Game Review: Deus Ex – Mankind Divided (Xbox One)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a visually stunning game for its time, and in a lot of ways still holds up to this very day. Its concepts of augments vs humanity was a strong case then as it is now, sharing the parallels into a lot of racism and profiling that exists even in our world today. Mankind Divided takes place a few years following the events of that game, where forces in the shadows set off a command to those with augments to go on a killing spree, resulting in the biggest loss of life in recent history.

Mankind Divided borrows heavily from its predecessor in a lot of keys ways, but fails to live up to the same quality that Human Revolution gave us. With a story that feels somewhat half baked, an ending that doesn’t satisfy in the slightest, and some inconsistent visuals, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an average at best experience wrapped up with tight mechanics, fantastic art design, and some top notch voice acting.

There were moments throughout my 30+ hours with the campaign of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided where I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying myself as much as I wanted when I first installed the game. When Mankind Divided was first announced a few years ago, all I could wish for was a game that was at least as good or better than Human Revolution, that was my benchmark of what I wanted from this installment. While there are components to this version that clearly outpaced the original, the fundamentals of what was great about Human Revolution just aren’t here.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided continues to tell the story of augmented super cop Adam Jensen, caught up in a world that resents and fears those with augments, especially after the tragic event just two years prior. This story takes place on the cusp of a vote that would see people with augments having to register and possibly have their augments removed, thus ‘cleansing’ them. Various religious fanatics, cults, politicians and many other groups either publicly support those with augments, or shun them and wave the humanity flag for those who are ‘pure’.

After returning from a mission in Dubai you are caught in the middle of a terrorist attack in Prague. Your mission, as Adam Jensen, is to uncover the architect of this attack. And while this is your main mission throughout Mankind Divided, several other factors come into play that start to show a much bigger picture of the events that are yet to come. There are moments in the story that are well executed, well written and pulled off with extreme care, but they are few. Mankind Divided feels hollow most of the time, falling into cliches and narrative beats typical of bad TV drama.

There are various side quests here to take part in, and most of the time, they feel better handled and far more important than the story they are trying to excite us with. It’s not that the main story here is bad in any real way, it just doesn’t feel important or crafted in a way to keep us on the edge of our seats. One odd element to the whole package is the separation of mission: Desperate Measures. This is included as a day one bonus, or DLC should you miss out on it. This mission is standalone but is oddly essential to the main campaign as it is designed around the identity of a person involved in the initial terrorist attack.

I could handle a mediocre plot if there was a great pay-off to the story, but there just isn’t. The ending here is on par with Halo 2’s “Finishing this Fight” line that drove gamers into a rage back in 2004. The game has a great setup to the final mission, it was actually a moment in the game where I was really excited, but after defeating the big bad and saving those who needed my protection, it just.. ends. Sure, there is an actual ending that shows me the consequences to the choices I made via the side missions, but for how the main story concludes, well, it’s extremely unsatisfying on every level.

The side missions themselves are great, but there are just too few of them. There are about a dozen of these side activities with a few smaller moments called ‘Points of Interest’ where usually it’s a conversation with a NPC that is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. I actually had more fun with the side missions than I did with the main story. Catching a serial killer, shutting down a drug manufacturing plant, putting an end to a brain washing cult, these are just a few of the missions to do alongside the main story. There is also just breaking into apartments and various businesses and reading their emails to keep you busy with as an entire apartment complex can take you at least an hour to explore every nook and cranny.

You’ll tackle the main story and each of the side quests via the hub city of Prague. Sure, you’ll visit a few off map locations for certain parts of the story, but the majority of the game takes place here, in a filthy and garbage filled Prague. While both humans and augmented fill the streets, subways and homes, there is much prejudice here. You’ll walk up the city streets hearing the hatred of augments from either random civilians or the police themselves. Sections of the city are closed off, boarded up, or segmented to either human or augmented zones. The subway has clearly marked lanes for humans and augmented, with humans easily having the majority of the station devoted to themselves. Those without the proper paperwork are stopped at checkpoints, and even those who can find the funds to pay for it, most of the papers are fake and then result in them being deported to the aug slums of Gollem CIty.

In Human Revolution, Adam Jensen is fitted with state of the art augments after being left for dead. This time around, however; there are secrets within those very augments that become a really nice focal point of Jensen’s own personal story. Since the events of Human Revolution, Jensen had a year long gap where he is unaware what occurred during that time. This gap allows the story to unravel a few mysteries regarding Jensen’s augmentations and allows us to benefit from it with new augments to play around with. At first, you’ll need to sacrifice an augment or two to balance out the system that handles these augments. Later on, you’ll acquire a device that returns that balance, allowing you equip whatever you want to, should you have the Praxis points to purchase those augments.

You’ll start the game with the ability to use the augments that were gained in Human Revolution, ignoring the trend of the hero starting from scratch again to build himself back up. Since the story isn’t set around Jensen’s own personal growth, you are able to cut loose and kick ass right from the start. Your augments vary to a lengthy degree of functions but mostly consist of giving Jensen the ability to see through walls, survive huge drops, assist in his shooting or melee attacks, and give him distance abilities like teleport jumping, emp bursts or retractable blades to shoot at targets. There is a vast amount of augments to put points into and each of them will change up how you play and proceed with your tasks.

In order to upgrade and use those augments you’ll need Praxis Kits. While some of them are quite easily found, some require you to hack a safe or two, look behind a fridge, or just simply level up through experience. You can also buy them with real money in the digital store of your platform, but honestly, there is no real need to unless you just want every augment at your disposal right away. You can also earn Praxis kits through the Breach mini game that I’ll talk about shortly, or the Deus Ex Go mobile game that costs about $7 to download.

Hacking is a fun distraction that can pay off greatly should you invest the Praxis Kits in the various hacking skills, or find various hacking supplies in your travels. Hacking here is displayed like a mini-game of sorts where you will select nodes to build a path from your starting area to the security node at the end. Each node has a detection system that can go off depending on your skill level. Once you hack into the final security node and capture it, you essentially win. Some hacks require you to capture multiple security nodes and their paths are often guarded with firewalls, instantly setting off the alarm. Should you want to bypass the hacking and just reap the rewards there are ways to do so. There are various ways to uncover the passcodes and passwords to each terminal or computer you are trying to break into. You can also use Multi-tools to bypass any lock, no matter the encryption level.

Multi-tools, certain types of ammo and healing items can be crafted from crafting supplies you find throughout the game. The crafting system is really basic here and feels sort of tacked on. I really only used the supplies to build Multi-tools and Biocells, the latter of which powers my augments. You can also use the crafting supplies to upgrade the various weapons you’ll wield.

There are parts of this game that are just flat out gorgeous, and parts of this game that could have benefited from more time in development. Jensen and those he interacts with on a more important level look fantastic. Characters like Jim Miller, Delara, Alex Vega and Macready all look great and fit in line with how good this game should look. Armored cops and the various robotic elements in the game, which also include anything augment related, also look as equally impressive. The random NPC’s that Jensen can interact with just don’t have the same level of detail as Jensen does, and in certain situations, the graphical disparity between them can be jarring during conversations. It’s also worth noting that the mouth animations for every single character in the game is rather poor and can look like really bad dubbing.

There are so many elements to this game that look so good that it pains me to see the parts that don’t. Anything during the day, aside from the GARM facility later on, just doesn’t hold up visually to the rest of the game. Prague during the day is not terribly impressive, but visit it at night and it’s a whole different beast altogether. It’s dark and moody and areas like the red light district add that red glow and neon that just looks visually impressive. I also found it lazy to see such similar elements used throughout the game. Dubai, Prague and the GARM facility all share some of the same items like buckets, laptops, traffic cones and other typical elements you see everywhere. While I am not expecting a load of variety within items like these, having them absolutely identical in every location makes them just feel copied and pasted. Walking in to dozens of apartments to see them all have the same stove, the same book cases and the same furniture, it can get a bit confusing wondering if you’ve already broken in there.

Animations for scene specific moments are fairly good, like scripted cutscenes or areas in the game where it cuts to a more action type experience, but it’s the moments during conversations that just ruin the flow of quality here. Every character during any conversation has a series of animations that occur in almost every branch of dialogue. Some characters like Miller and even Jensen have these emotional outbursts that always consist of them overacting with pointed fingers, hands in the air or other comical displays of overacting.

The slums of Gollem City is your first true night time zone that fits well within the cyperpunk feel that Deus Ex is so good at pulling off. Even when you start to finish off that area and the sun is coming up, the color tones are just beautiful. I wish you could have returned to Gollem City at least one more time during the game as it was just a great place to visit. The sheer amount of detail that the slums offered was just begging for more areas to explore here. Your base of operations, the TF29 base, is another location that is visually impressive. It seems that nearly any location that is somewhat dark in tone is where the game shines, leaving day time areas to just drop the ball visually.

While I am not sure how the game runs on PC or PS4, the Xbox One version suffers from some framerate issues, some screen tearing and some excessive loading times. I also noticed some minor moments of slowdown during remote hacking that sometimes prevented me from hacking it properly.

I also recommend that if you have a 3D compatible TV to upconvert the game to 3D. While several games don’t really seem to benefit from it, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does so in spades. The graphical elements like e-mails, menu’s and newspapers in the game just pop right off the screen. Most of the environments have insane depth to them, and sections like outside the GARM facility are so visually impressive it is staggering. It was actually really hard to simply play the game in its natural 2D mode after playing nearly the whole game in 3D.

Elias Toufexis is back as the gruff but compassionate Adam Jensen. I enjoyed his performance in Human Revolution and he doesn’t stray much from that performance here. Mylene Dinh Robic as Jensen’s Psychiatrist Delara is fantastic. Her character model totally fits the voice and her performance was one of my favorite in the game. Other actors like Victoria Sanchez as Alejandra Vega and Peter Serafinowicz as Macready are both really good here and have some really great moments in the game. Vernon Wells, however; as Jim Miller, while sometimes a really great character, is just overacting too much and just comes off way too cheesy.

Being set in Prague, there are lots of accents and areas of broken english here that feel fairly authentic, but some lines and conversations can come off a bit like they are just simply reading off a page.

After you are done with Jensen’s story in the main campaign, you can take what you have learned and play through the cyber shooter mode called Breach. This mode takes the same mechanics you have used throughout the main story and puts them to use working for a hacker named Shadowchild as you attempt to steal important data from various encrypted sources. You’ll play as a generic digital hero who plays exactly the same as Adam Jensen. You can upgrade and fully augment your avatar and then unlock more items as you download more data. I didn’t really care for this mode as it didn’t seem to really offer anything remotely fun. Visually it looks fantastic on my 3D TV, but aesthetics aside, it’s unoriginal and very forgettable.

At the core, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an average at best sequel to Human Revolution. Its main story doesn’t impress and feels unfinished, like it is waiting for paid DLC to wrap it all up. The mechanics and gameplay elements are spot on and the best the series has seen yet. With huge differences in how you are able to traverse and accomplish your tasks based on being lethal or nonlethal, there is much replay to the title to take in all the content this game has to offer. While the visuals at times can look incredibly impressive, they fail to be consistent throughout the whole experience. I really wanted to love this game as I am a huge fan of Human Revolution, but I just didn’t get the experience I wanted from this title. I thoroughly loved the boss encounters in Human Revolution, but sadly there are not many of these types of encounters here. There are moments in this game that are great, and then moments that stand out as being rather poorly implemented that much like the main title suggests, I too am divided.

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