- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Eidos Montreal
- Players: 1
- Site: https://www.deusex.com/
- Game code shared from freelance work
The original Deus Ex is sixteen years old now. Despite being old enough to smoke (yet being physically incapable of doing so), it’s still held up by many people as something that more games should aspire to. Ironically perhaps, none of the other games in the series have managed to capture the same seemingly unanimous critical acclaim. An aborted sequel turned into separate title Project Snowblind, Invisible War is spat upon by many (unfairly we would argue), Human Revolution was well-received but had horrible and entirely out of place boss fights, and The Fall is a mobile-exclusive title that most fans haven’t even bothered to investigate. Mankind Divided could go either way – so which way did it go?
The first question on the quivering lips of many DE fans will undoubtedly be “does it have stupid boss fights?”. The answer is “No. Well, not really”. Ignoring one side-mission encounter which can be avoided, there’s only one boss fight – right at the end of the story. You can’t talk your way out of the fight, which is disappointing; and he’s essentially a bullet sponge, which is even more disappointing. However, as well as fighting him directly, there are also several options for either non-lethal takedowns or indirect kills. This time, it truly is possible (though very difficult) to go through the entire game without killing a single person.
Square Enix have taken a holistic approach to communicating the story – dialogue, environment and marketing – in a way that has very much proven to be a double edged sword. Said story follows on from the events of Human Revolution where, after augmented people across the world committed acts of violence and murder after losing control thanks to Hugh Darrow, they now find themselves feared and segregated. You’ll find that most civilian police, and many citizens, are suspicious of (or aggressive toward) you simply because of your augments. When the inevitable late-game curfew part of the story kicks in, your high-level clearance papers aren’t even asked for. This can make getting from point A to point B a little annoying if you’re trying to avoid unnecessary kills.
We’ve already discussed why trying to draw parallels with racism is entirely inappropriate. Having now played the final product, seeing that on rare occasions it even goes to the grimly laughable extreme of calling those who dislike augmented people “racist”, there are moments where this ill-judged attitude sours the whole experience.
Those moments are however thankfully rare. By and large it’s a carefully crafted and highly enjoyable experience, better even than Human Revolution. The first mission gifts you a fairly decent selection of augmentations, but after that of course an excuse is found to strip ’em down and make you start building your abilities up again. The excuse for this is probably to “allow the player to mould Jensen according to their playstyle” or some such rot, but in fairness that’s exactly what you can do. The brand new abilities, introduced fairly early on in the story, are mostly geared toward engaging enemies. One that will get some people excited is the titan shield, impervious to anything but an EMP attack.
The main storyline will drag you through a variety of locations and into direct contact with various people, including the series’ trademark dialogue trees and choices to make. Optional missions will offer such choices too, and the impact they have in both tends to be more meaningful (sometimes emotionally, sometimes in terms of gameplay) than previous games. Although it may not be immediately obvious, a few choices you make can have a major impact on the final mission, with one even giving you a way to instantly end the aforementioned boss fight. That it’s probably not obvious which choices and missions these are at the time is a credit to the game design.
Lingering on the issue of side missions for a while longer, these are arguably the main way in which Mankind Divided shines brighter than Human Revolution. None of them are throwaway fetch quests or simple “go here and kill all the people” tasks. They’re multi-step missions, each of a decent length without ever feeling like things are being padded out unnecessarily. Each self-contained plot could easily have been stretched out for an interesting separate adventure game, but here they’re included simply to add variety and value to the package.
There’s a lot to like, but there are also some cynical decisions that deserve nothing but scorn. Most grating is the issue of purchasable praxis kits. Thanks to the fact that Square Enix now kindly allow you to buy praxis kits and in-game credits with real-world money, in-game praxis kits are no less than twice as expensive as they were in the last game. It’s also suspiciously difficult to build up enough in-game cash to buy them; it’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll struggle to buy even one in a playthrough.
As good as the writing is – and it (usually) is good – at times it feels distinctly incomplete. One of the side missions teases you with an explanation of how and why Jensen was installed with his mysterious new augmentations, before abandoning you completely having not actually explained anything at all. The main story, no matter which ending/s you get, is not resolved properly either, leaving you with the distinct feeling that there should be at least two more missions to tie everything together. If any of this missing info is contained within the paid DLC that was gleefully announced before the game even hit shelves, SE should be ashamed of themselves.
Oh, did we mention why this review is so late? A widely encountered game-breaking bug across all three formats, now finally patched, made it literally impossible for us to continue. Things are fine now, but if you’re thinking of buying the game for a console unable for whatever reason to download updates – don’t do it!!