The world we live in has changed. Our battles are no longer fought with honor but instead with proxies and terrorism. In this new age of war, technology has taken root and become a catalyst used to drive forces and operations. While set in a fictional future, Mankind Divided manages to use these elements for its narrative and world building. The results are something that feel closer to reality than fantasy.
In the not too distant future, humans have developed Augs (short for augmentation) to enhance their overall way of life. These include new limbs or even new brain enhancements. But naturally, with humans being humans, we seek to oppose these new ideas as some see them unnatural. Human Revolution, the prequel to Mankind Divided, starred Adam Jensen—a soldier who ‘didn’t ask’ to be augmented but was forced to in order to survive a near death situation (basically Robocop). In exchange he chose to serve the company that saved him and unravel the conspiracy (illuminati) which control everything from the shadows. Eventually their plan work by making all augmented humans go crazy and start rampaging around the world. Two years after the catastrophe, the world becomes divided as people can long trust those who are augmented.
Unlike its predecessor that showed you the events from the sidelines, Mankind Divided puts you in it. Through-out the game, you as someone who is augmented is treated as part of a lesser race. One who is constantly attacked, provoked, and treated as something that has no place in this world. Even when going to the metro station in Prague you are told to follow the Aug section of the line which is narrow and less welcoming then those who are completely natural. These small details help shape the world of Mankind Divided into something more believable and immersive. A far cry from the more slick and cool looking world we see in most futuristic titles.
The plot itself revolves around Adam who after surviving the events of the last game has come to realize that someone modified his augmentations. As with typical Deus Ex games, the story slowly takes our protagonist down a rabbit filled with conspiracy theories, evil corporations, cults, and the powers that govern the planet. While this is something common for Deus Ex vets, those who are joining in now may feel overwhelmed by its complicated plot. The game also expects you to know what happened in Human Revolution and if you haven’t played it you would need to sit through a 12 minute video that honestly makes it feel more complicated. In short, if you are into crazy convoluted plots that involve secret organizations then this should be right up your alley.
From a gameplay standpoint, Mankind Divided takes lots of cues from the original Deus Ex but with the mix of more current FPS mechancis. Shooting for instance now feels really good and not sluggish like Human Revolution. Customization is the keyword. Guns can include all your favorites such as scopes, silencers, and even different types of bullets. Gamepad button alignments are more diverse with its 3 modes that focuses on different types of play (stealth, shooting, and exploring). When it comes to exploring and stealth this is as Deus Ex as it gets. Different paths that lead to shortcuts or tools used to unlock doors, hacking terminals to use gun turrets against enemies, each level feels like a maze where finding secrets gives a sense of reward few games in the genre offer. Best of all is the lack of a morality meter or basically the sense of choosing good or bad. Make no mistake you can still choose but the consequences don’t really feel heavy handed. The game doesn’t feel like it’s forcing you down a good or evil path and instead lets you play the way you like. Want to kill this innocent people for extra cash? Sure. Feel the need to expose someone for blackmail? No problem. The game cares as much as you do. This also results in different ending scenarios which add more replay value. The choices you make will also be applied to future releases as well.
The augs themselves are a pure joy to use and range from your legs (running and jumping), chest (armor), and eyes (x-ray). The X-Ray vision is a mandatory feature and for good reason. Deus Ex levels are almost maze-like and having the ability helps plan your attack. You also unlock the new prototype augs which include a nanoshield (which was shown a lot in trailers) and stun gun. They act as a sort of special which breaks from the typical strength or heavy lifting augs. Best of all is the inclusion of faster regenerated energy.
Visuals in Mankind Divided are also quite stunning. Gone is the overuse of gold orange tint that we saw overused in Human Revolution and instead treated to a world filled with neon lights, streets, and rundown neighborhoods. NPC interaction also is given extra depth and attention such as witnessing various police officers harassing augs. The different locals such as Prague are a breath of fresh air for the series that mostly make you visit areas that seem ripped off from a Blade Runner set. It’s the kind of future setting that feels subtle and not in your face which again adds that sense of realism. From a PC standpoint the port holds up well on my 980ti. While not being able to play on Ultra settings, it manages to get by on very high with a stable 60 FPS (just make sure MSA is switched off). One thing does irk me are cutscenes which appear to be prendered at 30 FPS and console quality graphics. While on console it may not be noticeable, on PC it can feel jarring as some in-game conversations blend into these lower quality videos.
It’s hard to imagine that the Deus Ex series came out 16 years ago. At the turn of the century, technology and terrorism became the biggest subjects of the world and up until today, Mankind Divided manages to parallel today’s major issues. It may be years into the future but this game manages to feel closer to today than possibly any other entertainment media in the market. It’s the kind of game that sticks with you.