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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review


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On 10/19/2016 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

We can rebuild it. We have the technology.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you liked Deus Ex: Human Revolution you won't be disappointed. If you haven't played the series this is a good jumping on point.

As video game enthusiasts, we tend to want sequels to be these huge shifts from the previous iteration of a series, sporting tons of new features and locations while retaining the core concepts that made the game fun in the first place. It’s a tall order, and obviously some sequels nail this formula while others miss the mark entirely. Then there are games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which is “just” more of the same mechanics and progression as seen in 2011’s Human Revolution. While there is little to set Mankind Divided apart from its predecessor that isn’t a bad thing, is it?

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes place a few years after the events of Human Revolution, and you are once again donning the stylish leather coat of augmented ex-cop Adam Jensen. Even though Human Revolution had multiple endings to choose from, Mankind Divided assumes a canon world state, wherein “natural” humans are fearful and distrustful of augmented humans, or “augs”. This is due to an incident where a software upgrade turned every augmented person into a mindless killing machine, resulting in the deaths of thousands and the collapse of multiple aug-related companies. Jensen is now working with an Interpol division known as Task Force 29, but his doubts about what his employer really wants causes him to feed information to a hacker group called the Juggernaut Collective.

Got all that? If you don’t you’re in luck, as Mankind Divided opens with a great little video synopsis of the previous game to get you up to speed. Unfortunately, the story of this Deus Ex adventure is easily the weakest part of the experience, thanks to a meandering plot, a few too many players behind the scenes, and an overreliance on conspiracy theory tropes like the Illuminati. As the player you have a little more control over how Adam reacts to things and where his allegiance lies, in large part thanks to a more robust conversation system, but ultimately I found myself not very invested in why I was going on my next mission.

Thankfully, Deus Ex is one of the few role playing games that I play for the mechanics over the story, and Mankind Divided delivers more of the excellent stealth action that I obsessed over back in 2011. There is very little new to the gameplay this time around, but this feels like a fine tuning of what was already a fun and enjoyable formula. Simply put, Jensen moves around the environment with ease, and it’s a joy to maneuver him into position for a stealth takedown, or skirt around combat entirely. I felt like I had more options for any given mission than the previous game instead of having to choose between sneaking around or going in guns blazing.

The big addition to the core game comes in the form of “overclocking” Adam’s system. Turns out he has some black market upgrades hidden in his system, but unlocking these abilities overheats his framework unless you permanently disable a standard skill. It’s a really cool idea in theory, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Since the experimental augments cost double the ability points and didn’t seem super useful to me outside of one or two choice items, I wasn’t very tempted to push Adam to the limits, even just to see what would happen. If these new augs felt like they were crucial there could have been a very cool risk/reward situation presented, but in my experience this never came into play.

At first glance, and especially in screenshots, you would be forgiven for thinking that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks just like Human Revolution, albeit at a higher resolution. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll find a visually impressive game that expands on the aesthetic of this near future where people walk around with bionic eyes and powerful prosthetic limbs. The devil is in the details, as they say, and the details in this game are on point. Seeing Jensen up close I couldn’t help but marvel at how it looked like every strand of hair on his head and his beard seemed to have been individually modeled. Find an NPC wearing a leather jacket and gape at how worn and weathered the texture of the jacket is. Creep into a musician’s apartment in Prague and take note of all of the little things littered around the space that only a musician would have, and you see a fully realized environment that is wonderful to behold.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my biggest caveat with Mankind Divided, and that would be how abruptly things end. The final mission is truly a thing of beauty, forcing you to bring all of your skills to bear in a tense and time sensitive situation. Then, it just…stops. There’s a bit of dialogue telling Jensen that he still has a lot to do, and then a black screen informs you that you’ve unlocked new game plus. While there is a decent ending cutscene, the final moments of Mankind Divided feels clumsy, clunky, and unsatisfying. To assuage your mind, I don’t feel like the game cut off some missions to sell them as downloadable content, but instead it feels like a poor attempt at setting up a sequel.

While the ending of the game left a seriously bad taste in my mouth, I can’t say that I felt cheated out of a full experience at all. Even as thoroughly as I explored I still missed a ton of side missions, and I ended up spending about the same amount of time on this quest as I did with Human Revolution. I was still sucked into this world and still felt the desire to hack everything and find everything, because I was so invested in the environment. On top of that, the side missions are expertly crafted, and in many cases offer more interesting content than the main story. From a multi-part murder investigation to being tasked with sneaking into a compound, knocking out a target, and extracting him without being seen, these secondary diversions are excellent, and you should seek every one of them out.

Having played Human Revolution, I knew exactly what to expect from Mankind Divided. It delivered exactly that; no more, and no less. While the ending was a bit of a letdown, I left the game satisfied. No, you’re not going to find much new with this sequel, but considering that this is only the second Deus Ex game done in this style by this studio I really don’t consider that to be a bad thing. I’d probably want more from them on their next outing, but for now, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided delivers on the stealth RPG that I was hoping for, and that’s just fine with me.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Casey Curran Staff Writer

10/20/2016 at 01:07 AM

Great review. I finished Human Revolution recently, and while I liked it, the game left me exhausted after each play session so I think I'll wait on this and if I do get around to it will go guns blazing. I love stealth, but feel these games are too long for a stealth game. Prefer a 6-8 hour experience except with MGS3/5 and The Last of Us.

Machocruz

10/21/2016 at 12:12 PM

They are also too long for combat games. In Human Revolution I needed to change my approach from combat to stealth and back again, as each wore out its welcome as the mechanics weren't developed enough to sustain extended play in either direction.  I think this hybrid play is the real essence of this game and this series, but we tend to pigeonhole games based on one specific element. The original DEx also had simplistic stealth and combat mechanics, but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. It wasn't meant to be simply a 'stealth game' or 'first person shooter.'

 

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