When Deus Ex: Human Revolution released back in 2011, it was my first time playing a Deus Ex game, and it made one hell of an impression on me. Prior to its release, I considered the Metal Gear Solid games as the only games I’d need to feed my hunger for stealth-based experiences. After completing Human Revolution, I believed series protagonist Adam Jensen deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Solid Snake and Sam Fisher. Sure, you can play through Human Revolution and Mankind Divided with a Rambo-like mentality, but if you want a truly exhilarating experience, save that approach for your second play through the game. Mankind Divided is bigger, better, and more exciting than Human Revolution, and thanks to a compelling story, incredible level designs, and some of the most rewarding stealth-focused gameplay in years, it’s one of the best games released this year so far.
Title: Deus Ex Mankind Divided
Release Date: 8/23/16
Developer: Eidos Montreal (@EidosMontreal)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Now that I’ve had some time to relax (the final act of this game will stress out the stealthiest of players) and digest everything that transpired during my 22-hour romp through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, my mind and nerves are clear enough to tell you that Eidos Montreal has managed to outdo their previous entry in the Deus Ex series in just about every way imaginable. Mankind Divided takes place two years after “The Aug Incident,” an event where augmented individuals were sabotaged by a signal sent out across the world, causing them to experience psychotic episodes which drove them to attack innocent people. Since then, tensions have boiled over between augmented individuals and those without augments, or “naturals” as the game refers to them as. In Mankind Divided, players are once again thrust into the shoes of Adam Jensen, and he’s now a part of Task Force 29, a counter-terrorism division with global jurisdiction. Adam hopes that while he’s out busting heads and trying to keep the peace, he’ll eventually come across those responsible for putting humanity on the edge of all-out war. The story will leave you guessing throughout — as you’ll never know who to trust — and many of the decisions you make will affect what you experience at the game’s end. Also, make it a point to carry out side-missions. Not only do they offer far more substance than sidequests found in most other games, some of them are very unique in how they are carried out. The stories behind them offer a look into the hardships that augmented and non-augmented folks are dealing with.
The story begins with Adam, along with members of Task Force 29, infiltrating an abandoned hotel project in Dubai where an arms deal about to go down. This mission plays out as a tutorial of sorts, with all of Adam’s augments unlocked so you’re able to get an idea of what his arsenal of abilities can do and determine which ones will suit your style of play. Eventually, the mission suffers a major setback and, upon returning to his new home in Prague, an event transpires which causes his augment system to be reset, leaving only a few essential augmentations still working. From this point on, you’ll earn Praxis Points as you rank up that can be used to unlock whichever augments you feel are necessary. Many of the augments you have are the same ones from Human Revolution, but there are some new ones as well that will require a little more thought on your part. When you unlock one of these new augments, Adam’s system begins to overheat. In order to bring the temperature down, you’ll have to block off one of the other new augments you don’t plan to use, effectively eliminating it as an upgrade option in the future. This is the beauty of Deus Ex; the careful consideration needed with when planning to spend a praxis point adds a whole new layer of strategy to the title. If you plan to play through stealthily, you’re going to want to weigh your options to figure out which augments are indispensable and which ones are nonessential to that style of play. I focused heavily on stealth-based augments throughout my entire play through Mankind Divided, and I was really glad I did because even with all those abilities unlocked, the final act was brutally tough.
One of my issues with Deus Ex: Human Revolution was that even though it was a first-person experience, I didn’t feel the controls were very first-person friendly. By the end of the game I had adapted enough to where it became a non-issue, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much more accessible it could’ve been with a proper first-person shooter control scheme. Thankfully, Mankind Divided alleviates this by adding a control scheme option that falls inline with other popular first-person shooters. It doesn’t “dumb” the game down at all — there are still a lot of menus you’ll have to access — but at least it grants players a more ideal experience when playing Mankind Divided. Also improved over Human Revolution are the shooting mechanics themselves. Adam now controls like he's handled a gun before, and everything from aiming to firing from cover works really good. Granted, I only used lethal weapons with EMP ammo to take down drones, sentries, and cameras, but even then everything felt great. If there’s one area of gameplay that can frustrate, though, it’s when you’re trying to climb over objects. Mankind Divided uses the same type of climbing mechanics found in Dying Light and Mirror’s Edge, meaning all you have to do is look at any reachable ledge, jump towards it, and Adam pulls himself up. However, this doesn't always work like it should. There were multiple times where I’d jump to a ledge that was easily within reach, only to watch Adam bump into it and fall down a couple of levels, forcing me to start over. Exacerbating the issue, there were times where a roaming guard or sentry bot would be just around the corner. After missing the ledge and falling down, I'd be spotted before I could reach safety, triggering an alarm and forcing me to engage enemies when the whole thing could’ve easily been avoided had the mechanic worked properly. This led to many frustrating deaths and restarts. Speaking of restarts, be sure to save your game regularly to avoid having to start over ten minutes or more from where you initially saved, especially if you’re going with the slow, stealthy approach when playing.
Visually, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided it’s a very good looking game on PC. I was playing on Ultra High settings for a majority of the game, and everything looked and performed very well, except for the final act. What I can’t confirm at this point is whether or not the final act's performance issues were a result of the added weather effects or the 281MB update that released over the weekend. During the final act, the game began to stutter intermittently to the point where it became a distraction, so I downgraded to Very High settings in order to achieve a stable framerate. That’s not to say it was totally unplayable on Ultra High, I’m just very picky about things like that, especially in a game like Mankind Divided where you need to move quickly from cover to cover to keep out of the enemies’ line of sight. While the main characters are extremely well-detailed, the same can’t be said about the less important ones. There were many citizens that were indistinguishable from one another. Even some of the side-mission characters paled in comparison to the main characters. There's also a bizarre issue with the in-game cut-scenes. While many cut-scenes look spectacular in 1080p, occasionally there were these strange moments when the scene would change camera angles only to switch to a lower-res image, and it was extremely noticeable. I’m not sure why this happens, but these weird transition moments were lower quality and look cheap compared to the rest of the game.
The game is more consistent across the board in regards its audio work. Voice acting is convincing and superb — despite some occasional lip-synch issues — and the soundtrack by Michael Mann manages to outdo his exceptional work on Human Revolution. Overall, with the exception of the strange dip in cut-scene quality, Mankind Divided is visually appealing and offers up a very good audio experience.
Perhaps Mankind Divided's greatest achievement is its level design, and Eidos Montreal has raised the bar in terms of what’s expected from games that strive to give players multiple ways to complete objectives. It would behoove players to explore every nook and cranny of their environment. Climb every ladder, search every sewer, and investigate every rooftop because chances are you’ll discover multiple ways to silently infiltrate your surroundings to reach your objective. There were many times where I’d make my way through a building or facility, ducking and dodging around enemy patrols, only to reach my objective and discover an air shaft in there that leads directly out of the building. If only I had taken the time to do a little recon, I could have made my way inside with a lot less resistance. There are also hundreds of locked storage units, safes, and security gates that can be opened using codes obtained by reading emails on personal computers and finding pocket secretaries laying around. If you prefer the thrill of hacking into computers, offices, and whatnot, you can do that as well as long as your hacking skills are up to snuff. Hacking is carried out via a mini-game that will require you to unlock multiple nodes, but once the system detects you, you will only have a short amount of time to finish the hack before being locked out for a short duration. I can’t wait to go back through the game again — thanks to New Game + — to try and find better ways of completing missions without raising an alarm.
Lastly, if you’re not ready to invest another 20-30 hours into a second playthrough right away — and you just need a quick dose of what Mankind Divided has to offer, you can always hop into the new Breach mode. This mode is a spin-off of one of the main story missions you’ll encounter during the game which tasks you with making your way through computer files by means of Virtual Reality. It has its own rank progression system and leaderboards for you to climb. Each mission is relatively short and time-sensitive, so these won’t offer up the same amount of substance found in the story missions. They are well-designed, though, and can be quite intense if you and your friends are competing for bragging rights.
In the end, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has managed to give me more of what I enjoyed about Human Revolution, while also improving upon many of its predecessor's weaknesses. The story is much darker, and the focus on mature themes and several issues that we as a society are dealing with today brings a certain gravity to the proceedings. Taut gameplay, new kick-ass augmentations, and exceptional level design help push Mankind Divided into the upper echelon of stealth-based action games. Adam Jensen continues to rub shoulders with the likes of Solid Snake and Sam Fisher, and Mankind Divided is type of game needed on your resumé in order to be mentioned alongside these genre titans. If you even remotely enjoyed Human Revolution, I highly recommend you go out and play Mankind Divided immediately, no stealthy approach required.
A PC review copy of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was graciously provided to us by our friends at Square Enix.
Review PC Specs (Played on Ultra/Very High)
GPU: GeForce GTX 980
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4720HQ CPU @ 2.60GHz
Memory: 16 GB RAM (15.89 GB RAM usable)
Current resolution: 1920 x 1080, 120Hz
Operating system: Microsoft Windows 10 Home
- Exceptional level design rewards those who explore
- Compelling story
- Stealth gameplay is incredibly satisfying
- Great soundtrack
- Inconsistent climbing mechanic can be frustrating at times
- Cut-scenes inexplicably go from looking great to not-so-great
- Occasional lip-sync issues