Our brooding mechanically-augmented hero Adam Jensen is finally back in action in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and as the title suggests, he’s returned to a much darker world plagued with unrest. As a straight continuation of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this new installment in the series is tasked with upping the ante with new conspiracies and augments. But does it succeed in doing so? Well, that’s what I’m here to discuss.
Our tale begins two years after what is now known as the “aug incident,” which occurred at the end of Human Revolution. For those that need a refresher (warning: spoilers for the previous title), a group known as the Illuminati (I knew it!) made augmented humans go berserk, transforming them into killing machines. Fast forward two years later, and the world is still reeling from the horrendous terrorist attack. Augments are now treated like second-class citizens, and must deal with plenty of hate. They’re segregated and targeted. The United Nations is even debating whether to pass The Human Restoration Act, which would either remove or downgrade powerful augmentations. It’s almost surreal how incredibly relevant it feels in the year 2016. Sometimes too relevant.
Instead of letting the world get him down, Jensen joined a new terrorism response team within Interpol called Task Force 29 (TF29). His goal is to prevent another catastrophe, as well as to figure out who was at the helm of the “incident.” Along with familiar faces, new friends help you out during your quest.
Amidst all the hate against these mechanically enhanced humans, a grassroots group known as the Augment Rights Coalition (ARC) came to fruition to support the segregated group. Led by an interesting cat named Talos Rucker, who has become the face of augmented rights, ARC is now the leader of a pro-aug activism. Everything unfortunately collides following a terrorist bombing, which begins to unravel several conspiracies going on in the world. You must now figure out who was behind the bombing, and stop more attacks like this from happening again.
So yeah, a lot is going on, but it’s all so juicy. It’s not simply window dressing either. When you’re exploring the likes of the futuristic cyberpunk-themed Prague, cops will ask for your papers while walking around and people will give you dirty looks. Everything is blamed on your “kind.” Like I said, it’s too real sometimes.
As you progress through the story, you’ll find yourself having to make dialogue decisions, some more important than others. The choices change the outcome of your tale, which isn’t something new for fans of the series. I often found myself saving before a conversation to discover all of the possible outcomes from an exchange. This also adds replay value as you can make different choices on new game and see what changes in the story. This aspect of the game would make for a great point and click adventure on its own thanks to the fantastic voice acting and branching dialogue options. But of course, the actual gameplay is sweet too.
Like the previous installment, you’ll be completing plenty of missions, but this time as a member of TF29. Some of the missions will have you searching for certain people, items, or information in giant levels designed to test your skills. The massive levels almost feel more like puzzles filled with baddies trying to shoot your head off. The design is truly top notch here, with everything looking like a gorgeous asset straight out of a great noire film. You’ll be faced with the option of either tackling the mission gun-a-blazing, or my personal favorite, like a stealthy ninja. You can take alternate routes through vents you’ve discovered, manipulate cameras, break walls, or simply outgun your enemies; the variation is truly a delight. Using your augmentations also come in handy, but more on that in a bit.
When not out on a mission, there are several locations you can explore that aren’t necessarily open-world, but give the illusion that they are thanks to being mid-sized. The futuristic cyberpunk theme continues in the city, and gives off that sick noir vibe. There are points of interest to investigate, and even different places you can explore for useful goodies. It’s not the biggest world, but there’s enough to see to at least be interesting. However, the most populated streets cause the game to stutter quite a bit. The stutter got even worse when it would rain. It wasn’t necessarily game-breaking, but still annoying to deal with.
Completing the main storyline took me a little over 20 hours, but that doesn’t mean it will be the same for everyone. Players will have a different runtime depending on how many side quests they decide to embark on. And on that note, side quests will absolutely consume you. Many of these extra missions not only give you useful XP that you can use to unlock new augments, but add extra depth to the already interesting stories being told. Some of the storylines are so fascinating you’ll want to follow them to the end. They branch out, involve other characters, and even uncover more mysteries of the world. For example, one of the missions will require you to find the source of a hack that could potentially compromise TF29. You can ignore it, but figuring out who’s messing with TF29 is kind of important, as well.
Before we get into the details about augments, there is one thing I want to discuss that could be seen as a minor spoiler, so this is your chance to skip ahead to the next paragraph. One last chance, this is your SPOILER WARNING.
During my playthrough I only faced one boss fight. It’s unclear whether other narrative choices could have potentially lead me to other battles, but I only bumped into one. It was a cool fight that took all of my wits to complete, but its weird that unlike its predecessor, the game doesn’t emphasize bosses. It’s a bit of a letdown.
Now, finally, let’s talk about augmentations. Well, there are a lot. In fact, someone went about giving a bunch of untested augmentations to our badass hero without his knowledge—a fact that plays a role in the plot. As you progress, you’ll be gaining experience points (by completing missions) that’ll allow you to upgrade your arsenal. Eventually you’ll be investing in the skill trees that best suit your play style.
I will say, the new augments are certainly fun to play around with. You can now shoot enemies with a crazy Nanoblade that looks beyond painful, hack from afar, and more. Maybe you’d like to go the non-lethal route and instead stun your foes (using an electrical discharge) without a stun gun. That’s definitely an option this time around, and boy is it glorious. My favorite, however, is the remote hacking which allows you to use cameras and other tech to my advantage. A similar feature was available in the first game, but players had to be near the device to do it. Now it can be done from afar, making it much more useful. There’s also the Titan aug that turns your skin into damage negating armor, albeit for a short period of time. Come at me bro! There are a couple of almost essential augs, but overall, they’re just badass additions that help you take enemies out.
The combination of useful augs with the level design, makes for some fun experimental moments. Everything is completely synchronized.
When you’ve felt like you’ve exhausted every option in the campaign, there’s the Breach game mode. Here you’ll play as a hacker who has to go steal data. You jump into a Tron-like environment and must race around to get data while avoiding obstacles and completing puzzles like hacking different objects and taking down gunmen while being timed. It’s a much faster game mode than you’re probably used to, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s the arcade game you never thought you wanted.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided tells a dark, gritty story that at times feels way too real in the year 2016. It’s tightly woven narrative with a multitude of branching paths is exciting to explore. The gameplay is top notch, and the augments are fun to experiment with. Some minor issues detract from the whole package, but it sure is one hell of a ride. I can’t wait to see where this series goes next.
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 CYBERPUNK BURRITOS
- New augments are both useful and a hell of a lot of fun to use. Turning your skin into a pain repeller comes in handy.
- Top notch writing and story telling. The narrative being woven throughout the game with your choices is compelling enough to keep you going back for more. All your choices feel significant, and lead to different paths.
- The Cyberpunk environment is pretty damn gorgeous.
- The gameplay always feels tight and responsive.
- Either be stealthy or become a wrecking ball, how you approach the objective is all on you. Levels are designed brilliantly to accommodate both approaches. Going stealth, though, just feels so right.
- Breach is more than just a tacked on extra mode. Playing through a faster paced mode that still features the same gameplay mechanics is exhilarating.
- Frame rate issues reared its ugly head. Highly populated parts of the city made the game stutter quite a bit.
- There aren’t enough boss fights. The route I took was lacking in memorable battles that were present in the previous installment.
This review was completed using an Xbox One copy of Deus Ex:Mankind Divided provided by Square Enix. The game will hit shelves on August 23, 2016.
Images: Square Enix