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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2016


PS4 Review - 'Deus Ex: Mankind Divided'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 31, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Set in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, Adam Jensen returns and joins forces with an Interpol-funded task force aiming to hunt down and capture augmented terrorists in a world that now hates and fears transhumans.

Buy Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

At the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a villain named Hugh Darrow caused "The Incident," the worldwide hacking of any human being with cyborg augmentations that caused them to go on an uncontrolled killing spree. Adam Jensen's actions halted The Incident — but not before massive widespread loss of life. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided opens up two years later, with humanity divided over the augmentation issue; unaugmented people live in terror of another incident and augmented people are segregated and heavily policed. His old boss has gone out of business, so he works for Task Force 29, an Interpol anti-terrorist organization. Adam's own interests are in discovering more about the mysterious Illuminati, who were the driving force behind The Incident and rule the world from behind the scenes. Adam must use his connections within TS29 to root out the Illuminati before they can further twist the world to achieve their own goals.

For a good portion of the game, the plot feels like it's spinning its wheels. Rather than the smash-bang beginning of Human Revolution, you get a tame opening mission in Dubai that serves as a strong tutorial but is a recurring theme in Mankind Divided. The title prioritizes the gameplay in a lot of ways, but doing so made it harder to engage with the quests you're given. Most of the characters are paper-thin and not very interesting, whereas Human Revolution had a memorable cast. There are some interesting stories, but they're not connected to significant characters. There's also a lot of plot-waving that only really makes sense if you played the original PC/PS2 Deus Ex, which is great for long-time fans of the franchise but may leave be confusing if you joined the Deus Ex series with Adam Jensen. The plot trickles to what amounts to a "buy the sequel" ending, so it's unlikely to leave anyone satisfied.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of all is the "Aug Segregation" aspect. It's an interesting idea that feels underutilized and slightly ham-handed. There's an interesting core premise: A segment of society is suddenly viewed as a tremendous threat to society through no fault of their own, and that leads to a massive backlash. Unfortunately, there are direct parallels to various apartheid and segregation policies with little thought to what it means beyond that. A "naturals only" bench is a striking image, but when people fear that strong, fast cyborgs will suddenly go wild and murder them, merely giving them different lines or different benches doesn't quite fit. There are some genuinely good moments, but the atmosphere feels decidedly mixed. I love hearing the sad stories of augs who are struggling with being turned into unwitting weapons or the unaugmented's fears and confusion over what happened. It's understandable the developers didn't want to make the player feel too restricted, but in a world where augs are hated and feared, it doesn't make sense that the police would ignore Adam leaping into the air and sneaking into a window.

The core gameplay in Mankind Divided is borderline identical to that found in Human Revolution. The mechanics are functionally the same, but the controls have changed. While a variation of the original control scheme is available, pretty much everything has been modified to be more user-friendly for people playing with a controller. There are more button combos that instantly allow access to things like weapon modification or your inventory, and the UI is more controller-friendly. You can access basically everything you need to with one or two button presses, and the few things you can't are rarely needed anyway. This also comes with some simplification of the game systems. There are fewer but more customizable weapons, and some things that were weapons or items in previous titles have been transformed into augs. Theoretically, you should balance the new augs by disabling other augs, but this isn't a major deal, and most of the new augs are limited when compared to what you can do with your default powers. The controller changes make the game a lot more playable, but I'd imagine PC players will still be happier with a mouse and keyboard.

The level design in Mankind Divided is a step up from the previous offering. There are tons of different ways to achieve your objectives. No matter which aug setup you choose, you'll find paths that take advantage of it. The game emphasizes stealth over combat, but if you really want to fight, it's completely viable, just less recommended. Hacking is still incredibly useful but has suffered a noticeable nerf in that there are more options to get around needing to hack (including the return of the original Deus Ex's multitools), and you now get full experience points for using a found code instead of hacking the system. The title is designed to make sure you're never specced for stealth but are stuck in a firefight with no solution — a situation that occasionally popped up in Human Revolution.

However, this comes at a price, and it depends on how much you enjoy freedom versus challenge. There are a number of incredibly simple paths through some of the areas. For example, one early mission has a hidden gas-filled tunnel that allows you to skip 90% of the area. Another mission has a similar highly placed vent that also allows you to skip most of the mission. Not every mission is quite so simple, but if you're looking for a difficult stealth game that challenges your observation talents, this isn't it, unless you intentionally avoid certain augmentations or paths. In this title, you can max out invisibility 10 minutes into the game and walk past a lot of dangers. A major fight can be resolved by sneaking up and punching a boss in the back of the head. Thankfully, this means there are no roadblock bosses, but perhaps it goes too far in the opposite direction.

That's probably the big breaking point for Mankind Divided, even more so than Human Revolution. You have freedom, but with that freedom comes the ability to break the game. If you can enjoy an easy game that offers freedom, then there's a lot to like here, but otherwise, you'll probably get frustrated when you choose one tactic that trivializes everything. Personally, I had a lot of fun trying to find the stealthiest ways through every environment using my chosen skillset, but your mileage may vary. This is even more true here, since Adam Jensen begins at a higher level of power. It means you're unlikely to have a difficult time with this title, unless you go for a full-combat build.

The other problem is that the game feels rushed. Your main hub of Prague is impressive to explore, and the early missions feel like they're building up to something, but then it doesn't. Prague is the only meaningful hub in the game, and it gets emptier and less interesting as the game progresses. Rather than building up in complexity, the missions start feeling shorter and simpler. The game doesn't so much build to a climax as just sort of arrives at an ending.

The content is padded somewhat by the addition of Breach, which is akin to the VR missions found in the older Metal Gear games. It's a virtual simulation of challenges where you guide a copy of Adam Jensen through defeating virtual foes. The Breach has its own system of level-ups and mechanics, and it encourages you to go for high scores and challenge friends on the leaderboards. It's more challenging than the main game since your resources are more limited, and you need to take greater risks to get higher scores. Unfortunately, the plot- and context-free feel of Breach will only appeal to those who are in it for the gameplay. The downside is that it emphasizes micro-transactions, though they're not required.

That's Mankind Divided in a nutshell. If you enjoyed the gameplay of Human Revolution and wanted a refined and more polished version of the game, then Mankind Divided delivers in spades, aside from the aforementioned low difficulty level. The gameplay isn't a big change from the previous game, and it's fun to wander through areas and find shortcuts, hidden paths and secrets. If you were hoping for a more engrossing plot, you'll probably be disappointed.

Visually, Mankind Divided is a mixed bag. There are a lot of excellent environmental touches that make the game fun to explore. Everything looks noticeably much smoother and more detailed, but the art design was weaker because Prague feels too modern for a cyberpunk future. Human Revolution tried to extrapolate a future of oranges and blacks with unusual fashions, and while it didn't always work, it was at least distinctive. The voice acting is all over the place. There are some great performances and some groan-worthy ones, but only Adam, who retains his trademark gravelly Batman voice, has enough lines to make it worth worrying about.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a very strong game that's dragged down by a lackluster plot and weak story structure. If you enjoyed Human Revolution for the gameplay and exploration, you'll find a lot to like here. This is not a story-driven narrative that advances the world of Deus Ex, but anyone who enjoyed Human Revolution will have fun with Mankind Divided.

Score: 8.0/10

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