Disclosure ‐ A copy of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was provided to us on PS4 by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review
I didn’t realise until recently, just how much I was dying to play another Deus Ex title. Like its predecessors, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided reinvigorates the player-choice genre; managing to yet again foster a sense of discovery and game-design subversion, to provide a truly neat and enjoyable experience. However, while the game’s moment to moment gameplay is more than enough to make you stalk your way through this grim sci-fi future, the abrupt ending to a rather boring story, as well as the excessive use of smoke and mirrors to overly complicate the plot, makes an otherwise great game fall short of its initial promise.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided picks up not long after the last game in the series left off. If you’re like me — and can’t remember anything about the story of Human Revolution — fret not, as there is 12 minute recap video option at the beginning of the game. Basically, you’re Adam Jenson, a military-dude turned Augmented super-human, who after the events of the previous game, now works for a secret Interpol task force monitoring Augment-related violence and terrorist plots. This task force is necessary because the world — particularly the Czech Republic — is in dire turmoil. The events of the previous game culminated in violent backlash of Augmented technology and in doing so, the public’s excitement for advancement has turned to fear. It’s a fervour the developers at Eidos Montreal like to relate to Apartheid.
Beneath the public outcry however, lies a deeply seeded and powerful organisation with very insidious motives. Anddd… That’s it. While the marketing team may have tried to convince us that the game uses the augmented future as a social commentary for discrimination, it acts more like window dressing and a plot device than a meaningful portrayal. In fact, the whole game emphasises indecision and the inability to pick a side, which comes off as lazy and a very big missed opportunity to add some more depth to the plot.
Additionally, the overall conspiracy falls flat. The storyline hints at grander elements being at play, but hides all of its revelations behind a very infuriating series of smoke and mirrors. It lacks a satisfying conclusion, which honestly just felt like a cop out to save space for DLC later down the line. Similarly, while the voice-acting overall is fine, I think, given the origins of this site, that I state just HOW bad the Australian character in this game is. The delivery is soulless, out of place and a pain to listen to.
Fortunately, the contained mini-stories you unravel within Prague are a delight to engage in, while the city itself is rich of pathways to explore, and rooftops or underground sewer lines to traverse. The world is filled to the brim with ebooks, hackable emails, and newspapers to flesh out the state of society, or get an intimate look into people’s lives and how they’ve been impacted by recent events; they help flesh out the mistrust and pain that is seeding this conflict between the augmented and non-augmented factions. You’ll discover these tidbits while progressing the game’s main and side story missions. Aside from a few big chapter ending quests, the majority of the storylines evolve throughout the different areas of Prague. Breaking into apartments, exploring the underground, and robbing banks, are all hallmarks of Deus Ex‘s level design, and it is wondrous.
All the side missions in Mankind Divided are optional, and offer a few different choices along the way. While the main missions push forward the plot to decipher the Illuminati conspiracy, the side-quests represent more contained stories. These micro plots are often standalone stories, but some connect and enhance the overall narrative, so much so that it is safe to say the side quests outdo the stories of the main line plot. They aren’t necessary, and if you don’t do them before the next big story beat they will disappear, but I heavily advise doing all the side quests when they show up.
“The contained mini-stories you unravel within Prague are a delight to engage in, while the city itself is rich of pathways to explore, and rooftops or underground sewer lines to traverse”
Ultimately, the mission areas are the perfect catalyst to explore the complex level design, which you will appreciate more as you upgrade Jenson’s Augments. This is a Role-Playing-Game after all! Unlike Human Revolution, each action you take, whether it be to stealthily or murderously take down guards, or even simply avoid them, awards points fairly equally. The XP system contributes to an overall level, which as soon as you rank up, nets a Paraxis point to spend on upgrading Jenson’s different abilities.
Over the course of the game, you’ll dip your toes in multiple Augments, and what ones take priority is entirely up to you. Me? I opted for all the stealth upgrades, and I always had a Paraxis point or two banked, for that fateful moment I encountered an area I couldn’t access without a specific upgrade. The joy I felt when circumventing a cluster of enemies through a series of well-hidden vents, sneaking my way through office buildings, and disabling cameras or sentry turrets with ranged hacking was intensely gratifying. Even after every mission, I still got the sense that there were so many other ways I could have achieved my goal.
If you don’t want to sneak your way through, that’s fine too! The shooting, while definitely not up to par with other triple-A first-person shooters, is fine. The shotguns are particularly satisfying to use, while seeing the X marked impact points on enemies tickled some sadistic tendency in my psyche. Furthermore, limiting Jenson’s near Superhero capabilities, is his battery life. At the start of the game the regulation on your abilities can seem a bit frustrating, however, upgrades are relatively quick to gather, and it is simple to buy, create or find bio-cell recharges.
However, the hand-to-hand take-down cutscenes get very repetitive and seem rather unnecessary. The short cut to the melee, often shifting the location of the characters in the space, is disjointed and jarring. Similarly, moving bodies can be finicky as they clip into the grounds, get stuck, or stop being dragged for no reason at all, which is not ideal when trying to quickly hide your transgressions.
Though, the only real disappointing aspect of the game’s gameplay for me, would be the final boss fight. I had hoped Eidos Montreal learnt from the mistakes of Human Revolution. So when the final sequence of the game arrived, I was very unimpressed to see a bullet-spongy boring oaf of an AI boss, teaming with sentry turrets and drones that shred players who haven’t invested in combat. The boss fight also bugged for me; he was frozen and unable to do any of his attacks, so I just found ammo and slowly beat him down.
Accompanying the single player portion of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, is a new multiplayer entry to the series, Breach Mode. It’s a Virtual Reality Simulator which you get a taste of one of the game’s earlier main missions. Essentially, you take the form of a shiny polygonal avatar, and make your way through a virtual reality representation of a company’s servers. It’s a neat addition, providing contained single-player activities which involve: eliminating all the enemies; collecting enough of a certain item; or interacting with server nodes and making it back to the entrance before time runs out. If you’re still keen for Deus Ex after completing the Single Player campaign, but don’t want commit to a new-game-plus mode, Breach is a perfectly fine component (although not entirely necessary)of the game.
” … when the final sequence of the game arrived, I was very disappointed to see a bullet-spongy boring oaf of an AI boss, teaming with sentry turrets and drones that shred players who haven’t invested in combat”
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is another fabulous installment to a revered franchise. It offers enough choice and interesting level design for you to truly feel as if you are subverting the rules and outsmarting the developers. The expansion on the previous catalog of Augmented abilities is enough to feel fresh, while the rate at which you progress your character lets you mould Jenson how you want him to be in no time. It is just disappointing that embedded within these thrilling and satisfying gameplay elements, is a forgettable story, and a finale which leaves you with the thought: “Is that it?”.