If stealthily hacking terminals, stealing sensitive data, and infiltrating secure servers are among your favorite activities in the Deus Ex series, then Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s new Breach mode should more than scratch your itch for acquiring top-secret intel.
Described as a “connected arcade puzzle-shooter” by Eidos Montreal producer Fleur Marty, the online, leaderboard-supported mode is a standalone complement to protagonist Adam Jensen’s story-driven campaign. As especially skilled hackers, dubbed “Rippers,” players are tasked with circumventing the supposedly un-breachable servers of what Marty calls “the Fort Knox of data.” More specifically, Breach sees users exploiting an enhanced virtual reality-based technology to dig up corrupt corporations’ dirtiest secrets.
Whether swiping the data to spread the truth or steal it for personal gain, players do so by literally entering these secure digital archives as pixel people. Evocative of “Tron,” “The Matrix,” “Avatar,” and any other popular sci-fi property that’s granted humans a passport to the virtual world, Breach doesn’t put its protagonists in front of a glowing terminal, but inside it.
Sporting a minimalist, abstract graphical presentation, the mode’s levels, characters, and environments are brought to life via an appealing VR-inspired art style. While it represents a significant departure from the realism and authenticity of Adam Jensen’s world, Breach’s slick ghost-in-the-machine vibe gives it a defining personality all its own.
Once inside a corporation’s server, players can do most of the same stuff Jensen does, from sneaking and stealthily hacking to shooting bad guys with reckless abandon. While more accessible and streamlined, the gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who’s cracked a conspiracy – or cranium – as Jensen. Rippers can even use augments, including ones not available in the main game. During our demo, for example, we equipped a double-jump ability, an enhancement unavailable to Jensen’s cybernetic legs.
As with the main game, the Breach mode also features different paths, optional objectives, and player-driven choices. Its real draw, though, is its capacity to spark friendly online competition among other players. Both time and score are tracked for each level, encouraging users to master each mission if they wish to top the leaderboards. Additionally, a number of upgrades, unlocks, and collectibles – from augments and experience points to currency and weapon mods – guarantee a high replayability factor.
Breach’s bonuses and perks can’t be shared with Jensen, but its story does have some narrative ties to the core Mankind Divided campaign. The corrupt companies that you infiltrate as Rippers are referenced in the main game, while the adverse affects of your hacking exploits might be reported on a newscast along Jensen’s path. Breach also contains its own story elements, like the search for evidence of a medical experiment gone wrong, which is the situation that drove our demo.
Whether you’re looking to dig deeper into Deus Ex‘s rich lore or just want to best your buddy’s speed-run through a particular level, the Breach mode looks to be a fun, challenge-based complement to Mankind Divided‘s single-player campaign. We look forward to reconnecting with our digitized form when the game infiltrates Xbox One on August 23.