The new game “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” — for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC — is a love letter to Philip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson, and the 1982 sci-fi film classic “Blade Runner.”
It’s the sci-fi / tech-noir game you’ve been waiting for.
It’s a gorgeous first-person game set in the not-so-distant future, where technology has gone from in your pocket to part of the human body.
If you like first-person shooters, this is a game for you. If you like sneaking around, hacking computers, and carefully completing objectives without alerting a single enemy, this is a game for you. If you prefer to talk your way out of sticky situations, rather than pull a weapon, this is a game for you.
This is the main conceit of “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” — play however you want.
The very self-serious, brow-furrowed man you see here is Adam Jensen. He’s the main character — the figurative “you” — in “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.”
Before anything else, the game asks you how much challenge you’d like. It also asks how you’d like to control the game — there are several preset options, including a new one that was apparently created with this game in mind. I went with that one, and it’s fine. Folks who are more used to “Call of Duty” may want to go with the first-person shooter option.
In the very first mission, “Mankind Divided” jumps right in with big, broad choices that impact the rest of the game.
Beyond just choosing a weapon here, you choose whether or not you want to play the game from the perspective of an agent who kills or an agent who doesn’t kill. You may have already noticed that the options above are both non-lethal weapons — that’s because I chose the non-lethal route.
OF NOTE: Just because you choose non-lethal doesn’t mean you can’t kill enemies, and vice versa. You’ll pick up plenty of lethal weapons from the enemies you tranquilize or stun, to say nothing of police station gun lockers and in-game vendors.
Let’s be clear: This is a first-person game where your main form of interaction is with a weapon. If it looks like a shooter, that’s because it’s basically a shooter.
In the future of “Mankind Divided,” Dubai is in ruins after a global event occurred where humans with robotic augmentations attacked those without. Also, a sandstorm is coming in this image.
But the game’s world is riddled with secret passageways, air ducts, and hackable doors. You’re highly encouraged to sneak around as you see fit.
Here I am, in an air duct, sneaking up on an enemy soldier.
If it seems absurd that a grown man is crawling around in an air duct, with metal arms and legs, trying to be sneaky, that’s because it is completely absurd.
Adam Jensen is a ridiculous person.
And that’s part of why “Mankind Divided” is so fantastic. Want to play it straight like a shooter? Fine. Go ahead. It’s a good shooter!
But embracing its absurdity is where things get so much more fun. Each mission in “Mankind Divided” is a puzzle waiting to be solved, a world of moving parts.
I wouldn’t have ever found this crazy cat-filled apartment if I hadn’t gone exploring!
Despite having an often over-serious tone during story beats, it’s clear that the folks who made “Mankind Divided” are aware of how absurd it can be.
Melodramatic main character Adam Jensen strikes again, this time with a book titled, “A Book About Learning to Let It Go.”
And the game equips you with all sorts of sweet, augmented-human stuff. Like the ability to see through nearby walls:
Or to jump super high. Or to move without making a sound. Superhero stuff!
“Mankind Divided” is also drop-dead stunning.
Maybe I haven’t mentioned that yet.
Much of the game takes place is Prague, which is beset by a state-sanctioned division between “Augs” and “Naturals.”
But that’s garnish. The meat of this game is choosing how you want to approach your missions as a robot detective. Sneaky or loud? Deadly or passive? Rogue agent or team player?
“Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” is the rare blockbuster game with a brain, and it’s one of the best games of 2016. It’s out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.