Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a lot to live up to. Ever since the original Deus Ex in 2000, the series has become famed for its brand of thrilling first-person cyberpunk action and has produced some of the most critically acclaimed games of the last twenty years. Three years later, the first game was followed by a sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. After a super-long hiatus of eight years, the Deus Ex series was resurrected with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a reboot that introduced the series to a whole new set of players. Taking place 25 years before the events of the original game, we met and played as half-man, half-robot Adam Jensen and, despite the weight of expectation, the game was a huge success. Now, five years later, (and despite Adam Jensen having “never asked for this”), we luckily get Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Does it live up to its billing and do the Deus Ex name proud?
In many ways, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the perfect sequel; with the developers Eidos Montreal having identified the criticisms the first game received and then improved upon those issues tenfold. Combat has been significantly improved, and is now more enjoyable, fluid, and accurate. Battles are much better designed, so you can play to your favourite playstyle without getting penalised. Going in guns blazing is just as rewarding as carefully planning and avoiding confrontation, and you get experience points based on your playstyle, technique, and execution. Despite these improvements, the game isn’t without its fair share of problems, with its biggest flaw being that Mankind Divided’s story can’t quite live up to Human Revolution.
Now, the story isn’t bad by any means, it just doesn’t compare to the story told by its predecessor, which was very deep and interesting with lots of twists and turns along the way. Mankind Divided isn’t as inspiring and doesn’t take those same kinds of risks, ending up with an unsatisfying narrative which doesn’t hold as much weight or import as before. It’s a shame as the game stays interesting to the very end and has a serious message about conspiracies, war, and power. Mankind Divided opens with an incredibly long intro recap cutscene that takes about 12 minutes to bring players up to speed with the state of the world following the ending of Human Revolution and Adam Jensen’s journey to uncover the truth. The new game is set two years after the cyber attack known as “The Incident”, with Adam Jensen now working with Interpol to find out who’s behind a recent spate of bombings and unravel the conspiracy and meaning behind them.
As always with the franchise, gameplay and player choice is where the game shines, and you get that real “Deus Ex” feeling that the franchise is so famous for. At its best, Mankind Divided conveys this feeling effortlessly and is easily one of the best games that gives the player the freedom to tackle objectives and combat in various ways, with your choice depending on your preferred playstyle and choice of augmentations. If you want to take the more “shoot first and ask questions later” route, you’ll have plenty of weapons and tools at your disposal like high-powered rifles to eliminate enemies from a distance, machine guns for mid-range shooting, and shotguns for those awkward one-on-one combat situations. And when the odds aren’t in your favour, you have grenades and sleeping gas, not to mention augmentations such as heavy armour and the powerful ‘Typhoon Explosion’ that indiscriminately destroys anything in its short-range radius. Alternatively, if you favour the stealth route, your tools will include items such as tranquillizer sniper rifles, silenced pistols and stun guns, and that augmentation that lets you briefly turn invisible might be handy too.
For this latest entry in the series, brand-new augmentations have been added, some of which add a new dimension to the game by offering tonnes more ways to play and explore. For example, one new augmentation, remote hacking, is a godsend, with the ability to access devices from a distance opening up previously unreachable paths and offering new gameplay options. Another intriguing addition is the Nanoblade, a new projectile that adds versatility to your arsenal. Not only can it be used in hostile or stealth scenarios as a crossbow that can pin enemies to walls and solid objects, but you can also use it to more subtly gain the advantage by striking objects in the environment in order to distract enemies. As mentioned before, combat has been vastly improved and feels more precise and accurate. Most notably, the cover system has been redone, allowing for better and more naturally fluid movement, a vital improvement given that you’ll no doubt spend large parts of the game sitting in cover as you scout and pick your targets.
Visually, the game stands out with its unique and now iconic graphic style. Shimmering golds and bright lights occupy the screen, and looking at certain locations is enough to send chills down your spine, especially when the game conjures up an atmospheric thunderstorm or blizzard. Prague, Mankind Divided’s primary setting, is not only a beauty to look at but is also easy to navigate, making it a pleasure to uncover all the things to do, find, and see in the city over the course of the game’s 30-hour narrative. Even here though, the game suffers in comparison to its predecessor, with Prague never quite reaching the heights of the amazing Hengsha from Human Revolution. Although, at first sight, it looks and feels like a lived-in city full of personality and decay, a closer look reveals a surprisingly ugly game, with lacklustre character models that look lazily done accompanied by even worse facial animations. To top it off, the game has very hit-and-miss voice acting, with only Adam Jensen really standing out from the others, a serious issue in a game as narrative-driven as this one. All this could be forgiven back in the early days of the last generation, but falls far short of modern production standards.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is at its best when the game offers players the choice to tackle objectives and combat however they deem fit, with stealth, hacking and combat all blended into one fantastically realised cyberpunk adventure. The story doesn’t do the game justice, and there are a few other rough edges that mar the overall experience, but these can be overlooked for the fun, unique experience that only Deus Ex can offer.
Developer: Eidos Studios- Montreal, Nixxes Software BV
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 23rd August 2016