Deus Ex: Mankind Divided poses some interesting questions about terror plots, augmentation, and the subversion of robotically-enhanced minorities; but it also throws players in some tough scenarios that aim to bring out the best in gamers. Mankind Divided makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger, and does so in incredible style, but its grand ambitions are also some of biggest obstacles.
Mankind Divided is essentially chapter 2 of a three-part story kicked off by 2011’s Human Revolution, and sees the return of Adam Jensen, a mechanically-infused badass (of sorts) who works for a anti-terrorist division of Interpol. The game picks up two years after Human Revolution, with the world in a “mechanical apartheid”, after some augmented humans went a little off the reservation.
The over-arching premise is the real hook here and is immediately captivating. It’s got a Jason Bourne-esque conspiracy thriller feel to it. However, it is wrapped up in a lot of minor details that fans who skipped the first game will be unfamiliar with. There is a very informative pre-game video that fills you in, but a lot of it is overwhelmingly bloated.
As for the world itself, the game is primarily set in cyber-punk Prague, allowing you to traverse the hub-world and follow the game’s main thread, while being distracted by the admittedly brilliant side-quests and hidden nooks and crannies of the European city to find guns and equipment. The world itself is incredibly detailed and is the perfect vehicle for Mankind Divided’s gorgeous visuals; developers Eidos Montreal have done a stellar job at recreating a futuristic city full of life and new ideas.
In terms of gameplay, nothing much has changed since Human Revolution – which in itself was an evolution of the original Deus Ex. This is still a game of first/third-person stealth and shooting, with RPG elements in the way you can upgrade your weapons and augmentations, and in your ability to use hacking, espionage, and persuasive conversational skills to find alternative paths through missions.
And the fact that these options to approach missions differently are available is due to the game’s brilliant design. Environments are teeming with opportunities – have to hack a PC in a locked room? You can sneak through the air-vents, manipulate the guards, use your invisibility cloak, cause a distraction, or simply whip out your assault rifle and blast your way through – the choice is yours, and there are hundreds of scenarios which open these doors of gameplay variety.
But to be fair, simply shooting your way through a mission is rarely a survivable option, while sneaking through the entire level can also be difficult; so this is where your augs come in.
The augmented abilities from Human Revolution are back, allowing you to use Adam’s various attachments and power-ups. A few more “experimental” augs have been added to the roster this time, giving Adam new abilities like wrapping your body in liquid armour and shooting blades from your arms.
There is, however, a catch to all these added bells and whistles. In addition to players having to invest upgrade points to unlock these abilities, experimental augs put extra strain on his systems. Having more than one active experimental aug causes Jensen to go into overclock mode, forcing players to then deactivate another experimental aug in order to cool down his system. You’ll also need to find a lot of Praxis kits, which are the tools used to equip the augs, and these can be few and far between.
So what’s the issue then? Mankind Divided is a great game that is worthy of its triple-A hype, and Deus Ex fans will find a lot to like, but it doesn’t do anything marvellously spectacular for the genre. The story, gameplay mechanics, and jumping around menus for a large portion of your game-time will be overwhelmingly convoluted for some, and the difficulty curve will undoubtedly cause some frustrations, but for all its superfluous antics, there’s a great stealth game full of variety in there somewhere. You’ve just got to have some serious patience to find it.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.