Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a direct sequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Anyone into the series and who played the previous entry will be fairly knowledgeable on the game world’s occurrences and current social state. Does this sequel do more than just carry the story along, though?
I posed that last question with admittedly sort of an angle. The immediate answer is “not quite”. Anyone who played Human Revolution is going to find themselves in frighteningly similar territory with Mankind Divided, right down to the shoddy aiming and wonky platforming. Sure, Deus Ex has prided itself on the use of stealth and rewards it rather generously, but sometimes the option to go guns-blazing is nice even if this is an RPG at its core. Unlike Metal Gear Solid V, however, this game has not embraced this option. The good news is that underneath it all, predecessor included, is a solid stealth system with plenty of options. These include some “new” options that, believe it or not, are more for fun than functionality. Nothing beats sneaking around and punching dudes with augmented arms. One notable change I did find is a two-edged sword: they’ve pretty much nerfed the ability to become stealth OP from the game’s predecessor by requiring you to constantly recharge your batteries. This brings up the other edge of the sword: the new UI is rather clunky and a little disruptive. From healing via the weapons wheel to an at-first-glance confusing augmentation upgrade screen, I sometimes felt my mission almost completely broke its own pace since I’d find myself fiddling with things in the middle of sneaking around or shooting people in the neck. At the end of it all, it’s quite simply nothing of note above and beyond its predecessor in overall feel despite some new toys to play with. While it’s good they made it nearly impossible to become OP, they’ve also taken away some of what makes Adam Jensen such a certified badass… despite his absolutely garbage voice acting.
You heard it a moment ago: this game is an RPG at its core, not a shooting or action game. This might give you the expectation for a lot of content and length, and I am sadly going to note it’s not quite up to RPG standards. While there are enough forks in the story to warrant a second playthrough, the roughly 12 hour campaign will only go by even faster on the second try since “New Game+” lets you keep all of your equipment. There’s also this nifty Breach novelty mode that, while interesting at first, is essentially a virtual reality in the game that has you doing the same things you do in the main game, albeit faster and more focused. It’s fun for awhile, but offers not much more than just a cool re-skin and less detailed looking world to do the usual “Jensening” around. It’s nice to get two playthroughs, but it’s all over a bit quick for an RPG.
If you’re into modern gaming, this part matters. And there’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that the Dawn Engine that powers this game is clearly ready for the next generation. The bad news is that it’s clearly scaled down for the current generation. There’s a lot of visual detail, and it looks great… when it’s not having heavy framerate dips or hiccups from alpha effects or asset streaming. Granted, the visual detail is clearly pushing the PS4’s hardware, just by way of having more hair strands than most games dare to render in real time, but it comes at a cost. Overall lighting effects also lack detail, demonstrating a downgrade from what this graphics engine is clearly capable of. Still, it does look good for all intents and purposes. And that’s the moment your immersion is broken by some pretty stiff and awful animations. Furthermore, proper lip syncing seems to be reserved for core boss dialogue and pre-rendered cinematics, as regular conversations demonstrate an eerily two-generations-ago stiffness. Alas, the saving grace comes once again in the story and world presentation values. It’s a little forced, pulling a subtle racism card, but the intention of creating a world in tension is pulled off in a way that puts you in the hot seat from time to time. While it doesn’t contain the type of awesome twist that made Human Revolution stick with me, it ensures a person willing to hear out the story finds them self in what is colloquially known as the “gray area”.
My core interest in this game is because of my time playing its predecessor, enjoying its story and concepts. But this direct sequel comes with it a big problem: it’s more of the same. I practically felt like I was playing Human Revolution with a much prettier skin. From the ambient music to the stiff animations to the stealth-encouraged combat to many of the EXACT SAME weapons, Mankind Divided does little to improve or revolutionize. This is ironic considering the game’s core social issue is the evolution of mankind. The good news is that the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, as being stealth Jensen still means getting your fill of one-punch pulverization. If you enjoyed the predecessor, you’ll enjoy this game. If you didn’t, however, little here will change your mind about the series.
I give Deus Ex: Mankind Divided…