Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review
It's been 5 years since the Deus Ex franchise came back from obscurity in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Praised for its choice based style of gameplay and it's techno-noir storytelling and atmosphere, Human Revolution reinvigorated the once dead franchise with a new lease on life. Square Enix and Eidos Montreal plan on continuing this hot streak with Mankind Divided, but have they augmented enough to make this title perfect, or are there still some chinks in the armor.
Set 2 years after the events of Human Revolution, Mankind Divided has players returning to the role of Adam Jensen, who's now been promoted from head of corporate security to part of the anti-terrorist group Task Force 29. After a mission goes wrong, Adam must find the root of the attack and put an end to it, before things escalate any further.
Mankind Divided's main story does do enough to keep players engaged, thanks to it's strong writing and Voice Acting, but it can easily get convoluted. With so much government and political conspiracy afoot, it's really hard to find characters to root for or get any type of emotional attachment to. Add to that an unsatisfying ending that feels unfinished, and you get a plot that feels weaker than the first game, even if some individual sections are much stronger than others.
What Mankind Divided story does add is an interesting look at the augmented debate that wasn't quite explored in the previous game. People now look at Augmented as lesser beings and inhuman, referring to them as "Clanks," and forcing Augs to now live in slums. These underlying themes evoking racism from the 1950's and even from today. It an interesting look at the darker side of humanity and does help the underwhelming main plot. While it can get a little cartoonish at times, Mankind Divided isn't afraid to tackle it's themes.
While Human Revolution felt more role playing than action game, the opposite is true with the sequel. There's still plenty of leveling up Jensen to fit your playstyle and choosing dialog to avoid conflict, but the action has been ratcheted up significantly in both it's lethal and non-lethal options. Stealth has seen some small but important upgrades, like the ability to take enemies down from cover. Shooting, on the other hand, has seen more improvements. Guns feel more impactful than before and the game's cover system is far less sticky, now that's relegated to a button, rather than the left trigger/L2 buttons.
Enemy A.I is also far more intelligent in combat than in HR. Enemies no longer constantly just stand in the open and shoot you, and now take cover while trying to flank you. It makes combat more intense and enjoyable and will even give the more trigger happy players the chance to actually question if they want to play more stealthy. You can still get by with either method, but it's better to go stealth first.
Along with new improvements to combat and stealth, new abilities are open up in this sequel. A personal favorite is the new remote hacking that allows Jensen to deactivate turrets, cameras, lasers, and sentry attack robots from a safe distance. Others include the Icarus Dash, that allows you to dash to different vantage point, the gun blades that can either stun or kill your enemies and much more that I won't spoil for you. Even old abilities, like Jensen's smart vision, have gotten a few tweaks. All in all, Mankind Divided Improves in almost every way possible from HR.
While HR wasn't a absolutely stunning game, it made up for it with a unique art style and great CGI cutscenes. That isn't the case for Mankind Divided. The latest Deus Ex is a far more varied and better looking game; the environments and hub world you explore are much more varied this time around, and help sell the world MD has created. MD might borrow a few elements from other cyberpunk work, but is able to find it's own identity by blending them all together. CGI cutscenes look amazing as you would expect, and though the framerate in game occasionally stutters, it mostly hits it's 30FPS target.
That being said, it's not without some occasional glitches and a game crash. It only happened once for me, but it shouldn't be ignored in case. The biggest offender with the presentation is the some in-game cutscenes. They can look pretty jagged and features godawful lip-sync. It doesn't hurt the game too much, but it can take you out of the story.
Mankind Divided's story may not be as strong at Human Revolution's and it can suffer from tech issues, but it's still an outstanding game that's worth playing. The improved combat and stealth mechanics, coupled with the great new toys to play with, are worth experiencing. As for the subject matter, it isn't something that has been tackled in many games and should at least be commended for that. With all that said, MD has been augmented for the better.