The theme of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is choice. Of course, the idea of making choices is nothing new to the franchise, but the developers at Eidos Montreal were heavily focused on the idea of offering multiple ways to play the game. I could choose to take on optional missions, try out new augmentations, or craft items. I could even change up my approach to combat, where I could play the first half of a level aggressively and then finish it off in a stealth-like manner.
There are more than enough choices to make Deus Ex: Mankind Divided a unique experience for each player--more than enough to keep me hooked for hours.
The fear of augmented humans going berserk is at its highest point. Prague, the primary setting for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, is full of segregation elements between “Natural” and augmented (or “Augs”) humans. For instance, Augs must stand in a separate line to access the subway, and they have a separate car on the train. Police stay vigilant of any suspicious Aug activity by patrolling the streets or constantly asking people for papers. At one point, my travels throughout Prague’s districts were impeded because police officers kept asking for identification papers.
Still, that didn’t stop me from pursuing the goals of my investigation into recent bombings and other terrorist attacks. However, I served two masters: Task Force 29, a special unit created to investigate attacks and strike against terrorist forces, and a hacker group called the Juggernaut Collective, which is searching for the truth in its fight against the secretive Illuminati group. Throughout the game, I had to please both sides as I progressed through the main story.
Obviously, there’s more to the game than just working for these two groups. Just like the previous title, there were many side quests available to derail me from the main story for a few hours. I could never just ignore these missions, so a decent portion of my game time was devoted to them, some of which required multiple objectives to complete. These were just as fun as the main story missions, and in some ways provided a tougher challenge. Nevertheless, they were entertaining and provided a means for me to gain more money and experience.
The Six Million Dollar Augmented Man
For those who played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, most of the augmentation powers in this game will seem familiar. However, there are a few new ones such as the Icarus Dash, which lets you move quickly across a short distance, or the Remote Hack ability, which allows you to hack items from far away.
Even with the newfound powers available, I didn’t use them as much because they didn’t fit my play style (I opt for a stealth-based approach, for what it's worth), but that doesn’t mean they’re completely useless.
If anything, the new augmentations just demonstrates that the game caters to any type of player. You can take a stealthy, non-lethal approach to the game and use little to no augmented powers, or you can play the same scenario with armor-based augmentations and charge straight at the enemy.
In addition to these new augmentations, there’s also a crafting system that allows you to create variations of mines, multi-tools to hack locked doors, or biocells to charge my batteries. If I didn't want to craft items, I could find most of them in each level. However, crafting isn’t just limited to the creation of items. I also used the mechanic to improve specifics traits of my weapons, such as the fire rate or the amount of ammo it could hold. These improvements should attract those who prefer combat-based gameplay.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Vent
There’s no better example of choices in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided than how each quest is constructed. There doesn’t seem to be a single, definitive way to accomplish a task. For example, I had to sneak into a bank and take data from a computer. Because I prefer to sneak around, I traveled through vents and elevator shafts inside the structure. I hacked cameras to turn them off and knocked out any guards that could pose a problem. However, I could have completed the same objective in the style of Rambo by entering the bank, guns ablaze, and blasted my way to the office where this particular computer was housed.
The same idea works for an entire level, as well. A great example is Golem City, a shantytown where Prague’s augmented citizens live. Each area had multiple points of egress and entry. You can ascend to a second or third floor to bypass roaming guard patrols, or you might opt to rescue citizens in danger and find another route. The entire place felt like a labyrinth, but I didn’t feel lost. Instead, I marveled at the many path I could use to travel through this level.
Exploration also has its rewards. I entered many rooms on the way to an objective. I opened every available closet and hacked every computer to find as much data, weapons, ammo and items as possible in order to fill my inventory. This game scratched that itch of leaving no stone unturned, and in return, I found numerous items that I sold for more money or used in combat.
The developers also made sure that the weapons in the game didn’t have a bias toward any single gameplay approach. Instead, it's up to you to mix and match weapons in order to play the game your way. My main weapon of choice was a stun gun, but I also carried a 10mm pistol because it had electromagnetic pulse (EMP) rounds. I used the stun gun to knock out basic soldiers, but other enemies, like those wearing a mechanized exosuit, couldn’t be eliminated in the same way. By firing an EMP round at the suit, I immobilized the soldier. All I had to do then was walk up and knock out the soldier without ever raising the alarm.
The game, especially on PC, is absolutely beautiful. The variety of colors and shades is a welcome departure from the gold/yellow coloring of Human Revolution. I played the game on an MSI GS40 6QE Phantom gaming laptop (Intel Core i7-6700HQ, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M) on High graphics settings (although I turned VSync and MSAA off and set Texture Filtering to 1x Anisotropic), and it performed well, albeit with a few stuttering issues.
Even though I liked some aspects of it, the game's weakest point is the overall story. Other than the first few hours of the game, it was hard to stay hooked on the narrative. I was more concerned with the side missions — which had very interesting stories — than the main quest because it was hard to keep track of the growing cast of uninteresting characters. It seems as if the developers abandoned the idea of boss battles almost entirely. I simply reasoned with most of the major characters I faced at the end of a quest, although I’m pretty sure I could have kill them with a single shot if I wanted.
Still, I’m fairly sure that I could play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided again with a different gameplay approach and still find it entertaining, even though I know the outcomes. Whether it’s an entire mission or a single enemy, you can deal with them in different ways. Some might prefer my Solid Snake-esque style of gameplay, whereas others love the thrill of cover-based shooting, and there are even those who will combine the two methods for an altogether unique experience.
From the very beginning, Eidos Montreal wanted to provide another worthy installation to the franchise, and it seems that the team succeeded with the many choices and expansive levels found in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.