E3 may be over, but there are some impressions to post. Pascal Tekaia reports on the time he spent watching Adam Jensen kick-punch through some Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Square Enix provided a lot of ground to cover at this year's E3. Between Kingdom Hearts, various Final Fantasy announcements and demos, Dragon Quest, and lower-profile but big-buzz titles like I Am Setsuna, its hands were full with fantasy RPGs. Luckily, it didn't neglect a very different, futuristic RPG that deserved all the show floor space it got: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Showing up at the Square Enix reception desk for our appointment, Chris and I were promptly escorted to the Deus Ex public theater, to witness the demo about to take place.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided opens up with an impressive live-action sequence, depicting the distrust and desperation of a population driven to paranoid segregation. Taking place two years after Human Revolution, human augmentation has driven a wedge into the population. Augmentation had become more popular than ever, but then things started going wrong. Subjects' bodies rejected their augmented organs and body parts; some individuals became afflicted with psychotic episodes, turning on their families and loved ones in uncontrolled fits of murderous rage; families were torn apart, augmented civilians rounded up and imprisoned in camps. A state set in known as the "mechanical apartheid." Transhumanism became at best frowned upon, and in some urban centres downright outlawed. Limb clinics were shut down, armed checkpoints sprang up, and the entire augmentation trade went underground to the black market.
It is in this world climate that our story returns to Adam Jensen. Now a member of a task force working for Interpol to track down rogue Augs, Adam lives in Prague. Thirty hours prior, he had been in a local train station when it fell victim to a bombing assault, causing his augments to malfunction until he can get them brought back online. This becomes Adam's first order of business: visit Vaclav Koller, a local book seller with good connections and a soft spot for Augs. As Adam emerges from his flat, we see daylight for what seems like one of the first times in the series. Our guide from Eidos made sure to point out this bright sky as Adam made his way down the steps of his building and into the ghetto of Prague's poor district, where Augs like himself are forced to live.
While on his way through the poor districts' checkpoints manned by armed officers, Adam received a message from Vaclav. A score of unsavory Dvali soldiers had just shown up at his bookstore, and to come walking in through the front door may have been a bad decision at that moment. Our guide used the opportunity to remind us of the open-ended gameplay in effect in Mankind Divided. Each mission — and by extension the whole game — can be tackled in any number of ways, from sneaking stealthily, to skillful wordplay, to turning technology against foes by using augments, to simply shooting first and asking questions later. Choosing the quiet approach, we were assured that this time a completely non-lethal playthrough of the game is possible, including bosses, for those who so choose.
A safe and quiet way to enter the bookshop via its rooftop (the game has been designed with verticality in mind) required going through a neighboring apartment building. It's here, in a stranger's living room, that we encountered the first of the game's many optional side quests: a dead body lay on the floor, as yet undiscovered by the authorities. Even though the Adam in our demo moved on without sparing the body another thought, players will be able to tackle these optional missions if they so choose, and can even control the amount of time they're willing to invest into them. Side quests in Mankind Divided will be layered, and players can finish them quickly, ticking off objectives in rapid succession, or stay and dig deep, really get to the bottom of what's happening in the world, and spend several hours on one side quest alone.
What happened from here until the end of the demo was a stealth/combat section that showed off some of the various methods at Adam's disposal. Having entered through the bookstore's skylights, Adam used his Smart Vision to not only see enemy locations, but also their info, what weaknesses they have (if any), and other objects of note in the environment. Adam snuck up on guards to take them out silently, tossed in smoke grenades that let him get past unharmed with the power of his augmented lung capacity, and even threw his cybernetic blades to pin foes to the wall. Once he cleared the shop of soldiers, Adam finally made his way to Vaclav Koller's secret workshop. Where the story goes from here is anybody's guess, but the demo certainly was enough to make me eager for the game's August 23, 2016, release date.