Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Icarus Landing right into my heart

John C. McCrone

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided poses a very serious question to fans of the rebooted stealth series: Did we ask for this? Yes, I think we did. Mankind Divided is Square Enix’s triumphant return to the Deus Ex franchise, starring the Adam Jensen we all know and love.

The game is set two years after Human Revolution (2011), that ended with an event constantly referred to as “The Incident.” Basically, “The Incident” goes like this: eccentric billionaire Hugh Darrow creates Augments, lots of people get these Augments to enhance their lives, then the Illuminati (yes, the Illuminati) create a program to cybernetically control every Augment. Hugh Darrow decides that Augments are bad for some reason, and alters the program, which the Illuminati release and cause every Aug to go absolutely insane. Millions of people die; racists inherit the Earth.

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I would go into further detail about in-game events, but Mankind Divided is one of those games where everything is a spoiler. The main missions weave the story together into a tapestry of intrigue, betrayal, and corporate espionage. Every plot point and character connects logically and the game teases the player with just enough information so that when you begin to unravel the mystery it feels like you earned it.

You play as the aforementioned Adam Jensen— Robocop cosplayer— and brand new member of the international anti-terrorism unit called Task Force 29. TF29 is based in Prague, so get ready for people saying “Kurwa” (google it) every three seconds. Unlike Human Revolution, Prague is Mankind Divided’s only city-hub. This isn’t a bad thing, though, for Prague is intricately dense with loads of unique people, shops, and apartments full of things to steal.

Throughout the many quests featured in Mankind Divided, you go to almost every part of Prague. You begin to memorize the winding streets and recognize the meticulously designed landmarks. Prague itself is stunning, showing off an awesome blend of modern and medieval architecture— it definitely feels more like a real city than Detroit or Shanghai from Human Revolution. The citizens of Prague react accurately to a post-Incident world: a general fear lingers over the city. The Augmented are afraid of an abusive, racist police force while the police and “naturals” are terrified that another Incident could break out at any moment.

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Only one character is seemingly unaffected by a rising police state. That character is walking-refrigerator Adam Jensen, who just wants to solve as many crimes as he possibly can. Jensen’s personality is malleable, completely determined by the player. Is Jensen a sympathetic hero or a reluctant one? Does he accept jobs just to help out or for a big reward? These choices are all determined by the player. The only constant is that Jensen is heavy-handedly an Icarus-type hero, destined to fail on the cusp of victory.

Gameplay centers around utilizing a wide variety of Augmentations, most of which return from Human Revolution. The basic way that Augments work is that you use points to unlock specific abilities. It takes energy to use those abilities and, if you run out, no more invisibility. Seven new Augments are added to Jensen’s repertoire, but they’re situational at best. For example, you can pick three different variants of a wrist-mounted projectile that are all outclassed by the starting pistol.

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Mankind Divided is a game that proudly flies the “play like you want to” banner and actually means it. Some of the best fun I get out of Mankind Divided is loading a saved game and finding all the ways I could have finished a mission. Mission areas are littered with possible social interactions, miles of air vents to crawl through, and plenty of guards that need a good shank. Unlike other stealth-based RPG’s like Dishonored or Hitman, you’re not punished for needless violence rather than pacifism.

Unfortunately, the game is plagued by bugs and optimization issues that are increasingly commonplace in Triple-A PC ports. At launch, I experienced four crashes during the same cut scene that was only solved after switching off a random graphical setting. The game, for me at least, can seldom hold a solid 60 FPS. The audio mixing appears untested, as the game is very loud even at “low” in-game settings. Even the mouse acceleration was broken, being so ludicrously unbalanced that I was forced to play with a controller. Some of these issues have been fixed in subsequent patches, but the fact they existed in the first place (and that most still exist) shows an overall lazy handling of the PC port.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a RPG fan’s dream: a fully fleshed out world featuring a living, breathing city that provides a unique experience to every player. And while the current PC port leaves much to be desired mechanically, Mankind Divided is one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I’ve had in a good while.

4/5

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