With a cyborg who fights criminals, it’s not surprising that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided would be inspired in part by the many Ghost in the Shell mangas and animes, as well as other works of cyberpunk fiction. Especially since, after playing it, I realized that the game is essentially the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex game we’ve wanted since that anime first aired on Adult Swim fourteen years ago.
But in talking to Jean-François Dugas, the game’s Executive Game Director, and Jonathan Jacques-Belletâte, its Executive Art Director, I learned that not all of the pop culture than had an influence on this upcoming game falls into the “cyberpunk” category. Just most of it.
5. ‘BLADE RUNNER’
Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, this noir-ish flick followed a guy who specializes in taking out genetically-modified bioengineered robots called replicants. Directed by Ridley Scott (who also helmed Alien), and starring Harrison Ford as the gruff Rick Deckard, the movie has become an influential sci-fi and cyberpunk classic that has inspired countless movies, books, games, and comics.
How it inspired Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: “Blade Runner is the first thing you think of when you think of cyberpunk,” Jacques-Belletâte says, “especially visually speaking: the clutter, the fog and smoke, the contrast of shadows and lighting, and the idea of mixing Asian culture and Western culture. Blade Runner was a big influence on the look and feel of the game. Though also the tone. If you look at how the story in our game is told, and how [our hero] Adam Jensen reflects sometimes, you can draw parallels with the tone and some of the characters in Blade Runner.”
4. ‘THE MATRIX’
Written and directed by The Wachowskis, this 1999 action film cast Keanu Reeves as a hacker who finds out the world is actually just a computer simulation, and that there are programs who will kill anyone who finds out the truth. The first part of a trilogy, the movie also spawned a compliment of anime shorts called The Animatrix, a trio of video games—2003’s Enter the Matrix, 2004’s The Matrix Online, and 2005’s The Matrix: Path of Neo—a bunch of comics, and a whole lot of copycats.
How it inspired Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: “The Matrix was an influence in some of the more over-the-top choreography,” Dugas admits. “It really inspired the takedowns and other aspects of the action scenes. We didn’t take anything directly, but it was an inspiration to go forward.”
3. THE NOVELS OF WILLIAM GIBSON
After Philip K. Dick, the most influential sci-fi writer when it comes to the cyberpunk genre is arguably Gibson, who wrote the seminal 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer and its follow-ups in “The Sprawl Trilogy”: 1986’s Count Zero and 1988’s Mona Lisa Overdrive. But he’s also recognized as a force in a steampunk movement thanks to his alt-history novel The Difference Engine, which he co-wrote with fellow cyberpunk writer Bruce Sterling.
How they inspired Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: “All of his books were a go-to for all the cyberpunk themes: the paranoia, conspiracies, the megacorporations, all that stuff,” Jacques-Belletâte explains. “Though I wouldn’t say it was any one book of his, but rather his whole library. What’s funny is that when we were making Deus Ex: Human Revolution, one thing we decided not to do was his take on Virtual Reality and the metaverse and ‘oh, I’m plugging into the net and now I’m flying over circuits as a human-shaped avatar.’ We decided not to do it for all sorts of reasons. But now, with the new 'Breach’ mode [a challenge mode in Mankind Divided where you play as an avatar in a computer system], that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
2. THE CLOTHING OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN AND GARETH PUGH
A British fashion designer, the late Alexander McQueen not only founded his own label, but he earned four British Designer of the Year awards as well as the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s International Designer of the Year 2003. His fellow Brit, Pugh, hasn’t has the same kind of commercial or critical success, but he has received significant acclaim in the clothing circles for his fashion shows.
How it inspired Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: “Fashion is very important in our version of Deus Ex,” Jacques-Belletâte says, “and we actually treated the design of the clothing like fashion design. Especially those of Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh, who were huge influences on me. There’s no way I could’ve pulled this off without the influence of those two guys, their style and their work.”
1. THE FIRST THREE ‘X-MEN’ MOVIES
Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects), 2000’s X-Men not only introduced many people to Marvel’s mutants and made Hugh Jackman a household name, but it also, along with 1998’s Blade, kicked off the current superhero movie craze. It was following three years later by X2: X-Men United, which Singer also directed, and then again in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, which was helmed by Brett Ratner. And while Last Stand ended the initial X-Men trilogy, the series has since continued, with Singer returning for 2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past and again for this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
How it inspired Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: “Those moves were influential on Mankind Divided in the way they explored a society where there was a caste of people who had superpowers, but they’re still seen as a potential threat,” Jacques-Belletâte explains. “It wasn’t a core theme in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it was there, and in Mankind Divided, we’re coming into it in the height of this divide. We watched all three movies at the beginning specifically to see how they treated it, and how we could transpose those ideas to our game.”
’Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’ will be released August 23rd for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.