Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the highly anticipated sequel to Human Revolution. Set two years following the events of HR, Mankind Divided sees the return of Adam Jensen, now working for Task Force 29 – an anti-terrorist division within Interpol. As you would expect from a Deus Ex title, it’s not long before Jensen finds himself caught within a tangled web of conspiracy, surrounded by people he’s not entirely sure he can trust.
The game is divided into three primary acts – Prague (Day), Prague (Night) and Prague (Curfew). Prague is the main ‘hub’ within which many of the core and side missions occur. It’s split into two areas, separated by a somewhat tedious load screen. Those expecting a second hub or more locational variety may be disappointed, but the Prague hub is far more extensive and complex than comparable areas in Human Revolution.
Entry to this hub is preceded by an opening tutorial mission set in Dubai. There are also missions set in other locations at the end of every act – Golem City, the Swiss Alps and London. Golem City is by far the most complex, the Swiss Alps the least. These single missions do provide a little taste of the globe trotting adventure you might expect from a Deus Ex title, but as I said, those expecting multiple hub areas may be disappointed.
And I must admit, the Prague hub did begin to lose its appeal towards the end of the game. The hub itself is fantastic, with an incredible attention to detail and an extensive selection of side missions. Exploring the hub is extremely rewarding with the chance to find weapons, equipment or information that further serves to flesh out the world, story and characters.
That said, the hub does somewhat outstay its welcome by the third and final act when the size of the hub, though impressive, does lead to a lot of tedious running from A to B. This is especially irritating when some of the final core and side quests require bouncing back and forth between the two separate loading areas. And, to make matters worse, Prague becomes a ‘hostile’ zone during the third act, so simply getting about becomes something of a tedious chore.
The ending of Human Revolution was arguably its weakest aspect, and unfortunately the same is true of Mankind Divided. From the Swiss Alps mission at the end of Act 2, through to the final mission in London, everything feels rushed to a rather unsatisfying conclusion. It’s a shame, because everything up until that point is absolutely fantastic.
The gameplay of Mankind Divided is essentially a more refined and expanded version of that which we had in Human Revolution. With multiple options for either non-lethal stealth, lethal stealth or a combat oriented approach, Mankind Divided offers the gameplay variety and player choice that you would expect.
Jensen’s augmentations are expanded, offering new abilities both lethal and non-lethal. The hacking mini-game is also expanded and refined. The core gameplay of Mankind Divided is a near perfect refinement of everything from Human Revolution. And, like Human Revolution, the game has some fantastic level design both in the Prague hub and single missions that allow the player to take multiple paths or approaches to their objectives.
The side content of Mankind Divided is excellent, with a variety of substantial, multiple stage missions. Like the hub itself, these are far more extensive than those in Human Revolution. In addition to the side missions, there are also ‘points of interest’ that further encourage exploration of the hub to uncover various secrets, tools and upgrades.
Of course, giving the player such freedom to explore the hub as they please may result in them stumbling across mission related locations, information or items earlier than they were intended. But the game handles this aspect extremely well, so you’re free to to explore without fear of ‘breaking’ any future missions.
The majority of the game – the mission in Dubai, Prague (Day), Golem City and Prague (Night) is fantastic. Great missions. Great level design. Rewarding and enjoyable gameplay. Unfortunately, Mankind Divided loses its way somewhat from the end of Act 2 onwards. The Swiss Alps mission is disappointingly simple compared to the complexity of Golem City. And the third act – Prague (Curfew) – is a short and hurried act, artificially lengthened by the rather pointless ‘hostile’ nature of the map.
This leads onto the final mission in London. Thankfully, the final mission is well designed and enjoyable from both a gameplay and story perspective, but the game falls at the final hurdle by ending with a rather lacklustre boss fight and an extremely short and unsatisfying cut scene. It doesn’t wrap up much in terms of the various story threads and just falls rather flat.
If you were expecting all the clues and evidence you’ve been collecting will lead to an ending that ties everything together, you’ll be pretty disappointed. The ending feels rushed, with a sudden switch of focus, rather convenient and hurried plot developments, and no real feeling of achievement. Very little of what is set up throughout the game, either in core or side quests, feels like it pays off in any meaningful way as the game ends on an abrupt cliffhanger. Which is why, in many ways, Mankind Divided feels like only the first part of a larger story.
And I’m totally fine with that, and I’d more than welcome another Deus Ex game continuing Jensen’s story, but this game needed an ending that offered much more to the player than it does. An ending that tied together the various conspiracy threads into a satisfying conclusion whilst also providing new revelations that set up another sequel. As it is, the ending to Mankind Divided doesn’t really do either. It just kind of stops.
I won’t get into story specifics, but it’s an enjoyable tale, with all the mystery, suspicion and conspiracies you’d expect. It also deals more heavily with various social issues that are a direct result of events in Human Revolution. Although a little heavy handed at times, it deals with these issues in a fairly thoughtful and engaging manner.
The cast is good, and almost entirely new aside (obviously) from Jensen and the reappearance of a key character from the original in an important side mission. But I would’ve liked to have seen Pritchard and Malik make a return.
Another disappointing aspect with regards to the story is how few and short the core missions are compared to Human Revolution. Whereas the bulk of the content in HR revolved around its core story, the bulk of the content in Mankind Divided is found in its side content and exploration, not in its main story thread – which you could probably breeze through quite easily in 6-8 hours. So although I enjoyed the story, it’s not quite as substantial a campaign when compared to the original, and the lacklustre ending makes it all feel a little pointless.
Technically, the game runs fine but not perfectly. I was running on a custom High setting, and getting around 40-50 FPS. It could probably do with a little further optimisation, but as long as you tweak the settings appropriately to suit your system, performance shouldn’t be a major issue.
Graphically, Mankind Divided is a nice looking game, but character models appear a little dated, and animations during conversations are still oddly stiff. The game also ditches the infamous ‘piss filter’ of Human Revolution. It never bothered me that much, but I can’t say I miss it, and the new colour palette is more appropriate for the tone and setting.
Outside of its campaign, Mankind Divided also features a separate mini-game mode called ‘Breach’ that sees you attempt to hack data from within a virtual environment. It’s a rather pointless, if harmless addition that seems tacked on to sell micro-transactions. In fact, there are micro-transactions you can purchase during the campaign for more credits or upgrade points.
I don’t know why anyone would, as the game is finely balanced in terms of player progression, and purchasing these items would break that progression entirely. But the option is there, and all it’s really going to do is piss people off. Micro-transactions in a single player, full price release? I can’t imagine any profit they actually make off this pointless addition will be worth the player backlash.
When it came to scoring Mankind Divided, I was close to giving the game a solid 9. Despite my complaints, it’s an absolutely fantastic sequel to Human Revolution and easily one of the best titles I’ve played this year. But its core campaign isn’t as compelling or complete as that in Human Revolution, and when I hit that lacklustre ending, it felt like a right kick in the balls. But still, despite that disappointing final act, Mankind Divided is quite easily in the running for my personal Game of the Year and it comes highly recommended.