Praised for its story, player choice and relative gameplay freedom, Deus Ex: Human Revolution took the world by storm when it was released in 2011. With heavy political themes tied around the transhumanism movement, the growing power of megacorporations and a heavy lacing of conspiracy theories, Human Revolution presented a story that was both distant from the world of 2011 in practice, but also relatable to those times in theme. While weak combat mechanics held the title back from being a true classic, Human Revolution was still loved by many. Due to these fond memories, the announcement of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and the return of Adam Jensen was welcomed by the wider gaming community. With the promise of a darker yet more relatable story, vastly improved combat mechanics and more freedom than ever before, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided sounds like my dream game. In practice, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a step forwards from Human Revolution, but some baffling design choices hold the game back from perfection.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided begins with a skippable 13-minute recap video of the events that occurred in Human Revolution, ensuring that whether you are returning after a long break or are a newcomer to the series, you are up to date with the current events and circumstances of the game. The story in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes place 2 years after the ‘aug incident’ of Human Revolution, with non-augmented citizens now scared that the world’s augmented population may go on another violent rampage at any moment. This background colours much of the story throughout the game, with the public’s view on augmentation changing from one of hope, to fear and anger. This serves as the starting point for Mankind Divided, as tensions start to boil over and a number of attacks seemingly perpetrated by augmented terrorists take place. Conveniently, these attacks are occurring before a vote on the future of augmented citizens is to occur, leading Adam Jensen to question who the real perpetrators of these crimes could be as he searches for answers. Layer upon layer of conspiracy theories begin coming to the surface and it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. Who are the real enemies? Are they who you think they are or are the Illuminati back and manipulating the world from behind the scenes? The story, with its shadowy organisations, conspiracy theories, and dark and serious tones is incredibly engaging and exceptionally well written. Eidos Montreal have continued the standard they set in Human Revolution with a story that keeps you coming back for more.
Your choices made a big difference to your story and experience in Human Revolution and that is no different in Mankind Divided. Conversations are laced with choices, creating branching paths that can completely change what happens next. The choices presented to you in conversations feel organic and subtle compared to other games. Making the correct choices to avoid combat, if that’s what you want, can be a difficult process, but it’s also incredibly satisfying to complete. Your choices don’t end with conversations, as the combat encounters have been expanded to allow for more freedom in your approach. There are more avenues through an encounter, including multiple stealth paths and the ever-present ‘murder everyone’ strategy. This, coupled with the customisation of your weapon loadout and the augment unlock system, means that you are able to freely adjust the game to suit your preferred playstyle. These combat choices don’t happen in a void, with your chosen strategy in a fight having consequences as well. After going into a mission guns blazing, shooting down everyone in sight, I was confronted by a character in the game as my actions were now being reported on TV as an augmented terror attack. I didn’t expect these types of consequences to my actions and this influenced my future choices in combat.
Combat as a whole in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been vastly improved when compared to Human Revolution. Controls no longer feel sluggish, with iron sights popping up and down quickly as needed, and cross hairs feeling responsive as I swung them around the screen. Guns all shoot and feel different, with customisation options making significant differences to how they perform. The cover system is excellent, allowing you to point to the cover you want to swap to and hitting a single button to go there. Augments are also incredibly responsive as well, with quick activations, and multiple control schemes mean that you can adjust where to activate them from. The only issue with combat is the animations when performing a takedown, which causes a black transition as the game cuts to a precanned animation as you attack your target. It’s a jarring sensation that breaks the immersion, almost feeling like a cutscene is being played.
Graphically, the world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is impressive in its style and aesthetic. Cities are large and full of a cohesive architectural design, with newer buildings representing the cleaner style of the future, while older buildings look more like buildings today. The attention to detail in the city of Prague, for example, is incredible, with no two buildings looking exactly alike and nothing being flat or boring to look at. Just walking around the city and looking at the buildings is an experience in itself. Characters don’t fare quite so well, with animations still being a little stiff and somewhat clunky, and models being lower quality compared to the environments. The voice acting can be hit and miss, with audio quality sometimes a bit scratchy, and lips don’t seem to be properly synced to a character’s dialogue. There are also some odd technical issues, with framerates dropping during cutscenes, and the same occurring in a couple of the games areas. As a whole, the technical performance is steady and holds well, with only the very odd issue becoming apparent. None of this detracts too heavily from the overall experience in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but they do hold it back somewhat.
While Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a purely single player affair, Eidos Montreal have introduced a new leaderboard based score attack mode with Breach. Breach has you finding and downloading data stacks in an effort to infiltrate the most secure network in the world, while avoiding or destroying the security measures that have been put in place to stop you. This is all represented by clean, angular levels that you have to explore to find and download a target amount of data. Once you have enough data, you have to quickly return to your entry point before you get locked in for good. The network will try and throw new obstacles and enemies at you on your way back, in an effort to capture you and not let its data leak. As you finish each level you’re assigned a score, which is then translated into experience points and currency. Gain enough experience points and you will level up, giving you another skill point to use on your augmentations. Credits are used to buy booster packs, which typically give you a number of consumable items that can be used in levels to gain an advantage and also gives an additional skill point on occasion. This potentially means that people will be able to do better and score higher if they’re lucky and receive better items from their booster packs, but it didn’t feel unfair during my playtime. Overall, Breach is an excellent way to adapt the Deus Ex formula to a semi-multiplayer setting without resorting to the standard PVP modes accompanying many single player experiences today.
Eidos Montreal had some large expectations placed on their shoulders when they announced Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and they have more than met them. There are some niggles here and there, like the lacklustre character models and bad lipsyncing, but they are more than balanced out by the great parts. Combat has been vastly improved, making it a more viable option, your choices are incredibly important and are well represented in the game, and the story is deep and engaging. In my eyes, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a must-buy title for anyone and everyone.
-Deep and engaging story
-Choice and consequences are incredibly well represented
-Environments and art design are incredible
-Combat encounters are filled with freedom
-Combat controls are vastly improved
-Lips don't always sync to audio
-Character models could do with some work
-Framerate can drop in cutscenes