DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED Review
Standing before a massive lobby of about 15 enemies, each holding fully loaded combat rifles, I scan my surroundings for options. With my high-powered leg augmentations, I can spring jump onto a ledge above and snipe them from afar. I could use my superior hacking skills to open a security room and turn the robots and turrets within on their owners. With my enhanced strength, I could lift a vending machine and toss it aside, revealing a vent for me to sneak through. I could also use my cloaking augment, which would render me invisible to enemies and allow me to walk right past them. Or if I was particularly bloodthirsty, I could use a multitude of combat abilities to take each of the bad guys head on.
This is the degree of freedom that DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED infuses into nearly every situation. In the sequel to 2011’s DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, Eidos Montreal has taken everything that was great about the first game and enhanced it in nearly every aspect. MANKIND DIVIDED feels like a cyberpunk sandbox, offering players a dizzying number of options to handle scenarios and allowing them to craft their own unique playstyle. I don’t think it’s possible that any two people will play MANKIND DIVIDED the same way.
Picking up after the conclusion of HUMAN REVOLUTION, the Aug Incident has left Deus Ex’s world in a turbulent state. A brutal division has arisen in society, based solely on people’s distrust of mechanically augmented people. The world of Deus Ex is defined by this augmentation technology, the hybridization of human tissue and machinery. It’s totally science fiction, but it’s a universe that feels tangible and not quite as far fetched as it might sound. At its core, Deus Ex poses moral questions about what these augmentations and technology might mean for society and humanity as a whole, and how it might shape the future.
As Adam Jensen, players take the role of a cyborg Interpol agent based in Prague in the year 2029. When a terrorist attack leaves far too many questions unanswered, Jensen is tasked with finding the people responsible, and even gets involved with a global conspiracy or two. The story is pretty straightforward and a little more safe than what was seen in previous Deus Ex titles. Whereas the prequel felt like a mystery that got ever more complicated with each new chapter, MANKIND DIVIDED feels a little more “go here, find this.”
Excuse me, I didn’t realize I was playing PAPERS, PLEASE
The hub world is a bit more fleshed out this time around, which is a good thing considering there is really only one: Prague. You’ll journey to some neighboring sites during the adventure, but most of your time as Jensen will be spent exploring the streets of the Czech Republic’s capital. Packed with fully fleshed out side quests and character interactions, the hub really makes the world feel alive, as the NPCs and environments hammer home just how divided the society is. Signs will read “Naturals Only,” and some stores won’t serve you because you are an Aug. At its core, MANKIND DIVIDED ignores the moral quandaries of human enhancement, but rather takes a bleak and uncomfortable look at oppression and racism, albeit with a snazzy sci-fi coat of paint.
In the face of its dark narrative, MANKIND DIVIDED’s gameplay shines. As a trademark of the Deus Ex franchise, players are offered dozens of options to handle any objective, whether by stealth, combat, exploration, or even dialogue. No matter which method your Jensen uses, you are always rewarded with experience points, loot, or even some new information regarding the world of MANKIND DIVIDED. As a hybrid of FPS and RPG, players are offered kits to tailor their augments to their unique playstyle. Want to spend some points to enhance your cloaking ability? Cool, but there are only so many points that can be allocated, so you might miss out on other kinds of abilities. This being said, by the end of the game, I felt I had gotten enough kits to experiment with different augments and see which ones I favored the most.
Let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to shoot seismic blasts out of their wrist?
With the sequel, Adam Jensen has access to some new augmentations, most of which are explained in an incredibly vague side mission. These range from a blade launcher in his wrist, to an ability dash forward a few meters. Some of these were fun to use, but I felt myself sticking to staple augments from HUMAN REVOLUTION that felt a bit more necessary: enhanced armor, strength, cloaking, hacking skills, etc.
Beyond the main campaign, which warrants multiple playthroughs based on diverging paths, MANKIND DIVIDED offers a secondary game mode called Breach. Utilizing similar gameplay and mechanics as the main story mode, Breach is more akin to a series of time trials set within a computer simulation with minimal color and a pixelated art style, like something out of TRON. With its loot boxes of powerups and single-use items, Breach mode feels like a means to offer more playtime, but I found little to be excited about. The gameplay works well in a time trial fashion, and I have no doubt players will have fun chasing down friends’ scores on the leaderboards. Breach is a nifty little distraction, but the real meat of the game lies in the single player campaign.
It’s like the main game, but with more shapes and less colors!
MANKIND DIVIDED is not perfect, and most of its issues revolve around its technical aspects. Graphically, the game ranges from average to downright poor on console editions. Texture quality and draw distance are vastly improved on the PC edition, but all versions suffer from some framerate dips in larger areas of the map. Animations aren’t too spectacular, but get the job done. The voice work is vastly superior this time around, but even this is hampered by some awkward lip syncing that makes NPCs look they are just flapping their gums for the fun of it.
DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED lives up to the series name and elevates the gameplay of its predecessor to even greater heights. This is a series that seems to grow with each iteration and MANKIND DIVIDED hints that there is plenty more to discover in this universe. It may not be the prettiest game around, but it’s an absolute blast to play.
Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 4 and PC