'Deus Ex: Mankind Divided' imagines dark, but hopeful, future

The developers at Eidos Montreal said they aren’t trying to be futurists or predict what the world will be like in about 15 years, but the scenario for “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided,” the sequel to a 2011 title, sounds more like science fact than science fiction.

The latest game in the franchise takes place in 2029 during a time when augmented humans suddenly became violent and deadly. The world is torn, as the augmented are herded into separate areas and segmented away from the rest of society.

Adam Jensen, an augmented human and the hero from the first game, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” returns with new technology and abilities from upgraded tech. While helping to round up the dangerous augmented, he uncovers a more sinister plot and must fight against a shadow group to uncover the truth.

At a real world conference on human augmentation in New York City, Jonathan Jacques-Belletéte, the executive art director for the franchise, emphasized their future in the game isn’t what might happen with human augmentation. He pointed out their take isn’t a hope for what will happen, unlike “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of what mankind would be like.

“Star Trek is a big, utopian vision with all the ethnicities working and the U.S.S. Enterprise, which was amazing for the '60's when he did it,” Jacques-Belletéte said. “It was really how he saw the future. All these people collaborating. The way we did it with ‘Deus Ex,’ we’re not projecting our goals for the future personally. We’re just analyzing how things seem to function, society, technology, people, and we mix them together and express a possible version of it.”

Some of the fictional technology Eidos Montreal used in “Human Revolution” is appearing in the real world. But Jacques-Belletéte isn’t worried about making a game feel too much like real life and said they have a lot more toys in the box to amaze and excite players.

“We’re not worried about what we can imagine or what we already have,” he said. “Even though the line has been blurred more and more between our games and reality, it is still a very tiny slice of the crazy tech visions we have for the future.”

Jacques-Belletéte said the team set out to tell a story about why people do the things that they do, rather than a tale about technology gone rogue. The human augmentation in their games are a tool to paint a broader picture about the personal triumphs and tragedies that occur all the time. Why do some people become good and others become bad?

The setting for “Mankind Divided” is gloomier and comes two years after “Human Revolution.” As expected, there is fallout from the people who accept augmentation and those who reject it for moral, physical or economic reasons. Jacques-Belletéte said history was their guide in how people would react to something catastrophic to society.

“After 9/11, that’s exactly what happened as well. You could say the same thing after Pearl Harbor,” he said. “With these kinds of things, it is normal. People get scared. It’s a shock treatment.”

Despite the despair and hopelessness in the game’s portrayal of society in 2027, he said there will always be heroes and people who want to do good. The player, through Adam Jensen, is given the chance to make things right and give hope to those who have lost it.

From a gameplay perspective, Jacques-Belletéte said “Mankind Divided” will be a step up from “Human Revolution.” He admitted some of the elements from the previous game were not as good as they could have been, and they may have tried to be too ambitious, resulting in some imbalance between the different gameplay mechanics.

There will be things in “Mankind Divided” that were unrealized potential in “Human Revolution.” Jacques-Belletéte pointed out some specific things they wanted for the first title but couldn’t do because they ran out of time or resources.

“Being able to do the takedowns from cover. There is a real fluidity, a real mechanism to it now,” he said. “Hacking the way we really wanted to but couldn’t do in the first one. The graphics ... ‘Human Revolution’ was praised for its art direction, but the tech was just outdated.”

However, a new engine and the power of upgraded consoles gave them the abilities to realize all of their current visions for the franchise.

“I think you can feel it. I think you can really feel it that we’re harnessing our franchise, our art form,” he said. “It is quite enjoyable. I hope people will feel this more tangible ‘Deus Ex’ in terms of gameplay.”

“Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” is scheduled for worldwide release on Aug. 23 for the PlayStation4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. The game has been rated M for Mature due to blood, drug references, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language and use of alcohol.