Deus Ex: Mankind Divided reviewed

Deus Ex: Human Revolution marked the rebirth of the Deus Ex series of well-loved FPS-RPG hybrids from the halcyon days of the early 2000s. Eidos Montréal’s reimagining was enthusiatically received by the gaming world. Five years on, the company has another dose of Deus Ex ready for us with the brand-spankin’-new Mankind Divided. Let’s see if this title can fill its predecessor’s rather large boots.

Stay awhile and listen

The game kicks off two years after Human Revolution‘s explosive conclusion. That game ended with the broadcast of a malicious signal from the massive Panchaea facility that sent augmented people around the world into murderous rages. After that wave of terror, governments around the world have segregated their cybernetically-augmented citizens into massive ghettos and restricted their freedoms. Human Revolution‘s protagonist Adam Jensen is now working for TF29, an Interpol anti-terrorism unit. At the same time, however, he’s in cahoots with The Juggernaut Collective, a grassroots quasi-anonymous group bent on unraveling what it believes is a world-wide conspiracy against augmented folks.

Our lead man Adam Jensen. Check out the raindrops on the body armor.

Jensen’s reason for working with the Collective aren’t really explained (at first). I started off the game with a feeling of puzzlement about his motivations and ended up wondering who the good and bad guys were—assuming there was even a distinction to begin with. While it’s entertaining to be thrown right into the middle of an ongoing story, I’d have preferred to know why I’m a double agent in the first place.

That unmoored feeling starts to improve as the game unfolds, though. Several situations forced me to decide if I wanted to approach them “by the book” with TF29 or “go rogue” and cooperate with the Collective instead. I second-guessed every decision I took, as they’re not black-and-white moral decisions. The situations tend to be more faction-oriented, like choosing between going after information on a poison for augmented people, or finding out who’s behind a set of bombings instead.

The only pretty spot in Golem City. Don’t mind the guy that just got beaten by the cops.

There are other key moments throughout the story that demand hard decisions, as Jensen doesn’t carry an omnipresence augment and can only attend to one crisis at a time. This “A or B” method may be crude, but it was certainly effective in making me go “hmm” and agonize a little over the options, because there was (almost) never a perfect answer. That feeling was only amplified as the consequences of my choices started unfolding, too.

Even though the story and character development are fairly well-executed, there are two problems with the overall plot. The biggest issue is that the game ends just as the story really gets its pace up. You’ll need to wait for the expansion packs or even full sequels for more, says publisher Square Enix. The ending definitely does not produce feeling of accomplishment. It’s a letdown to realize that Jensen’s sweat and tears—and, by extension, the hours you’ve poured into the game—amount to little more than a scratching of the surface of what’s really going on in Mankind Divided and the wider Deus Ex universe.

I could totally go for a little vacation in Prague.

The second problem with the plot is that it’s mostly run-of-the-mill stuff, cybernetic future nonwithstanding. The reason for that are the heavy-handed evocations of contemporary events and entities. There’s the intelligence and security group TF29 (think CIA), whose main mission is to chase down the Juggernaut hacker collective (probably Anonymous). The Picus Media news network makes up content and “facts” to hold sway over Regular Joes’ opinions (much like a certain American news outlet), all against a backdrop of worldwide discrimination against augmented folks. Finally, there’s the Illuminati behind the whole thing. Yes, really.

However, the game still got me hooked until the end. How’d that happen, given the story is a bit lackluster? Simple: Mankind Divided executes extremely well on what it has to work with. The game excels in building ambience, fleshing out characters, and augmenting the main storyline with a variety of high-quality side quests and believable NPCs. Most of those events take place in just two spots: the city of Prague or the Golem City aug ghetto. Other reviewers have criticized Mankind Divided‘s rather limited world. While it’s true that Human Revolution may have taken players to more places, I didn’t think any of them were as well-fleshed-out as Mankind Divided‘s locations. This game’s Prague feels much more like a real city than, say, Human Revolution‘s Detroit.

Just check out this foyer!

Getting around those locations feels natural and fluid, as well. You can elect to travel on foot or using the subway, visit posh apartments and fancy cafés, stroll through the slums, and even make a trip through the red-light district. You can walk into plenty of stores, traipse around rooftops and scaffoldings, and explore sewers large enough for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to throw a rave party in. I guess others may prefer variety over size, but I’m fine with the way Mankind Divided does its thing.

The game does a great job fleshing out its universe and the people in it. There are plenty of places to visit, people to talk to, and at least ten Kardashian butt-loads of notes, e-mails and random conversations strewn about. I often found myself simply wandering around Prague taking in the view, enjoying the architecture, and listening to random conversations. The journey through Mankind Divided is the most satisfying part of the game—rush to the finish, and you’ll be disappointed.

A “Throwable” printer. At last!

I’d advise that “take your time” approach because the quality of the optional side missions steal the show from the main quest. The variety of characters I met and situations I got plunged into made me feel more like part of the Deus Ex universe than anything in the primary objectives. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that unlike the main story line, the side quests all offer an immediate, neat end and a corresponding feeling of player accomplishment.

 

Hollywood-level production
Mankind Divided‘s scope is only half of the reason why it feels so absorbing, though. We all know that production values are no substitute for gameplay, but in this title, they unquestionably help flesh out the Deus Ex world and up the immersion factor.

For starters, the graphics are shockingly good. Eidos Montréal’s demo of its Dawn Engine a year ago left me wary, thinking “yeah right, the actual game will have half of these effects, at best.” Mmm, this crow sure is tasty. Mankind Divided went straight onto my shortlist of best-looking games ever. I was especially impressed by the Dawn Engine’s superb lighting, whether in indoor or outdoor environments. Most 3D engines excel at being bright or dark, but this one does both with aplomb.

You wish your abode looked this good too?

Of course, a fancy engine doesn’t make pretties on its own. That’s where the game’s gigantic team of artists comes in. I have a particular appreciation for the extra lengths the game’s artists apparently took to fill the world with even the smallest details. Every shop and café looks unique. Walk into a store and check out the labels on the individual items on the shelves. One augmentation expert’s laboratory has hundreds of arms hanging off the ceiling, and you can walk up to each one and inspect it closely. In Golem City’s market, it’s possible to pick out every cucumber and read the price tags for the fruit in a stall. The art team spent what must have been an inordinate amount of time touching up rooms and placing objects in the farthest reaches of every structure you can visit.

This bank is a little… shady.

All of the futuristic-looking architecture in Mankind Divided‘s Prague lends a cohesive period flavor to the game that I felt was missing from Human Revolution‘s mostly samey-looking environments, as well. I’d wager that actual architects were hired for production. Between the lighting engine and the flawless artwork, when I walk into a fancy apartment in the game, I found myself thinking “man, I wish my place looked like that.” Heck, I don’t think I’ve taken so many screenshots of a game since Skyrim.

Just talking to secondary characters strewn around Prague is a fun activity, since the voice-over work that gives them life is unusually deep. You can talk to about a dozen random NPCs on the street before one of them will repeat a line. Actual conversations are often long and cover several topics—even optional ones that exist only as flavor. Everyone has a motivation and personality, which made me feel like I was in a city with actual people instead of meeting dummies that would tell me to go kill 10 rats before reporting back.

The red light district. Come for the sex and booze, stay for the architecture.

The game’s soundtrack is quite well-executed, too. It creates an ambience that’s at once futuristic and haunting, and it picks up the pace when an extra dose of adrenaline is needed. At first, I didn’t think much of the music, but then I realized that’s a good thing—it meant the background tracks were doing their job. The sound engine is pretty good, too—I could always tell where guards were positioned by sound alone, as the game does a fairly good job of simulating sound occlusion and travel. An extra shout goes out to the fabulous ending song written by Misha “Bulb” Mansoor of Periphery, too.

Mankind Divided‘s production isn’t perfect, however. For inexplicable reasons, characters’ facial animations during conversations are worse than Fallout 4‘s, and that’s already a low bar to dig underneath. One has to wonder why there apparently isn’t enough cash in the multi-million-dollar budgets of these games to do some motion-capture work for faces or to write human-looking facial rigging when Half-Life 2 had this stuff sorted out years ago. Mankind Divided‘s crude facial work spoils what is otherwise a gorgeous game.

Are we going in hot, or sneaky-peeky-like?

Events early in the game reveal that Adam Jensen now packs a handful of hidden military-grade augmentations, and it’s up to the player to figure out which of those new tricks they want to enable at the expense of losing prior augs from Human Revolution. Those choices are another case where this game really makes you think about the choices at hand. The overall flow of the action sequences is has a more streamlined feel when compared to Human Revolution, too, thanks to improvements in the cover system that make it much easier to tell where you’re about to move. The weapons system in DXMD got a makeover, too. Different ammo types and weapon stats upgrades are on offer, and players can craft consumable items from junk scattered about the world.

While the new combat augments and weapon improvements are fun to use, they weren’t much use to me in my quest to be a ghost on my way through the game. A rather heavy-handed ghost with a penchant for leaving a trail of KO’d people, anyway. The set of weapons and augments for stealth is more or less unchanged from the previous game, save for a rather handy multiple-target taser. As a result, I ended up working my way past enemies in roughly the same way as I did in Human Revolution.

Let’s see, I’d like a kilo of cucumbers and three melons, please.

If you’re a sneaky-peeky type like me, you’ll be happy to find loads of alternative paths to and from buildings and objectives. Human Revolution‘s levels gave players freedom to choose their approach, but oftentimes the options were more or less limited to a frontal assault or long romantic walks in air vents. Mankind Divided goes one step further by mixing and matching available pathways throughout buildings, making them feel more like what a real-life sneak might work through instead of planting a sign that says “GO LEFT FOR STEALTH.” Sewer and garage entrances, elevator shafts, maintenance corridors, you name it—all are usable for infiltration or a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence.

Oh, right, before you ask: the terribly forced Human Revolution boss fights are now gone. There’s now only a single situation of that type, but in good ol’ Deus Ex fashion, there are multiple ways to handle with stealth, guns, hacking, or a combination of all of those approaches.

It’s a shock to the system

Nixxes was again at the helm of the PC port, and I think the team did a great job overall. The game runs pretty darn well considering the amazing graphics on offer, all the controls are configurable, and there are options for field of view, interface scaling, and all the usual PC gaming goodness. There are plenty of graphic settings in the menus, too, which let me tailor the game Just So for my hardware (a GTX 970 and a Core i7-6700K). Fair warning: this is a demanding game, but it doesn’t feel slow, and the graphics quality is worth the hurt it puts on a system.

Shadow-mapping and volumetric lighting much?

Unfortunately, not everything went well with the game’s release, even though its worst problems have been taken care of by now. To put it bluntly, Mankind Divided clearly needed a little more time in the oven, or at least better testing with different hardware configurations. Despite the intrinsic quality of the port, the game was released with strange default control choices, like super-high mouse sensitivity with the added bonus of pointer acceleration and different X and Y scales. This led me to think that Nixxes didn’t run tests with gaming mice.

I also experienced a couple crashes, wonky physics in staircases that would make Adam Jensen climb stairs at a snail’s pace, and stuck tutorial prompts. Luckily , I didn’t suffer any of the slow-performance woes that affected other players. To their credit, the folks at Nixxes have been hard at work since day one releasing patches. Just be warned that the game hasn’t been out very long yet, and that some users are still experiencing issues. You might want to consider giving it a few more weeks before ponying up your hard-earned cash.

Conclusion

You’re read this far, and I’m sure you realized I enjoyed Mankind Divided. While it doesn’t have the “wow, new” factor and setting variety of Human Revolution, it makes up for it by giving players an open, cohesive, and detailed world to explore. The graphics and artwork are nothing short of amazing, and I felt truly immersed in the Deus Ex universe as a result. That ham-handed storyline that suddenly ends, though… that’s a problem. The fact that Square-Enix wants to split off the game into multiple installments is nothing new—one need only look at Starcraft II—but Eidos Montréal could certainly have done a better job with the plot and pacing that brought us up to the cliffhanger ending.

This is where I’d keep my millions… if I had any.

If you’re a completionist like me, and you just have to steal every possible credit chip and knock out every guard in existence, you’ll love Mankind Divided, as it offers hours on hours of exploration. If, on the other hand, you plow straight through the main missions with relatively little regard for browsing around, the game may feel very short and leave you wondering why you paid $60 for it. Overall, though, I give the game pretty high marks—just be sure to do plenty of exploration to get your money’s worth.

The author wrote this review using a copy of the game purchased for his personal account on Steam.

Comments closed
    • Forge
    • 3 years ago

    “the PC port” – Ah, here’s the rub. Means it’s Windows-only, and only ever will be. A shame.

    Also, I think you meant “a bit of the old ultra-violence.” Better to quote verbatim than to paraphrase, though the attribution was a lovely touch.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      It’s British English. The way they spell words, I can use “old”, “ol'”, “o”, or “augh” and it’s still the same thing 🙂

      • swaaye
      • 3 years ago

      Actually I think it’s coming to Mac and Linux.

    • richardjhonson
    • 3 years ago
      • Meadows
      • 3 years ago

      Hilarious failed spam attempt.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 3 years ago

    And it’s now on Linux!

    • jihadjoe
    • 3 years ago

    A throwable printer? Sold!

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      When I saw that, I was like “TOTALLY WORTH THE MONEY ALREADY!”

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      “PC LOAD LETTER”

      What the **** does [i<]that[/i<] mean?

    • jts888
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The Picus Media news network makes up content and "facts" to hold sway over Regular Joes' opinions (much like a certain American news outlet)[/quote<] Bruno, if you think there's only a certain news outlet limited to blatantly twisting and inventing the truth, and that this only happens in America to an impactful degree, you're a little behind on the uptake. It doesn't take a whole lot of attention to pick out the nationalistic, political, corporate, etc. interests shaping pretty much any source of news coverage.

      • Meadows
      • 3 years ago

      Pretty much every news outlet in the US does the same thing, but to varying extent. Not to mention the majority of them are ultimately in the hands of just a few owners.

      This is “a thing” in other countries, yes, but it’s more noticeable in the US, hence the common stereotype.

        • TwoEars
        • 3 years ago

        Not all of them. Fox news is fair and balanced.

          • DrDominodog51
          • 3 years ago

          Fox News is the only major news outlet that pushes a right wing agenda. They are better than other (left-wing agenda) news outlets because it is a lot easier to tell what their agenda is and they provide a completely different view than what would be found on other news outlets.

            • Kaleid
            • 3 years ago

            Most media is above all corporate, which is why they gave Trump about 2 billion of free PR. If they were leftwing then they would not have done so, it’s all about ratings.

            And no, Fox isn’t any better or any more clear. Heck, the fact that they claim to be fair and balanced and clearly are not tells that the lies start there already.

            • TwoEars
            • 3 years ago

            But they told me they were fair and balanced!

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            I knew you were joking.

            • Platedslicer
            • 3 years ago

            This may come as a shock to someone who’s been swallowing the leftist Kool-aid all life, but in this election, Hillary is actually the crony corporations’ favored candidate. She’s being supported by Wall Street, such enlightened foreign regimes as Saudi Arabia, and former Bush neoconservatives who are besides themselves at the fact that Trump doesn’t want to start a nuclear war with Russia, whereas the Hillary campaign takes every opportunity to blame Russia for… anything, really. Trump hasn’t destroyed any countries in his career (the amateur), whereas Clinton voted for the Iraq war, and presided over US foreign policy during the unmaking of Syria and Lybia.

            In the interest of calming down the knee-jerk partisan crowd, it’s not like I think of Trump as a great alternative. He’s a blowhard, generalizes, bad (protectionist) economics, etc etc. But he’s done a tremendous job of exposing the Democratic establishment (including big media such as the Clinton News Network) as being [i<]anything but[/i<] peace-loving friends of the downtrodden.

            • TwoEars
            • 3 years ago

            Can’t you just cancel the election? You have 320 million people in the US. Hollywood couldn’t make this stuff up.

            • NovusBogus
            • 3 years ago

            As much as I don’t like him, I do have to give Donny credit for showing everyone that the emperor’s got no clothes. I’d love to think that this election cycle will force both parties to clean up their dirty laundry, but they’ll probably just keep doing it until a viable third party starts consistently winning major offices.

            • Kaleid
            • 3 years ago

            “Trump hasn’t destroyed any countries in his career”

            No of course not, because he has NO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE, yet here the stupid party wants the one with absolutely no experience despite saying that Obama did not have enough (and this is still repeated, despite having one decade to at least skim through wikipedia of course people do not bother themselves with that)

            But even before he has been office he has spoken in favor of war crimes. Take their oil, kill their families and bomb the shit out of them, basically bomb a bit like Ted Cruz said, not much targeting. “I’m the most militaristic person in the room” as he has said.

            “whereas Clinton voted for the Iraq war, and presided over US foreign policy during the unmaking of Syria and Lybia.”
            Which a) Trump supported, yet still lies about not doing so. b) Trump also said Qaddafi is a bad guy and should be removed. The Syrian mess began already in Bush’s years when the opposition support was started in 2006.

            “But he’s done a tremendous job of exposing the Democratic establishment ”
            Of course, this is the idiot that brags about bribing politicians.

            Donald Trump Wants You to Think He’s a Populist. But His Economic Plan Is Built for the Rich.
            [url<]http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/09/15/donald_trump_explains_his_economic_plan.html[/url<] In 2006, Donald Trump was hoping for a real estate crash. [url<]http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/may/26/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-faults-donald-trump-hoping-real-es/[/url<] Donald Trump’s new team of billionaire advisers could threaten his populist message [url<]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/08/05/donald-trumps-economic-team-the-ultra-rich-to-the-rescue/[/url<] The ‘Anti-Establishment’ Candidate Boasts about His History of Bribing Politicians [url<]http://www.nationalreview.com/article/430266/donald-trump-bribery-politicians-hillary-clinton-robert-menendez-solomon-melgen[/url<] " big media" Yeah, that big media that gave him 2 billions of worth of free exposure. The one that he again is part of, playing it like a fiddle. " tremendous job" At what exactly? Fooling the public? We've fact-checked Trump 180+ times. 75% of those statements turned out to be Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. 18/7/2016 [url<]http://politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/[/url<] [url<]http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jun/16/10-biggest-falsehoods-year-trump/[/url<] He's the least competent candidate and with the dumbest views.

            • credible
            • 3 years ago

            You folks amaze me lol, your heroes have done/acted this and more but you simply bury your head in the sand, fact is Hilary is and always will be a politician, least America could do is send a strong message to Democrats to smarten up by electing Trump, who has not been a politician it should be noted.

            Just look at the immigration issue alone and how the media transformed it, its about tighter checks, period, as it should be in these times but some folks have to turn it into racism.

            Sorry the arrogance annoys me to no end.

      • kvndoom
      • 3 years ago

      EXCEPT for TechReport, thank goodness!

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      I’m actually very much aware of that, since I didn’t say [i<]which[/i<] one. Everyone's free to pick their "favorite". I have no horse in the US race, being across the ocean in Europe 🙂 (not that it doesn't happen here...)

        • jts888
        • 3 years ago

        I’m pretty sure >90% of your audience, across the entire political spectrum, would understand you to be referring to Fox News, so that’s what you’re really doing by default if you have any understanding of what you’re writing.

        It’s OK to own up to it, even if it’s an approach that can often come across poorly.

          • Forge
          • 3 years ago

          Keep swinging, you’ll kick your reflection’s ass someday.

          (You are putting your desired POV into the mouth of others. Based on what I know of Bruno, I’d say he meant most, perhaps all of US media, but he was being conciliatory.)

    • Krogoth
    • 3 years ago

    [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxi7JRJrod4[/url<]

    • Wonders
    • 3 years ago

    Awesome review.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Thank you sir!

      • kvndoom
      • 3 years ago

      Seconded. Loved DXHR, and I will certainly buy this.

      14 hour edit… “HR not MD” ugh…

    • ludi
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<] For inexplicable reasons, characters' facial animations during conversations are worse than Fallout 4's, and that's already a low bar to dig underneath.[/quote<] TR: Come for the technical content, stay for the prose.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      I kind of appreciate the Bloodborne/Souls approach. If we can’t get facial animations right, the mouths just won’t animate. It’s strange at first, but somehow works with the tone of the game eventually.

    • NovusBogus
    • 3 years ago

    Regarding the DX series’ content, it should be noted that everything the review discussed (mass spying vs hacker collectives, global conspiracies, nebulous secret police forces, etc.) was present in the original 2000 game. What we have here is life imitating art.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      That’s true, but Eidos could have made the actor-entities a little more unique. It just felt too much like “now” instead of “future” at times.

      • Platedslicer
      • 3 years ago

      I remember the first time I hacked through Picus in DX:HR. It sent chills up my spine how it seemed perfectly plausible that such things happen in real world news networks.

    • ebomb808
    • 3 years ago

    Anybody know if this supports 3440×1440 natively without community mods?

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      The game options advertise 21:9 support. Although I haven’t tried it myself, the answer to your question is almost certainly “yes.”

        • ebomb808
        • 3 years ago

        Thank you!

      • Forge
      • 3 years ago

      That’s a weirdass res you got there. 21:9 WQHD, I think? It supports 3840×2160 just fine, so shouldn’t be any technical reason why not. I’d Google for 21:9 results at lower/more common resolutions. If you can find those, then you should be good.

    • Meadows
    • 3 years ago

    A game review? Very nice. I hope this becomes a thing here.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]strange default control choices, like super-high mouse sensitivity with the added bonus of pointer acceleration and different X and Y scales.[/quote<] Like, HOW?! Bioshock is probably high up on the list of "best games in the last 20 years" but it suffered the same woeful console-port control issues like this that meant it was almost unplayable for months after release on a lot of hardware. I won't even talk about the GFWL fiasco, that was just salt in the wound.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      As noted in the review, thankfully, that was promptly fixed.

      • sweatshopking
      • 3 years ago

      bioshocks suck.

    • TwoEars
    • 3 years ago

    Nice review but I was dissapointed with the game myself. Story was too bland and your actions in the game didn’t have enough consequence.

    You should review DOOM on a rig that can do 2560×1440@144 fps. It’s quite the experience. A 1080 card will get you there.

      • Kaleid
      • 3 years ago

      Judging by the demo only Doom felt kind of…mindless whilst MD does quite a good job of not holding the hand of the player that much. It took some time to figure out the bank level for instance.

      / I hope they bring back more cities in the next game.

        • TwoEars
        • 3 years ago

        Different genres, not comparing them 🙂

        • Concupiscence
        • 3 years ago

        It’s a pity that the demo only lets you prowl around the first level. That entire setpiece is essentially a tutorial to get the player accustomed to the game’s general feel, and there are entire core gameplay mechanics that aren’t exposed to the player in the early going that liven things up [b<]significantly[/b<]. I'd never argue that they're in the same genre or that Doom promises the depth of a Deus Ex title, but it'd be foolish to brush it off out of hand. There's a lot to see and do in Doom.

    • chuckula
    • 3 years ago

    Soon to be appearing on the Line-Uxx too: [url<]https://www.feralinteractive.com/en/news/652/[/url<]

      • Forge
      • 3 years ago

      That’ll teach me to reply before reading the comments.

      Happy to be wrong, though I hope it’s a fresh porting and not a port of the port. Too many layers makes for ugly bugs. Buglys.

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