Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Unites Different Play Styles into a Very Satisfying Whole
The original Deus Ex is a hallowed classic of gaming that redefined what could be done in a first person "shooter," but I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret: the first one hasn't aged well at all. In fact, if you didn't get in on the action when it was fresh, you probably don't need to tread down memory lane at all.
That's where the "reboot" series comes in, giving the options of stealth/hacking/combat in a more updated gaming world. While the end result of recent titles has been hit or miss, I'm happy to report that Mankind Divided is among the best the series has to offer.
World And Story
For those new to the series, what you are dealing with here is essentially Dishonored meets Shadowrun, but with more dystopian social commentary.
That latter comparison in particular really sticks out on this go around, and I was repeatedly struck by the thought of how awesome a full Shadowrun game would be if done in this style and with this level of polish. After all, what's a street samurai if not an augmented human?
According to IMDB, the voice of main character Adam Jensen is provided by Elias Toufexis, but every time he speaks I swear its Timothy Olyphant. Seriously, listen to any scene where he's talking and tell me you don't hear the Olyphant in the room!
While Deus Ex cuts out the magic elements of the previously mentioned games, you still get to go invisible, dash at impossible speeds, fire explosive projectiles, and so on.
For a little bit of that creepy supernatural occult vibe though, there's also a cult of the machine god thrown in the mix. In fact I'd wager that the cult was inspired by Shadowrun's Universal Brotherhood, with its talk of personal development for those who have the potential.
There are loads of real world events and themes on display – police getting away with extremely bad behavior and finding no wrong doing when investigating themselves, the Black Lives Matter movement, Apartheid, bombings in Europe by a feared segment of the population -- mixed in with dystopian conspiracy theories like black flag operations.
If you don't enjoy reading pages of text while playing a game, then this will have less appeal. On the other hand, for those who want to really dive into a universe's back story, there's a ton to learn while reading newspaper tablets or hacking computers and snooping on emails. A unique lexicon has also been built, with slurs like "wrench" getting thrown around for augmented humans.
While the story has some sluggish down points, I did enjoy the strong contrasts in there between characters with differing goals and diametrically opposed ideas.
For instance one group is working to force "augs" into a slum city, while another is building a utopian augmented paradise where they can evolve humanity on their own while free of government persecution. Of course there's a shadowy cabal of power brokers behind the scenes steering events towards a desired, pro-human conclusion you see every now and again.
Overall, there's a really great melding of what has occurred, what we fear occurring, what could actually occur in the near future, and what only occurs in the minds of the truly paranoid.
The controls on the earlier games were incredibly clunky and not intuitive at all – especially if you are used to the standard FPS layout -- but they are cleaned up quite a bit here. While using the updated scheme, Mankind Divided features oodles of options on how to approach any given mission, with tons of extra side content to find if you spend the time exploring.
Obviously the developers want you to go stealthy, but that's not the only option, as killing everyone is always on the table, although it can make things more difficult. For the truly skilled, there's the difficult path where you can play the vast majority of the game with absolutely no lethal takedowns of any kind.
Jensen starts out at his superhuman maximum in the first mission, but everything gets reset after a bombing as he needs to acquire and tinker with new augmentations, letting you start off with a fresh skill tree.
Some augmentations are obviously better than others, with Icarus Dash and Remote Hack absolute must-haves whether you are going stealth or loud combat on your build. There's overall an excellent spread available though, and it pays to use the augmented abilities like enhanced sight even outside of combat, revealing many locations you can access to find new story info or complete missions in unexpected ways.
One of the highlights of the game is the unique and in-depth hacking system where style meets function. It's way more interesting than the typical "A, B, C" or "Guess the letters" type system in any other stealth or open world game. Learning the hacking system and finding different routes through the files is honestly a huge part of the fun here.
The Bottom Line
If you dig games like Crysis but prefer more tactical, cover-based combat with a less confined world, then Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will hit the spot. There are some flaws here and there however -- repetition in level layout elements, spotty dialog, and getting overpowered if you work the augmentation system.
That being said, there's a ton of fun to be had here and lots of exploration to do outside the main quest line. Fans of the earlier games or anyone wanting a stealth exploration haunt before Dishonored 2 lands should pick this one up post haste.
Note: GameSkinny received a copy of this game to review.