By Arthur Augustyn / June 21st, 2015
This article was written by Arthur Augustyn
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of those games where you finished it and thought “they could make this same game again next year, and I’d still want to play it.” It’s a game that’s core concept was so solid, you wouldn’t mind wanting to play more of it. That’s largely what earned the original Deus Ex such a massive fanbase and what inspired Eidos to bring the series back to life in 2011. It’s been four years since Eidos Montreal released Human Revolution and from the looks of the backstage presentation we got for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, they’re making some changes to adapt to the criticisms Human Revolution received, but otherwise sticking to what made Deus Ex so popular in the first place.
Our demo of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided began with a “walk and talk,” a story-focused pseudo-cutscene similar to the opening of Human Revolution to give us an idea of the state of the world in Mankind Divided. It’s two years after the previous game and the public’s view of augmented individuals has gone from envy to outright bigotry. Due to events in the previous games, “augs” have been viewed as dangerous and frequently seen as potential terrorists, as such they’re treated as high-risk security threats. The main character, Adam Jensen, is meeting an associate at a train station where security protocols have been amped up to single out augmented people. There are clearly-labeled lines for “Augmented” and “Humans”, and the entire populace holds a disgust for anyone who looks modified. This is summarized when a woman is knocked down and a stranger offers to help her up, but quickly regrets his decision when he realizes the woman is augmented, he curses at her, releases her hand, and lets her fall back to the ground. The world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of discrimination and a new form of “racial” tension. The new world is ripe for political radicals who are fed up with being mistreated. Shortly after Jensen catches up with his colleague, the train station is attacked by terrorists.
The world-building seemed remarkably familiar in all the good and bad ways that Human Revolution did. It has the geopolitical espionage that Deus Ex has become known for, but also has a tendency to drop a thousand terms and vocabulary words that make it easy to get lost. Since this is a demo that’s clipped from the middle of a game that’s not out yet, I accepted that I knew I wouldn’t know what was going on, but it reminded me that I finished Human Revolution not knowing what actually happened. With that in mind, Eidos Montreal addressed that the ending of Human Revolution was not something they’re proud of.
“There was a lot of flak for the ‘one button ending’ at the end of the game,” said Mary DeMarle, Execute Narrative Director for Eidos Montreal, “it was a design we didn’t want for the game, but running out of time, we did it.” DeMarle says they have changed the design of the ending of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and that your ending will be based on various choices you make before the ending events of the game. The other major gripe from players was how the game played, which is what the rest of the demo was about.
The demo flashes forward some several dozen hours later to an action sequence to show off the improvements made to the gameplay. Eidos says they received feedback saying that players felt stealth was the way to play the first game, but they wanted players to feel like the combat approach was a viable option as well. After all, Deus Ex has always been about sticking to the four pillars of Combat, Stealth, Hacking, Social, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided should be no different. One of the immediate differences I noticed in the demo is that the health and energy have been reworked as bars. In the first game, health was a numerical number ranging from 0 to 100, and energy was a depletable bar similar to a cell phone battery. In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Health and Energy are long solid bars that look like they’ll recharge over time. Unfortunately, Eidos mentioned that for the sake of the demo they had unlimited energy and health turned on, but it looks like the energy system has been reworked to make the use of augmentations more viable instead of munching protein bars every five seconds like in the first game. This should make a huge difference for the actual gameplay, since it means all the new augmentations shown off in the demo will actually be useful.
Most of the demo was checkpointed by new gizmos to show off. The first of which was a Tesla gun meant for non-lethal playthroughs. This gun can lock-on to up to four targets at once and shoot a non-lethal electrical charge to incapacitate foes. Eidos wanted to provide an option to players wanting to perform stealth runs and give them more capabilities other than silent takedowns and stun guns.
The Tesla gun was a new tool, but they also showed off some tweaks to old abilities and tightening of old concepts, such as the Icarus Dash. Previously, there were two separate augmentations for running faster and for jumping higher. Now, they’ve combined the two augmentations in something called the “Icarus Dash” which can be used horizontally and vertically. Jensen can prime the ability to see where he’s going to end up and use it to traverse terrain. Jensen can also use this ability as a combat tool to stun enemies when he’s in a bind. In addition to the Icarus Dash retooling, the X-Ray vision has returned and provided more feedback to the player and now shows what type of guns enemies are holding and other supplemental information.
Another of the additions included the Nanoblade, the equivalent of a bow-and-arrow weapon for Deus Ex. Not because it looks like a bow-and-arrow, but because enemies who get hit by it will get stuck to the wall behind them. Eidos also showed off a neat trick where the Nanoblade can be overloaded and shot near unsuspecting enemies. The sound of the blade hitting the wall will catch their attention, but when they turn toward the blade, it will shatter into shrapnel, killing them instantly.
The last of the augmentations were the Icarus Strike, Remote Hacking, and Titan Shield. Icarus Strike should be familiar to fans of Human Revolution, a massive explosion that’s released when Jensen attacks enemies from above. Eidos noted that they added more verticality in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, specifically to give this augmentation more use. Remote Hacking will allow manipulation of turrets to be more useful, as it allows Jensen to hack turrets and cameras from afar. Finally, the Titan Shield shrouds Jensen with thick black armor that makes him invulnerable for a number of seconds.
Jensen’s Titan Shield was engaged for a climactic epic battle toward the end of the demo which showed off other tangential elements that had been added to the combat improvements of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. For example, the AI remains intact, functioning off of the “last known position” mechanic that’s become popular in recent years. Enemies will only work on information that they themselves have gathered. Which means if they haven’t personally seen Jensen leave a spot of cover, they’ll keep shooting at it until they see him somewhere else. This was shown in the demo when the player snuck around enemies and watched the guards shot at where Jensen was a few seconds ago while he gained a better position. This also provided an opportunity to see how destructible cover has been improved thanks to the new hardware. It was clear that Eidos wanted the world to feel fragile and Jensen had to keep moving from spot to spot. Even the waist-high walls that were safe felt like they crumpling to the onslaught of bullets flying at them.
The demo concluded with a confrontation of a story character using the new social mechanic, which looked remarkably similar to the one found in Human Revolution. Jensen chooses a type of approach that’s summarized in one word such as “Justify, Patronize, or Turn Tables,” and judges if it’s working based on the response of the character. However, in the first game there was a heart monitor that provided more feedback to the player and that appears to be absent in this demo. They didn’t spend much time on that aspect of the game and they did say at the start of the demo that they were not focusing on social at this time. I wasn’t able to ask about it in our interview later.
Eidos Montreal seems to be reacting to all the feedback they received for the first game and applying it to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. They’re making the choices meaningful, they’re improving the combat, they’re adding more augmentations, they’re making those augmentations more viable, and they’re even re-designing the boss fights to be in the spirit of the franchise. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is expected to be released early next year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the PC.
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