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E3 2016: Adopting a Silent – and Violent – Approach in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Following the catastrophic closing moments of 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, its follow-up – as its subtitle capably suggests – finds those with mechanical augmentations feared and hated by the rest of society.

As our hands-on demo of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided opened, returning protagonist Adam Jensen literally sat at the center of this delicate, potentially volatile rift. As the only augmented member of an elite anti-terrorism unit, he was wedged between his squad mates on a chopper headed for Dubai.

Of course, any awkwardness between Jensen and is flesh-and-blood peers was put on the back-burner when he dove from the transport and landed on a rooftop, like a superhero making a grand entrance. Tasked with disrupting an arms deal at the under-construction resort, Jensen immediately began doing what he does best – sneaking, hacking, and putting the sleeper-hold on unsuspecting, gun-toting goons.

Behind the controls, we accomplished many of these actions with the aid of Jensen’s augmentations. Utilizing his Smart Vision, for example, we identified structural weaknesses in the environment before putting Jensen’s fist through them. Watching Jensen punch through concrete like its paper mache never gets old.

As we progressed – leaving plenty of unconscious foes and compromised keypads in our wake – we discovered new augments, while optional tutorials provided the basics on combat, cover, and stealth. With a bit of practice, we learned that combining basic stealth and cover mechanics with Jensen’s Leg Silencers and Cloak augmentations allowed us to clear enemy-filled rooms like a ghost.

Our stealthy approach failed us, however, when we exited an air vent into an area crawling with baddies. While we were able to silently thin the herd, it wasn’t long before all hell broke loose. Surrounded on all sides, we hunkered down and traded the non-lethal approach for a slightly more explosive strategy. More specifically, we unleashed Jensen’s Typhoon ability; a returning favorite from Human Revolution, the power sees its wielder stylishly spin around before encircling himself with tiny spheres that go boom in bad guys’ faces.

Coupled with the occasional grenade toss and cloaking – while waiting for the Typhoon augment to recharge – we thwarted the threat, albeit with far more casualties than our previous encounters. With a whipping sandstorm gaining steam, we urgently pressed forward to kill the arms deal before it went down. Complicating matters was the presence of an undercover agent we were tasked with protecting… and the appearance of a mysterious group of masked menaces, who appeared to cloak in and out of view, much like Jensen.

Witnessing the exchange from a distance, we learned that the deal was for actual arms, as in augmented limbs. Caught off-guard by the shocking revelation, Jensen allowed the bad guys to get away with the goods… almost. In a last ditch effort, we were ordered to disable a chopper before the terrorists could board it and escape.

Both a blessing and a curse, the sandstorm greatly decreased our visibility, but allowed us to sneak past the panicked enemies. After we removed the helicopter’s power source, the storm progressed to the point that it began destroying everything around us. As some enemies frantically fled the area, with others swept up in the destruction, Jensen’s fate hung in the balance… and our demo came to a close.

While we hate leaving the game on such a nail-biting note, the moments leading up to the preview’s cliffhanger – from the highly pliable gameplay to the engrossing story beats – have us anxiously awaiting Deus Ex: Mankind Divideds August 23 launch date.