I’ve been sinking my teeth pretty deeply into Deus Ex: Mankind Divided over the past week, and apart from being a hell of a game, it has made me think about my approach to situations and scenarios within most video games.
Generally speaking, I “min/max” my way through most games, I like to find the most effective and direct way through the situations, and this means for games like Deus Ex, I murder a lot of people. A. LOT. But Mankind Divided has not only broken me of this, but has managed to apply a weight to my actions that I have previously disassociated while playing most games.
Mankind Divided drops you directly into the middle of a real shit show. 2 years after the events of Human Revolution, non-augmented people are now fearful and openly resentful of the augmented after an incident that saw “Clanks” receive a signal at the end of Human Revolution and lose control of their bodies, resulting in injuries and fatalities around the world. As a result, cities like Prague, where most of the game takes place, is a current hotbed of unrest between the augmented and naturals. This is woven into every aspect of the story, and as such influences your decisions in this world.
This paints the city and it’s inhabitants in a very messy shade of grey, something which the series has previously tried to do, but has always fallen a little short of. But I’ll be fucked if they didn’t nail it this time around.
One of the first side missions you encounter involves State Police shaking down augmented people for counterfeit checkpoint passes. The more you dig, you find that the person creating the counterfeit passes originally started to help her augmented friends and family, until a corrupt State Police officer found her and forced her, under threats of violence, to continue with the forgeries so that he could sell them at exorbitant prices.
This puts you the player in a tricky situation that there are many outcomes to. You could kill the Police officer and free the forger, you could pay the fee outright and move on or you could try and blackmail the officer into a discount. These decisions are nothing really new in a game of this type, hell, the situation itself isn’t exactly all that original. The weight of the situation comes from the tension of the world.
Murdering the cop would be seen as not only killing law enforcement officer (even if he is trash) but also augmented on natural violence, sparking civil unrest and panic. Blackmailing the cop is a real shitty thing to do, as you are leveraging a good intending person’s (albeit guilty, she was making fucking forgeries) misfortunes into your personal gain. You could choose to ignore the whole thing entirely and pay the money and move on, but be leaving a potential powder keg smouldering for some other poor augmented individual to walk into.
It’s these shades of grey that make it hard for you to tell who’s really a “bad guy”, and who’s someone doing something kinda shitty just to get by. And because of this, it wasn’t until ¾ of the way through this game that I willingly took lethal action against ANYONE. Let’s be clear here, EVERYONE is trying to either murder you or fuck you over in some type of way, and there are ample opportunities for you quietly eviscerate and hide the motherfucker’s bodies. But the doubt that this game, A GAME, puts into your mind as to whether murdering fools is the answer is fucking staggering. It could be just me, and my affinity for this series, but I was willing to buy into the idea that Adam Jensen, augmented badass super agent, didn’t need to rack up a body count to get shit done.
And that was deeply refreshing.
I did punch a fuck ton of dudes in the neck though, so it wasn’t all sunshine and lollypops.