Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, A Man No Longer Whole

After surviving a catastrophic terrorist attack, Adam Jensen returns to a world crippled by strife. A fraction of the planet’s wealthy elite control the majority of the globe’s flow of money and technology, keeping the marginalized members of society under their corporate heel. Jensen joins a covert, government-sponsored task force that outfits him with a fresh array of transhuman augmentations in order to combat a new breed of terrorism that has arisen in the midst of this new world order. He’s better equipped than ever to tackle the challenges laid out before him which is good, because the last time Jensen tried to save the world, he failed.

Games that bear the Deus Ex name are judged by high standards. The original cyberpunk shooter, developed by Ion Storm under the leadership of legendary game designer Warren Spector, was a fresh blend of shooter and RPG mechanics. Released in 2000, the game was praised for its immersive sci-fi setting and open-ended gameplay choices. It quickly shot to the top of several industry “best of” lists, and developed a rabid following of enthusiastic fans. Any developer who tried to step into that legacy and deliver another game under the same banner would be evaluated with an extremely tall measuring stick.

No one knows this better than Jean-François Dugas. When Dugas was offered the opportunity to help found Eidos’ new Montreal studio in 2007 with the intention of developing a new Deus Ex title, he agonized over accepting the job for six weeks. It wasn’t that Dugas didn’t like Deus Ex he loved Deus Ex. Still, he had a comfortable career working for Ubisoft, directing franchises like Far Cry and Rainbow Six. He struggled with whether or not he had anything new or fresh to bring the Deus Ex franchise.

“The first Deus Ex made you feel clever,” says Dugas, now Eidos-Montreal’s executive game director. “It could make you think while entertaining you. I remember one moment early in the game where you had the option to go into the lady’s restroom. If you did, later on someone would comment on that. That was one of the first times in a game where I felt that I existed inside another universe. Some games feel like they don’t care about you, but with Deus Ex you felt like what you did mattered.”

For the kind of guy who agonizes over whether or not to take a job for six weeks, bringing one of the original shooter/RPG hybrids into the modern era was a stressful experience filled with many sleepless nights. Dugas and his team spent four years prototyping and building a prequel to the original Deus Ex that expanded on the series touchstones of stealth gameplay, first-person shooting, and social conversations. All this was served up to players through an open-ended gameplay structure that encouraged exploration. Fortunately, Dugas’ sleepless nights paid off. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was such a critical and commercial success that it overshadowed Ion Storm’s own underwhelming sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. Some fans argued that Human Revolution might not have surpassed the original game’s vision, but with Eidos-Montreal’s second outing, Mankind Divided, Dugas aims to create the most ambitious Deus Ex to date.

Near the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jensen witnesses a terrorist attack that changes the course of human history. After spending most of the game sniffing out clues that point to a secret cabal called the Illuminati, Jensen finds himself in the midst of a global conspiracy centered on transhuman biologic implants. The Illuminati activate a signal that causes transhumans across the globe to go insane triggering a fight-or-flight response that compels them to attack anyone nearby. The signal is only active for a few moments, but the disaster leaves a lot of people scarred both  physically and mentally.

After the attack, Jensen infiltrates a geoengineering plant called Panchaea, which was built to curb the tide of global warming and just happens to be funded with Illuminati interests. Aboard Panchaea, Jensen discovers the truth behind the attacks, which the press has already labeled the Aug Incident. At this point, players were faced with a choice that affects the end of the game: They can reveal the messy truth to the public, manipulate the evidence to suit their own purposes, or try to cover up the incident in the interest of global peace.

Eidos-Montreal says it won’t comment on which ending it considers to be canon. In fact, the team is trying to string together elements from each of Human Revolution’s endings to create the cultural backdrop for Mankind Divided. However, in the official Deus Ex lore, Panchaea was destroyed and crashed into the Arctic Ocean. In the wake of this disaster, augmented people were blamed for this “terrorist attack,” kicking off a cultural broil. Transhumans quickly came to be seen as second-class citizens, and were segregated from the rest of society. Eidos-Montreal refers to this as the mechanical apartheid, and was heavily inspired by films like  Disctrict 9 , which explored many of the same themes of forced eviction and xenophobia.

“Extremists exist both on the fringes of society and the highest echelons of power,” says executive narrative director Mary DeMarle. “The mechanical apartheid has marginalized augmented peoples from the rest of society, creating a struggle for survival. Jensen feels responsible for the events that took place in Human Revolution and, in many ways, this is a story of redemption for him.”

To achieve that redemption, Jensen believes that he needs to cut off the head of the shadowy organization that’s been pulling society’s strings. The Aug Incident was a tragedy, but for the Illuminati it was an opportunity. Jensen can sense this mysterious force slowly consolidating its power and pushing its own agenda.

Unfortunately, the last time Jensen tried to go against the Illuminati, a giant floating installation blew up in his face. In order to gain access to the resources he needs, Jensen joins Task Force 29, a new branch of Interpol designed to cut augmentation-based terrorism off at the knees. This government-sponsored group gives Jensen access to a new array of augmentations and weapons, and starts sending Jensen on a series of field missions that he hopes will eventually lead him closer to the Illuminati. But even with Interpol paying his medical bills, Jensen’s loyalties are divided.

The newly minted government agent isn’t sure whom he can trust, so while running missions with Task Force 29, Jensen also feeds intel to another covert organization called the Juggernaut Collective. This group of loosely affiliated hackers, activists, and international spies are attempting to expose the Illuminati and their manipulations, and Jensen believes that they might have information that will be instrumental to his mission.

“The Juggernaut Collective is a group of people who have long known the Illuminati are out there,” DeMarle says. “We call them hacktivists, but it’s not just hackers. It’s also ex-special forces and other people with means who’ve realized that the truth is out there. If we were to take Mulder from The X-Files and stick him in there, it’s those kinds of people.”

In true Deus Ex fashion, The Juggernaut Collective and Task Force 29 often give Jensen conflicting mission goals, and neither faction can be completely trusted. Jensen must behave like a double agent and carefully consider with which party he’ll ultimately side. Working two investigations at once, Jensen must decide who to trust and what to believe even when it seems like everyone is lying to him. However, these two organizations aren’t the only things fighting for Jensen’s time; the world is full of people in need.

One of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s early missions sends Jensen to a facility on the outskirts of Prague called Utulek Station. Originally built as temporary housing for Prague’s working class, Utulek Station quickly evolved into an internment camp for transhumans.

“Prior to the Aug Incident, Prague was a very progressive city, welcoming ugmented people from all over the world,” DeMarle says. “The Prague government actually offered incentives for augmented workers, but then the Aug Incident happened. It left a huge scar on the minds of the people, and the government became very reactionary. It became the Aug ghetto. It took that complex and turned it into an area where you have to live if you’re an Aug. It’s not quite a concentration camp, but if you’re undocumented and you’re  augmented, you will be sent there.”

Task Force 29 has been tracking the movements of an organization called the Augmented Rights Coalition. Popular media has branded ARC a terrorist organization, and Interpol wants Jensen to infiltrate Utulek Station and extract ARC’s figurehead, a man named Talos Rucker. A humanitarian aid worker to transhumans who also happens to be augmented, Rucker saw the oppression and social injustice imposed on  transhumans, and became vocal about how society has mistreated those like himself.

“ARC is presented as this terrorist organization,” Dugas says, “but when you actually go to Utulek Station and talk to some of their members, you’ll see that they’re doing what they feel they need to do to fight for augmented rights. They’re trying to grow their own food and give it to the population, they’re striking deals with the police to try to get more medicine, and they’re trying to ensure safety for those who are marginalized and augmented. So, from a certain point of view, this group is a terrorist group; from another point of view, those people are the only people fighting for their rights.”

Jensen’s plane drops him off near one of Utulek Station’s social hubs. Shops line the streets, some of them selling fresh fruit, others mechanical knickknacks and tools. Jensen looks up and sees temporary  housing units stacked one on top of another, reaching toward the sky. Even though Jensen can see patches of sky through gaps in the structure, Utulek Station gives off an imposing sense of claustrophobia. Electrical cables and pipes wind their way throughout the city’s streets, and a tower of monitors at the city center displays the news. In one corner, we see a group of police officers arresting a young transhuman; they derogatorily refer to him as a clank. In another section of the city, people complain that there isn’t enough food. Utulek Station feels like a city inside a building, and it’s not surprising that the complex’s low-rent nature has earned it the nickname Golem City.

The European Union presents Golem City as a place where augmented people can be together and be safe, but the police control the city’s flow of Neuropozyne a drug that transhumans need to keep their body from rejecting the mechanical implants under their skin. Golem City officials create an artificial shortage of this drug, and use it to control the residents. Jensen passes by a doctor who elaborates on this plight, and she asks him to keep a lookout for any extra supplies of the drug. Jensen runs into several people in areas like this that offer side quests and other opportunities to further explore the world. But Jensen doesn’t have time for that now; he has a terrorist to hunt down.

Jensen pushes deeper into Golem City, hoping to uncover clues that will lead him to Rucker, but Deus Ex missions rarely ever follow a linear path. At this point, Jensen can choose to meet up with one of his informants, but the police have taken this informant in for questioning. If Jensen chooses to butter up the informant’s wife, she might give him some clues that point to where Rucker is hiding, or she might tell him how to get in touch with her  husband. However, if Jensen causes a scene with the police, the informant’s wife will run off and he’ll lose that opportunity. In that case, Jensen can sneak into the informant’s house and hack his laptop to gain a bead on Rucker’s location. Alternatively, Jensen could bypass this area of the game  altogether and stumble upon a shortcut to ARC’s hideout on his own.

“Depending on how you play it, you can go through Golem City without talking to anybody, or you could talk to everybody and avoid combat and find some hidden storage areas with goodies you might want to use,” Dugas says. “You can go full combat or full stealth throughout any part of the game.”

After learning to navigate the streets of Golem City, Jensen finally has a handle on Rucker’s location. He’s ready to infiltrate ARC’s facilities and complete his mission. Unfortunately, there are a lot of men with guns standing between him and Rucker. Thankfully, Jensen is good at dodging bullets.

One of the most efficient ways to complete any objective is to ensure that your opponents aren’t even aware of your existence. Jensen has plenty of tools that help him ghost through his world, and he puts  several of them to good use as he journeys through the Augmented Rights Coalition headquarters.

“Our goal wasn’t to reinvent the wheel, but to build on the foundations we established in Human Revolution,” Dugas says. “With stealth, we felt that if it wasn’t broke, why fix it? We felt like what we had was pretty solid. Our stealth was praised as being really efficient and immersive.”

Inside ARC’s headquarters, the first thing Jensen does is pull up his augmentation wheel and assign a few Aug abilities to the quick select on the d-pad. The augmentation wheel is a new feature that streamlines the game’s controls and makes it easier for Jensen to use his mechanical gifts. Another change to the system is how augmentations consume energy. Inspired by Arkane Studio’s Dishonored, Mankind Divided’s augmentations consume a fixed amount of energy, but when Jensen stops using them, he regains a portion of that lost power. Jensen can refill his reserves completely with bio cells, but Eidos-Montreal hopes this recharging mechanic encourages players to use their augmentations more liberally.

Entering a kind of makeshift workout area, Jensen activates his smart vision, which allows him to see enemies through walls. Combining this ability with a ark-and-track augmentation allows Jensen to see the loot each enemy is carrying and track their general movements. Jensen moves silently around a boxing ring and does a double takedown with his arm-mounted nano blade. A few more guards stand between Jensen and his destination, but they don’t all need to end up in a pool of their own blood. Jensen uses his new remote-hack augmentation to activate a ladder that drops down, opening up a shortcut through the vents of the ARC complex. After stealthily navigating the living quarters and the operations area, Jensen slinks into Rucker’s office.

Rucker isn’t surprised to see Jensen, but he is grateful that he left most of his men alive. Jensen tells him that he is being taken in for questioning, but Rucker is  hesitant. ARC is a peacekeeping organization, and Rucker believes that if he comes with Jensen, the government will make him “disappear.”

Much like the rest of the game, the outcome of pivotal conversations like this one is based on player choice. In one playthrough, Rucker might get frustrated with Jensen and push an emergency button under his desk, forcing Jensen into a fight. In another, Rucker might agree to come with Jensen and even turn over a security card that gives him access to Rucker’s personal safe.

Our demo lands somewhere between these two options. After a heated debate about the merits of pacifism, Rucker asks Jensen to delay his arrest for a day so he can get his things in order. When Jensen presses him further, Rucker admits that he thinks certain members within ARC may be less committed to his peaceful ideals. Rucker believes that he has a terrorist inside his organization. But before Rucker can say much more, his body goes rigid. The augmentations in his chest and arms send him into convulsions before the electronics themselves start coming apart at the seams. Rucker is dead by the time his body hits the floor.

It seems that someone was listening in on Jensen’s conversation and didn’t like what they heard. It’s worth an investigation, but Jensen has more pressing concerns. Rucker made a great deal of noise when he expired, which alerted his bodyguards. Jensen activates his smart vision. On the other side of the door, he can see the heat signatures of a small security force. The team lines up, weapons ready, and then applies a blowtorch to the lock on Rucker’s door.

Eidos-Montreal received some interesting feedback from the fans of Human Revolution: Players who preferred stealth tended to enjoy the game more than those who opted for combat. The studio realizes that combat was the weakest part of Human Revolution and has spent the last couple years iterating on its gunplay, pushing combat to become as rewarding and entertaining as stealth. The results are
immediately apparent. Mankind Divided’s action plays out like a series of set-piece moments, which is all the more striking when you consider that most of the action isn’t scripted.

As Rucker’s security detail prepares to bash through the door, Jensen takes stock. He looks down at the rifle in his hand and a weapon’s setting overlay pops onscreen. At any point during the action, Jensen can press a button and adjust his weapon settings. Even in the heat of battle, Jensen can change ammo type, switch a gun’s firing pattern, affix a new scope, or adjust any number of weapon-specific settings. Jensen removes the silencer, clicks his assault rifle over to full auto, and hot swaps some more aggressive augmentations to his quick select; he’s tired of being stealthy.

Rucker’s door opens in a tiny explosion, and a couple of smoke grenades fill the room with gas. Jensen unloads into the fog. He doesn’t have to be cautious, because he’s activated his Titan nano shield augmentation. Bullets ping off his chest like hail on the hood of a car. This is just one example of Jensen’s new suite of combat augmentations.

“We wanted to provide Jensen with more aggressive augmentations,” Dugas says. “We wanted to give him augmentations that allow him to take more risks and be a little more daring, to dive into the heat of battle without fearing death. We hope to encourage players to be more audacious and engage in combat.”

This security team doesn’t stand much of a chance against a walking tank. As the game progresses, some enemies start to use Jensen’s own tricks against him. Given the cultural stance on augmentations, many police forces have started exploring external technologies such as exoskeletons and mechs that allow their users to perform many of the same superheroics as an augmented soldier. The results are the same: Jensen isn’t the only superhero in the game.

“We beefed up the kinds of enemies players will be facing,” Dugas says. “Not only do enemies have a variety of guns, but some of them have augments or other high-tech combat tools. Some enemies will have highjump abilities. Others will have Titan shields of their own. And our A.I. is a lot better at coordinating their strikes, flanking, and con-stantly forcing players to adapt their strategy on the fly. We’re hoping players will have more enticements to use their aggressive tools to get out of these situations.”

As Jensen rounds a corner and heads toward his extraction point, he runs into one of these new challenges: a defensive mobile turret. Jensen doesn’t have time to waste on this thing. Behind cover, he pulls up his weapon loadout quick select, switches over to armor-piercing rounds, then throws out an EMP grenade disabling the turret before sending a magazine of ammo through its motherboard. That takes care of one threat, but reinforcements are already closing in on Jensen’s location.

Our super soldier dives into a nearby greenhouse for safety. A holographic image displays his last known position, and Jensen takes advantage of the situation. As enemies begin to converge on the entrance to the greenhouse, Jensen uses his gun to chip away at one of the greenhouse’s rafters. Certain elements in the environment now react to combat, and Jensen can use this to his advantage. The wooden rafter finally gives way, splintering and sending a collection of barrels tumbling down on top of his enemy’s heads. Amidst the confusion, Jensen dashes toward the window and uses his Icarus propulsion system to boost through the greenhouse’s second-story window before landing safely on the street in a shower of glass.

As Jensen runs toward his dropship, several ARC enforcers line him up in their sights. However, before any of them get off a killshot, a burly transhuman steps out from the shadows and makes them lower their weapons. This man is Viktor Marchenko, a muscle-bound enforcer with a massive mechanical arm and a gnarly looking eye augmentation. As Jensen’s dropship takes off, he looks back and the two men exchange a knowing stare. Eidos-Montreal wasn’t willing to share much about Marchenko, but we know that he was one of Rucker’s lieutenants. With ARC’s leader out of the picture, could Marchenko soon be in charge? This mysterious figure doesn’t seem to want Jensen dead, but few people in the Deus Ex universe can truly be trusted.

As Jensen’s transport takes him back to Prague, he gives Golem City one last look. He’s stirred up a hornet’s nest, and his search to identify the shadowy figures manipulating the world’s politics has only left him with more questions. Fortunately, there will be other missions, and Jensen will surely return to Golem City to witness the effects of his time there. But for now, Jensen needs to regroup and plan his next approach.

Humanity has come a long way since rubbing sticks together to create fire. They have pushed human biology to its limit and then discovered ways to exceed even those limits. Sadly, those advances are now being rejected and a lot of people are being hurt in the process. The future of human evolution is at stake, and Jensen’s actions will shape that future.

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