Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a darker game to that of Deus Ex: Human Revolution where fear, hatred, and paranoia of augmented humans has reached new heights whereby segregation has returned, and is a low-point in human history once more. The game carefully dilutes this allegory of modern context into something entertaining, and while there’s not much to really gain from what transpires, it does shed some light on how these fears can lead to racial tension. Despite the lessons being taught here, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has some wonderfully slick gameplay that lets you be loud or stealthy, and lethal or non-lethal. This is where the action becomes the vehicle that carries you through this compelling story of “Naturals” vs “Augs”.
Since the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, things have gone from bad to worse. Fears were realized after the “Aug Incident” that cemented what normal people thought of augmented humans, these are people who either were born with defects or suffered catastrophic limb loss, could be repaired by technologically advanced prosthetics. Before you start the game proper, you can watch a video package highly detailing those events – all 12 minutes of it. So by the end of the video, you’ll be brought up to speed, even if you haven’t played the game prior to.
After the introduction of events that unfold in Dubai, you’ll be taken back to your new home in Prague, the center of the Czech Republic as a Counter-Terrorist Agent within Interpol. Walking around, you’ll see a fair amount of graffiti with derogatory terms for augmented humans such as “clanks” or “wrenches”. These terms are used often and reinforce the segregation between normals and augments. Prague isn’t as big or as sprawling as Detroit or Hengsha was in Human Revolution, but the confined and oppressed feeling is almost reminiscent of City 17 from Half-Life 2. Every time you have to use the metro to navigate to different areas of Prague, the militarized police will constantly be stopping you to check your papers. It’s as annoying in-game as it would be for anyone in real-life, but this added touch goes a long way.
Story missions will be presented by gold markers, but side missions tend to steal the spotlight at times. The side missions will lead Adam Jensen to learning more about himself, his augmentations, or investigating a strange series of murders. Side missions also showed me how Metroid-esque the game can be at times. I came across a vent that I couldn’t get to because I neither had the ability to lift large objects to give me the height to reach them nor the upgraded augmentation to make a tall jump. So I instead returned to the main missions until I could purchase both, and was able to reach the vent by moving a refrigerator so I could open the vent and using my upgraded jump to make it inside the vent to reach an area that was previously inaccessible.
At certain junctures, you’ll be forced to make a decision where the story has branching paths. These decisions almost always have consequences, to lesser or greater extents given the choice made. They aren’t so black and white as they are grey. Mankind Divided has a lot of moving parts within the story, and does a good job at relaying as well as capturing information that you can reference at any time. Another thing Mankind Divided does really well is allowing speech to influence decisions of others, like making it so they see your side and back down. And it’s not governed by speech points or some arbitrary skill you upgrade, but rather reading their responses or how they talk and reacting appropriately. You can aid this by purchasing an augment upgrade that reads their tone of voice, and alignment such as alpha, beta, and omega to help you determine how you should respond best. I’ve de-escalated many situations without the augmentation just by paying attention to how and what they said to get the information I wanted.
Mankind Divided feels a lot like Human Revolution, and for the right reasons. That sense of familiarity lets you get reacquainted with controlling Adam Jensen and his souped up augmentations. In a specific side mission, the game will open up Jensen’s ability to do some augmentation juggling, as some dormant augs have surfaced, allowing you to activate experimental ones to use, such as the nano-blade or bolts. This comes at a cost, as you can become unstable by activating too many and overheat, so if you intend to use different augmentations, you’ll have to disable one or two to get another. This becomes supplanted by a later side mission, which removes this artificial limitation and makes it so Adam Jensen can use any and all without any consequences.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution had specific bosses that required a lot of firepower to get through, and for those who specialized their character for non-lethal and/or stealth, became a chore and otherwise bogged down a great game. Eidos Montreal heard those complaints, and really opened up how you play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. For me, playing through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided as a stealth / non-lethal players was absolutely rewarding. Take downs generate noise, less noise than lethal take downs, and after seeing the same animation for the fiftieth time, I had my fill of trying to do take downs. My loadout mainly consisted of a stun gun, a pistol outfitted with EMP rounds for taking out cameras and sentries, and a tranquilizer rifle for long-distance knock-outs. These tools carried me through the entire game up until the ending, where it was fitting that I switched to lethal weapons for quick kills and justified the events transpiring. This fluidity of choice in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is baked in, and never feels like an afterthought.
Mankind Divided doesn’t stop at a lengthy campaign, there’s a online connected mode called Breach, which essentially takes place in VR. However, in my Steam version of the game, Breach Mode was not available to play, I could only ever watch the introduction sequence. There’s also Jensen’s Stories, another mode which after playing, seems to be standalone side missions to play. These missions tie in to the main story of Mankind Divided, and the game explicitly advises you play them only after completing the campaign for fear of spoilers. There were two stories listed pre-release: “Desperate Measures” and “System Rift”, but only Desperate Measures was playing, System Rift seems to be coming soon. Upon starting, you’re given 15 Praxis Points to spend, which allows for mixing and matching of styles, and encouraging replayability, but it never felt like my Adam Jensen. The mission itself was rather short, satisfying, but not too much of a detour outside of the campaign and did fill in minor story gaps. I suspect Breach will be where the longevity lies, but again, without playing it, it is hard to say if it is worth it or not.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was ported by Nixxes, who has done almost all of Square Enix’s PC ports in recent years. Overall, the game is incredibly smooth. I was able to max out every setting and get a constant 60 frames per second. However, cutscenes were wildly inconsistent. Some were pre-rendered in 30fps and had noticeable pixelation, and there would be some done in-engine that would be at 60fps. I did experience crashes just launching the game (not responsive at the AMD video that played), and one crash during a cutscene, but it otherwise held up just fine. These could be pre-release bugs as there will be a patch at launch.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
– Intel Core i7 6700k @ 4.2Ghz (Turbo)
– NZXT Kraken X61 106.1 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
– EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW 8GB GDDR5X
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a linear story with non-linear ways to complete the objectives, returning the series back to its roots with absolute freedom. There’s so much more of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided that I want to play, and the game’s New Game+ will allow for just that. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s more than wink and nod at current events fringes on the uncomfortable, but thankfully never crosses the line into unbearable. It instead tells a story that is decidedly human, and maybe even thought-provoking. It has been five years since the last time there was a Deus Ex game, and with an end credits cutscene leaving a bit of a cliffhanger, there will be more Adam Jensen to come.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.