Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review

Let’s Jensen Up This Joint

In Deus Ex: Human Revolution , the cybernetically augmented Adam Jensen famously “never asked for this.” He was a cop-turned-security-guard who was suddenly thrown into an international conspiracy when he narrowly survived an attack on his employer – by being outfitted with lifesaving and incidentally totally badass mechanical augmentations. In that promising but flawed reboot of the Deus Ex franchise, it felt like Jensen was barely keeping his head above water as he was thrown from crisis to crisis.

Now he’s back in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided , and two years later he’s a confident, canny double agent determined to unearth the true villains behind the ongoing plot to control humanity’s destiny. He has embraced his augmentations, even as he must deal with the fear and prejudice of a society that has grown increasingly divided over cybernetics. And much like Adam, this feels like a far more confident, worldly title that has shaken off the growing pains of its predecessor and come out as a gorgeous, polished near-future spy thriller.

As in Human Revolution , you’ll be controlling Jensen in this hybrid FPS / RPG / stealth adventure. Its control scheme has been highly polished, especially the unique stealth-cover system I wish more developers would steal. It still feels great to switch from the usual first-person view to a third-person one while taking cover, which you can do almost anywhere. Once in cover, you’re given easy, fluid controls that allow you to dart from place to place, vault over obstacles, and turn corners while remaining hidden. It feels great.

In fact, a stealthy and/or non-lethal run through Mankind Divided is highly entertaining while still being properly challenging. Human Revolution was criticized for giving players lots of fun destructive toys, but not as many if you wanted to take out your foes silently or non-lethally. That is a problem no more. You’ve got your usual arsenal of lethal weapons, but you’ve also got a tranq gun, stun gun, mods to regular guns so that they shoot security-disrupting EMP rounds, silencers that can be attached to most weapons, gas grenades, and new augmentations that let you administer some quick electroshock therapy to an entire room of people. You really feel like a spy with a great set of tools that allow you to get in and get the job done. One of your co-workers even asks you to go “Jensen” a problem away, and that feels appropriate.

Oh, and those problematic forced-combat boss fights from the previous game? No longer a problem. That’s all I’ll say. You’ll see.

Jensen will be doing less jet-setting than he did in Human Revolution , but that has allowed his home base of Prague, CZ to be fully developed as a living, breathing place – albeit one nervously abiding under militarized police surveillance. The setting is an impressive mix of old-world architecture and ultra-modern design, with neon ads flashing above cobblestone streets. Color is used to excellent effect (no more weird yellow-gold film over everything), and observant players will discover little visual treats around every corner.

This excellent visual design is backed up by some top-notch level and quest design. The areas you’re infiltrating are basically puzzles to be solved depending on the weapon and augmentation loadout you’ve chosen. I found one area (Golem City) that dragged on far too long, but otherwise the levels are tightly designed and allow an impressive number of possible “solutions” for reaching your goal. I spent one afternoon discovering about ten different ways to rob the city bank, and I don’t think I found every possible method… and that was just for a side quest. Said side quests are beefy and meaningful, by the way. You won’t want to skip them.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Screenshot

Now, there’s been some controversy over the way that the Deus Ex team has handled the game’s commentary on today’s society, with phrases like “mechanical apartheid” and “Aug Lives Matter” (briefly shown in some early concept art) feeling insensitive and out of touch to some critics.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Screenshot

None of these phrases are actually featured in the game, so you can be happy about that and file it under “issues with marketing.”

I did find the central metaphor of augmented people standing in for every oppressed group in history to be a bit strained. Sometimes it’s done well, like the subway guards who harass Jensen for identification and chide him when he steps out of bounds. Other times, like the near-perfect replication of Jim Crow laws (except applied to augmented people instead of people with African heritage) throughout the city, it feels off. I don’t buy that a newly-spawned fear of violence from augmented citizens would cause the exact same kind of discrimination that resulted from centuries of belief in white racial superiority. I’m also unconvinced by the fact that all other forms of discrimination seem to have disappeared in favor of this single augmented vs. “naturals” struggle.

That’s why it’s fortunate that while the struggle and suffering of everyday augmented citizens is a strong theme in the game, much of your actual time is spent doing awesome spy things like running rings around the local organized crime boss or smoothly talking down a crazy cult leader (or, if you’re less subtle, punching through walls to get into locked rooms or giving a rude cop a stun gun to the face). The game does a great job of making you question who to trust – it’s easy to feel like you’re going to be betrayed by your close associates at any moment – and motivates you to dig up as much information as you can on the complex power struggles happening in Prague and around the world.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Screenshot

You will have to make choices between working more closely with your anti-terrorist task force or the hacktivist coalition you’ve joined in your search for the truth, and you’ll also have to decide how much collateral damage you’re willing to inflict along the way. Many choices aren’t clear-cut (though your dialogue choices are fully spelled out – thank the MachineGod), and you may not know the full repercussions of your choices for some time, which makes you really think about what you’re doing. Top all this off with some heart-pounding escape sequences, and Mankind Divided really does feel like an interactive spy movie.

It helps that the voice direction is far stronger this time than it was in Human Revolution . Elias Toufexis is much stronger as Jensen this time around, putting more emotion behind his lines. You can actually tell how Jensen feels about the things going on around him, as he’s allowed to sound angry, sarcastic, and (most surprisingly, considering his previous overly-stoic demeanor) often compassionate. The rest of the main cast is voiced quite well, and although there are still some questionable accents here and there, overall it’s at least on par with most other games of its type.

I’m so happy that this team at Eidos Montreal was able to continue on with the Deus Ex series. While Human Revolution was a promising title with some glaring issues, Mankind Divided is the work of a mature development team that has had the time to fix their weak points and improve on their strong ones. The result is a quality cyberpunk spy adventure with strong visual and level design, true opportunities for players to exercise choice, and some really cool cybernetic toys to play with. Go ahead, be the kind of Adam Jensen you want to be. Just don’t forget to watch your back.

Great use of color and special effects set the tone for every part of your adventure. Fantastic visual detail. Generic character models still need work, but main characters are nicely done. 4.5 Control
Multiple control schemes are available, and the game does a great job of making a complex RPG easy to access when it comes down to in-the-moment action. The stealth cover system sets a new standard of excellence. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Jensen’s VA is much improved. There are occasional awkward accents, but main characters are well-voiced and sound design is solid. 4.5 Play Value
One overly-lengthy area aside, this is a tightly-designed game that still provides tons of possibilities for exploration and experimentation. The side quests are meaningful, and there’s even a bonus arcade-action hacking game (Breach) packed in! 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Become the ultimate augmented covert agent. Choose from a vast array of cutting-edge weapons and augmentations, customizing them exactly to your desired specifications.
  • Explore diverse locations and discover a near future setting where the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
  • Experience the renowned world of Deus Ex, where the decisions you make and the actions you take play a crucial role in determining the game’s outcome. Choose between combat, stealth, social, and hacking approaches to achieve your objectives.

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