Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review – Augmented Choices (PS4)
It’s been almost five years since the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The games industry has changed quite a lot since then, and now we see the release of a direct sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Has Eidos Montreal continued on the excellence established with Human Revolution, or have its ideas grown stagnant since then?
One look around any area in Mankind Divided, and it’s clear that the crew at Eidos Montreal have been living and breathing the universe of Deus Ex the entire time they’ve been crafting this game. There’s so many minute details to take in, it’s easy to get distracted and walk away from your primary objective. Your curiosity is often rewarded with extra crafting parts or side missions. Whether a hidden room or an underground cult, there’s always a new surprise waiting for you just around the corner, all meticulously crafted by hand courtesy of a team who obviously love everything Deus Ex.
New to this installment of Deus Ex is a weapon management system. By holding the square button with a weapon equipped, you can modify several areas of any weapon, depending on what you’ve unlocked for it. This can include different barrels, ammunition types, firing modes, and more. So if you thought you had a lot of choices in Human Revolution, Mankind Divided easily doubles that. Inventory space is a bit cramped at the start of the game just as in the last one, but this can be upgraded in time to give you a little more breathing room. The modifications made to your weapons have real impact, and this is a much-appreciated improvement.
Augment Your Augmentations
Augmentations also see an upgrade. Jensen has more of them this time around, and they are installed in a way that actually makes sense in the context of the story. Speaking of the story, although Human Revolution had multiple disparate endings, Mankind Divided assumes a reality in which only a certain ending occurred (omitted so as to not spoil anything). While this may anger some gamers who thought that this sequel would continue based off their choices in the earlier game, it is understandable why Eidos chose to decide which ending they’d go after; they had a story to tell, and an important aspect of it could only be told if the narrative of Human Revolution was modified to match.
There’s a new control scheme built specifically for Mankind Divided. It mostly works, but has a few decisions that take some getting used to, such as using the Triangle button to sprint, and L3 to take cover. This can make combat in the beginning hours of the game a little awkward, and while there are alternate control schemes, ultimately it behooves you to learn how to play as the developer intended, because play testing has no doubt revealed that this control scheme works best given all the complex mechanics at work in the game.
The short version of the story is that a few years have passed since the end of Human Revolution. Protagonist Adam Jensen now works for an elite task force as a part of Interpol, attempting to crack down on terrorists, regular and augmented alike. Naturally, things go horribly wrong, and the world is continuing to fall into chaos. Your goal is to figure out who or what is behind some of the latest catastrophes; how you accomplish this is up to you. The story is just as nuanced as Human Revolution, though the inclusion of trending issues from today’s real-life world such as “all lives matter” comes across as a bit heavy-handed. Augmented people are now the persecuted ones in society, and you’ll see an hear what amounts to racism as you talk to some of the NPCs (well, those who will actually talk to you as anticipated; more on that in a bit). It’s all a bit jarring at first, but feels just realistic enough to keep the suspension of disbelief required of all gamers working.
Choices. At this point, we should expect to see Adam Jensen’s face in the dictionary entry for the word. Every mission that you engage in gives you a plethora of actions and options to choose from, with no single path necessarily the “right” way to complete a mission. Brute force is always an option, though a rather difficult one because only a few shots can take you down. Stealth isn’t always the easiest, either, because many of the game’s missions take place in broad daylight. You’ll usually have to improvise, and sometimes the best solution can involve talking to the right person in the right way. The cities you’ll visit are quite a bit varied from those that appeared in Human Revolution; Mankind Divided’s color scheme is a hell of a lot more varied than Human Revolution’s gold, black and green mix.
Eidos Montreal’s Dawn Engine, created specifically for Mankind Divided, performs very well on the PlayStation 4. The game runs in 1080p, and appears to be at least 30 frames-per-second (note that this is only an estimate; the real values will no doubt come out soon). No noticeable frame dips ever occurred, and while the PS4’s fans did whir up quite a bit, the system did not feel like it was being taxed particularly heavily. “jaggies” are rare to see here, and overall this is one of the better-looking games released so far this console generation.
This Dawn Engine also runs the new Breach mode, which could be a standalone game on its own. In this mode, you play as yourself, logging into a virtual world which represents a mega corporation’s servers – it’s all explained in an introduction video. Many of the game’s rules still apply, but are tweaked slightly. Familiar augmentations from the main campaign are here in full force, but others such as a double jump are especially useful in the sterile, occasionally warping levels that you’ll find your avatar placed in. Your goal in each level is to find servers, represented by dark cubes, and download terabytes of data as quickly as you can. Download enough data, and you can complete the level, but not before racing towards where you entered as the area’s AI begins a countdown to rip you out of the level.
A Whole New Game
Breach features microtransactions in the form of booster packs, which contain cards that can help you with powerups and items including the powerful Praxis upgrade points. As you progress through levels, you are awarded points based on not only how quickly you finish, but also whether you downloaded every server’s data on the level, how many takedowns you accrued, and other performance metrics. Enemies include sentinels, turrets, drones, and others all hell-bent on hindering your progress. Succeed, and you can even unlock things to use in the main campaign. There are also leaderboards and challenges amongst friends. While this isn’t multiplayer proper, there is enough here that many players will sink a number of hours attempting to clear 100% of the Breach levels and beat challenges set by friends.
Most of the game is solid, but a few issues reared their head while playing through Mankind Divided. First, after a day-one patch brought the game up to version 1.02, about half of the non-critical NPCs stopped talking to us. While the story progressed along just fine, as did side missions, it was a little jarring to see NPCs look at you, and not say a word. First, there is some additional content to unlock if you have the Deus Ex Universe application installed on your smartphone. Finding a triangle symbol in the game enables you to scan it with your phone. Unfortunately, after trying with a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S7 multiple times (phones which are known for having wonderful cameras), the app could not pick up the symbol.
Once again, Eidos Montreal has created an engrossing, intense adventure that even FPS haters need to check out. Serious subject matter is explored; answers are not always cut-and-dry, much like in real life. There is also the occasional dose of humor, to break some of the tension. While combat can still be awkward from time to time, there are so many options at your disposal that such a minor issue can be overcome with relative ease thanks to the numerous choices at your disposal. This is a game you’ll want to play multiple times, to see how things could play out if you play a certain way, and its save system encourages experimentation. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is this summer’s must-play game.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.