I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that almost every one of our readers has had some experience with Deus Ex in the past.The premise alone launched many of us into a world of cybernetics, conspiracies, and weirdly delivered (Yet still endearing) dialogue. I’m happy to say that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hits all three of those marks, and despite a few glaring issues, is a worthy stepping stone on the path to bridging Human Revolution and Deus Ex. For the uninitiated, Mankind Divided is the sequel to Human Revolution, a prequel to the original Deus Ex that brought the series out of desolate IRC channels and unnaturally hostile forums and back into the limelight. It follows Adam Jensen, an ex-SWAT turned Private Security Specialist, who after sustaining life-threatening injuries, is effectively brought back from the dead thanks to life-saving augmentations being forced on him. While Human Revolution is, effectively, a story about rising from the ashes, Mankind Divided is about sweeping them away.
After the Aug Incident (A terror plot that forced every augmented individual to turn on their natural counterparts), the divide between the two parties has never been wider. The United Nations debate furiously over the implementation of internment camps and prohibition of augments, while those affected turn to violence and acts of terror in the name of justice and equality. The setup, dubbed by the staff as a “mechanical apartheid”, really does pay off. Multiple times throughout the game, you’re forced into serious ethical dilemmas that go out of their way to challenge your worldview. I won’t share the specifics of these instances, however, as they are effectively ruined when you aren’t put on the spot. My biggest criticism of the game actually comes from these sections, that while being standout moments, are almost always placed in sidequests. The main quest has choices, sure, but rarely did I ever feel like they ever went anywhere significant. There are two major decisions you make in the story, and I only ever felt the weight of one. While we’re at it, the main quest is good, but flawed in some respects. The ending leaves a lot to be desired (as it sets up a third game in the Jensen arc), but the locations it takes you to and the great visual story telling almost make up for it. It’s also worth noting that the cutscenes and dialogue sections are particularly unpolished, with characters awkwardly lip syncing over dialogue a half second after it was spoken, making cartoonish “shocked” expressions, and cycling through the same few clumsy animations over and over again.
At the core of all this, however, is the gameplay. I can say without hesitation that this is the best playing Deus Ex game by a wide margin, and that largely stems from the level design. Even the most linear missions are massive, sprawling complexes, with a lot of that space allowing for you to get creative with your playstyle. Ammunition types also complement this, with armor piercing and EMP rounds, that let the player take on roles that they wouldn’t usually be able to; A stealthy hacker can become an effective sniper, and a graceless infantryman can disable communications, turrets and cameras. Performance wise, the game runs reasonably well. I had access to the Playstation 4 version, and it ran at an unlocked 30 FPS, occasionally dipping to around 25 at the absolute lowest. These events often happened when the action got either fairly intense, or if the particle effects got out of control in lighting heavy areas. There was only one part that I could describe as arduous, that being a midnight Prague with an unimpressive yet incredibly taxing rain effect that made engagements with hostiles noticeably more difficult. In terms of textures and lighting, however, the game never fails to impress (even on consoles) with Golem City in particular looking like some kind of engine test. A lot of this is owed to the stellar art design, blending mechanics and synthetics in a way that gives an alien-like look to them. The music and sound design also bears mentioning here, with fantastic sound design and a standout OST that blends some classic Deus Ex riffs and melodies together to form a “best of” soundtrack. A stroll down the street can feel like a UNATCO recon job, as long as you have the right music playing.
There’s also a bonus mode packed in with the game called “Breach,” a bizarre high score chasing mode that puts you into micro-missions where you collect data from terminals. These areas are guarded by firewalls (regular enemies that have cameras for faces) and exist in the “deep darknet”. Strangely, the “deep darknet” is fairly reliant on micro-transactions, which soured me on the entire mode. The pricing model was not made clear to us in press emails, and even if it was reasonably cheap, it seems foolish to spend any amount of money on a throwaway mode that’s almost entirely devoid of the game’s largest strengths.
Mankind Divided is undoubtedly worth picking up, and it deserves a spot on every cyberpunk’s shelf (or steam library, let’s be real here). The true worth of the game is in the sidequests, and I would recommend that everybody try to do as many as they can, they’ll take you to some amazing locales and tell some really personal stories. While it’s a shame that the game ends on such a blatant “To Be Continued”, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited for what’s next.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – 8/10
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Have you played either of the DLC missions? System Rift felt like a more fragmented version of the main levels, but I enjoyed A Criminal Past a lot more. It’s very difficult, but it was interesting to see augmented prisoners paired with natural security guards, and there are some interesting moral choices at the end.