Review: Deus Ex – Mankind Divided is greater than the sum of its parts

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided doesn’t stray far from the established formula of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it’s still an engaging, engrossing, and  entertaining sequel that is ultimately greater than the sum of its sometimes clunky cybernetic parts.

Mankind Divided: The story thus far…

It’s been 5 years since Deus Ex: Human Revolution and it’s conspiracy-laden, labyrinthine story. The events of Human Revolution take place about 2 years prior to the events in Mankind Divided.

I couldn’t recapture it all here, but you don’t need to have played Human Revolution to enjoy Mankind Divided.

Briefly, at the end of Human Revolution a global signal is triggered by an anti-augmentation nut that drove augmented people bananas and caused them to hurt/kill a lot of people.Two years after these events the world is still reeling. “Augs” (augmented people) are heavily discriminated against, and the world is trying to figure out what to do with them.

Eidos Montreal includes a lengthy intro video recapping the story and events of Human Revolution. It’s a good video. It will probably confuse you a little whether or not you played Deus Ex: Human Revolution. You may need to take notes. Recapping the conspiracy-laden Deus Ex games is more complicated than recapping Doom, e.g. “Went to Hell, blew the sh*t out of demons. Got some cool guns.”

2 Years Later

In Mankind Divided, your story — i.e. Adam Jensen’s story — begins in the wake of a mission that goes awry (the training/tutorial mission ) and a train station bombing in Prague that is pinned on augmented terrorists.

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Adam Jensen is part of Task Force 29 and an augmented Interpol super agent. His first mission is to unravel the train station bombing in Prague, which of course is just the tip of a much more complicated, sinister, conspiratorial iceberg.

Like every Deus Ex game before it, plots and conspiracies run deep, and almost no one can be trusted. 

Admittedly, Mankind Divided doesn’t feel quite as fresh as Human Revolution, and sometimes feels more like a massively extended piece of DLC. There are few relatively major improvements or innovations. There are many flaws. Or maybe I’m less tolerant of the flaws now. And yet I still love the game.

Mankind Divided could use some augmentations

Let’s get some of the game’s larger cybernetic warts out of the way first–and bear in mind that overall I still greatly enjoyed the game as a whole.

But the truth is that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided succeeds because it is greater than the sum of each of its major parts, which could be described as FPS (First Person Shooter), RPG (Role playing game), and action-stealth game. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does a respectable job of marrying its disparate game elements, but it doesn’t quite execute them as well as games more firmly entrenched in a single genre.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does a respectable job of marrying its disparate game elements, but it doesn’t quite execute them as well as games more firmly entrenched in a single genre.

And unfortunately it’s all wrapped in a rather poor user interface.

The inventory system is garbage. It’s obnoxiously slow, clunky, and I don’t enjoy the Inventory Tetris “mini game”. The entire system is poorly designed and requires too much micro-management.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The police in the game are a-holes. And eventually, well… you’ll have to deal with them.

For example, when a weapon runs out of a specific type of ammo (armor piercing, EMP, etc.), it won’t auto-switch to the next available type if there is one.

I can’t tell you how many times I whipped out a gun to shoot someone only to hear the embarrassing click-click of an empty chamber. I’d run out of armor piercing rounds but the game requires me to go back into the inventory system and ‘customize’ the weapon with a different ammo type instead of just automatically loading one.

Tip: Buy those Strength Augmentation inventory upgrades to increase your inventory. You’ll want them regardless of what kind of player you are.They won’t save you from Inventory Tetris entirely however, particularly if you’re a completionist-oriented hoarder (like me).

The “Crafting” system in the game is simple to the point of being unnecessary.  You simply collect “parts” that can be ‘spent’ into stuff (ammo mostly) or used to upgrade weapons. I like simplification, but in this case it may have been better to just remove the system altogether.

There also don’t seem to be enough places to spend your credits. I was well into the game’s 3rd act with a mountain of credits I desperately wanted to spend on something.

Rounding out my list of complaints are the quest markers, which could be confusing at times, making it difficult to figure out if you’re on the right track to your next mission objective. (On a side note, there seem to be relatively fewer side quests in Mankind Divided than what I remember in Human Revolution. )

Greater than the sum of its parts

Despite my numerous complaints in previous paragraphs—and ones I’ll likely remember later—I still greatly enjoyed Mankind Divided.  And I still strongly recommend it to fans of the original games.There are easily 30-40+ hours of content to play through, and more on the way in future DLC.

At the core of every Deus Ex game is the ability to choose your own approach to every scenario. Every mission and location has multiple paths. You may not be able to hack a computer or a door, but you might find a Pocket Secretary with a password for it. And the story will change in depending on your actions. (This level of choice isn’t as uncommon or groundbreaking nowadays as it was in the original (2000) Deus Ex, but it’s still a core element of the Deus Ex experience.)

You can often talk your way around a problem, sneak your way around it, hack it, or just shoot it in the face—or any combination thereof. You can kick in a door and dispense some .44 caliber justice, or you can sneak through air ducts and knock out or kill your enemies ninja style. Or you can split the difference between stealth and combat.

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A big part of your approach to the game is tailoring Jensen’s abilities to serve your play style. There are augmentation trees to serve every scenario: hacking, stealth, combat—not to mention support abilities and augmentations to counteract laziness and/or crappy reflexes—i.e. “quality of life” upgrades that provide things such as more health and general resilience.

And I still immensely enjoyed knocking out enemies and making enormous piles of unconscious bodies in a shaft or closet—at least when I didn’t feel like my enemies deserved more merciful treatment. Some guys are just doing their jobs and can be put to sleep or knocked unconscious. But sometimes you just gotta kill an a-hole.

Similarly, there are plenty of role-playing like opportunities, conversations, and choices you make that can affect later in game events. Granted,  based on my play through few of these choices seemed truly pivotal in the game, but they still provide occasional respite from knocking fools out. (Who am I kidding? I never get tired of  knocking fools out.)

At the very least — and no doubt in part due to complaints about Human Revolution — there are very few “boss fights” in Mankind Divided. I encountered only 2, and one is an optional side quest.

Overall: 8.5/10 – Highly recommended

Mankind Divided wraps its disparate FPS, RPG, and stealth elements into a good game powered by an engaging story with beautiful visuals and solid voice acting that is greater than the sum of its parts (warts and all).

Sure, the stealth combat isn’t as good as the Arkham games. The running and gunning isn’t as good as a modern Doom or a Call of Duty. The role playing isn’t as good as The Witcher 3. 

But you’ll tolerate the game’s imperfections because in the end it all still works well enough to keep you coming back for more. Despite some of my own frustrations, I enjoyed the game thoroughly.  I enjoyed it so much that I might even opt for another play through. That’s something I rarely, rarely do.

I enjoyed it so much that I might even opt for another play through. That’s something I rarely, rarely do.

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