STAFF REVIEW of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Xbox One)

Thursday, September 1, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Box art When Eidos Montreal set out to create the Deus Ex world, it's fair to say that they never knew just how big it could, or would, eventually become. Their last entry was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which laid the ground work for their latest release Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Human Revolution received high marks and much acclaim, but the big question is: "Does the sequel, Mankind Divided, live up to or exceed its predecessor?" In our opinion the short answer would basically be yes, but there's so much to talk about, so let's jump right in!

For those who haven't played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, let me help set the stage so that the current game isn't so confusing. You played as Adam Jensen who was a cop, and along with his ex, worked for an human augmentation company called Sarif Industries. Sarif Industries was attacked, and during this attack Adam was left for dead. Looking back on that decision I'm sure the enemy regretted it because Sarif spared no expense in turning Adam into a walking augmented tank capable of exceptional feats of strength, agility, cunning, and so much more. The story was a weave of backstabbing and betrayal, accruing to a point that was a defining moment in mankind's history; however, Adam was again left for dead and there were more questions raised than were answered, which opened the door for the current title, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

In the years following the "incident" (seriously you need to play Human Revolution), mankind was torn apart. Decisions were made as different political and military factions were being created, while general citizens were caught in the crossfire. Starting out in Prague, you will see the effects of the divisive nature of politics in today's world, as Mankind Divided shows us a very similar nature of distrust and over-zealousness when it comes to discrimination, abuse, and neglect of the people who chose to become augmented. In fact, the game goes so far as to show you just how this outcome has effected everyone in their own way.

For example, one scene that sits in my memory is one where you'll watch as an augmented person in a refugee internment camp as he sits up against a wall with his head down. Look closely and you will notice in their hand is a pocket secretary that reads some heartfelt sentiments to this person's mother. This person admits that they should have listened to her and that their life has been torn in shambles since they decided to become augmented, and that the pain and sorrow that has been building and growing has reached a point where he wishes she was there to hold him and tell him that he was forgiven. The reply from his mother was equally as touching as she said to her son that all was forgiven and that she would give anything to have her son back with her and that he should never give up hope, for there is always hope. Then you realize that he took his own life.

It's moments like this that we rarely get to see in many genres. The emotional attachments that are made through the decisions and the outcome, and results, are those that spurn the mentality of the environment. These touches are absolutely brilliant on behalf of Eidos Montreal and truly help define the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided experience. Adam Jensen is back, and this time he's got questions that need answers. But just like in Human Revolution, every time you think you have an answer, more questions appear. This is why the story of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is truly exceptional and has to be experienced for yourself. Of course there will be times when you're going to say "called it!" or "I could see that coming."; however, it's what you don't see that makes the story truly exceptional.

Navigating through this world is solely up to you, no matter how you wish to play. Personally I chose to go through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in a non-lethal play style, the way I played Human Revolution. Sure, you can take customizable sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, battle rifles, and more into battle, shoot and kill everything that moves, and press on from checkpoint to checkpoint; however, the real challenge is trying to avoid killing a single person, which includes bosses (good luck with that). For instance, I tried to infiltrate a level 3 bank that was filled with security guards, turrets, security cameras, laser grids, and so much more. I walked in on the second floor and had to go to the third floor. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, the entire third floor is a restricted area and your target is a secure computer system in an upper office guarded by a security camera, guards, and an internal encryption on the network that you'll have to hack. Ummmmmm, ok.

Now, having explored the the areas on second floor I could access, I ended up proceeding to the first floor where there were secure executive vaults, each one containing their own external security camera, laser grid, internal security camera with turret, and its own defense robot. This floor also contained a security office with 2 guards and multiple cameras. So, how did I make it to the top? Well, for starters I scavenged literally everywhere I could in Prague. I completed every side quest first, and using my hacking along with breaking & entering skills, I managed to acquire a key for one of the vaults down on the first floor. So I went down to the vault and after dealing with security I managed to go through the two cable ducts in the security server room and kept track of where each one led. Then, utilizing the ventilation system, I managed to work my way to the third floor and that's when things got tricky. I had to sneak my way into the bathroom to exploit a weakness in the wall that led to the other bathroom and more ventilation systems. From there I was just picking and choosing what, when, where, and how to strike and move since I was armed with a stun gun while my foes had combat rifles. Or like I said, you could go in there, lay waste to literally everything, and not worry about any restricted areas.

That's the beauty of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The ability to choose how you want to experience the story is fantastic. From the extreme measures taken to not to kill anyone (the way I play it), a Terminator-Rambo style of brute force, or a mix of both; Deus Ex: Mankind Divided allows for true on the fly game adaptability and it's done brilliantly. Now, in order to manage all the hacking, shooting, and climbing, and anything else is left in the overall gameplay, you'll need to learn the controls and that's where Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also shines.

From the beginning you can choose what style of gameplay you want. You're offered very recognizable variants of traditional FPS control schemes to a control scheme that is very reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to one that has been developed just for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. All of these can be adjusted allowing you to find the one that feels just right for you. For my playthrough I selected the Mankind Divided option, not because it was the best one marketed at the selection screen, but I wanted to give this fresh game a fresh start and judge what they had developed specifically for this title.

For the most part I have to say that the control scheme is pretty easy to use. There is a bit of a learning curve that you will naturally go through as you progress during the game's prologue. For me personally, I found that the basic controls I preferred were pressing LS to enter and exit cover, pressing RS to bring up my quick inventory selection wheel where I would press the RT to use a health pack and LT to give my augments more juice. Since I never use my lethal weaponry I never really have to worry about selecting a weapon, but you'll notice that all your usable and consumable inventory options are displayed within this wheel.

As I played I ran into an issue that I noted early on, and it was while traversing through Prague and its buildings. I found that there were times where my character refused to jump as high, or grab a ledge, which caused me to fall off a building roof to my untimely death. These moments happened a little more than I'd like them to, and regretfully it made some of the game feel underdeveloped and rushed in that department, which if I'm honest, is a big department to have a fault with.

That's sadly not the only faults as well. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a sensational display of graphics on the last generation systems; however, you don't really get the sense of ground breaking work in Mankind Divided. During some of the animated sequences, if there was any movement in the frame, I experienced screen tearing like crazy, which didn't really didn't help the experience at all. Not only that, but the animation for the characters talking is nowhere near what you would expect from a current generation game. The whole graphics interface almost feels like it was developed using technology for the Xbox 360. Thankfully though Michael McCann is back at the helm for the soundtrack, keeping with the last Deus Ex quality, which is absolutely incredible. The soundtrack to Deus Ex: Human Revolution personally ranks in my top 5 soundtracks of all time with Mankind Divided already within my top 10. The sound environments as a whole are also masterfully done and you can easily see the quality in the audio work that went into this game.

I would love to tell you more about this game, but as I'm sitting here typing this up I'm realizing that it's taking time away from digging deeper into what I may have missed. Without question Deus Ex: Mankind Divided deserves to be in the running for Game of the Year at this point. Yes, it has its drawbacks, but despite the faults and flaws you still have an absolutely brilliant game. From a masterfully designed plot with twists and turns, a musical score and audio environment that is one of the best you could hear, to an emotional development of the narrative content on a psychological level, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of the best games for 2016 so far.

A vinyl soundtrack where the vinyl is the color of Adam Jensen's glasses! :)

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 9.6 / 10


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