Published on September 23rd, 2016 | by Peter Freeman0
Deux Ex: Mankind Divided Review
Summary: The gameplay you've come to know and love about Deus Ex is here, but the lack of story and repetitive hub world only make this a passable sequel.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an interesting beast. In many ways it’s the same game as its predecessor, Human Revolution. Mankind Divided is more of an improvement on the formula than a game that tries to do something new with it.
Set two years after the events of the first game – recapped by a twelve-minute video that can thankfully be skipped – Mankind Divided finds Adam Jensen stationed in Prague. He’s working with an anti-terrorist organization called Taskforce 29. Ever since the “Incident” that occurred at the very end of the first game, people have turned on those with augments. There’s a division between people without augments (called “naturals”) and those with them. Things are especially bad in Prague, where the majority of the game is set.
There’s a lot of that boiler plate racism that you find when androids or cyborgs are put in the place of minorities. The main story does very little different with this theme than other works before it. There are separate lines at the train station, police constantly harass you, and so on. It’s all the same stuff you’ve seen and heard before.
What’s worse is that the entire game is set in Prague. With a few main story missions that serve as exceptions, you’re stuck in Prague. So you’re exposed to the same elements over and over and over again, to the point that being in Prague becomes something of a chore. There’s an attempt to break things up by letting the player travel through five different districts in the city. This would help except for that fact that even on PC, the game’s loading times are extreme. We’re talking upwards of thirty seconds to go from one section of the city to another. Sometimes you have to do this multiple times in order to complete a side quest. It’s something of a chore, to say the least.
The main story missions that do take you out of Prague though, take you to exciting locations like London, the Middle East, the mountains of northern Europe, and a shanty town called Golem City. These are all unique and interesting in their own way. They’re all fairly linear though, so you don’t have the wide open spaces to explore like you would in the hub city of Prague. These locations are for the missions only and nothing more. Even so, they’re a welcome break from the drab look of Prague.
The main story isn’t much to write home about either. The plot is your usual hodgepodge of conspiracy, the illuminati, and politics. It’s all very surface level, mostly due to the fact that despite being roughly fifteen hours long, the story just kind of… ends. Right when things are getting interesting, it’s over. There’s no third act to the story. There will be DLC for the game, which hopefully won’t be the actual ending to the game. But that’s how the end of this game feels, like there will be some kind of epilogue DLC that actually finishes the story. It’s a strange choice, but perhaps one made because the ending of the first game was so poorly received.
Human Revolution’s boss battles were very poorly received. Mankind Divided essentially does away with the concept, with the exception of the end game encounter. This creates something of a vacuum in terms of escalation. Since there’s only one boss battle, there’s very little that’s intimidating about the other enemies in the game. And since this boss battle was pretty well done in terms of how you could complete it, I kind of wish that there had been at least one more, somewhere in the middle of the game.
But what Mankind Divided does do well, it does extremely well. The gameplay is as fun as ever. Every level has at least five different ways to be completed, all a mix and match of various playstyles. Personally, stealth and non-lethal weaponry was the way to go. To me, the ultimate Deus Ex experience is akin to that of “being Batman”. I’m a master of stealth, a ghost. Sneaking in and out of buildings, taking people out from a distance with my tranquilizer rifle. One mission that stands out in my mind is when Adam is supposed ascend to the top of an apartment building while avoiding the cultists that have taken it over. If I’d really wanted to, I could have pulled out my silenced shotgun (that’s a thing!) and murdered everyone in my path, but that isn’t who I was. I’m a ghost. So through a combination of cloaking, emp bullets, and silent takedowns, I was able to avoid getting to where I needed to go without killing anyone. That’s the kind of Deus Ex experience I was looking for, and Mankind Divided has that in spades.
While the main story of Deus Ex may not be very interesting, the side quests are where the true writing lies. It’s also where Deus Ex does its most interesting world building. Not all of them hit on interesting notes, but those are few compared to those that take a look at the smaller scale incidents. For example, one quest dives deep into the social augments. What happens when someone uses these influence those around him? Does power like that go to someone’s head? It’s in these side missions that the themes of racism are portrayed in interesting ways. One quest, about a serial killer known as the Harvester, is probably the best side quest in the game. This mission comments on police brutality, race, and gender in ways that a lot games don’t. It’s only unfortunate that this quality of writing didn’t make into the rest of the game.
If you’re looking for more interesting locations to explore, and something akin to a story, you’ll probably be disappointed by Mankind Divided. However, if you loved how Human Revolution played, this game is definitely for you. The gameplay is crisp, fun, and has never felt better.