Ben Franchi ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The release of Square Enix’s newest entry in the Deus Ex series, Mankind Divided, has garnered substantial controversy in the lead-up to its release. With the “augment your pre-order” program, the furor over microtransactions, and the large release delay, impressions on how the next title in the acclaimed FPS-RPG series were all over the place. With the release of the game only a week past, it all comes down to the experience itself which, fortunately, remains a solid successor to Human Revolution.
Two years after the Incident, when augmented people the world over went berserk, heavy anti-aug laws have been instated, reducing much of the world population to the state of second-class citizens. Adam Jensen, who played a critical part in saving the world, now leads a double life. On the sub-surface, he serves as a critical soldier in the anti-terrorist group Task Force 29, and below that, sneaks information to the “hacktivist” group, the Juggernaut Collective, as he seeks to unravel the conspiracies that the Deus Ex series is so well known for.
The story feels like a classic Deus Ex romp. Layers of intrigue await Jensen, along with personality and unique philosophies to be found and debated in even the minor characters, and the choices the player will make definitely inspire repeat playthroughs. Elias Toufexis kills it as Jensen, bringing the same gravitas to the role as he did before. The weakest part of the story, sadly, can be found in the social issues it deals with. While the words “mechanical apartheid” might seem an intimidating story element that challenges how we see social structure in the current year of 2016, there’s never a real sense of tragedy or oppression behind the plight of the augmented. A few annoying subway checkpoints here, an “Aug Lives Matter” magazine there, it’s more like lipservice than an actual theme.
That in mind, the gameplay of Mankind Divided is the classic experience Human Revolution has delivered, only with a few experimental surprises below the surface. Gameplay is the same FPS/stealth/hacking/exploration jambalaya that works so well, with a wider balance that allows for aggressive playstyles. Adam can upgrade guns, do sidequests that flesh out the world, craft items, and upgrade his Sarif Industries augmentations just as before, and more. The game also introduces “experimental augmentations”, extremely powerful and useful augs that give Adam a greater edge against his foes. These augs do overclock his system, reminiscent to the Data Drain Infection system of .hack, requiring that you shut down unused augs permanently to keep him in check. While this might seem restrictive to some, it also helps the player really focus on how they want to build and play Jensen, rather than throwing Praxis Points at the wall and seeing what sticks.
The graphics also received a detailed overhaul, though there is some stuttering during (oddly enough) non-combat scenes. Adam, with his cool new ACRNM trench coat, is the best looking character model by far, though the others characters dip into the uncanny valley at times. Also, the only hub world to explore, aside from a handful of separate levels, is the separated districts of Prague which, while still flowing with that smooth cyberpunk aesthetic, aren’t quite as varied as the previous games were, so keep that in mind.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a worthy, if not overcoming successor to Human Revolution. With a classic Deus Ex plot, tons of ways to play, and slick, if not varied, levels of cyberpunk action, this game ambitiously skirts the edge of the sun and comes back with its wings intact.