Since its debut 16 years ago, Deus Ex’s primary weapon has been choice: where to go, how to get there, who to speak to and how to speak to them are all up to you in a series where almost every scenario has multiple outcomes. After releasing 2011’s Human Revolution – a lavishly depicted near-future thriller – to widespread critical acclaim, developer Eidos Montreal’s follow up, Mankind Divided, picks up the exact same threads that its predecessor left tantalisingly unanswered five years ago.
Even though Human Revolution was deeply flawed in some ways, I felt it was a title that grasped the essence of what made the original so iconic, without fully implementing what that entails.
Now with release of Mankind Divided, I found myself hoping that the good folks at Eidos Montreal have taken to heart the mistakes they made in Human Revolution to truly usher in a Deus Ex experience fit for the modern age, and after my time with the campaign I can confidently say that they have.
The story picks up about two years after the events in Human Revolution, and the tension between augmented and normal people are at their highest.
Adam finds himself working multiple angles, as he is thrust into a conspiracy that could spark an all-out war.
Even as a direct continuation of the narrative that began in Human Revolution, it’s quite simple to jump right into Mankind Divided thanks to a lengthy and well produced cinematic that details the story from its predecessor.
Unfortunately, as I continued to unravel the various mysteries in Mankind Divided, I found myself not being overly attached to any new characters, and found many of the plot elements to be rather predictable and uninteresting.
I would spend the extra time going through all the dialogue to learn about the various characters, but there really wasn’t too much to listen to, and when I finally met the man who would become my nemesis for the remainder of the playthrough, I knew right away without any surprise.
In the end, even though there was no “press a button to get the ending you want” kind of deal, when the credits began to roll, it felt as though there were still too many loose ends and the game rushed to its finale.
It’s not necessarily that the game is short, clocking in at around 25 hours with most of the side quests completed, but I certainly could not deny the feeling of being let down by how it ended, knowing that we would not see a sequel for a long time to come.
The dialogue choices and how Adam approaches the characters around him in general return as a major component not only to the story but also to the gameplay.
Picking the right thing to say can net Adam some crucial information that could be useful to his investigations, or serve as a way for him to avoid a nasty combat situation altogether in a peaceful resolution.
In my initial playthrough, I used the approach of being stealthy and diplomatic, and I was able to resolve every situation without firing a single bullet, and it became apparent to me that I could have finished the whole game without taking a single life if I so desired.
What Mankind Divided does better than any other game I’ve played in recent years is give players direct control of how they want to approach a situation.
This satisfying level of choice in gameplay is thanks in two parts- one being the excellent level designs that allow for a myriad of entry points and the other being the various augmentations Adam has at his disposal.
If I were tasked with breaking into a vault, I could just take out my trusty shotgun and start blasting away until I got what I needed and there was no one left around to tell me otherwise.
I could take the stealthy approach and survey the surrounding area for vents I could enter through, or I could even use a stun gun to incapacitate the guards out front and simply hack the door.
I could also look to see if I could get on the top of the building by using my leg augmentation to jump higher and use my electro-magnetic augmentation to safely traverse through a field of electricity and simply bypass the laser grid by temporarily activating my invisibility aug and so on and so forth.
In fact, there were so many ways that on my second playthrough, I went out of my way to look for all the paths I could have used to go from point A to point B in one case and found no less than four distinctly different paths all requiring a combination of unique augmentations to exploit.
As for the augmentations themselves, all of the ones from Human Revolution return with some new additions. One in particular I found myself using constantly was remote hacking that allowed for me to temporarily activate/deactivate a piece of technology by playing a quick timing based mini-game.
Whether I was turning on TVs from a distance to lure patrolling enemies out of my way or disabling hulking sentry drones, I found it to be exceedingly useful.
On my second playthrough, I went with a more combat heavy approach in which case I ended up using the nano-blade augmentation quite often, which allowed me to shoot super heated blades from my arm which would explode after a short time.
One of the main concerns with HR was how the guns felt clunky to use but here, I found that they handled well and were quite satisfying to use.
Being left to my own devices to complete an objective with all these toys at my disposal along with level designs built from the ground up to facilitate a variety of play styles, Mankind Divided was a an absolute joy to play.
Outside of the main campaign, there is a mode called “Breach” that uses elements of the full game and simplifies them in a minigame that plays like a challenge course.
There’s an overarching storyline in Breach as well, but it’s not entirely imperative to understanding what happens in Mankind Divided and even though I didn’t feel the desire to delve too deeply into this mode, I appreciate that it exists for those who are into getting top marks on the leader boards.