"...new and exciting challenges not unlike the VR missions in the original Metal Gear Solid."
There wasn't much that I saw during the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided stage demo that I hadn't already written about before. Adam's back, he's got a whole mess of new powers, and the franchise's focus on player choice and agency to accomplish a goal remains thankfully intact. What was interesting, however, was the new mode, dubbed Deus Ex: Breach, which seeks to recreate the core gameplay loop of Adam's exploits in unique puzzle-like environments.
Breach puts you in the role of a Ripper, a hacker-for-hire attempting to break into various security systems and learn secrets most likely related to the series' set of shadowy antagonists. The cyberspace world the Rippers work in is modeled like a standard level in the main game, though the whole thing is now seen in a unique Tron-like veneer of computer interfaces and abstract art. Stylistically, Breach is immediately noticeable and stands out amidst a sea of similar looking brown shooters and realistic video game worlds. At the same time, everything still fits with the Deus Ex aesthetic (lots of triangles, cyberpunk gadgets, etc.).
The abstract design allows Breach to play things straighter than one might expect. My first few "rooms" were relatively straightforward: open a door, hack a computer terminal as an objective, move on to the next zone. Things got more interesting when I had to carefully examine the level layout to find a platform capable of boosting me up to the next area, or use a moveable pedestal to block the line of sight of a nasty gun turret. Everything certainly feels more gamified, sure, but it helps to create new and exciting challenges not unlike the VR missions in the original Metal Gear Solid.
Naturally, there are enemies wandering the halls, and this is where I got a chance to see some of the enhancements to Deus Ex's stealth formula. Bad guys don't instantly go into an alert phase if they see you, creating a little bit of wiggle room not unlike Metal Gear Solid V or the past two Hitman games. They're still incredibly aggressive and deadly should violence erupt, but they don't seem quite as unfairly precise as Human Revolution's opposition.
Players gain new abilities via random collectibles at the end of a successful mission. This allows you to equip new guns, enhance your avatar's abilities (the double jump was key for my second sortie), or better prepare for another assault. This is the one area where I have some concerns, as Square Enix talked about microtransactions that can boost your Ripper's abilities faster. It's always hard to find the right balance in this regard, as I think the idea of pay-to-win is slightly disgusting in a lot of ways. The developers assured us players will be able to complete challenges without having to pay, thankfully, so it's something to keep an eye on in the future.
Breach seems like the perfect fit for the Deus Ex experience, and it's my hope that Square Enix will learn from some of the positive word of mouth and success they've had with the latest Hitman in terms of support post-release. Imagine how cool it would be to get some daily challenges or unique hacks that are only open for a limited amount of time! Deus Ex: Breach will ship with Mankind Divided on August 23rd in North America.
Everyone, say it with me now…
We asked for this.