Do you like to do things by the book, or prefer to go rogue? Kick down the door, shoot first and ask questions later, or sneak in and get out without anyone knowing you were even there?
Deus Ex has always let you pick how to play, and Mankind Divided is no different. Unless you’re not a fan of trenchcoats. It’s the only style Adam Jenson knows how to pull off.
The moody man-machine is back cracking skulls, or skulking in the shadows if you prefer, on the hunt for the mysterious, global string-pulling Illuminati.
Picking up two years after Human Revolution, when everything went seriously south for anyone with robotic or biomechanical augmentations, it’s now a really bad time to be a part of humanity 2.0.
Effectively, the world has been split into “normals” and “Augs” – with the latter treated as second class citizens. It’s bleak stuff, with once peaceful countries turned into brutal police states and whole cities turned into ghettos to keep the augmented separate from the rest of the population.
Augmented rights activists launching a bombing campaign right on your front door doesn’t exactly help the cause either.
It’s easy to spot the parallels between this “mechanical apartheid” and the beginnings of Nazi germany – or even the anti-immigrant agenda dominating this year’s US Presidential election.
Jenson’s on the job, though, tracking down the people responsible for throwing everything into chaos. He’s not a hired gun any more, either – now he’s part of Interpol, so you’ve got plenty of backup behind the scenes.
It’s a good job your teammates mostly stick to the sidelines, though: they swear like dockers. Grumpy Englishman MacReady and skittish CSI Smiley notch up F-bombs in the double digits in the opening few hours.
The voice acting in general feels a little clunky in places, especially Interpol Director Miller’s questionable South African accent. A good job Jenson, just as gruff and grumpy as ever, has the lion’s share of the script then.
EXPLORE ‘EM UP
It’s not like you’re short of people to chat to, either. Prague, the first major hub area, is absolutely jam-packed with streets to wander, NPCs to meet and buildings to break into and snoop around in.
It’s so big there’s an underground Metro system just to help you get around quicker – or you can dive into the sewers, or clamber over rooftops instead. There’s an incredible amount of detail, with almost every apartment hiding something to read, pick up or unlock.
It all looks gorgeous, too.
As much as we liked the stylised golden hues of Human Revolution, the dev team has gone for a wider colour palette this time around. It really helps to give each new location its own sense of character, so it really feels like you’re an on epic globetrotting adventure. A few of the locations in the last game blended together a bit, but every place you visit in Mankind Divided feels unique.
All that incidental detail can make it a little tricky to find your way around, and to track down the NPCs that are handing out side quests, but quite honestly that didn’t bother us. We could explore each area for hours and feel like we hadn’t seen it all, just because we’d poured all our upgrade points into hacking instead of flea-like jumping abilities.
Yes, it’s as open-ended as a Deus Ex game should be. That means you’ve always got a choice: which way to head next, how to get the information you need from a particularly skeezy underworld criminal, or whether to ignore the main story while you polish off all the side missions you can find.
That’s true of the combat, too. We originally went with stealth, purely because the shooting in Human Revolution just wasn’t all that good; guns felt cumbersome and the controls weren’t exactly responsive.
We needn’t have worried. Mankind Divided has completely overhauled its gunplay for the better, with much more responsive controls. Diving in and out of cover, shooting on the move and lining up those crucial sniper shots feels a lot more satisfying. We even started fighting our way out of confrontations once we’d triggered an alarm, rather than reloading the last save.
It helps when you’re rocking an upgraded arsenal. You can bring up your gun at any point to slap on attachments, or swap out regular ammo for armour piercing rounds.
The universal ammo from Human Revolution has been ditched, so you’ll either have to spend some upgrade points on carry capacity upgrades early, or be ready to play inventory Tetris to manage it all. On the plus side, you can now make ammo on the move, using crafting materials you’ve scavenged from the world.
We went for a non-lethal playthrough the first time around, picking the long-range tranquiliser rifle before touching down for the opening mission. Those first few grunts never saw us coming, but more advanced soldiers in later missions had bullet-deflecting helmets. Rats.
Time to get up close and personal. Jenson’s still packing some lethal arm blades, but we were sticking to takedowns that won’t ramp up the body count. And that’s only if you get spotted – getting an elusive “Ghost” medal for completing objectives without anyone else seeing you do it is just as satisfying as ever.
POWER ME UP
Your augmentation abilities mix things up even further. A lot of them will feel familiar to Human Revolution veterans: hacking modules that let you get past locked computer terminals, reinforced legs that let you jump much higher, fists of fury that can punch straight through brick walls. Y’know – standard cyborg stuff.
That’s cool, but it’s the second, hidden layer of cutting-edge kit that makes the biggest impact on your play style.
Experimental augs like the nano-crystal Titan Shield will give you a major edge in a firefight, making you completely invincible to bullets for a short time. Stealthy players can use the Icarus Dash instead – it’s a mini teleport that’ll zip you across heavily guarded rooms without alerting anyone.
Our favourite? The arm-mounted Tesla darts, which lock onto enemies and knock them out silently.
They’re powerful, definitely, but you’ll have to switch off some of your regular augs to balance out the power they zap from your system. It’s also a permanent change: lock off your smart vision and you won’t be able to trace enemies through walls for the rest of the game. Working out which augs you won’t use is a real head scratcher.
That means you get incredible narrative depth, detailed worlds full of passageways and alternate paths to find, and gameplay that lets you pick your own play style.
The online Breach mode only adds to the replay value, too. You can go for high scores on the multiplayer leaderboard, or just stick to the story.
We’re hooked on the story, even if it regularly turns the air blue. We’ve already planned out the augs and abilities we’ll be rocking on our second playthrough too. Those improved controls will definitely come in handy when we go in guns blazing. Goodbye Ghost rating…