Deus Ex is a series that suffers from extremely high expectations from the fans, who venerate the original released in 2000 as the ultimate god king of gaming. 2011’s Human Revolution was a dangerous undertaking after the series endured the sub standard sequel Invisible War, but it managed to craft a deep and intricate world that for the most part, kept the large majority of die hard fans happy.
And now we have Mankind Divided, a surprisingly under the radar release for such a significant sequel to one of gaming’s biggest names. MD is a game that seeks to tackle some extremely serious material in a believable sci-fi world, which incorporates social segregation, brutal violence and terrorism all under one roof.
Adam Jensen is back in the tumultuous world of Deus Ex once again, now working for Interpol in Prague, hunting down terrorist cells and keeping an eye out for the illusive Illuminati. The dude can’t catch a break.
Away from the games politically charged story and complex themes, the gameplay is the same old Deus Ex, with a few new features for good measure. But if you are a veteran of the franchise, you already know that stealthy and non-lethal is the only real way the game wants you to play. You may get the tools to shake up the formula, but the game will frown upon you for deviating from the norm, which sucks.
Where things do begin to feel a bit more fresh is within a host of new experimental augmentations, like multi-targeting taser arms, wrist-mounted rocket blades and more, all of which are just limited enough to ensure they don’t become too overpowered. Being able to switch attachments currently on a weapon makes an even bigger difference to the flow of the game, and gives you a greater sense of adapting to a situation, rather than the ‘bringing a wiffle bat to a murder mech showdown’ problem as seen in the past.
The AI is responsive, if not particularly brilliant at defending themselves, but the game ramps up the challenge the further in you go with new enemies and robots to deal with. Jensen, despite being a veritable super human, doesn’t do too well when being shot, and can shift from this augmented mortal coil surprisingly quickly if you make enough mistakes. It ensures stealth is kept tense, but combat can feel unsatisfying as a trade off.
But once again, the best part of MD is the world itself. Prague is lovingly detailed and intricately designed to the point where you will always find something to look at, sneak around or listen to. Deus Ex is built upon the environments you explore, and MD excels in this department. There is always a hidden pipe to sneak into, a few hidden caches of weaponry or entire side quests hidden in the world, making exploration mandatory. It makes a uncharacteristically reserved game into a huge one.
Combine this with a wealth of upgrades, tools and brain twisters, and you can quickly see that MD is certainly on form for a return to the Deus Ex formula, even with some limitations around the scope of the project.
The biggest issue in the game is the inconsistent visual design, wherein the world itself looks great, but lighting is lackluster and character models seem to be made from some kind of unholy fusion of cardboard and plastic. Lip syncing seems just a tiny bit off as well, and combined with how stiff everyone looks means that the highly believable world suddenly starts tearing apart at the seams. This the same issue that plagued Human Revolution, and it’s frustrating that it returns five years later.
Mankind Divided is a damn good game, but it does very little to advance the formula laid out in Human Revolution past tightening up the gameplay sightly. If you enjoyed HR, you will without a doubt have a blast with MD, just don’t expect too much in the way of surprises. Unless we’re talking about the story, that is.