I first saw the original Deus Ex in its shiny blue box on the shelf of an independent computer shop and thought nothing of it except that it had a cool looking box. I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. But Deus Ex would go on to give me some of my most memorable gaming moments, including at least one occasion when I only realised how long I’d been playing when I saw that the sun had come up, and had only two hours until my first lecture of the day.
Despite the disappointment of Invisible War (a game not without merit but not a patch on the original), I had high hopes for 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution and, apart from a few well-documented flaws, I was not disappointed. One major problem I had with Human Revolution was the somewhat unsatisfying ending, or rather endings, that did not seem to mean anything. And so, not really picking up from any of those apparently apocalyptic conclusions, we now have Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
• Developer: Eidos Montreal
• Publisher: Square Enix
• Reviewed on: PC
• Also Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
• Release Date: Available Now
• Developer: Eidos Montreal
Mankind Divided opens with brief (optional) video synopsis of the events of Human Revolution and an opening cinematic introducing a shadowy group of people gathered around a table discussing how to further their mysterious agenda before picking up Adam Jensen’s story in an aircraft on it’s way to the game’s opening mission.
Adam no longer works for Sarrif Industries but for an Interpol task force (perhaps a precursor to UNATCO) sent to deal with threats from augmented humans. As with each of the previous games in the franchise, the player is offered a choice of weapons and sent to deal with a large number of unsuspecting terrorists.
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From this mission, the game opens up to allow the player to explore Adam’s new life based in Prague where he is also in contact with global hacktivist group the
Juggernog Juggernaut Collective. Mankind Divided is not very subtle with its message: making any section of humanity second class is wrong. However, by placing the previously invincible, hyper-competent and privileged Adam Jensen in this weak and exploited position the player is forced to confront the unpleasant realities of the “mechanical apartheid” first hand, which turns out to be remarkably useful. Despite my desire to play Adam as a law-abiding citizen, the temptation to take violent direct action to right these systematic wrongs was palpable and, on the odd occasion, too much to resist.
As you can imagine Mankind Divided is a magnificent looking game with rich environments, a significant number of beautiful details and excellent character models. It is, perhaps, not quite as good as looking as it thinks it is, however. Facial animations, particularly during conversations, are firmly rooted in the deepest recesses of the uncanny valley. Also not doing the graphics any favours is the game’s habit of having the camera move to behind Adam’s shoulder for important conversations, leaving the player plenty of time to consider not only the ever so slightly off facial animation but also Adam’s plasticine ribbon hair.
The gameplay remains pretty faithful to Human Revolution. However, from what I have seen so far, there is plenty more to explore in the hub areas in Mankind Divided than there ever were in its predecessor. The gunplay remains as satisfying as ever, though the cover mechanics and in particular the way Adam moves between cover is significantly different. At the time of writing, I cannot say that it all feels completely natural, but the way the player can select the next piece of cover to dash to is an excellent addition.
One significant downgrade from the experience of Human Revolution is the hacking mini-game. While still fun, the various cosmetic adjustments, including removing the ability to zoom out, makes it much harder to see what’s going on. The text seems to cover nodes to the point where the player cannot always be sure what they are about to click on.
A profoundly unwelcome addition, though one that has yet to interfere with the gameplay, is the presence of in-game purchases that allow the player to buy credits, Praxis Kits and power-ups for the multiplayer Breach Mode. While inevitable in free-to-play games, microtransactions in full “triple-A” games is a very worrying trend.
I have seen Mankind Divided described in many places as more of the same from the Deus Ex franchise. From what I have seen so far, I think this is a little reductive and unfairly so. This game builds on Human Revolution in almost every way while also sowing seeds as to how it might connect to the original masterpiece that started the franchise. So far Mankind Divided has impressed and intrigued me and has me itching to find out where the game will take Adam Jensen next.