Jensen didn’t ask for this…but he sure takes care of it.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes place two years after the cataclysmic events of 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution (also an excellent game). You get to experience firsthand the consequences of the infamous Aug Incident. For those who don’t know, the Aug Incident was when, in the first game, a signal was sent out to all the people in the world who had altered (or “augmented”) their bodies with the latest cybernetic implant technology. This signal caused all the augmented people of the world to lose control over their bodies and they began attacking everyone and everything, causing massive damage to the world and an untold number of deaths. As you progress through the game, you are reminded almost constantly about the Aug Incident as each and every character you meet was affected by it and is still trying to recover from it. This is a torn world where the tension in society can be felt on the very air. This is the world of Mankind Divided.
You play as augmented ex-cop Adam Jensen yet again. Except he’s not really an ex-cop anymore. He’s with Interpol now and assigned to the newly created Task Force 29 (herein called TF29), stationed in Prague. The number of terror attacks have spiked dramatically following the Aug Incident and TF29 was created to investigate and prevent them. But that’s not the only group our friend Jensen is a part of. Since he knows the Illuminati are everywhere and have infiltrated nearly every group, Jensen suspects the same has happened to TF29. Thus, he has agreed to help a hacktivist group known as the Juggernaut Collective. The Collective is dedicated to uncovering conspiracies and corporate malfeasance. By using the knowledge and resources provided by both TF29 and the Collective, Jensen gains a pretty good idea of what’s going on during the events that unfold in Mankind Divided. There are even a few instances where you must decide to follow the orders from TF29 or help the Collective to uncover pertinent information.
As for the gameplay, despite the fact this a first-person game, don’t expect it to be a simple run ‘n gun affair. Although you certainly you can do that, I wouldn’t recommend it as you would miss out on so much. No, Mankind Divided falls more into the category of an RPG than an FPS. You can (and should) spend a lot of time talking to NPCs and reading emails, newspapers, and communications from computers found in the world or on pocket secretaries. Both NPCs and messages can reveal a bevy of information. This could be anything from passwords for doors or other computers, ways to get through a level, or just general information about the world around you. Even if you don’t find anything useful, it is interesting to glean information about events in-game from these documents. A new addition to this is the instant messaging option available on many computers. When you click on this option after hacking into a computer, you are logged in as that person and can impersonate them. If you play your cards right, you can gain valuable intel and use it to complete your objectives in new ways.
Just like in Human Revolution, Jensen can be upgraded by applying Praxis Kits. Praxis is primarily earned by gaining experience points for exploring, taking enemies out (lethally or non-lethally), and completing missions and objectives. You can also find Praxis Kits in a few locations within the world and can also be given them as rewards for doing certain things. These kits can be used to unlock new augmented abilities like higher level hacking, double takedowns, higher energy for more actions, and an invisibility function. There is also a new category of augments, experimental augs. I won’t go into how you got these new augments (it’s a side mission in the game) but this new category includes things like remote hacking, a propulsion system that knocks enemies down, and the ability to essentially teleport forward instantly. It is completely up to you how you upgrade Jensen. There is a good mix of both combat and noncombat augments, so the game offers a good mix for the player to use.
You can choose either to accomplish missions by shooting your way through with a variety of weapons including pistols, rifles, and powerful augments or sneak your way to your objective. I personally chose to sneak my way around and knock enemies out instead of killing them. Although I didn’t engage in combat that much, I did try it out for the sake of this review. To help in combat, you can upgrade your weapons this time around in all sorts of ways. You can increase the damage done, put silencers on weapons, and use different types of ammunition. You can even use grenades. An important thing to watch out for though is your energy bar. This basically shows how many enemies you can incapacitate and how much you can use your augs in your fights. It’s always interesting when you incapacitate one enemy only to discover you don’t have enough energy to take out a second one. Lucky for you, there are items called biocells in-game that you can use to restore energy. You can even craft biocells (and a few other items) using crafting parts that you find lying around.
One aspect that I personally like is that Mankind Divided encourages you to explore every inch of its world. Exploration can yield new ways of getting around, new information about the world around you, and even side missions that you could have easily missed if you hadn’t looked around. The side missions are varied and are spread all over Prague. These missions can range from getting a piece of equipment from a mob boss to solving a high-profile augmented person’s murder. These missions can be completed in the series’ trademark “do it how you want” way. You can literally miss out on creative ways to complete a mission just by not paying attention. There’s nothing quite like sneaking through a heavily guarded section of the map only to discover there was a conveniently placed vent that would have allowed you to avoid all of it. It pays dividends to explore, to talk to other characters, and to read emails and other messages. This is one of Mankind Divided’s greatest strengths.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my favorite aspect of the game, the world itself. The main hub city, Prague, was obviously crafted by Eidos Montreal (the developer) with expert care and attention to detail. The characters, the written materials you read, and even the graffiti you see on the walls add to the overall feeling of the world of Mankind Divided. This is a world that is still trying to recover from the Aug Incident and everyone and everything bears the scars of it. You will see augmented people being mistreated by police, bombed out buildings from terrorist attacks, and remnants of a once vibrant city. As an augmented person himself, if Jensen simply walks up to a “normal” person then they will usually respond with a heated slur. Emails, pocket secretaries, and newspaper articles all add to the oppressive and bleak atmosphere. It makes the game world compelling. It makes it feel real and lived in and that is why it is my favorite aspect of Mankind Divided.
The story is a little complicated. It involves all sorts of large corporations, governments, underground newspapers, the Illuminati, and hacktivist groups. If I had one criticism it is that the picture doesn’t get any clearer by the time the credits roll. The main mission is rather short (especially if you rush through the main mission sections). If feels like things have just started getting good when the game ends. What heightens this feeling is that there is (spoiler) only one boss battle in the entirety of the game (two if you count a side mission) compared to four in Human Revolution. I enjoyed the story for what it was but I preferred the structure, pacing, and length of Human Revolution a lot more. I also feel there was a lot of wasted potential since the game didn’t involve interacting with the fellow members of TF29 very much. It seems like most of the focus went into making sure the world was packed and well-designed but not necessarily in fleshing out the overarching story.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a worthy successor to Human Revolution even if its main story isn’t as good and doesn’t answer as many questions. Its world and design are all top notch though and lend the game one of the best atmospheres I have every seen in a video game. Whether you shoot your way to victory or sneak to your objective, this game will allow you to play it your way. If you enjoy games with a good story or a willingness to let you play it your way (especially if you like both) then this is the game for you. You won’t regret checking it out.
Final Score: 9/10
p.s. There is one thing I’d like to mention. You can actually buy Praxis Kits and other aids for the game using real world money. This is no joke. I didn’t buy anything but I think this ruins the whole point of playing the game, right? This fact didn’t affect my final score for the game as I believe these “features” were shoehorned into the game at the last minute by the publisher (Square Enix) and not the developer (Eidos Montreal).
Thanks for reading!