Time for honesty: before ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ I’d never even played a game in the Deus Ex series. Shocking, right? I did have some experience with the series though having spent hours in my younger years watching my cousin play through the original game, all whilst scolding me for calling the game ‘Doos Ex’ and being constantly reminded that ‘Deus Ex: Invisible War’ was nothing short of an utter disappointment.
It wasn’t until I bought ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ in a sale that I realised just how good the series is, and that I absolutely loved playing the games a lot more than I did watch them. My excitement levels for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had naturally been through the roof, though I’ll admit that I knew the game was going to be great before I’d even played it; what I didn’t know though was that it was going to be one of the most engrossing, enjoyable and well-designed games that I’d ever played.
To those unfamiliar with the series, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a first person title that combines shooting, stealth and roleplaying elements all into one fantastic package. Whilst I’d certainly recommend having at least played ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ to get the most out of the game, it’s not compulsory seeing as there’s a twelve minute recap video of its predecessor at the start – a fantastic addition that I think more game developers should include in their sequels.
The game’s story follows on directly from the conclusion of ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, putting players back into the shoes of previous protagonist Adam Jensen. The world has turned on Augmented people following the events at the end of ‘Human Revolution’ (spoiler alert – they were manipulated into going on an uncontrollable killing frenzy) so they’re looked down upon in society and cast away.
The game tackles racial discriminatory themes, especially with the way that Augs are treated compared to the ‘naturals’. It’s on show throughout the game world, with Augs expected to walk along different paths as well as being constantly hounded by the Police – you’ll even hear plenty of insults headed your way… I mean, you’re an Aug too, after all. Whilst the game certainly highlights all of these issues, it never goes over the top with them. The game never resorts to implementing shock value, instead simply highlighting how the world around you has changed compared to the relaxed view towards Augmented folk in ‘Human Revolution’.
Adam Jensen now works for Interpol, tasked with investigating terrorist attacks that have been carried out throughout the world. This leads to a conflict with the ‘Augmented Rights Coalition’ who have been blamed for a series of attacks against the city of Prague, even though they protest the guilt that has been invoked upon them. Of course, there are much more sinister events at work in the game with twists, turns and conspiracy theories aplenty – you’ll certainly be kept guessing at how the game’s story will eventually play out.
Of course you’ll have the freedom to control how some elements of the story unfold – just like you have the freedom to tackle missions exactly how you please. Want to take a non-lethal, stealthy approach to each mission? Go for it. Want to go a little crazy and gun down everyone in sight? You can do that too. Each mission in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been expertly designed so that there are multiple ways to complete them. That’s not just with your choice of playstyle either, with each mission having multiple routes you can follow too; the level designers have done an absolutely fantastic job at providing diversity within each mission.
There’s no right or wrong way on how to approach things, though the non-conflict approach of sneaking could probably be considered the easier option. That’s not to say that it’s not satisfying to clean out an area full of enemies with sheer force though – I mean, who doesn’t like showing off their kill-skills? You’ve got plenty of tools at your disposal with a ton of different weapons on offer, Jensen’s Aug abilities (which I’ll talk more about momentarily), as well as all the grenades you can use. Want to quickly destroy a small group of enemies? Send a frag grenade in there. Want to wipe out electrical equipment to sneak through freely? Use an EMP grenade. Or just blast everyone apart with your battle rifle, whatever, it’s up to you…
You’ll often get given narrative choices in missions that aren’t affected by your playstyle, with the player able to decide how Jensen reacts to characters and the events unfolding around him. You can be a real dick if you want, but being the kind, white knight that I am, I ended up being pretty nice to everyone around me. There are also side objectives in missions that can affect future story events and how characters react to you – in the opening mission I was able to destroy a comms box that helped ensure that an undercover agent I worked with didn’t get his cover blown. I didn’t have to do it, but the game makes sure to commend you for your actions.
Besides the main story missions, there are an absolute plethora of side missions to tackle too, each one adding either a sub-story or giving a bit of extra detail to the game’s main narrative. Each side mission isn’t necessarily easy to find either – they’re never pointed out to you and demand that you explore Prague and speak to all of its citizens. There always seems to be something extra to do though, and I’d actually completed around four or five side missions before I even tackled the first main mission of the game.
The side missions will send you all over Prague, tasking you with breaking into people’s homes, rescuing certain characters, uncovering stashes of drugs and weapons, foiling an Aug-exploiting scheme… you know, the usual. There’s a great variety of tasks to undertake, plus you get to learn more about the characters of the world you might not have necessarily interacted with otherwise.
Side missions aren’t simply fetch quests either, with most of them drawn out affairs that span multiple locales with various objectives. You get to make pretty big choices too – one mission tasked me with clearing fake permits for two people on a government computer, but when I made it onto the computer it only actually allowed me to clear one permit. It’s up to you to decide who gets to stay in Prague and who doesn’t. It might not be considered such a big decision in the grand scheme of things, but these side missions will certainly affect what the people of Prague may think of you…
Adam Jensen has always been a powerful fella, but this time around there are plenty of new Aug abilities that can be unlocked and upgraded, as well as a few familiar ones to those who’ve played the previous game. Some Aug abilities offer boosts such as increasing your health, stamina and hacking abilities, whilst some give you enhanced skills such as being able to sneak around unheard, the ability to turn invisible and even the ability to remotely hack objects from a distance. Of course, some Aug abilities will boost your combat effectiveness too, allowing Jensen to become even more lethal than he already was. My stealthy playthrough saw me depending more on the Aug abilities that allowed me to sneak around unnoticed, though the game allows you to pick and choose those that best suit your play style.
You unlock and upgrade your Aug abilities by using Praxis Kits that you can either unlock from levelling up, find hidden around the game world or purchase for big bucks from some of the game’s many black market dealers. There’s nothing more satisfying that finding a Praxis Kit and making Jensen even more powerful – each upgrade actually feels meaningful too, with your new and improved abilities certainly helpful during your playthrough of the game.
Jensen’s Aug abilities are satisfying to use, even when you’re just having fun and not completing missions. I spent a long time simply navigating Prague, remotely hacking window rollers from a distance and then quickly launching my way there with the fantastic ‘Icarus Dash’ ability to break into apartments. You never know what you might uncover during your mischievous adventures, though I was guilty of venturing through areas that I’d have to re-visit on a side quest later on in the game anyway. One thing players will certainly find satisfying is breaking into a black market dealer’s supply room, stealing all of their weapons and then selling them back to them – seriously, there’s so much you can do in the game. Still, nothing beats zipping around Prague and breaking into places, especially when the game actually ends up tasks you with doing so…
The freedom that the game gives you in exploration is a real credit to the great job the game developers have done designing the city of Prague. Gone is the gold and black aesthetic style of ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution’; it’s been replaced with a somewhat colourful city that manages to not only feel futuristic, but also feature plenty of classic European architecture too. Prague has different districts that cater to the different classes of its citizens too, with a real distinction with what could be considered the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ sides of the city.
There’s plenty of minor details to be found throughout the city such as the poster advertising a UFC style fight between Augs, whilst there are also plenty of collectibles that give much more substance to the game world – you’ll find e-books, newspapers and e-mails that go into depth about locations, events, and the people who were involved in them.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s Prague is certainly stylish, but it’s not just how it looks that’ll impress gamers – like every other aspect of the game, it’s been meticulously designed so that there an abundance of ways to navigate the city. Breaking in through the sewers, finding an open window, navigating a tight ventilation shaft, or even using the front door – the choice is yours, but there always seemed to be more than one route to take.
I struggled to find almost any big flaws with the game, though there are a few small things that stood out to me. The lip-syncing during conversations seemed to be slightly off, especially with some of the lesser NPCs whose faces were also much uglier than those of the main characters. Character animations could be a little janky within cutscenes too, though it was never visibly awful.
I also came across a few frame rate issues, especially whilst visiting some of the busier locations in the game. I was playing on the Playstation 4 version though, so I can’t say how well it performs on other platforms. The frame rate drops never reached unplayable levels either, so it’s nothing that’ll ruin your time with the game.
If I’m going to nit-pick, I didn’t really like the hacking mini-game that much either, with the results of each attempt often feeling a little too random – that really is me nit-picking, though…
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will last you a fairly long time, especially if you try to complete all of the side quests. I managed to complete the game in around twenty hours, though I don’t think I saw all the game had to offer. I did a lot, but not everything.
Besides the main game, there’s also an additional mode called ‘Breach’ that offers an extra diversion for those that want a bit more from the game. You play through VR like missions where the objective is to steal data from nodes and then escape – it’s a simple concept, though some of the missions can be quite tricky. The mode adopts it’s own visual style too, that although incredibly simplified still manages to look fantastic.
I was constantly in awe of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided from the moment I started playing the game right up until its ending cutscene – it really is fantastic.
There are a few slight flaws that see it fall short of perfection, but it certainly doesn’t fall short at providing a magnificent gaming experience that allows you to play exactly how you want. Whether you’re uncovering secrets during the game’s excellent story, blasting enemies away during one of the many side missions, or simply using your Aug abilities to zip around a wonderful futuristic representation of Prague – you’ll always be having a great time in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 23/08/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC