Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s Breach mode adds an arcade twist

Mechanical Arcadeheid

Deus Ex‘s newest augmentation has virtual reality sensibilities. Not actual real-world virtual reality, but a game mode designed to mimic it in the most cyberspace of ways.

At a pre-E3 event in Los Angeles, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided producer Fleur Marty introduced us to Breach, an arcade-like take on the Deus Ex formula. The new mode combines the series’ earmark of stealth mixed with action and sets it to the beat of self-contained, short challenges. Breach will ship as part of Mankind Divided when the game launches in late August.

“When you’re in the breach, virtual reality is your playground,” Marty told us. The reasoning for all of this is that you play as a hacker (straight-facedly called a “Ripper”) who is breaking into the Palisade Property Bank’s servers. Getting to the server’s data towers, extracting data, and escaping the area is your constant and overarching objective, but the larger goal is said to be taking down corporations; it’s very Robin Hood in a sense.

Even though all of this is taking place in a computer server, there’s still a digital avatar and digital threats to put a tangible gameplay focus on all of this digital thievery. Really, it’s rather Matrix-lite. The aesthetic is intentionally cranked to a ridiculously unrealistic degree as a constant reminder that these are all, again, digital interactions. The (possibly) unintended result is that it creates a welcome disparity from the realistic look of Mankind Divided‘s core gameplay, offering an experience that feels genuinely different.

Despite this, Breach seems to play very similarly to the rest of Mankind Divided. It’s built on the same framework, after all. Each level has a smattering of hostile obstacles; the likes of sentries, turrets, and drones all guard each setting. As is standard for any Deus Ex game, these can either be handled violently or cleverly circumvented.

Successfully raiding levels comes with a number of rewards, such as credits that can be used to unlock and upgrade weapons. A progression system is in place that incentivizes returning to prior stages once better equipped. There are also a number of temporary modifiers that change the constraints for any given challenge.

All of this is seemingly in pursuit of leaderboard glory. Marty repeatedly remarked about how Breach lets players compete against other Rippers and even challenge entire networks of other players. Being the best seems to be the main motivation as it’s unclear if there’s a narrative payoff in the Deus Ex universe for devoting time to Breach, or if it’s just as arcade-like in its high-score-chasing as it seems.

Breach is a nice distraction from mainline Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but it also feels as if it was born from a Square Enix mandate to make sure the game’s online and connected in some way. It seems in no way necessary, although inoffensive in its existence. A dedicated few will find thrills in its constant competition; the rest will be content to try it once or twice and then focus on furthering Adam Jensen’s story.

Brett Makedonski
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