Quality art design in video games is nothing new. Games like The Division, Uncharted 4, and Overwatch have all been noted this year for their fantastic world design and aesthetic, which serve to further immerse the player in an already immersive world. But rarely do games actually have art in their art design. Sure, you might see the occasional bit of graffiti in the background of Grand Theft Auto or Street Fighter, and there might be the occasional well-realized statue in a Call of Duty level—but almost never is art a cohesive through-line throughout an entire game. The last time I noticed something like that was in Bioshock Infinite. But lately, I’ve noticed it again and again in the recently released Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
In Deus Ex, artistry is part of the world design. You’d be hard pressed to go a block or two in its cyberpunk rendition of Prague without finding some kind of artistic expression. Even things like street intersections or subway entrances have been taken over by evocative public works projects. What’s better, is that most of the art serves to further represent the games themes of racism and segregation, as well as the attainment of human perfection. So much of the art in Deus Ex isn’t just good for art design in a video game, it makes for good art, period.
I mean, just look at some of this stuff.
When we inevitably get our sequel to Adam Jensen’s latest adventure, I sincerely hope they keep the same art team. Hell, I hope every developer begins to think about art in games the same ways these guys do. So often, sculptures and paintings in games are just garnish, taking a backseat to action or set pieces. But a vital part of creating a believable world that people want to explore is creating believable things that people want to look at. I’m not saying it’s necessary for every game; it’s not. But Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has some of the best world and art design of 2016, and there’s always something to be learnt from that.