by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Aug Lives Matter
Although set in the future, the story in Mankind Divided could largely be relevant in today's society. In Mankind Divided, set a couple of years after the events of Deus Ex Human Revolution, the Augmented have been somewhat segregated from society. It hasn't helped that a number of terrorist actions have been attributed to them. On the streets, the Augmented are given a rough time, being treated as lesser beings. It seems that even in the future, minorities are discriminated against and people still can't seem to get along. Change the word Augmented to Muslims or Blacks in the preceding sentences and this Deus Ex installment could be part of today’s social commentary.
Adam Jensen is no ordinary Aug though. As a member of a special counter-terrorism unit known as Task Force 29, Adam finds himself involved in one of the terrorist bombings. Fortunately he survived, but his augmentations have become inactive. To set things right he visits the local Augmentation specialist, who whilst repairing our protagonist, uncovers some experimental augmentations added to Jensen's functionality. So apart from finding out those behind the terrorist bombings, Jensen also wants to find out how he has ended up with these extra augmentations.
Resetting the Augmentations
With Jensen's augmentations reset, it allows the gamers to reconfigure Jensen's abilities from scratch to suit their chosen playing style. Mankind Divided gives gamers the chance to play a stealthy hacker game where Jansen's abilities allow him to bypass potentially dangerous situations, or they can beef up Jensen's armor and shooting precision to make him a killing machine along the lines of the Terminator or Predator. Personally, I played through most of the game as the former, trying not to kill where possible. Augmented humans were getting a bad enough rap without Jensen making things worse for their cause. There were certainly times where I was confronted with situations where sweet-talking couldn't get me past, and I chose to be somewhat violent. But, the ability to sneak up on characters and knock them unconscious rather than fatality wound them cannot be underrated. The fact that it saves using the limited ammunition at your disposal (especially early on) is important, but also quietly subduing victims does create less noise.
Sneaking around seems to be encouraged in Mankind Divided. Air vents and air conditioning ducts seems to litter the locations, allowing Jensen to move unseen from one place to another. Even in secure places such as Jensen's own highly secretive organisation Task Force 29, can numerous vents be located. So much for security. As well as tunnelling through vents, the cover system in Mankind Divided provides Jensen with the ability to move from one cover location to the next quite seamlessly allowing Jensen to move undetected through certain complexes.
If you do decide to go all postal, then that seems to work fine too. The cover mechanic does help as you can pop up and fill your enemies with ammo whilst keeping yourself relatively safe. There are also plenty of objects lying around that can be thrown as distractions. The AI is actually pretty good and if one of their comrades disappears, they will look to find where they have gone. If they hear something out if the ordinary (such as an item that you've thrown), they will go to investigate. And if characters spot you doing something suspicious, the authorities will be called. The realism is somewhat let down though by the fact that you can often pick up their credits or look through their drawers and cabinets without them batting an eyelid. Just don't go rifling through a police car, though.
Lots to see and do
Even though the main storyline is reasonably linear, there is plenty of open-world action to be had in Mankind Divided. The world goes on around Jensen and gamers can do everything from eavesdrop on NPC conversations to go shopping for weapons and Praxis kits. As was the case in Human Revolution, the Praxis kits are vital to activating Jensen's augmentations. A couple of them can be bought for a high price with a dealer, but searching around locations within the cities can uncover numerous others, allowing Jensen to upgrade his abilities. Side missions are important to complete, not just because they add to the story, but because there are heaps of goodies and collectibles to be found when making your way between locations. Apart from credits that can be used to purchase anything Jensen requires, Biocells used for powering his augmentations, HypoStim Injectors and painkillers for health, and crafting parts that allow Jensen to upgrade weapons or build items such as the Multi-tool used for hacking. Also. completing side missions grants XP, and upon leveling up, grants access to another of the ever important Praxis kits.
Visually, Mankind Divided is quite dark, especially if you decide to take the less violent routes through the sewers or inside the air ducts. Characters models for the most part are nicely done, especially for the main characters, but unimportant NPCs often have a samey look to them. The developers have taken plenty of time with dialogue, though. As mentioned earlier, it is fun to walk up to a couple and just listen to their conversations. The voice acting is superb, although I did find it somewhat strange that the most of the citizens of Prague spoke English. They had some nice accents though.
Mankind is divided
Deus Ex Mankind Divided tells an intriguing story and places our augmented friend Adam Jensen in a number of wonderfully depicted future locations amongst some great characters. But it is the gameplay that makes Mankind Divided a superb game, allowing gamers to progress in their own fashion. Sure, the stealth option is the one that the game leads you towards, with all the backdoor entries (mostly through the air vents) and stealth and hacking augmentations, but there is no reason why other methods won't work just as well. The game mechanics all work remarkably well, from hacking (despite it being a little repetitive after going through the same process dozens of times) to the cover system, to the various forms of combat, resulting in a game that has a poignant narrative whilst still being enjoyable to play.
Augmentations allow a range of gameplay styles
The hacking mechanic gets a little repetitive after completing the same process over and over