Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a brilliant first-person stealth game that takes the gameplay elements that made its predecessor, Human Revolution, great and also expanding upon them. Unfortunately, the flaws, while minor, that were found in Human Revolution are still present and are now less acceptable due to the time between installments.
Mankind Divided takes place two years after the events of Human Revolution. While I’ll try do my best to avoid spoilers, I will say that those aforementioned events have polarized the world regarding augmented people. The game takes place primarily in Prague, a city where tensions between augmented and “natural” people have come to a head. The city is dark and grim and has become controlled almost entirely by its police force who are highly biased against the augmented population. The themes of discrimination and hatred in Mankind Divided are relevant themes as they are unnervingly topical, and make for an interesting game. You can’t go far without hearing someone shouting “Damned hanzer!” in the distance, with “hanzer” being a derogatory term for an augmented, or enhanced person. The hatred isn’t one-sided either. In an early game line of dialogue, Adam Jensen can be heard saying “Treat people like animals long enough and they’ll start acting like it”. Many augmented people, tired of the discrimination, have taken matters into their own hands and began to fight back. This, of course, only makes matter worse for their cause. The story was very reminiscent of the tension found in many X-Men storylines, with the augmented serving as the mutants. Unfortunately, what could’ve been a great story “ended” with a conclusion that seemed more interested in setting up the next installment, than actually answering any questions.
The gameplay of Mankind Divided shines even brighter than its fascinating world and gripping story. At the beginning of the game you are asked to select one of many control styles, one of which is a carry over from Human Revolution. The control scheme that was designed for Mankind Divided comes with a warning that it does involve a bit of a learning curve, but also the assurance that it is the best way to play the game. It was right on both accounts. The controls felt unique enough that it did take me some time to get used to, but not so convoluted that I felt lost or buried in them. The Praxis System of upgrading or choosing augments is back but with a slight twist. Through events that occur in the early game, Adam discovers he has more augs than he originally believed, but these new elite augs come with a catch. Due to their requirement for significantly more power to operate than the normal augs, you must permanently disable an upgrade tree in order to access the new tree. While this seems like a steep penalty at first glance, the drawback is minimal. Typically you’ll base your upgrade choices around a specific build be it hacker, stealth, tank, assault, etc., so eliminating one of these upgrade trees that are not congruent with your playstyle is almost negligible.
The only problems in gameplay I found were, oddly enough, the same ones I found in Human Revolution. At one point I threw a refrigerator across the room in order to clear the path behind it, yet I had to clumsily drag a body to a hiding place rather than just throwing it on my shoulder. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the rag doll I was dragging didn’t get caught on invisible walls or partially clip through the floor. I want to stress that this is a minor issue. It’s just immensely frustrating to know that this mechanic wasn’t eliminated due to common sense or at least fixed to function properly in the five years since Human Revolution’s release. Another issue that was also found in Human Revolution was that though the game boasts choice and allows you to play your way, you are punished severely for opting to go non-lethal. You will find almost no ammo, and most augs are geared towards increasing your lethality.
When all’s said and done, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an excellent game with fun mechanics, a fascinating story, and a dense, developed world. The choices you make carry weight that is felt by player and character alike. It is hampered only by a lackluster conclusion, and minor gameplay issues that can be easily overlooked in such a well put together game.
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