a special forces expert working for the Deus Ex equivalent of Interpol. The world is still reeling from Human Revolution’s techno-virus outbreak that turned augmented individuals into frenzied cyborg killers. Now augmented people are oppressed, segregated and treated as an underclass in what Eidos Montreal awkwardly refer to as a “mechanical apartheid”. Jensen wants to track down the Illuminati members responsible for the state of the world, and punch them with his big metal hands. As executive narrative director Mary DeMarle puts it: “he wants to meet the puppeteer, he doesn’t want to just be the puppet anymore.”

The new hubs will be more populated and detailed than those of Human Revolution.

Mankind Divided will play out over a collection of hub zones, although Eidos Montreal hasn’t confirmed how many yet. The Prague level I explored takes place in one corner of a sizeable area—roughly two or three city blocks in size. The rest of the zone was locked off so I couldn’t explore first-hand, but the new hubs will be more populated and detailed than Human Revolution’s, thanks in large part to Mankind Divided’s new engine.

“It’s definitely a bigger monster than Human Revolution was,” says audio director Steve Szczepkowski. “In Human Revolution we could put maybe twelve people on screen that were moving, and then maybe another six static that would just sit and do their occupation. Well, that’s doubled.” The amount of dialogue has grown as a result. “I don’t remember what the total actor count is, but I know we’re already way over a hundred. And that’s with unique characters and all the factions we have so there’s a lot of voices. We’ve done a lot for the acting economy here in Montreal.”

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.