Deus Ex: Mankind Divided puts you in an ultra-paranoid world that is slowly coming apart at the seams. Terrorism is a common event. Corporations with the budgets of countries are operating with impunity. World governments are exerting more totalitarian controls, and augmented people are being isolated from society and shoved into ghettos, with no clear distinction between the criminals who prey on them or the police who are encouraged to keep them corralled through violent force. A 24 hour media is fueling unease and division. It paints a terrifying vision, and it is the perfect backdrop for a game like Deus Ex.
The game starts two years after the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In response to The Incident, a time when people with augmentations went crazier than your ex after going through half a bottle of cheap liquor, governments have decided to segregate the naturals from the augs to protect people from the possibility of another mass murdering catastrophe. In doing this, augmented people have been given fewer rights and more people mistrust and mistreat them.
You are Adam Jensen, basically the love child between Morpheus from The Matrix and the spaghetti western version of Clint Eastwood. Based in Prague, you work for Interpol in an anti-terrorism group named TF29, but you are working with another group, the Juggernaut Collective, to figure out why The Incident occurred and to stop the shadowy organization behind it.
Since it is a Deus Ex game, you have a huge amount of choice, beginning with your augmented abilities. Taking a page out of a Metroid game, Adam loses his full range of augmentations near the beginning and will slowly build them up over the course of the game by spending Praxis kits. They are gained by doing everything in the game from completing a mission to taking out a bad guy.
You are free to build out your character anyway that you want. Do you want to be a gun wielding Arnold Shwarzenegger, lifting refrigerators and punching holes in walls, or do you want to be an invisible wraith moving through buildings undetected? The game allows for either approach, and you may switch from stealth to walking death after tripping an alarm you did not see.
For either approach, exploration is rewarded, and the environment is densely packed with things to see but mostly steal. My Jensen stole anything and everything that would fit in the inventory, even if the owner was standing right there. (What are they going to do? I can punch through walls!) If I was ever stuck and did not know where to go next, I just needed to search my environment for a solution. Often, there was more than one. I could sneak, smash, shoot, or even speak my way out of a bad situation. There are guns and extra ammo, health items, key cards, and hackable terminals everywhere.
Hacking is one of the few skills everyone needs. There are so many secrets and benefits to being able to open a door or safe that it will definitely improve the quality of your experience. To simplify the hacking mini game, you must connect your beginning point to your end point by hacking different directories in a specific route. Each of the directories has a different risk level for being discovered. If you are discovered, a trace program will try to stop you, before you can access the end. If you are successful, you can read emails, open a door, or manipulate the security system. If you fail, the guards or police will be alerted to your presence and try to shoot you. There are no arrests.
The game is structured in main missions and side missions. The main missions move the story forward but the side missions give you rewards or experience. I often found them to be every bit as engaging as the main missions and they are not mandatory. There is a mission about a serial killer later in the game that had a large amount of content. Without spoiling the story, I was able to investigate clues, and I was free to make a case for why I believed a specific person was guilty. That was only the beginning, and I did not even have to engage in any of it.
That is part of the power of choice in this game. Your Adam Jensen can be different than mine. Is he a man who is empathetic to people impacted by the problems of society, or is he a world weary cop with an acerbic personality? You have the ability to be either through conversation choices, and you will experience the consequences of either choice as well.
There are two other modes in the game, Breach and Jensen’s Stories. Breach is a timed mode where you play a ripper who steals corporate secrets by hacking computers through a VR interface. The mode is similar to a part from the singleplayer, and it is fun for a little while. Unfortunately, this mode also contains the deadliest enemy Jensen will ever face – microtransactions. Jensen’s Stories is a continuation after the main game’s storyline, and it is recommended you finish the main story first.
As I mentioned, you are an anti-terrorist government agent and trying to uncover the secret actors behind a nefarious plot. The story is interesting in a summer movie blockbuster way, but that is not an insult. Very few games are successful in taking on the grand conspiracy story line, and I cannot think of one who can make it work like Deus Ex. While I was playing, I was often asking myself if I could trust some characters and chose my dialogue accordingly.
The world of Deus Ex is probably the best character in the game. I found myself listening to the conversations of NPCs to see how people felt about certain events and to see if they would drop any useful information. There are also a ton of books, emails, and messages on pocket secretaries to read. Some of the information is useful, such as a code to unlock something. Many of the emails were just correspondence between friends or coworkers that added depth and realism to a person I might never meet in the game. It would have been awkward if they saw me hacking their computer and reading emails from their mom, so maybe that is for the best anyway.
For the most part, the visuals and sound are good. The architecture and design of the different areas and the overall visual design of the characters really stood out in Human Revolution and I was not disappointed here. The lighting from the police cars, and especially The Red Queen club in the red light district were great. The world looks appropriately dreary in the cities reflecting the residents growing lack of civic pride. The few places outside a city, including a virtual area, look fantastic. The only exception to the good visuals are the faces of some side characters and generic guards. Their faces lacked a lot of the detail present in the main characters’ faces. This made it extremely jarring to look at some of them, and I pretended they had been in a horrible accident.
Overall, the performance of the game is very good. There are loading screens if you die and if you travel to another area, the loading screen is hidden by a subway trip or quick elevator ride. The load times would vary a little, but I would say they were mostly between 15 – 20 seconds. After you went into a big area the game would hesitate for a fraction of a second when it was streaming, but it was minimal and did not impact my enjoyment at all.
There were only two technical issues I encountered. The first was when the game froze in a loading screen and the PS4 had to restart. This only happened once. The other problem was that my inventory would slowly pop into existence when I tried to access it. This happened more frequently as my inventory grew, but it usually loaded quickly.
The sound in Deus Ex is good, from the conversations to the music, and it fits the scenes well. I also really liked the game’s use of the speaker in the controller. Other character’s voices in conversations would be played over Adam’s infolink through your peripheral. The music of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was fine, but, outside a few swells in the action, it mostly stayed in the background. It was a nice electronic mix, but I was never impacted by a standout track or scene. There were also a couple times that the music made it a little more difficult to clearly understand the character’s spoken dialogue.
The audio also included a radio talk show that could be accessed from any radio in the world, and video commentary from the Picus TV reporter, Eliza Cassan. Both would report on things I had done in previous missions, and it really rounded out the experience.
The game length feels right for the story they are trying to tell, and I have no problems recommending its content to value. I have tried to not spoil anything, because I think you need to experience all that the story offers. However, the game ends abruptly, and there are many unanswered questions. We are not looking at a Halo 2 situation here, but, Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do. Hopefully, these questions will be answered in a sequel, and, since it works for Marvel, stay for the credits to see an extra scene with an extra twist.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game creates an interesting world with some parallels to our own, allowing your story choices to seem even more meaningful. The augmentations allow you to move from A to B quietly or with a big boom, and it was fun to experiment. If you played and enjoyed previous games, there is no treachery here, only fun.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gives the player a lot of choice in how to solve problems, and is arguably its most interesting and powerful feature. You can really tailor the game to your preferred play style of stealth, action, or a mix of the two. This choice extends to the story, and, considering Adam Jensen is never Mr. Enthusiasm, that is a good thing. Outside some minor issues, the visuals are good, and the music is solid. The story and world are why you should play this game, and they deliver. The ending could have been a little more gradual, but it sets up the sequel perfectly. We can all hope to not have to wait five more years to get the answers this game leaves waiting to be explored.
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