Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review
Action Jensen, He’s a Hero, Gonna Take Terrorists Down to Zero
My husband’s favourite series is Deus Ex. He has tried for years to get me to play the first game — with numerous failed attempts — until I decided to try Deus Ex: Human Revolution on his recommendation a few years back. I became smitten with ex-SWAT officer turned augmented man, Adam Jensen, and the world that he attempts to protect from the shadows. Human Revolution introduced me to a world of secrecy and conspiracy, something its direct sequel Deus Ex: Mankind Divided continues to build upon. How strong a sequel is Mankind Divided? Well, it certainly offers more questions than answers.
After the events of Human Revolution, Adam Jensen is forced back into the shadows as a member of Interpol’s elite anti-terrorist unit, TF29. While on a mission in Dubai to capture a weapons smuggler, Jensen confronts a group of gold-masked augmented soldiers known only as Shadow Operatives. After completing his mission, Jensen is conflicted by the outcome of the events and returns to Prague to meet with a member of the Juggernaut Collective, run by an elusive hacker only known as “Janus.” Upon his arrival in Prague, a train station is bombed, and Jensen’s augmentations suffer serious damage. This begins the larger mystery surrounding Adam Jensen, the Collective, and the potential ties that TF29 may or may not have with the mysterious organization, the Illuminati.
The story behind Mankind Divided is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, fried in conundrum sauce, and wrapped in a juicy hot dog. There is so much mystery that clouds the world of Prague and the shadowy organizations that Jensen both partakes in and investigates. There are numerous opportunities for Jensen to make decisions that will have a larger impact on the main story at hand, though some of these choices feel less heavy-handed compared to the game’s prequel, Human Revolution. It is imperative that players have some knowledge surrounding the previous game, as certain characters and events definitely resurface in Mankind Divided, and it can be confusing for newcomers, even with the long introduction that the game presents.
Where Mankind Divided shines, much like Human Revolution comes in the form of the side missions that Jensen can undertake. Some of the side stories are emotionally gut-wrenching, if not downright horrific, and the game’s world does an amazing job of making the player feel as though they are surrounded by poverty, oppression, and segregation. In fact, a lot of Mankind Divided‘s narrative focuses on the idea of segregation between “naturals” and “augs” and many of the side missions that look at this issue are heartbreaking and well written. Seeing some of the outcomes of what the player’s decisions later on can be are devastating. The seedy underbelly of Prague is chock full of emotion and tension, and arguably these stories are much stronger in narrative quality than the main storyline, which is decent but not particularly memorable.
While the story missions offer a lot of variety in terms of storytelling, the world building doesn’t feel as strong compared to previous installments. Unlike Human Revolution, there is only one hub city in the game, which is Prague. While it’s interesting to see the transformation of this one hub throughout the entirety of the game, it makes the actual game feel rather short because there isn’t as much travelling between locations. Even though there is a lot packed into this fifteen hours’ worth of gameplay, the game still feels like so much more could have been expanded upon, and not having the other locations to move though makes Mankind Divided feel almost too self-contained at times. Even in the main missions, areas feel smaller in terms of exploration, making clearing objectives too breezy. While a shorter game is welcome, the amount of exploration in Mankind Divided feels minimal compared to Human Revolution, which offered a multitude of things to engage with, such as areas having multiple ways for the player to work their way through the mission.
One area in particular where Mankind Divided falters is the ending. There isn’t a pay-off or resolution, offering more questions than answers. There are moments that screams that Jensen’s story isn’t complete, making it glorified sequel bait. Mankind Divided suffers story-wise by being that middle child that offers only small parts of a larger, not fully realized picture.
Even though the story has its ups and downs, the gameplay of Mankind Divided feels much more refined, compared to Human Revolution. Jensen now comes equipped with a plethora of experimental augments that offer new methods of lethal and non-lethal combat. However, for the first half of the game there is a small catch to using these new experimental augments: he risks destabilizing his entire system if regular augs are not properly powered down before using one of the experimentals. If Jensen’s body isn’t stable, players risk Jensen being able to perform combat techniques smoothly. New experimental augments include Jensen being able to land safely when he falls, power run, and remotely hack drones and turrets. These new augments are definitely a highlight, especially TESLA, which allows Jensen to take down opponents with a powerful electric shock. Players can allot PRAXIS points as they level up into whatever augments they wish to advance, allowing the player to have full range on how they wish to build their Action!Jensen.
The game continues to reward players for using either a head-on approach or by using stealth, while also gaining more experience through craftier methods to complete objectives. In fact, Mankind Divided continues the trend of offering a variety of ways to complete mission objectives, be it backdoor routes, vents, or even punching guys in the face, which is always a sound option in all scenarios. The game does a great job of encouraging players to investigate their surroundings and come up with alternate plans when the first plan goes awry. This makes for compelling gameplay, keeping players constantly on their toes.
Interestingly, Mankind Divided has mostly done away with the notorious boss fights from its predecessor in favour of more social boss fights, wherein negotiation is king in order to stop the bad guys from doing “bad things.” While this is a welcome change, it adds to that weird feeling of “shortness” that plagues the game. Even though these social battles are much more compelling, they definitely can feel as though they are removing some of the larger action that should be in play.
Once again praise needs to be said for the game’s sound direction. The voice acting continues to be a fantastic part of these series, with Elias Toufexis continuing to do standout work playing the augmented hero, Adam Jensen. Many of the secondary characters are also well voiced throughout, and even the environment-based dialogue does a great job of highlighting the poverty within Prague. The soundtrack that overlays the game is also quite good and very subtle, doing a great job of highlighting more emotional moments in the game without overdoing it.
In terms of visuals, the game looks fantastic on PlayStation 4, with characters that are well detailed and defined, though there are definitely a few moments where the framerate will drop. There is also a great amount of detail and personality that has been put into the environments to give each location that Jensen visits tons of visual charm and appeal. While there is the odd visual hiccup, the overall look and feel of the game are wonderfully defined.
Mankind Divided is a solid follow up to Human Revolution, but it does come at a price. While it definitely has the weaker overall storyline, and it left more questions than it did answer, it’s hard to deny that the game will have its appeal for fans who love to explore environments to the fullest while also kicking ass and taking names. The shorter experience unfortunately dampened the experience for me on the whole, but I still enjoyed making decisions and actually taking on the role of Adam Jensen, which I feel is the highlight of this series even more so than the robust combat experience and engaging side content. Mankind Divided may be the middle child of the series, but it definitely ends with some interesting doors left to open in Jensen’s future.
Awesome side missions
Experimental arguments are rad
Great dialogue and acting
Feels short and sequel-baity
Story is much weaker compared to HR