With Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Eidos Montreal has once again breathed new life into the Deus Ex franchise.
After Deus Ex: Invisible War and Project: Snowblind, Deus Ex as a series was in trouble due to horrendous critical reception, even having Warren Spector saying that “we fucked up”. In 2007, after Eidos Montreal was founded, it was time to get back to work on reviving Deus Ex from the shallow grave it had dug itself a couple years before.
With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there was a clean slate, relatively. All Eidos Montreal had to do was bring in newcomers while pleasing series veterans, ape Inivisible War’s console-friendly control scheme, and you’ve got a great Deus Ex game.
Now, five years after the critically-acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mankind Divided is now out, and injects prequel series protagonist Adam Jensen into a world dealing with the aftermath of Human Revolution. However, Eidos Montreal once again wanted to deal with Human Revolution‘s challenges.
In some ways, the studio succeeds. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided excels at “the same thing you love, but better”, showcasing fantastic gunplay, a greater range of options and so much more.
Mankind Divided‘s story begins two years after The Incident – where a bunch augmented humans went psychotic and decided to kill anyone within sight. Anyone who remained after The Incident was shunned and therefore segregated from normal society. Well, everyone except “I never asked for this” Adam Jensen.
If you’ve played Human Revolution, you may very well find yourself asking what two extra years of experience has an effect on Jensen’s’ ability set, and there’s honestly not much revolution from its predecessor. At the beginning, Jensen is a killing machine, through and through. Then comes the classic nerf RPG fans have come to know all too well. Sure, there’s a lore-based reason, but instead of feeling organic like The Legend of Zelda or Metroid, it feels ham-fisted at best, given the history I’ve had with Adam Jensen.
However, this “Adam Jensen 2.0”, as we’ll refer to him, does provide some interesting new folds to the Deus Ex universe. Instead of “sneak and peek” or “run and gun”, there is now a third option being brought into the fold: hacking. While Human Revolution‘s hacking was mostly relegated to keypads and computers, Mankind Divided now lets you hack random things like privacy windows, televisions, turrets, cars, and so much more from the cozy comfort of cover while your enemies go to investigate the source of the disturbance. This is actually a pretty valid tactic, as it leaves a window of opportunity to stealthily circumnavigate any opposing forces and get an XP bonus as a reward.
That’s the big thing with Mankind Divided: options. No matter the situation, you always feel amply equipped to progress. Another great tool is the Detective Mode-esque Smart Vision, which like Detective Mode, lets you survey a situation, and decide how to best to proceed. Later upgrades even feed you information on whether or not the specific enemy you have your cybernetic eyes on has body armor or any type of augmentations you should know about, provided you decide to go guns blazing, like I did for about half of the game.
Whoever designed the new augmentations for this game deserves a cookie and a gold medal for sheer excellence. The augmentation system is so deep now with multiple levels of upgrades and those having a real effect on how Adam Jensen 2.0 was able to adapt to the situations provided. Augs have a deep learning curve, as I soon learned, but once you figure out to create your own perfect Jensen, you’re having a blast before you even know it.
Out of all the things I wasn’t expecting from Mankind Divided, the biggest surprise was the emphasis on exploration I haven’t seen since playing The Witcher III last year. Every polygon seems lovingly crafted and meaningful.
Rewarding this type of exploration and deep understanding of every area is an excellent way to entice me to go where I probably shouldn’t, taking risks I probably shouldn’t.
The lore of Mankind Divided is one of the things I liked most about it. It’s not just a vacant space to make your impression on, it’s a living, breathing world. One that makes you think about it, even hours after combing over every bit and piece of newspaper, pocket secretary or character biography. Mankind Divided gives you a lot to chew on – the prospect of augmented terrorists, segregation, not so subtle political commentary, private corporations and oh so much more. Every nugget of information I found only made me want more, even if it was a bit cliché.
This is further bolstered by the truly great side missions found throughout Prague. Some of them are simple fetch quests while others are more complex and diverse, like a heist of information in the most powerful bank of secrets that seems ripped straight of Grand Theft Auto V instead of Deus Ex, which was a refreshing change of pace from the action-packed narrative of the main game.
While the game does travel to other locations, most of the narrative of Mankind Divided takes place in Prague’s various neighborhoods. And most surprisingly, you can walk into most bars, shops, or any other location with little to no loading, pardoning the occasional frame hitching.
Most importantly, Mankind Divided respects your time. Besides some nagging from your InfoLink, you’re relatively free to spend your 20 or so hours just doing side content, reading over every piece of lore and inspecting every corner for the tiniest detail, or just ignore it all and mainline the story.
There were multiple choices where Mankind Divided put me at the crux of that I just had to step away, make a list of pros and cons, and come back to it several minutes later. Jensen 2.0 now has some morally grey areas to work with. There’s no longer good and bad — right or wrong. No, now there’s just what is mutually beneficial…or if your Jensen 2.0 is a dick, what benefits Jensen 2.0. That’s what always excites me about the Deus Ex franchise. I can make really difficult decisions, and then I have to live with them.
These consequences actually felt real this go-round. Just because you choose to use the Stun Gun doesn’t mean that it’s always the best option, as the police might not see your mercy in the same way you do. I was surprised at how much people reacted to the way I handled certain situations in a way I don’t think any other game has.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does have its fair share of issues, though. Most evident is the fact that, if you pull back a bit, Jensen doesn’t really learn anything about this new enemy.
There are hints within the narrative that something larger is going on around the globe, that something is going on with the Illuminati and the Augmented, as well as the gap in time between Human Revolution and now. Instead, Eidos Montreal tries to explain it, but there are still questions left unanswered that the third Deus Ex prequel will answer.
It’s strange, even writing the review, how much my opinion has changed on both Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. I loved Human Revolution, but there were a lot of faults, like constrained level design, and the cities felt like places people just stayed at, instead of feeling like a living place.
With Mankind Divided, I initially reflected on my time with the game as “Human Revolution but better…but this isn’t the game I was promised years ago.” Quickly, upon my 6th or so paragraph, I realized that wasn’t all bad. Take a look at Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This was largely criticized at the time of its release for being “A New Hope for a new generation.” More of the same, but better isn’t bad at all. In fact, sometimes it may even be greater than you ever expected.
You see, Mankind Divided is what Human Revolution should’ve been, it just took Eidos Montreal five years to get there.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was reviewed using a retail Xbox One download code provided by Square Enix.