Deus Ex: Mankind Divided improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way and delivers an incredibly tense and entertaining action role-playing game.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided drops players into a dangerous world full of tension and incredibly serious themes. The unrest between man and machine is at an all-time high and players only need to step into the wrong line to get on the wrong side of the law. Although the action role-playing game is the sequel to a prequel, luckily Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's lore-rich world is accessible to jump into for new players and a must-play for veterans of the franchise.
The first-person action RPG (with third-person cover mechanics) picks up two years after the conclusion of the last game and the consequences of that story are felt all throughout this world. The story will still make sense to players who haven't completed Human Revolution, but there is an optional ten minute cinematic that offers a quick play-by-play of the first game in case anyone wants a refresher. In addition to the plot catchup, the game also opens with a quick tutorial level that offers an optional crash course in the game's mechanics. These skills lay the foundation for the game's hacking (here are some codes to get started with), stealthing, and fighting; so it's worth spending a few minutes on them.
After completing the prologue mission, players enter Prague as Interpol agent Adam Jensen. Thanks to a convenient glitch, Jensen's cybernetic augmentations are all reset at the beginning of the game and players have the chance to rebuild the hero from close to scratch. Like the previous installment, the role-playing elements of Mankind Divided are incredibly rewarding and important. Players can build Jensen's strengths down multiple skill trees, but it's important never to neglect one area too much. It's great to be a perfectly stealthy, but sucks when the character doesn't have enough strength to move an object that is blocking his path. The leveling is a very rewarding balancing act and forces players to think carefully, rather than just powering through one specialization without any thought.
Once the agent is powered up, playing as Jensen is incredibly empowering. Although Jensen has a very real health bar that can easily be knocked down and limitations on how frequently he can use his augments, it still feels like playing as a super hero when going invisible to sneak by guards and then performing high-powered takedowns all without raising an alarm. The combination of Jensen's previous augs and new options like the upgraded Titan Armor succeed in making the player feel more like a cyberpunk badass than ever before. Like in any action RPG, players will also need to manage a complicated inventory of parts, ammo, and meds to keep Jensen running at full speed.
From augmentations to dialogue options and everything in between, Mankind Divided follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by offering players important choices at every turn and the final result is well worth the wait. Unlike some games, where it feels like players choose a path between good or evil and stick to it, Mankind Divided allows players to constantly change their mind about how they want to interact with the world around them. From deciding to take the front door or sneak in through a window to completing or abandoning a side mission, every action feels like it has consequences. Players can move through the game as peacefully as possible if they wish and manage to only knock out a few guards here and there or they can go in guns blazing like we did. The real success of Mankind Divided's focus on decision making is that players will rarely feel punished for the choice that they have made. There are no right or wrong decisions in this Deus Ex, just the decisions that you've made.
Although Deus Ex's flaws and few and far between, they do exist. The tense world of Mankind Divided is incredibly immersive, but unfortunately the cutscenes leave something to be desired. The voice acting is strong and fits the tone of the game, but the words fail to sync with the character's lips so often that it becomes a distraction. In addition to the cutscene problems, the game's narrative hints at a few plots and conspiracy theories that feel a bit like they are never really explored or answered. This isn't a major problem and the primary narrative of the game definitely delivers in the 25-30 hour play through, but it just feels like there's so much more to explore. That's arguably a strength of the game and sets players up for some very interesting DLC or sequels, but there's a chance that some players will wish there were more answers at the end of the game. Either way, the game is a must-play for fans of cyberpunk, action, and tension.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.