Editor’s Note: This review is for the PS4 edition of Mankind Divided.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the sequel to 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, probably didn’t have as much hype surrounding it as No Man’s Sky, but expectations for the game were extraordinarily high nonetheless. So how did it fare? Let’s find out by taking a closer look at the good, the not-so-good, and the “not too bad but could use a little work.”
So many augmentations, so little time — The diverse array of augmentations available to players is, by far, the most satisfying feature of Mankind Divided. The usefulness of any given augmentation can’t be measured objectively; your play style determines which ones you’ll need to acquire during your first playthrough. If you prefer to play as a stealthy pacifist, for instance, Icarus Dash and remote hacking are among the most invaluable tools at your disposal. If, on the other hand, you prefer a more direct approach, the Typhoon and Nanoblade augmentations are especially fun to play with.
For most of the game, though, you can only utilize a limited number of augmentations. You’re eventually given the chance to activate as many of them as you desire, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever accumulate enough praxis points to acquire every available augmentation during your first go at the game. So if you want to experience all the bionically enhanced entertainment Mankind Divided provides, you’ll have to set aside the time for a second playthrough. Not that that’s something to complain about, mind you.
A complex story complemented by stimulating side quests — Role-playing games often suffer from either a poorly developed central plot or shallow, tedious side quests. Mankind Divided suffers from neither. The plot is as complex and meaty as fans hoped it would be. There had been some concern that the game’s “mechanical apartheid” theme would be clumsily or insensitively executed, but that didn’t turn out to be the case at all. From the radicalization of disaffected, augmented citizens to the widespread corruption in law enforcement, the writers took care to display and examine every meaningful angle of the issues endemic to societies governed by oppressive regimes and manipulated by the powerful elite. The “men behind the curtain,” we’re reminded, are always watching, pulling strings and playing games with little concern for the misery they induce, striking at every opportunity to further their own ends with no regard for the pain they inflict upon the populace.
The side quests in Mankind Divided are pretty awesome in their own right. The writers smartly went for quality over quantity; there aren’t as many side quests in the game as you might have anticipated, but the ones that made the cut are remarkably well crafted. I’d take any one of the side quests in this game over twenty boring, worthless “fetch quests.”
Excellent gameplay is excellent — Honestly, there isn’t anything you can do in Mankind Divided that isn’t at least slightly enjoyable. Even the hacking mini-game, which at first seems like the sort of thing you’d normally grow tired of fairly quickly, is enjoyable and rewarding enough to discourage you from looking for a convenient detour.
In keeping with the game’s emphasis on player autonomy, there’s a wide variety of play styles to choose from. Both the combat and stealth mechanics are competently implemented, and learning how to navigate the game’s UI is a simple and painless process. The role-playing elements are much more fleshed out than they were in Human Revolution, and that’s especially true in regards to player choice. Your decisions seem to carry much more weight this time around, which is an impressive feat considering that all roads lead to the same destination (the first Deus Ex game released in 2000).
All in all, I’d say that the gameplay in Mankind Divided is far superior to its predecessor. The combat, stealth and role-playing mechanics are all significantly improved, and the open-world environment of Prague feels much more vast and spacious than either Detroit or Hengsha.
Glitches and bugs and crashes! Oh, my! — While I didn’t encounter too many glitches or bugs during my initial playthrough, the game did crash on me quite a few times before I finally hit a wall, the “wall” being a game-breaking bug that occurred during the “The Last Harvest” side mission. I can deal with the occasional bug or glitch, but a game-breaking bug with no workaround? Not cool. That bug has since been patched, but it never should have made it past quality control in the first place. And by all accounts, PC users had it even worse.
THE “NOT TOO BAD BUT COULD USE A LITTLE WORK”
Great story, but an uninspired ending — As much as I absolutely loved the story in Mankind Divided, the ending was more than a little underwhelming. It was rather abrupt and left far too many questions unanswered. I enjoyed it more than the conclusion of Human Revolution, but that’s not saying much.
I suppose you could justify the lack of closure by pointing out how Mankind Divided is simply setting players up for the next chapter in the story, but I’m not particularly sympathetic to that point of view. A properly executed plot should leave you with a sense of fulfillment even when the story itself remains incomplete. Mankind Divided doesn’t do that. Instead, it just leaves you lost in a sea of loose ends.
Weak crafting system — The one mechanic in Mankind Divided that’s disappointingly facile is the crafting system. You gather crafting parts as you progress through the game, which you can then use to modify weapons and create a variety of useful items. There’s no skill or technique involved, though. You simply click on your crafting parts, pick what you want to make, and presto! It’s a convenient system that comes in handy when you’re running low on a specific item of importance, but it’s also a shallow system that requires virtually no effort on the part of the player. I’d almost rather just have a few extra inventory slots, which would have allowed me to bypass crafting altogether.
Conclusion: Its technical issues and lackluster ending keeps Mankind Divided from achieving true greatness, but this is undoubtedly a GOTY contender and the most enjoyable title I’ve played in 2016. The meticulously designed side missions, improved combat mechanics and gorgeous cyberpunk aesthetics really stand out, and the game’s emphasis on player autonomy gives it plenty of replay value. The “mechanical apartheid” theme was handled well, proving once again that video games are perfectly capable of tackling real-world issues in a mature and thoughtful manner. At the end of the day, Mankind Divided has its flaws, but they’re relatively unimportant when compared to everything the game gets right.
Final Grade for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: A-