Despite owning a physical copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and being quite aware of its cult classic status, I’ve yet to actually play it. You can boo, you may hiss – but I think it puts this particular reviewer at an advantage. The shackles are off; the rose-tinted glasses have been put to one side, all that’s left is the honest dissection of a game drenched in the unmistakable mien of summertime hype.
Game Name: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC Publisher(s): Square Enix Developer(s): Eidos Montreal Genre(s): Roleplaying/First-person shooter Release Date: 8.23.2016 Price: £44.99 / $59.99 Reviewed on: Xbox One (review copy provided by publisher)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, continues where its predecessor left off; Adam Jensen has been fished out of the ocean after the Panchaea platform sank and his body has been souped up with surreptitious augmentations. If you’re unfamiliar with the conclusion of Human Revolution, then there is an option to watch a 13-minute-long recap of Deus Ex to date at the beginning of the game. All you really need to know is the Keanu Reeves-like protagonist is back and more lethal/non-lethal than ever before.
The game takes us to the capital city of Prague, where an unexpected terror attack leaves Jensen and Task Force 29 in the middle of a conspiracy involving the government, the Illuminati, and the Augmented Rights Coalition. Just like most modern first-person-shooters, keeping up with the actual plot seems an afterthought – with endless mission debriefs, side quests and squad ‘banter’ taking centre stage. It took me roughly 25 hours to complete the game on the easiest mode (the mode recommended for lovers of ‘story’) and I still struggled to grasp a cohesive narrative in and amongst all the cyberpunk freneticism. The stakes of the narrative are noticeably low-key in comparison to other games in the franchise; the repercussions of the introductory terror attack seeming to play second-fiddle to the fact Jensen discovers he’s been given exciting new ways to maim people.
What I do immediately like about the world of Deus Ex is how it attempts to hold a candle to society. We live in an age where the iPhone may as well be an extension of the human arm – we’d struggle to know what to do without it. Deus Ex explores those very current sci-fi themes with great affection and great detail; the new augments playing a key part to Jensen’s swiss-army-man persona. The game’s execution compliments this idea nicely, although certain repetitive parts of the gameplay (most notably taking cover – a loose mechanic that’s still in need of a facelift in all of video gaming) aren’t anywhere near as good as they should be. The stealth mechanics are wonderfully introduced, allowing you the opportunity to traverse any sticky situation in a way that suits you. Whether that means using your aug to turn invisible and run the length of a crowded corridor, shooting your non-lethal projectiles to pacify a room full of tough opponents or by using your extremely effective Icarus Dash to leap forward with pace – you’ll never find yourself short of creative solutions to pertinent problems. Likewise, if you find life too short and want to go in all guns’a’blazing then Mankind Divided certainly caters to that audience too; having decided I was going to play through the entire game as a pacifist the first thing I did was accidentally confuse my lethal and non-lethal takedowns, shredding an innocent guard for literally no reason. Shame.
Both graphically and in terms of audio design, Mankind Divided stands toe-to-toe with other AAA titles out there at the moment. There are great performances from the majority of the cast, including the reliable Elias Toufexis (Jensen) and the iconic British actor Peter Serafinowicz (MacReady) – and the beautifully realized Czech capital, Golem City, and Dubai all make this latest Eidos outing a gorgeous one to play through. There are a few issues I found with load times, particularly when retracing your steps in Prague or heading to Jensen’s apartment. These were unnecessary and slowed down what was already a vast and overwhelming experience for a completionist like me. Repetition began to weigh in during the later segments where the game ironically attempted to pick up its pacing; certain lazy design elements such as the millions of ventilation-shaft escape routes and the games’ hacking and remote hacking segments (BioShock’s pipe game, eat your heart out!) aren’t intrusive enough to really derail the gaming experience but they definitely have an impact.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also includes a non-traditional online mode called Breach. Much like Mirror’s Edge time trials for its competitive racers, here you’ll find yourself stealing data against a ticking clock, all the while trying not to engage troublesome enemies. Each Breach mission is a breath of fresh air and serves as a welcome break to alleviate some of the main titles’ repetitive elements. While your health and battery energy doesn’t ever replenish, you’ll find yourself relying heavily on weaponry – a skill that’s definitely worth honing and taking into the single player campaign.
Overall, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is exactly what I expected it to be. It’s far from the masterpiece that seems to be garnering a lot of critical acclaim – but what it does deliver is a reliable first-person shooter experience with plenty of sci-fi and fantasy tropes thrown in for good measure. The characters are generally likeable and well realized, despite the plot disappearing somewhere into all the repetition and malaise of the 25 regurgitating mission debriefs. Graphically it competes with other blockbuster titles available at the moment, although there’s not enough variation in location and colour palettes to make this one truly memorable for me. Mankind Divided clearly has a lot of tricks in its locker and a story to tell – I just wish it had a little more direction and lot less filler, then this would be the game to reinvigorate the franchise.
*This game was provided to The Outerhaven Productions for review purposes. You can find additional information about our review policy here.
Deus Ex: A Videogame Divided
While I can’t compare Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to it’s predecessor, it definitely delivers a solid experience as a standalone game. Some of its mechanics are loose and don’t work as well as say, the controls in a Call of Duty game, however it delivers the promise of a far greater story than a lot of the competition out there today. Whether or not the story is fully coherent yet is to be debated, I feel there’s plenty more to come from the canon of Deus Ex and this was just a teaser to get us excited. With a lot more variation and a much darker narrative whereby the stakes are higher and death seems like a genuine prospect, I’d be excited to play another adventure with Jensen.