What It’s Like to Play ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’

2 minute read

It’s not that cyberpunk action-stealth game Deus Ex: Mankind Divided wants to be anodyne — it’s that you have to be interested enough to look past its delivered narrative to unearth its roiling underside of politically vivid subtext.

It’s not lit in neon over bionic security operative Adam Jensen’s head, in other words, but hidden in plain sight, sequestered on password-shielded laptops, or in the subtext of scattered personal data logs, or the chatter of marginalized victims. These things invite your attention, though the game won’t force your gaze. It’s not studio Eidos Montreal trying to avoid offending anyone, but more a designer building a lattice of disturbing ideas and tableaus that speak for themselves, instead of proselytizing about them.

It’s also an incredibly rich experience if you love games that give you meaningfully discrete ways of approaching tactically interesting problems. As I wrote in my review:

“Everything feels purpose built in these cobblestone streets and crumbling baroque facades patrolled by armored cops and over-curious drones. Movable garbage bins or cardboard boxes might hide a wall vent or passageway. Hackable apartment doors conceal valuables and laptops with potentially diverting vignettes. Construction elevators lead to alt-paths along rooftops or through windows—sometimes ways of gaining surreptitious access to heavily patrolled areas. Peer closely at the parameters of an environment or scenario and you’ll often find you’ve only glimpsed their elasticity. That you can approach each problem posed in so many distinct and satisfying ways is this series’ continued triumph.”

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com