Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review – An Interesting Exploration Into Sci-Fi Themes

For fans of Human Revolution’s globe-trotting, grand plot that had worldwide ramifications, you’ll be shocked or even disappointed to learn that Mankind Divided’s plot is a far, far smaller scale, with the majority of the story focused on a terrorist attack in Prague that is established very early on in the game. It’s an interesting story, with conspirators and shadowy organisations in the background (the Deus Ex staple Illuminati make a welcome appearance) and the presentation is fantastic, but it’s nowhere near as ambitious as Human Revolution’s overall arc was, and it’s a little jarring to play a Deus Ex game that’s this tight and focused on small scale events. And while the game does a brilliant job in setting up the lore and building the smaller details, the overall themes of Man vs Aug and mechanical apartheid doesn’t quite hit the same notes as the fantastic in-depth exploration of transhumanism that Human Revolution does.

The voice work is solid, and it’s nice to welcome back the gravelly tones of Adam Jensen, while David Sarif, a constant sore point in the previous game, is voiced here with a far more subtle tone. The overall graphical presentation is also very solid, but performance wise the game suffers from some severe framerate drops and some truly godawful lip-syncing that hasn’t been this bad since, well, Human Revolution on the PS4. It’s not enough to ruin the game but it does affect the sense of immersion that the developers have so carefully crafted. Hopefully the PC version is a better performing version, and given porters Nixxes’ reputation, it’s safe to bet that it will be a very solid port.Deus-EX-1While it’s a shame that there’s no world hopping this time, the main hub of Prague is absolutely huge. There are many different districts within Prague to explore, and each one is filled to the brim with hidden and side content. Unlocking augmentations to jump higher and move heavier objects is essential to unlocking extra areas that let you find side missions, extra credits, health/biocell items and Praxis kits. Prague is absolutely worth exploring and sinking many, many hours into.

The level design in Mankind Divided is some of the best work Eidos Montreal has ever done. While I could spend hours in Human Revolution finding new routes, new PDA’s and e-books, immersing myself within the universe, Mankind Divided goes above and beyond in making Prague a place to explore. It’s immense the amount of detail that’s gone into the world, and it really makes unlocking augmentations to traverse areas worth it, as there are actual reason to explore the world. It’s shocking to see how open Prague is, and how little hand holding there is. In a generation of tutorials and linearity, Eidos Montreal has crafted a truly ingenious open world that you can easily spend hours getting lost in.Deus-Ex-2The redone Augmentation system is now better than ever, and it’s cool that some of the passive augs in Human Revolution are given to you by default, which is a fun variation on sequels that tend to completely depower the character for illogical reasons. There are a tonne of augs to upgrade, and the vast majority are actually useful, unlike the previous game’s tendency to have a lot of filler upgrades. There are several buffed augmentation upgrades, which push Jensen’s body to the limit and lets him do things like create an unbreakable armour around his body, shoot nanoblades from his arm or create arcs of electricity to knock out several combatants at once. It feels like it should be overpowered, but there’s a careful balancing system in place to ensure Jensen never feels too powerful.

With the combat, the shooting aspects feel much smoother and satisfying, making lethal runs a lot of fun. Guns react much better and aiming down the sights feel way less sticky. The weapon customization takes a Crysis-like route, with the ability to change ammo, sights and silencers on the fly with a hold of a button. It’s a system that practically begs for improvisation under fire instead of a hard reload when an alarm goes off, as switching to a silenced loadout to an armour-piercing one is simple and smooth.Deus-Ex-3The side-quests are in depth and multi-layered, the bulk of which are far more compelling than the actual story. There are no simple fetch quests here: each side mission has multiple objectives, layered cutscenes, and each carries thematic themes that tie to the overall world that Mankind Divided has built. It’s the kind of side-quest system that many RPG’s fail to utilize, and it works wonders here. Each objective in Mankind Divided doesn’t have just one solution: they have many. Hack, smash, stealth, assault, or bluff your way through. It’s amazing how one door can have so many ways to breach through. It’s a wonderfully crafted game that encourages improvisational thinking, exploration and involvedness.

[divider]CONCLUSION[/divider]As a huge Deus Ex fan, with Human Revolution being one of my personal favourites for the previous generation, it’s easy to look at Mankind Divided as a bit of a disappointment, as it falters in many aspects and lacks substantial improvements in other areas that previous games failed in. However, Mankind Divided is still an interesting exploration in sci-fi themes, with a solid narrative and some incredibly refined gameplay mechanics backing it up.

The PS4 version of this game was used primarily for the review. 

The Verdict
Fantastic world building
Amazing open-ended level design and mission structure
Satisfying gunplay and augmentation mechanics
Main story and setting isn't as strong as previous games
Poor framerate performance and lip syncing issues