Half a decade ago, Deus Ex was rebooted to universal acclaim, bringing with it the near futuristic world and its cutting edge augmentations. It was a smart title that allowed you to tackle most situations the way you wanted to. There were some questionable design choices though such as forced boss encounters and AI behaviour. Releasing five years to the day, it’s amazing to see what a difference Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has made.
For those coming in blind, Mankind Divided provides a summary of the many events of Human Revolution; bringing everyone up to speed. This is important due to the state of the world at this point; changing from an era of prosperity to an era of fear thanks to what is known in the game as “the incident”. After a rogue group intercepts an operation to stop a weapons deal, Adam Jensen is sent to Prague to regroup, only to be subject to a terrorist attack at a train station.
Events that follow will lead Adam down many complex avenues that on paper sound like the fever dream of a conspiracy theorist, but on screen play out like a true spy thriller. Twists come at a breakneck pace, constantly keeping you guessing. At a certain point, I found myself trying to guess the plot, only for all of my theories to be debunked.
Atmosphere in games like this is everything. While Adam still has the charisma of a plank, he is more of a conduit for the goings on around him. Other characters have their own motives, even those as initially incidental as a passing neighbour. By having a mixture of both English and Czech voice acting, as well as an amazing musical score and gorgeous visuals, the world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is vibrant despite its overwhelmingly oppressive setting.
Mankind Divided paints some pretty stark imagery of segregation and intolerance that is at times rather uncomfortable. By having Adam as a minority, the way “Augs” are treated as he patrols the streets of Prague generates some uncomfortable, yet much needed parallels to our own world. Talking to “Naturals” is often met with insults.
What makes this so compelling is the incidental dialogue; how the naturals sometimes say things like, “You did this to yourself”. Given that Adam and a few other Augs were given augmentations not by choice means that this narrative the AI believes is based on a lack of understanding – much like the reasons behind a lot of intolerance in our own lives. By using a futuristic spin to comment about the problems of the present, Mankind Divided comes off as a very smart piece of social commentary.
Further fleshing out the immersive world are the various quests that can be tackled in multiple ways. It is entirely possible to eliminate quest lines completely by accident by assassinating certain quest givers; yet the game doesn’t penalise you for it, instead writing it into the narrative more often than not. Quests can be dealt with however you wish, including but not limited to talking it out with your assailant. Points of interest are also available, asking the player to get into certain hard-to-reach locales.
While Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is largely open-world, there are story moments that take you to other places such as a skyscraper in Dubai. These excursions do feel like pivotal moments in the plot, bringing with them their own sense of challenge and consequences upon your return. A major difficulty spike does occur that brings down the pacing somewhat, but by this point there have been enough perks to warrant the increase in difficulty and the reasons behind it are compelling.
Speaking of perks, augmentations work in much the same way as Human Revolution, with many of the same abilities making a return. However, Adam has access to new augmentations that he was previously unable to access. These newfound abilities are certainly more useful, but initially come at a price. In order to use them, you need to disable the ability to have an uninstalled augment.
Mankind Divided also controls really well. With several different configurations, including one geared towards those who played Human Revolution on consoles, it’s pretty easy to get Adam to do exactly what you want, whether that be go in guns blazing, skulking in the shadows, or even having a polite conversation. The level designs help with plenty of cover, as well as air ducts to sneak in and traps, cameras, and turrets to avoid, yet never feel too samey. Hacking is still present, acting in much the same way as before, albeit with a facelift.
This all begs the question: Is the AI still as dumb as a brick? At times I did find the guards patrolling in interesting paths, but generally I felt that they’re somewhat more competent this time around; actively trying to move around you for better vantage points or pre-empt where you’re escaping to by waiting at the other end of an air duct. As for mandatory boss encounters, I felt there was only one that was forced upon me, yet I understood why due to the context of the situation.
At 15-20 hours for the average playthrough, there’s a lot of side content on offer. Hackable doors that lead to areas that aren’t connected to any quest usually uncover some new loot, but there are also hidden triangle emblems that can be scanned with the companion app for mobiles. At this time I wasn’t able to do so as the servers aren’t live for the companion app, but they seem connected to the lore.
In addition to the main campaign is Breach mode: Deus Ex’s own take on Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions. The aim of the challenges is to hack data towers and escape before the time runs out, though there are variations on the formula. Character development is separate from the main campaign, though acts in a somewhat similar fashion.
Aside from these challenges, there are also a few DarkNet case files, which task you with completing missions in order to uncover more information. You’ll have a few companions who will charge money for deciphering what you’ve gained. The narratives behind these cases flesh out even more of the compelling universe behind the Deus Ex franchise, though less so than the main campaign does. Still they’re a nice incentive to warrant having a look at the mode.
The elephant in the room for some people will likely be the booster packs. These are bought using credits earned in-game, though there seems to be scope for micro-transactions. Packs can contain new guns, ammunition, and buffs/debuffs. Thankfully all online interaction is limited to leaderboards, so you’re essentially boosting rather than “paying to win”. Side stories round off the DLC options, though at this time none are live.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is captivating from start to finish, giving players more freedom to make their own choices. Controls are sublime, whether you’re massacring the enemy or avoiding them; with enough tools to make both viable options. The take on a futuristic Prague is unsettling, yet hugely immersive, together with some interesting social commentary. It’s been a long time coming, but Mankind Divided was worth the five year wait.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4