Deus Ex, and the Problem With Being a Superhuman

If you can see it, take note of the featured image accompanying this post. It’s just a snapshot of one of the many times that the player, in the shoes of super-spy Adam Jensen, can be stopped by the police in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

However, although the player can be stopped a considerable amount of times by the police over the lengthy run time of Mankind Divided, you will always eventually be allowed to proceed. The game knows this, and you know this, especially given the fact that there isn’t an actual ‘arrest’ mechanic in the game.

So, this begs the question, why does Mankind Divided even bother with the fake ‘stop and search’ mechanic? One would imagine it’s to give the player a sense of the oppression felt by augmented citizens, and what they have to go through on a daily basis within the city of Prague, as well as all over the world in general.

However, this ‘forced perspective’ that is placed on the player by developer Eidos Montreal largely falls flat on its face, given the fact that Adam Jensen simply isn’t just any ordinary augmented citizen.

He’s not just a common ‘face in the crowd’, given that as well as working for Interpol, he can literally fire blades out of his arms at a whim. On top of this, Adam Jensen can turn invisible, hack mines by pointing his arm towards them, teleport forwards, fall from skyscrapers without so much as a bruise, and coat himself in the armour of a tank.

So, again, the effort by Eidos to place Jensen in the same position as his fellow augmented ‘brothers’ falls incredibly flat, due to the fact that Jensen himself is basically a superhuman who also works for the government.

In addition to this, towards the end of Mankind Divided (here there be spoilers), Jensen is injected with a lethal virus by cackling villain Viktor Marchenko. However, rather than succumb to the virus as the audience definitely, completely expected, Jensen gets back up a few hours later without so much as a cough.

Wait, what? Well, Jensen then reveals to companion Alejandra Vega that he never needed a certain drug for the human part of his body to accept the augmented, mechanical parts, just as 99.99% of the augmented citizens around the earth have depended upon at some point.

“Wow, you’re like, one in a billion,” Vega responds, cementing the fact that Adam Jensen is absolutely nothing less than a literal superhero, walking among people like a god throughout Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Mankind Divided was set up to tackle controversial themes and issues, which was something that I initially praised the game for, upon hearing about this. Too often we get video games attempting to send a strong message about a certain topical issue, only to say nothing in the slightest upon release.

However, no matter what you think of Deus Ex’s politics, Adam Jensen was simply the wrong pair of shoes to place the player in. We don’t get a feel for how harshly augmented people are treated, because as the super-powered Jensen we’re almost on our own plain of existence, soaring high up above the suffering masses with our technological enhancements and Interpol ID card.

The police force in Mankind Divided aren’t able to bring us down to earth and ground us in the reality of the world, lacking a simple arrest mechanic, and the entire game fails in a similar respect, allowing the player to run rampant with powers and privileges, that our augmented ‘brothers’ could only dream of.

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