Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of those game experiences, and Deus Ex is actually one of those series which you can try to explain in a single sentence, but will inevitably end up feeling like you’ve missed relaying some part of it. That said, here goes.
The simple way to lay it all out and most likely the way we’ll keep it here is to say that Deus Ex as a series tackles some very murky ethical and political approaches towards a sci-fi trope that can easily be translated into a reflective look into contemporary societal issues. The story is complex and is filled with characters loaded with ulterior motives and nuances that will blur the lines of trust and deception.
The player takes the role of Adam Jensen, a mechanically augmented security investigator who lives in the pseudo gray area between understanding what its like to live with the frailty of being human while at the same time being feared by a fully organic society which considers his enhancements a threat.
Throughout Mankind Divided and other entries in the franchise, Jensen must balance his relationships with both humans and the augmented. The foundation of the world is ripe with decision making that allows the player to branch out into different results and final outcomes.
As a disclaimer, the playthrough experienced only ran through one of those endings, but it’s pretty clear that the game outlines some key choices — especially towards the end of the game — which hold weight to what ending you’ll get to see.
Visually, the game is stunning and slick, managing to make a dystopian, cyber-punk world shine amidst all the trash and debris. Character models, while all look polished and enhanced still have a bit of animation flaws to be sure. Focusing on speaking characters can sometimes throw you off as lips seem to flap up and down without really forming words congruently with the audio. It’s not a huge turn off, but for a game with this much dialogue, you’d like to see a bit more realism with those animations.
There are a few encountered bugs, specifically with the cover system and some ragdoll mechanics. The cover system can be a bit jarring if you’re not used to a First Person game exhibiting this feature. The bulk of the game is in First Person perspective, as you head into cover, the camera will pull back and reveal Jensen attached to the chosen cover. Holding the on-screen prompted button (for PS4 “X”) will allow Jensen to slide over corner cover to a different angle if available.
Also, while in cover you can guide Jensen to another piece of cover within a certain distance. At that point he will crouch over to the pointed area. It’s during this last motion that sometimes Jensen would fall short of actually hitting that cover spot and remain crouched in position. Not game-breaking but definitely an issue when cover becomes vital.
With a game as deep into stealth as Mankind Divided is, the concept of covering your tracks is always necessary. Whether you decide to go lethal or not, bodies will begin to mount up. At times you’ll be well served to hide those bodies so as to not attract attention. The game allows for that and while it may seem like an ongoing point of humor to watch NPC rag-doll animations interact with the world. At times it can also prevent you from accomplishing your goals. Downed enemies can at times anchor themselves to walls and structures, fidgeting and twitching uncontrollably. It can make for some disturbing and eventually uncomfortable viewing, not to mention a sabotaging feature when attempting any degree of stealth.
In terms of game play experience, Mankind Divided follows the RPG formula. Upgrades, dialogue structures and side quests are all present and accounted for.
Jensen’s loaded with upgrades as you would expect. Some of these upgrades are newly introduced while others are classic to the series. Upgrading these augments are all carried out through Praxis Kits. These kits are either earned by levelling up Jensen or can be purchased from a few particular vendors. Levelling up is a mere matter of carrying out mission objectives, hacking devices or simply incapacitating threats.
At its core, Deus Ex is a stealth franchise with combat mixed in. As far as how Mankind Divided has tackled the balance between the two, it’s given a definite sense of freedom to play how you see fit. If you’re a stealth genius you could potentially play the whole game without performing any lethal actions. Jensen is equiped with tranquilizing weaponry and ammunition to assist in those efforts. For most of us though, stealth will almost certainly devolve into an all out fire-fight. Thankfully, Jensen’s also been equipped to handle those circumstances.
Inventory is handled much the same as previous entries. Jensen’s given an established set of slots to drop in weapons, ammunition, hacking tools, health items and crafting parts. These slots can also be upgraded to allow for more load in the inventory. There’s a system that allows for combining of items to craft more useful items. You can use crafting pieces found throughout the world to create weapon upgrades, multi-tool devices which allow you to bypass the hacking procedure (more on that later) as well as mine templates, certain type of ammunition and some health items. Augments are also available to reduce the required amount of crafting pieces needed to create these tools.
It may sound tricky at the beginning, but once you’ve done it a few times it becomes second nature. Find crafting pieces, build stuff, use it, rinse and repeat.
This brings up another part of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided that’s just as absorbing. Hunting down and searching through cabinets, drawers, lockers and other locations to find (scavenge) for crafting parts, ammunition, hacking tools and other useful items could in and of itself be considered a mini-game. Almost every room you enter can prove itself to be a trove of treasure behind some locked and unlocked drawers or cabinets. To a point, all that hoarding can get right down embarassing at times, but there’s always that nagging feeling that when in a tight spot, all of that ammo will find its purpose.
The game will at times offer up side-quests, depending on conversations and characters you engage with. These mini-quests don’t really offer much in the way of variety of game play, but allow Jensen to redeem more Xp, leading to upgrades and other rewards.
Similarly, a Deus Ex game wouldn’t be a Deus Ex game without hacking. Technology is the world and Jensen is the tool for information gathering. Throughout you’ll find computers, doors, and machinery ripe for the hacking.
When hacking a system you’ll be presented with a grid quarter-top-down view layout. Represented by different icons are a starting point (Blue), Directories (Folder Icons), Datastores (Disk Nodes), and other nodes. The goal here is to reach and hack the Registry (Green). The problem you’ll encounter is being discovered by the Anti-Virus (Red). Once the discovery is made, the race is on to reach the Registry. Get there first and the hack will complete, get second place and you’ll be locked out.
Succeeding at hacking a device, depending on what it is will either give you access to a room filled with goodies or information. The information helps to flesh out the world and while it doesn’t guarantee to always further the story, it will give you insights into some of the auxiliary characters you’ll encounter.
There are various levels of hacking expertise that Jensen is equipped to handle, all of it upgradeable through Jensen’s augments. To help the uninitiated through the grid of firewalls and file directories, throughout the game you’ll also find hacking tools to assist you when breaking into locations.
It’s an effective mini-game that ties in well to the world and offers up a good enough challenge to keep you itching to test yourself at every available terminal. Or if you’re unwilling to but still have a set of curiosity, don’t forget the Multi-tool. This small example is one of the triumphs of this Mankind Divided, giving the player the option to carry out their own approach to the game. There really are no right or wrong ways to take on a situation. Stealth feels key, but it’s not punishing to go in weapons free, so long as you plan for the response.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a thick entry into the franchise. It furthers and connects directly to its predescesor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If you haven’t played the previous game, it may help to give it a visit, but if you haven’t, there is a healthy intro video that will outline all the events leading to this game.
Mankind Divided presents a well crafted world with a good deal of story to back it up. The plotline is a bit complex with a good slew of political intrigue, mixed with a complicated morality story that can all make for a tough path to follow, but as the choices you make begin to reach their pinnacle, the story falls in line and is wrapped up quite neatly to make it clear as to where things have gone.
Where the story heads from here (mind, that only one ending was experienced at the time of writing) is open ended, but as a franchise goes, save for a few minor quirks – Deus Ex will demand attention for releases to follow.