I ASKED FOR THIS
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the fourth main entry in the Deus Ex series, and a direct follow-up to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That certainly shows, as Mankind Divided plays almost exactly like Human Revolution with a few tweaks. Despite that, it still remains a game worth playing.
Mankind Divided follows Adam Jensen two years after the world changing events of Human Revolution. At some point in the time gap, Adam joined a UN run anti-terrorist division (one obviously connected to the anti-terrorist division in the original Deus Ex) and also secretly joined a hacker group trying to bring down the Illuminati. How he was able to join both groups is kind of glossed over and treated like an unnecessary detail. Even with the changes the past two years, Adam Jensen is still the same gravely voiced augmented dude that you know and love.
How he plays has not changed much either. With the five year real world gap between Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, it is surprising how much feels like it’s identical. The control scheme has been tweaked to feel a bit more modern than Human Revolution. The game seemed designed with a keyboard in mind, as the controller bindings are filled up and feature some weird button combinations. For instance, holding square or X will bring up a Crysis-style weapon modification selection. But holstering a weapon requires the square/X button be held while hitting L2/LT, but not too long as that will bring up the weapon modifications instead. It’s a weird layout, but I was able to get used to it after awhile.
Sneaking around enemies, and sometimes messing with them using the variety of abilities (which are called augmentations) and weapons, feels just as good as it did five years ago. Areas are large and feature plenty of ways to be accessed. Often times I would hack into an area, poke around the space, and find a vent that led to another area that I had yet to explore or even one I had and would have allowed me to bypass the hacking. Weapons range from loud sniper rifles and shotguns, to a quiet stun gun and a pistol that is almost unrivaled when used stealthily. Of course there is plenty more that caters to any playstyle. Augmentations also complement playstyle. One augmentation allows for better weapon accuracy, and another slows down time when aiming down sights. For nonlethal players (or for someone looking to make a quick getaway) there is a cloaking ability. Again, these are just a few examples, and the amount of them allows for many unique combinations. Despite the large amount of abilities, I ended up with plenty I did not use regularly as the game is very generous with experience points.
The problem with what I just wrote is that nearly all of it can be applied to Human Revolution too. It does not bother me as much as it should, because the Deus Ex games feel like one of a kind. If some other series had come along and done the same, it would be much more of a problem. Sure, I wish for some changes, but I still very much enjoyed the experience that Mankind Divided offers.
On to the new features.
To prevent the augmentations available from being identical to the previous game, several new “experimental augmentations” have been added. What makes them experimental is that they can overexert Jensen’s systems. Each time an experimental augmentation is unlocked, it adds to the overclock meter. If it hits past 100%, glitches can occur randomly and with much more frequency depending on how much is added to the overclock meter. To combat this, regular augmentations can be deactivated, which prevents them from being upgraded. It sounds like a smart system that should add a level of consequence to upgrading. In reality, there were several regular augmentations I knew I would never use, and several experimental ones that I did want. On top of that, almost right when this system is introduced, a solution is offered. It makes the inclusion of the system feel a little half baked.
The city of Prague is the main hub area. It’s not a large area by size, but the tradeoff is that it is packed with more stuff to explore than most open world games. Random apartments, stores, abandoned buildings, and even a bank, are open to exploration. Sometimes the areas are relevant to the story or a side quest, but a lot of it is just there to be explored. All of it feels like worth exploring and offers plenty of rewards for curious players. However, in the last fourth of the game, the city is placed under lockdown which limits that freedom. It really hampered my excitement to explore, and I think the game would have been better off without that segment.
Now, to get to the part I least liked about the game: the story. Before I start my criticism of the main story, I will say that the side missions offer some of the best moments in the game. I will not go into any more detail, as that could spoil the fun.
Human Revolution, or rather, the ending that best led into the original Deus Ex, did not feel like it needed a sequel. In fact it offered a reason as to why Jensen and the other major characters were never mentioned in the original. Mankind Divided pretty much undoes all of this and then “wraps” up its own story by not wrapping up anything at all. The game leaves key plot points just dangling in the air, including several that are introduced through side stories. And the thing that bothers me the most is that it all feels kind of pointless. Because it is a prequel to Deus Ex, we already know where it’s heading. The characters involved in all of this are not interesting enough for me to truly care about their fates, or understand their motivations. All I really care about is the end result and again, that result is fairly obvious. The best way this could be resolved is if they plan to remake Deus Ex, but include all of the additional world building and events that have occurred in the prequels.
I was trying to keep most of the dangling plot points vague, but there is one that really bothers me. So, one last warning, spoilers follow. Early on in the game Jensen learns about the experimental augmentations that are installed in him. The twist is, Jensen has no clue who installed them or why. It occurred during his recovery period after Human Revolution, but that’s all he knows. So a side quest that spans almost the entirety of the game is about unraveling this mystery. Except it ends up with Jensen shrugging his shoulders and going back to square one. That is annoying enough, but here is the kicker: late game enemies, including the final boss, are using the same mysterious experimental augmentations Jensen has. No one ever mentions this fact. Jensen grills the Big Bad on plenty of other questions but never once asks “Hey, what’s up with you guys having these same abilities as me?” Maybe it’s because the plot thread was in an optional side mission, but it constantly bothered me through the entire last act of the game.
**END OF SPOILERS**
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
Despite my feelings towards the story, I think Mankind Divided is a great game. The freedom that the encounters offer, paired with the variety of weapons and abilities, allow for so many different ways to play, it’s almost staggering. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided may not separate itself from its predecessor in many ways, but this series is so one of a kind, that Mankind Divided is a game worth playing.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG who wish he could pull off a trench coat as well as Adam Jensen. You can follow him on Twitter.