Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is what I'd call a mixed bag. It has a ton of stuff in it I really like, but as a whole, it feels very lukewarm. I love the city of Prague it has as a hub and I like the skills you can unlock and how they allow you to purvey different paths on locations as well as solutions on how they allow you to approach missions. Then there's a general atmosphere, where regular people show disdain towards the augments, main character Jensen included, because of the shit that went down in the previous Deus Ex: Human Revolution. But atmosphere or not, the main story of Mankind Divided just doesn't really hold up. The big narrative has interesting tidbits here and there, but starting from the main villain the story just doesn't feel gripping or important: it just kinda hangs in there while Jensen does other interesting stuff until he meets the bad guy who's barely a part of the main narrative.

During the story we see glimpses of the faces that are behind the scenes, pulling the strings. We see how the cabal that really controls the world is doing their own shadowy business, looking to gain from the key moments, but in the end that all seems more like the groundwork for a game and a story that might be somewhere in the future. There's even a character or two who were present at the very first Deus Ex game back in the 00's, but Jensen himself doesn't really interact with them. All he does is investigate the Prague train station bombing and other strands here and there, but as I said, the main plot isn't very satisfying.

It's not that Mankind Divided is a bad game. I genuinely enjoyed playing it and unlike in Human Revolution, you can solve all situations with using minimal force. Or I think violence is a more apt term, as you don't need to kill anyone this time around. Even the main baddie of the game can be rendered unconscious and that is taken account in the end summary. There's no "flip a switch"-kind of an ending like in Human Revolution had and that's a good thing, but at the same time the ending Mankind Divided has feels just a bit sudden and overall many things were left without answers and conclusions. The bomber is taken down, but at the same time, the big baddies just keep on trucking.

Again you step into the shoes of grumpy augmented agent Jensen, who miraculously survived from the ending of Human Revolution. He was fished out from the ocean and fixed up at a secret hospital, from where he left to the world only to join up with Interpol, where he acts as a field operative. And from there the game starts, with Jensen again trying to find out all about worldwide conspiracies while trying to help people around him as well as his morals, or yours, allow.

If you've played Human Revolution, Mankind Divided should feel pretty familiar. It has a similar user interface, controls and augment controls.  Just like before, you need to use praxis kits to unlock your powers. This time around the excuse is, that the explosion damaged your augs and you need some time for them to repair themselves. Then there's a bunch of experimental augs you can unlock, but with a cost of excessive power consumption, unless you can unlock an overdrive that balances things out. Things like combat and hacking work just like in the Human Revolution, so there's really nothing new on that side of things. And I'm not complaining, as I thought Human Revolution had great controls, so why fix something that wasn't broken.

You can again tackle the missions as you see fit. There's a possibility to go in all guns blazing, moving down enemies with guns and augmented powers. Or you can infiltrate as best as you can, and use the surroundings to your advantage. There are turrets, robots and drones you can manipulate to attack your adversaries or you can just trust on stealth and try to sneak past everyone as quietly you can. The mission maps do allow a lot of different kinds of approaches and in general, it pays off to explore the areas well, especially if you aim to do a silent infiltration. There are some artificial roadblocks here and there, like electricity running on water and poisonous gas filled rooms, but overall the feeling for the alternative paths is pretty good.

In many ways, Mankind Divided, despite its length, doesn't feel like a stand alone game. There's the underlying feeling that it's an addition, a large DLC, to Human Revolution. A lot of things from Human Revolution have been addressed, like the forced boss battle kills and that the sneaking options feel more natural this time around, but as a whole MD doesn't really stand on its own feet. If I'd compare it to a movie, it feels like the Two Towers from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It begins from where the previous movie ended and doesn't have a satisfying ending as everyone knows the big payoff will be in the final installment. And maybe this is what will happen with Deus Ex. At some point, we will get a third Adam Jensen adventure, in which he finally discovers what's going on. But that time hasn't come yet, not even in the form of DLC's.

As it is customary these days, there's DLC's. Some of the DLC's show shitty practice from SquareEnix part, as they actually consumable praxis kits so players can fast boost their Jensen into a super machine without any effort. Normally you'd have to earn praxis through gameplay, but if you have too much disposable income, you can just make Jensen a superman right from the get go. As far single player DLC's go, that's just plain douche like practice if there ever was one. Not that it's that difficult to level up Jensen on even the "Give Me Deus Ex" difficulty level, but I'd think that if someone finds the game too difficult, they'd play with the easy level instead.

DLC's bring two story missions as well: System Rift and A Criminal Past. In System Rift Jensen has to, again, infiltrate Palisade corporations massive data storage, this time as a favor to an old friend from Human Revolution. A Criminal Past tells a story that took place before the events of Mankind Divided. Jensen is placed undercover in a maximum security prison for augments so that he can contact an another Interpol agent who's been infiltrating a crime gang for a couple of years. Both of the stories provide some nice infiltration style gameplay, though at one point A Criminal Past does give a reasonable possibility for more action oriented style as well. Both of the story DLC's are decent enough, but as far story goes, I did like A Criminal Past more, whereas System Rift was more like a side mission from the main game that they forgot to put in.

Then there's the Breach game mode, which allows you to compete with other Deus Ex players on a global scale. Each Breach mission takes place in the Palisade data center VR mode, where you have to collect enough data and complete other side missions in order to get as many points as you can. It's reasonably fun, though I must admit I haven't played Breach more than a couple of levels worth. It has a story of sorts, but it's mostly about collecting data and figuring out the how to get out from traps.

And that's about all I can say about Mankind Divided. I didn't play it through in a hurry, as it's not that gripping of a game nor does it ever really manage to portray any real sense of urgency as far main plot goes. There's things I liked about the gameplay, but as far story goes, it ain't anything special.

Deus Ex; Mankind Divided and its DLC can be found on Steam. Get it, if the discount is good, otherwise, you might just as well skip it.