In the months after the release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, there’s been a steady stream of additional content made available. This includes the three downloadable scenarios that detail parts of Adam Jensen’s past, and though it’s the final one, A Criminal Past proves to be the most interesting.
It begins with Adam in a session with Criminal Psychologist, Delara Auzenne as she asks him about what happened during a particular mission quite a few years ago. A Criminal Past sees Adam Jensen inserted by Interpol into a high-security prison, meaning that his augmented powers are stripped from him.
While Mankind Divided felt like a prison at times thanks to certain end-game sections, incarcerating him gives this DLC a different feel. Instead of neon colours, the tones here are overly drab. Red and Yellow jumpsuits, as well as prison guards and their technology, are surrounded by high walls and a desert-like exterior. It isn’t going to win any design awards anytime soon, that’s for sure.
Being that this is a scenario that has no real impact on the main story, you do eventually get the option of either having powers Adam would have at this point, or an experimental set. Other than that, there are no new gameplay options or mechanics. While I personally got on with the majority of the mechanics, there are occasional issues with aiming and taking cover in this expansion that may annoy some.
Given that you’re essentially dropped into a hostile environment with no equipment and stripped of your Augs, the first hour or so is very tough. As such, when you perish, Delara chastises Adam, saying that it obviously wasn’t what happened and asks him to think again. While you never see this, I imagine her rolling her eyes at him like a disappointed parent.
Unfortunately, this does get tedious after a while. The first hour might be touch, but the rest of the expansion isn’t exactly a cakewalk either. Enemies with sturdier helmets that resist headshots, robots, drones, turrets, and cameras are almost everywhere. I definitely felt that I died more per square inch than I did in the main campaign. Thankfully Praxis are everywhere, meaning you can always upgrade to gain an advantage.
Perhaps key to making this microcosm of scum and villainy work are the characters you meet. Nobody is particularly trustworthy and saying the wrong thing could jeopardise your progress. I personally felt it was impossible to trust anyone, including the man Adam was sent to find.
Towards the end though, the conspiracy that’s been teased soon became the focal point. A key plot point at the beginning, on the other hand, is brushed aside with little resolution beyond a single conversation. It’s a jarring change of pace when the game shifts gears and it unfortunately sputters as it does so.
As I got towards the climax of the DLC, I honestly felt for the first time playing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided that it was outstaying its welcome. I just wanted to get out of the prison environment, but the game was hell-bent on not making it easy. Thankfully it should take most players around 6-7 hours to fully explore the prison complex and make it to the other side.
One bit I truly liked about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was how you could skip boss battles with meaningful dialogue choices. You can still do this here, but it’s sadly only used effectively a couple of times.
Honestly speaking, A Criminal Past isn’t an essential experience unless you really liked Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and wanted more of a challenge. The mission itself devolves into an uninteresting conspiracy that feels forced, the other prisoners are clichéd caricatures, and there are times where you just need to brute force your way through a particular problem. It’s not Adam’s finest hour and certainly a time he should probably forget.