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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Review

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Thanks to Eidos Montreal we once again get to step into the boots of super Aug-Lord Adam Jensen and continue down the path of discovery following the “Aug incident” narrative from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This is a strong inclusion into the stealth role playing genre with a varying amount of unique mechanics that does actually propel it to being a frontrunner in the current generation for a game of its genre.

From fast paced action to slow methodical stealth, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a very strong Splinter Cell feel but when not engaged in combat it boasts a fluid open world feel with an abundance of life that really adds to the overall density of the game. Real time choices with real time outcomes is another of the glowing aspects of Human Revolution which should not be taken lightly due to its innate ability to recognise previous actions and decisions.

“The year is 2029, and mechanically augmented humans have now deemed outcasts, living a life of complete and total segregation from the rest of society.”

Mankind Divided takes place in a future of expansive technological advancement, such as the ability to replace human body parts and vital organs with mechanical counterparts. This is affectionately referred to as human augmentation, thus donning the label of “Augs”. The narrative is a somewhat direct continuation from Human Revolution with an approximate two year gap in the timeline. It has been recognised by the brains trust at Eidos Studios that not everyone has played Human Revolution and their answer to this is a comprehensive 12 minute video covering all the major plot points of the previous title. Not only does this video serve as a good starting point to the overarching narrative for a new player, but also serves as a really decent refresher for players coming back considering there has been five years between releases.

The most difficult part from my personal experience was learning the in-depth control scheme. Not helping the fact was that this was my first 'Triple A' Xbox One title that I have ever played and the on screen prompts at times led me to my death, but that is an issue of my own and not a problem with the game at all. The other hurdle that stood out was the pace of the game after your initial mission (tutorial). It very quickly moved from a linear experience to an open world game with no warning. I went from a set of objectives and high adrenaline gameplay to wandering the streets of Prague in 2029 trying to decipher what were important narrative points and what was just the living world around me. After a couple of hours of roaming and adjusting to this new style of gameplay I began to feel much more comfortable and started realising what was required of me to progress in the game.

It was at this point that my personal gameplay style took over and I became invested with what was going on around me and I wanted to explore and conquer side quest and have an impact on my immediate surroundings. The way that the game portrays Augs like an alien race is wonderfully done. My many interactions with the 'Naturals' had me feeling like an oppressed minority. I literally left some conversations with a feeling of disdain. It is with lingering emotions I began to become more immersed and really wanted to make a difference. As opposed to what is very common in open world titles today, I never had the option to just do side quest after side quest. They would become available when they were important to emphasise current aspects of the main mission. It was with this realisation I become totally immersed and was able to grasp the full context of what was going on around me.

Mankind divided blended open world freedom with linear mission based story telling very well and some aspects of the main quest line would take you to a more secluded area and deliver a more linear style of gameplay so you could just focus on your main objective. When I say "linear" I know it is likely people will quickly jump to the frame of mind “Ok wall down this corridor, shoot these people, collect this quest item and extract”, but it is anything but that. The unprecedented amount of freedom and available options from which to pick from in order to fulfil objectives is astonishing. I disregarded a fair few mechanics early in the game by blowing them off as incidental or not required in the game, but the more I explored, the more every mechanic had a use. I will give you an example here, a lot of objects in the environment would highlight, but upon inspection would only give you the ability to “pick up” and initially I thought "Ok, why would I want to pick up a box or a witch's hat?" to then later realise that other than the obvious use, which was throw the said object to lure enemies to a preferred location, you could also move obstacles in your way and open up alternative routes to a desired location often bypassing many a foe.

The presentation as a whole was a masterpiece from the graphics and cutscenes to the living world around you. It was very hard to find fault. The soundtrack was maybe not as prominent as it could have been but there was always something there where you would expect it to be. Character interactions were brilliant, to the point where certain dialogue decisions would define the relationships between characters. The major gripe I did have with the overall presentation was the load times between deaths. As if dying wasn’t a big enough kick in the guts but the amount of time you had to sit there and beat yourself up over it at times felt quite excessive. That being said, if that's the only thing that can be borked at in the overall presentation of the game then so be it. If longer load times is the reason the world is so vibrant and alive then that is a pretty fair trade off.

The control scheme is probably what had me struggling early on. I made mention that this was my first 'Triple A' game that I have played with an Xbox One Controller, but that is not the only reason I struggled a little. Mankind Divided’s control scheme is a hybrid between a few different 'classic' styles and with a few 'hotkeys' thrown in there for better on the fly control. I did find myself muddled up on more than one occasion (usually leading to a load screen if you get what I mean). Bumpers, triggers and a combination of buttons had me in a frazzle at times and often had me going the long way round by opening my inventory in a pause menu and doing everything the long way round. This being said it was a godsend to be able to do that so it wasn’t a negative experience for me, it was more of a lifeline in an aspect that I struggled with.

After I overcame the bumbling around on the controller and was able to use all the combinations of controls and buttons on the fly, the game took on a new fluidity of quality. The ability to change weapon attachments and ammo types in combination with the overwhelming amount of augmentation abilities I began to feel like a right boss. The obstacles thrown in my way become not only very manageable but at times very evoking. Being able to deal with something spontaneously by using the correct techniques and abilities without really thinking about it had a very euphoric result.

The augmentations in this game are obviously one of its major factors and something that sets it apart from the rest. When thinking of previous experiences with other titles that would offer something similar, Mankind Divided takes it five steps further and blows it out of the water. From invisible cloaking for the stealth option, to the hardened skin for a full frontal assault, Mankind Divided places in your hands all the abilities to play the way you want to, and look very good while doing it. There is a trade-off system and a levelling up system involved which really helps you to create your own style of gameplay, coupled with intuitive level design you are never made to feel like you have to play a certain way. As a side note I would like to mention that it is possible to complete this game without killing anyone. Your augmentations and abilities are not only combat focused, they also have sense heightening abilities, certain resistances and a hacking ability. Taking into consideration this is a very technologically advanced future, nearly everything is governed by a computer and if it is computerised it is able to be hacked. The hacking in this title is a very neat little mini game of probability and smarts, just another very neat addition to the overall product.

With multiple outcomes to individual scenarios and multiple game modes Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a lot of longevity, not to mention a season pass to be outlined very soon, there is plenty of value and reasons here to come back a replay it. Gameplay gets a tick, presentation gets a tick and value for money gets a tick. It is very hard for me to find a reason to not recommend this to anyone and everyone. There is a massive futuristic world out there that needs your help and with the freedom to do it however you really like it leaves me to ponder why you are still here reading this. That being said thank you if you've reached this far in this longer than normal review but I did feel it deserved to be described in as much detail as possible. Once again I will mention we at Aussie Gamers Express are all reachable over at our Facebook page, I would love to hear your thoughts on this or whether this review has helped sway your decision in any way.


SCORE: 9 out of 10

Positives:

  • Beautiful living world
  • Compelling narrative
  • Superb gameplay
Negatives:

  • Slow to start
  • Lingering load times
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows

Genre:  Open world action stealth
Initial Release:  August 23, 2016
Developer:  Eidos Montreal, Nixxes Software BV
Publisher: Square Enix

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Aussie Gamers Express
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