Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The year is 2029, two years after the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In a society where trans-humans are omnipresent, an “accident” led augmented individuals to commit fear-driven murderous frenzy on the “organic” population, due to a biochip implant build by Hugh Darrow (the creator of this technology). With already a strong divide between augmented and normal population, this tragic event has exacerbated the hostility of the population towards these cyborgs or “Augs” as they start calling them, so much that it created a sort of “mechanically enhanced apartheid, thus the title of the game: Mankind Divided. Acts of violence are increasing while segregation escalates each day a little more, and with this tense world, our trusty Adam Jensen, who now joined the anti-terrorist division of Interpol, Task Force 29, is seeking those responsible for a bombing attack that devastated Prague, his city of residence and headquarters to his organization.
Before going any further, although preferable, know that you do not necessary need to have played the previous game – Deus Ex: Human Revolution – to understand the issues and plots that build up to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The developers included a lengthy video recap which you can watch as you start the game. However, it remains of course recommended to have lived the previous adventures of Adam Jensen adventures to better enjoy the story and grasp the subtleties and characters that will appear in Mankind Divided, as there’s many other winks and references all across the game. For those of you that finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you should know that they disregard the consideration of your final choices at the end of the game, and is perfectly justified and treated with great astuteness by the writers.
With all that said, my first moments with the game were a bit worrisome in the sense that I was worried the devs lost their way. Within the first moments of the game (the Dubai mission that serves as a tutorial and introduction to your first hub in Prague), Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had some writing blunders to say the least unusual. It felt almost like Eidos Montreal had forgotten that the narrative of Deus Ex should be foremost in shades of gray, without ever falling into Manichaeism or any similar cliché. But taking a step back and progressing through the story, we realized that this awkwardness was primarily caused by the manifested will of the authors to build an ambience fast enough to return to a context in more subtle and nuanced considerations. If the first moments of the game may make you think otherwise, believe me when I tell you that the story of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is poignant and builds up in gradual and captivating ways.
Each characters are all well introduced, perfectly described with their own torments, goals, and personality that you’ll get attached to or learn to hate. The narrative is in itself impeccable, true to the rich lore established by the franchise created back then by Warren Spector, filled with conspiracy, conspiracies… And well lots of conspiracies. The script tries to cover his tracks, asks the right questions while leaving the player to analyze and interpret decisions, pushing you to take even more crucial and critical choices than before. If you though Human Revolution had some rough decision, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided addresses intelligently the concepts of terrorism, of blind justice and a touch of our modern real-life society social issues, a discrimination of a “race” or social class that is different from the pretext norm (in this case Augmented people). To make the long story short, the themes are deep and skilfully addressed, which reminds us that Eidos Montreal knows how to tell a story.
All of this good writing is also reflected in all parts of the game than just the main quest line. Sidequests have the same quality of treatment as the central story, so much that you often have the impression of a flawless progress in the basic plot rather than performing an optional objective that you could skip. The world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is darker than ever and the atmosphere is often closer to desperation, heavy and disturbing as you progress through the adventure and main quests. Furthermore, the environments and hubs are more populated than before, NPCs each having their own line of dialogue to respond to you in case of interaction. The interesting thing is that each NPC has its own mood and trend, which will give you the feeling of being a person lost in the middle of a city that is corrupted to the bones. Finally, the icing on the cake is also in the level of detail that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided manages to breathe life into his universe. Just like its predecessor, the title offers a vast amount of things to read, to listen, and see with e-books, digital magazines, TV shows to fill in the gaps and immerse you into the lore even more. Hell, hacking a PC can certainly help you directly to progress in the adventure, but as it will frequently happens, if you take the trouble to access different devices you find, you’ll just get some information about the people you meet and their life in general, which contributes greatly to a digital living world.
Immersion doesn’t end here. It is enhanced by one of the seminal elements of the Deus Ex license: the quality of its artistic (musical and visual) direction. Without spoiling the locations and different places where the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided adventure takes you, know that each area has a particularly neat aesthetic, which easily fits into what a Cyberpunk universe would offer. The old architecture mingle with more modern buildings, enhanced with light effects that contribute greatly to the credibility of the game’s mood. Unfortunately, on the technical level, it seems that the issues known from Deus Ex: Human Revolution seems to be still here. The character animations and facial expressions are a bit stiff, some textures lack finesse, while overall the displayed result does not justify completely the alleged optimum PC requirements.
On that topic, Mankind Divided has a passable PC port. We (Mazen Abdallah in this case) stuck with the default settings, as we had enough trouble keeping 60 fps on the ‘high’ preset. Speaking of settings, the game has a ton to tinker with, so with some tweaking you can get the best bang for your buck. We personally stayed with the defaults, as every time we tried climbing up (and we are using a good machine), the game warned us that we were asking for trouble, so we decided not to tempt fate. For the most part, the game was able to maintain 60, but any time the action got a little bit heavier or crowds got a little thicker, we would experience some frame drops. There was nothing too serious, but it definitely could have been smoother. I’m definitely hoping for more patches to even it out. I think either a real optimization work or upgrading the engine would’ve made thing run smoother, but for the moment Deus Ex: Divided Mankind is feels a bit outdated technically. Nevertheless, and I’ll be honest, the mood of the game is so engulfing that one can easily forgive this technical pitfall and fully concentrate on the essential: a great story with solid gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, fans of Deus Ex will be happy to learn that not much changed from the previous Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and that’s actually a good thing. As usual, the principle of any self-respecting Deus Ex title is to offer the choice to the player to adopt a stealthy behavior or go with brute force. Because the first is my personal favorite, I will focus on explaining the infiltration and stealth layers of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which undoubtedly honors the standards imposed by the original game, even pushing the possibilities to a much higher degree than what Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In one word: It’s simple! With the exception of the introduction level in Dubai, the different levels of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided are a real playground for anyone who loves finding hidden passages. More vertical than before, the game offers different areas full of opportunities, hidden trails, windows, underground tunnels, promoting almost an infiltration-only game style. Thus, breaking into a building under the noses of guards becomes a real pleasure, but like any proper stealth game, do plan well ahead of time by assessing the situation, and show a minimum of observation and patience before you go through a set path.
Since Adam Jensen is “the One” of the Deus Ex universe, you will benefit from some of the best augments (bio-engineered abilities) to support your infiltration gameplay, such as a temporary invisibility, a shock pistol to neutralize without killing and more… The best part of the game is that this element of the gameplay is so smartly limited with an energy requirement, which has its own cooldown, to prevent players to exploit them, very close to how Corvo’s abilities are in Dishonored. And since we are speaking of this Bethesda game, you should know that is perfectly possible to finish the game without killing anyone (with the exception of the mandatory boss killing). If all confrontations cannot be avoided, some of them however can be circumvented, particularly with the dialogue system based on analyzing the behavior of your partner. Unfortunately these are too few in the game, and I believe it would’ve been more of a hit if every choice phrase isn’t some ubiquitous.
On the non-stealhy approach, that’s where things get a bit annoying, at least for me. While a lot of effort was made to make sure every different weapon in the game felt different in both power, sensations and credibility, the same kind of raw and sluggish shooting feeling that was in Human Revolution is still in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Nevertheless, I’ll applause the work done on the single key press UI system to change you weapon’s shooting mode, ammunition type and other customization options like scopes accelerates the pace of fighting in a very nice way, instead of killing the mood with a pause menu. Adding that with all of Adam’s more “offensive” augments like shield, bullet-time and dash, they add a complementary combo that makes the action phase more pleasant than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect in the world of gaming, and what smeared my experience in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is still there: If the two approaches to gameplay will be lots of fun, you’ll quickly get annoyed by the artificial intelligence. Particularly more noticeable in the stealthy approach to the game, the AI is too easy to read and it will not be difficult to neutralize a guard almost under the noses of his colleagues without them even flinching. The behavior during the phases of action is in itself a bit better than the previous game but not still not there. However, your opponents are a little more savvy than before, and do not hesitate to try to get around you and react – sometime – to a door that opened by itself or by a little too loud movement.
At the end of the adventure, which will take you around 20-25 hours if you pick the infiltration path, you will still have more to do in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, with a new mode called Breach. If you played Metal Gear Solid, Breach will remind you of the Kojima’s stealth game VR Mission, which were challenges set to expand the lifespan of the game. In Deus Ex, these challenges are in a way multiplayer based thanks to online leaderboards, with its own backstory, putting you in the shoes of a hackivist, who virtually enters in a networks of large corporations to unveil their shameful activities.
To do that, the hacktivist enter the network a-la-Tron, and you play in an environment that feels like the latter movie but also looks like the game SUPERHOT, where you need to access various data block before escaping the area. Your entire route is timed, and your score is based on how fast you can complete level, to attempt to top the lead leaderboards. The gameplay itself reproduces exactly Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, with the same game mechanics, weapons and but something forcing you to perform challenges like killing a certain amount of enemies. Ultimately, Breach is a very good alternative to explore all the game mechanics introduced by Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and allows, for example, to get better acquainted with the side stories that were left out during the main adventure.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was reviewed using a PC and Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by Square Enix. The PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. The game is also available on the PlayStation 4 in both digital and retail releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Perfect merge between RPG, FPS and stealth
• Excellent level design that make use of all three playstyles.
• Countless opportunities and choices that count in the story
• Amazing Art and soundtrack direction
• Captivating main story in a cyberpunk universe that is always so exciting.
• Solid overall technical achievement on console and PC).
• Quests are better built compared to the previous game
• Breach mode for performance enthusiasts.
• You can really finish the entire game without killing anyone
• The New Game + is perfect for replay value.
• Arabic voices are well done
• Adam Jensen feels a bit overpowered
• A confusing Artificial intelligence with no pattern
• Some character animations show the outdated engine
• A little dated in some animations and graphic textures
• Almost no differences with Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
• The game is really short