“Cyborg apartheid is surprisingly dull:” Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - January 18, 2017

     (Editors Note:  This review utilizes our new scoring criteria.  In a future article, we will be explaining in greater detail our new review process as well as a revisit to our review policy in a later article.)

      Dues Ex: Mankind Divided doubles down on everything that made its predecessor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, an immensely enjoyable action RPG. Unfortunately, some of the issues from the past remain unresolved, and at least one major problem is added to the mix. Mankind Divided is not without its merits, but its flaws are also big enough to warrant serious discussion.

    The one aspect Mankind Divided absolutely nails is its core design. Most choices players make, whether the choices are upgrade paths or dialogue options, affect other areas of the game in organic ways. By upgrading lead character Adam Jensen’s mechanical augmentations, players can eventually shoot concussive blasts from their arms, remotely hack drones, turn invisible, gain a full-body shield, punch through walls, and more.

     The level design is fluid and feels (mostly) balanced between play styles; it is entirely possible to sneak through the entire game or gun down every enemy in your path and even transitioning between the two for a more even-keeled experience feels natural. Another option is to talk your way through many situations, a solution that is entirely possible thanks to a (slightly overpowered) augmentation that reads NPC’s emotions and suggests the best possible response to any statement. This wealth of options is sullied somewhat by the realization that shooting your way through any situation is often the easiest solution and carries no real consequences. As such the game is only as challenging as the player wants to make it.

    Unfortunately, Mankind Divided falters when it comes to telling a satisfying story. While main man Jensen is a more likable character this time around, more human and relatable and less of a blank slate for players to project upon, most of the new supporting cast fall into a handful of archetypes: sympathetic but on the wrong side of the law, prejudiced but lawful, or vaguely conflicted. The commentary on segregation and police brutality is hardly subtle, but it works well enough in the context of a world that has come to fear augmented individuals. 

The problem lies in that all of the commentary presented here is simple window dressing for a standard terrorist hunt plot. There are hints at a larger scheme at play, but these plot points remain mostly unexplored, frustratingly reserved for a potential sequel. Even the main antagonisthinted at firstto have interesting motivations, becomes irredeemable by the end, rendering moot any attempt the game makes at understanding the motivations of terrorists. Every problem comes to a head in the final sequence, an overlong boss fight followed by the player being forced to sit through an immense amount of news footage that reports the state of the world in relation to the player’s actions. After a promising start, the ending of Mankind Divided is a dud.

    The visuals in Mankind Divided are a mixed bag. The art direction is strong throughout, showcasing striking futuristic designs that stand in stark contrast to the squalor that surrounds them. The animation itself is less impressive, with some stiff movement and poor lip syncing. Minor framerate drops also appear in some of the game’s more intense encounters.

    The last feature of note is Breach mode. Breach mode is essentially a time trial mode tangentially tied to the storyline of the game. Players take on the role of a hacker who uses an avatar with abilities suspiciously similar to Jensen’s to steal data. The mode is enjoyable enough, but the levels are short and separated by moving around a map, selecting upgrades, and waiting through load screens that are almost as long as the levels themselves. If you crave more of the game, this mode can lengthen the experience, but it’s hardly remarkable.

    Compared to its contemporaries, Mankind Divided is still a polished RPG experience with solid FPS mechanics. When compared to its predecessor, however, the game comes up short. The actual gameplay in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is stellar and makes the game worth playing, but prospective players should be wary that investing in the story means submitting to an underwhelming conclusion.

 

Final Score: 3/5

 

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