5 years after the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jensen, grovelly voiced Interpol agent with a habit for sniffing out conspiracies wherever he goes, returns in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Mankind Divided takes place 2 years after the events of Human Revolution, where mechanically enhanced individuals, known as augmented, collectively lost the plot when terrorists flicked a sneakily installed kill switch and started attacking all and sundry in an event now known in game as the “aug incident”. Obviously that is the quick synopsis of the last game, but those events directly tie in to the game world, or more specifically the current state of the game world, with the Mankind Divided title referring to the division between the augs, those with mechanical enhancements, and the humans, who view augs with mistrust and unease after the events of Human Revolution, and as a result augs are treated as second class citizens. Playing as Jensen, an Aug who was saved from certain death by becoming augmented, you experience some of this prejudice first hand, and this ties straight into the plot of Mankind Divided. These events are summised in a much neater way in game via a video recap available when you first start the game as these events are crucial to the events that take place during Mankind Divided.
As a result of this prejudice various equal rights groups have sprung up in response, some political, others extreme, and it is here we find Jensen at the beginning of the game preparing to offer his unique augmented abilities as part of an Interpol team designed to track down the more extreme groups,and this initial mission serves as the games tutorial mission.
Deus Ex has set its self up as a franchise with a focus on player choice, and this is laid out during this opening gambit – do you burst in guns blazing, or sneak in and stealthily reach the target, avoiding confrontation all together? Both are possible, and neither option is discouraged, and with this in mind Deus Ex is a meticulously designed game. Throughout this initial first mission there are a number of ways in which to progress through the objectives you aregiven, whether it be shooting, sneaking or stealth, with various routes and ways through the level. Adam begins the game fully Aug-ed up, with all his abilities available to play about with to find which style suits you best, but as soon as you complete the first mission these augmented abilities are switched off, and this then serves as the basis of the games skill tree. Playing stealth? Then the cloaking augment might be the route you take, which turns Adam invisible for various amounts of time. Guns blazing? Then recoil suppression might be something to look at, helping Adam to aim and take down his targets. The first mission does a good job of teasing you with the sheer amount of possibilities available, but the whole starting fully powered before losing your abilities is something that is done to death in video games these days, and although it is obviously done to give you a taster of what you could potentially do later on, it does feel a little cheap when it happens and you then have to earn experience (gained by performing a whole variety of actions throughout the game) to get them back.
With the first mission offering such a variety of ways in which to reach the objective, but it is upon completing the first mission and returning to Prague, the city where Adam is currently stationed, where the game really comes into its own. The city of Prague is yours to explore at will, albeit a futuristic snapshot of a future Prague, and the way this area is designed is truly incredible. The choice of guns blazing or stealth is clearly the crux upon which the game has been designed, and this is evident from the many nooks and crannies Prague has hidden away. Over the course of the game you pay a number of visits to Prague, and each time you do new areas are opened up or become accessible thanks to your upgraded abilities. Walls that can be punched through (provided you have upgraded the strength skill appropriately) allow access to air vents, ledges and walkways that give access to apartments beyond (provided you have upgraded Adams legs to allow him to jump up to these areas). Each mission and side mission can be attacked from hundreds of different angles, and this is in large part due to the brilliant layout of the game world. I found my earlier upgrades weren’t focused on taking enemies down, but in exploration and getting around, in order to find as many secrets and shortcuts as possible. Early on I did feel overwhelmed by the options available, but by the end of the game I had a good understanding of the map and knew many shortcuts up through and under Prague, on ledges or through sewers.
As you explore Prague you will encounter side missions handed out from people you encounter or who may reach out to you, or by hacking the hundreds of laptops and pocket secretaries that are scattered around, and some of these side missions are as entertaining (some even more so) than the main storyline. Hacking these devices, done via a small mini game in which you have to attack and capture nodes before the computer detects your presence and boots you out, often adds light to the story, or just further helps in making Prague feel as much a living breathing place as possible. Often these devices will hint at a hidden cache of items or credits, and many will give you a code or password that can then be used to unlock safes or doors, providing you with even more routes in which you can complete your current objective. Not only can you hack doors and keypads but certain enemy types can also by hacked, making it easier to sneak past them or take them out.
Hacking issuch a fundamental part of Deus Ex that it now has its own game mode, Breach, complete with its own story that runs parallel (but separate to) the main game, complete with online leaderboards. I found I could dabble a little with this, but it didn’t manage to capture my attention the way the main game did, but it is there for those that enjoy the hacking aspect should you want it.
All in all, is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided worth your time? I’ve spent a good many hours with the game, and I plan on doing it all again – having played as a ninja the first time, avoiding confrontation and knocking enemies out as opposed to killing them, I plan on going back from the beginning with less restraint, and Deus Ex is the kind of game that encourages that, so I can’t complain with value for money. My biggest gripe is the voice of Adam Jensen can grate, but this is a minor complaint that I am now mostly able to tune out. The game itself is sleek and polished, the controls tight and it boasts one of the smartest game areas to explore that I have ever come across in a game, and for that reason alone is well worth a look.
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