Tonight we have a look at the latest entry in a series I have been a fan of for a very long time. Unfortunately, we are also looking at perhaps the last game in the franchise for a good long while. And while I can point directly at Square and their behavior as to why this game failed, we are here to check out the game itself. And… well, it’s a tough one to call. I’m really not sure if I want to call this a swan-song or a train-wreck, as it seems to be equal parts of both.
Story: For those of you who played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you already know the world you are stepping into and the big events that played out in the previous game. This game starts it's story two years later. For those of you who have not, however, Mankind Divided takes place in the year 2029 and technology has reached a point where artificial parts (called augmentations) are in regular use, both as medical needs and as ways someone can physically enhance themselves beyond the natural limits of a human being. The people who have these augmentations are referred to as "augs" for shorthand use.
However, what was supposed to be a huge benefit for mankind in total has become something treated with fear and distrust due to the "Aug Incident" which occurred at the end of that previous game. For those who did not play Human Revolution, the Aug Incident was a brief period of time where for reasons never explained to the public, everyone world-wide with augmentations suddenly and inexplicably lost complete control of themselves, becoming unwilling homicidal maniacs, killing many, wounding many more, and causing havoc that the entire populous on both sides of the technological divide will never forget.
As a result, "augs" are beginning to be pushed out of polite society, especially in Prague where the majority of the game takes place. Subway stations have divided entries, augs need permits in order to move between sections of the city, and even some businesses have become reluctant to have them as clientele. And obviously, this in it's own is causing other problems. One of the main ones is an organization known as the Augmented Rights Coalition (or ARC), believed to be pro-Augmented rights terrorists. They are also the prime suspect of a subway bombing that Adam Jensen (the hero of both this game and Human Revolution) had the bad luck of being at the scene of when it went off.
You will play the role of this Adam Jensen, augmented member of Taskforce 29 as the group investigates this terrorist attack but just like every other game in this franchise, not everything is what it seems. In the case of this title, it wastes no time in setting forth the beginnings of a much bigger mystery around Adam Jensen himself, even as it leaves that one in the air for (no longer happening) sequels. And while that does disappoint me personally, I can not hold it against this game where it was never in the scope of one title, but meant to be an over-arching theme that would influence the next several.
However, I can not say the same for this particular entry's main story. It is short, direct, has very few real twists, and then just... ends. No, really, it just ends. Almost nothing the game built up along the way was resolved, at all. In fact, if you remember the ending to Halo 2, it is very similar in just how little is actually finished. If anything Halo 2 resolved more since at least Master Chief's second outing ended with something changing. Jensen, on the other hand, can not claim that. His second outing changed absolutely nothing in the grand scheme at all.
But that isn't to say there were not great things in this story. In fact, the events that stole the show and really shined were the side-missions. If you skip these, you are really missing out as they are interesting as hell and can often tie loose ends from the previous game. It's just a shame the core story around which these were weaved felt at best like a lazy lesson in fatalism, and at worst like Square Enix told the development team to wrap it up and call it a day before they had finished telling their story.
Graphics: Fortunately, the graphics of this game fair a lot better then the story. You will play almost the entire story from a 1st person perspective and, simply put, the game looks absolutely amazing overall. The level of care and detail given to this game is simply breathtaking, from the high-end mash of history and ultra-modern that greets you on the streets of Prague to the rubbish cluttered alleyways of Gollum City, the game's environments all just look absolutely fantastic.
And the people you will meet are overall very well done as well, but the few times their are problems here, they are major problems. Specifically, the game starts to have some very weird issues around the hair. The most common of which is treating it like a solid object to clip through the character (not a huge deal) if their head moves the right way. In a few cases, this becomes exceptionally obvious as long hair was modeled to flow over a shoulder, only to move with the head when the girl looks around, often clipping through and ruining any effect the artist might have been aiming for. However in a few cases, it gets a lot more weird and distracting as it would seem that the area around it was forgotten for bitmap modeling, resulting in the previous graphics ghosting in those places as a graphical artifact. It can be distracting, and smells of the general idea that Square rushed this game out before it was ready.
All of the work, complete or not, is complimented by some great shadow and lighting work. How much extra you will get will vary some, as this game is fairly power-hungry, so the more you can give it to work with, the better the results will be.
And while we are talking about things like that, lets get into graphical settings for a moment. I don't normally worry about such things for these reviews since a console game won't have them and a PC gamer will generally be able to navigate the settings well enough, but this game is an exception for one major reason I need to outline. I've seen many people complain at how badly this game runs, and I suspect a number of them could trace their poor performance here.
In addition to the ingame-settings, there are options for how the game displays you have to access through the start-up splash screen including these modes. This is an old practice that is generally not used anymore, so it is possible a lot of complaints came from not being able to find one of the most effective settings to change and get more performance from the game without sacrificing literally anything: the display mode. And even if you did find it, it's entirely possible that Square naming the settings wrong eliminated your ability to get anything out of it.
When you look at this setting you can choose one of three options: Window, Fullscreen, and Exclusive Fullscreen. The problem here is that what this game calls "Full screen" is actually a "Borderless window." To explain, this is when you are playing in a window over your desktop designed to take up the full screen and not show the usual border you see around them on your desktop. This mode is often far less efficient then the traditional "game takes over your screen completely" settings this usually means. Rather to get that, you need to set your screen to "Exclusive fullscreen." To give you an idea of how much of a performance boost you get, my rig (listed at the bottom of this review) went from barely getting 45 FPS in medium/low settings to getting just under 60 at high settings without doing anything else. Still, standard naming for settings exist for a reason, and to be deceptive for whatever reason about them is definitely not a good thing for this game.
Sound: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a spectacle for your eyes to be sure, but I’m not sure I would be looking to the music for the amazement. Most of the time, the music in the game is designed to settle into the background and compliment the area of the world you are in, but not to be really noticed beyond the shifts to signal what is going on (like if enemies caught on to your presence and sounded the alarm). There is little if any theme to hold onto during any of it, and you will likely forget it shortly after you turn off the game.
Sound effects, on the other hand fair at least a little better. Your guns over all sound about right for the world, favoring a more mechanical feel to it then the meaty chunking you might get in more action-based adventures. And anything you can move around/stomp in/break/ect sounds pretty much exactly as it should. And there is a surprising amount of noises this game uses, even before you get to the ambiance of the cities you will be playing in.
As of for voices, this game certainly does a descent enough job between the quality and the acting, but again, not much is going to stand out. Jensen himself will, but in that “I’m almost the Dark Knight” kind of way. And considering the way he has been presented between the two games he has now starred in, it fits him. Unfortunately, few others will stand out with him, but the overall effect is a little bland, if fitting for the world this takes place in.
There is one exception, however, but she is also in a side story and I refuse to spoil it. But if you help one specific person, you are in for a treat, especially if you played through Human Revolution previously.
Gameplay: Deus EX: Mankind Divided is a first-person FPS/RPG hybrid where you will play the role of Adam Jensen as he tries to unravel the case of the terrorist bombing that occurs at the beginning of the game. To that end you will be turned loose in a total of four locations where what you do to achieve whatever goal you need to is completely up to you.
Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking “sure you are” but I’m serious about that claim. The city of Prague, while not the biggest map you will ever see in a game (in fact, it’s only a handful of blocks) is absolutely brimming with details to discover, things to do and see, and you don’t need to be on a mission to find and do anything. In fact, there are plenty of places you will never need to reach, but they are there and readily available for you to find… and that’s just one location.
The sheer density of this game’s design actually hit me in Golum city, where there is a fairly obvious path you can travel to complete you mission there, but stepping off the beaten path will reward you with a fully fleshed out complex complete with sections you can choose to explore, sneak around, wreck everyone and their grandmother within, or simply not deal with. The choice is yours.
And how you go about the places you actually need to is also completely in your hands. Every location has plenty of choices in how you want to do things, be it sneak around and never be seen, go on a murderous rampage, or anything in between, and is further enhanced by how you build your character.
In most RPGs when you build enough Experience to gain a level, stats improve or you get to add a point or two to your stats. In Deus Ex, you earn what’s called a Praxis which rather then getting you stat points, can be used to activate and enhance various augmentations in your build. If you want to be stealthier, you can focus on augmentations like cloaking devices or sound dampeners for your feet so no one can hear you moving around. If hacking is more your thing, you can enhance the levels you can attempt, increase the odds of not getting caught by security software, or even what hacking will let you take over on security systems. And if you want to go all out combat you can go for armors and physical strength or even lungs that can filter out poisonous gas (gas grenades are a thing in this game). How you play and how Jensen performs is up to you in a way I honestly haven't seen since the original game back in the days of the Pentium 2/PS2, and to that I have to really tip my hat to this dev-team.
If I have any issues with the gameplay itself, the biggest one would be the user interface the game uses. Yes, there are some details that were clearly redesigned for the PC to use like the weapon bar at the bottom of the screen you can navigate by either the mouse wheel or hitting the number keys, but most of it was clearly designed with a controller first and formost in mind. Your augments that need to be toggled on and off are setup in a cross like the rocker-switch would be in the corner of the screen making you have to remember which button is which spot. You have a weapon-wheel to select items from, and the hacking game never explains you need to use the movement keys to pull the display around to see the entire map of the system you are hacking. This last part is particularly important to me as hacking has always been one of the key things I do in this series, and without that explanation I was convinced this part of the game was broken until the last few missions.
But while reviewing I have to also go over the elephant in the room, the real-cash in-game store. This is frankly a terrible move by Square in which they chose to allow a player to buy praxis kits with real money rather then earn them in the game, and it immediately begs the question of if the game will offer you enough to finish. Thankfully I can tell you that yes, you will. In fact I finished the game with 13 extra. Admittedly, I hoarded them to be safe, but I believe if I can pull that off, you shouldn’t have much trouble playing with what the game offers you.
DLC: In addition to the main game, Square gave out the day one DLC for free back in January. Included within this was a mission called Desperate Measures. In this mission you investigate (and break in) to Tarvos Security, the company that handles the security for the subway station bombed at the beginning of the game. One of your co-workers has been contacted by a young lady who works at the station and believes someone at that company messed up the security tapes, so sneak in, find the truth and get out. This expansion is very short (as in I finished in at most an hour), and is little more then an extra taste of what the game is about. If you skip it, however, you will not miss out on very much.
Breach: And finally we get to Breach, an expansion to the game which was also released on it’s own as a free game. In Breach you are a VR hacker called a ripper and the biggest databank protecting the deepest darkest secrets of the mega-corportations and 1%ers of the world just got broken into. Your mission is to invade the networks of this data-bank and steal as much data as you can before the system breaks your connection.
Taking place in a 1st person perspective, you will go through each network from node to node where you will play a small map looking for data nodes to download and leave with the data. Successfully getting back will earn you money, a reward node, and access to the next one. Honestly I did not like this very much myself as the maps felt small and cramped and with an exceedingly short timeline. The game is built on speed, which can work, but I would have loved more time to enjoy what I was doing then it allows. Add to this that Square offers it for free because they can make money by all but requiring you to spend actual cash on upgrades (if you want to move along at full speed through the levels) and I’m pretty good in saying this is clearly not the reason to get into Deus Ex. A real shame since the concept is really cool and I really wish this had gone somewhere.
Bugs: Outside of the hair issue mentioned in the graphics, I didn't encounter any. Closest I could suggest is that the save game directory got large enough it could easily over-size the 1 GB Steam offers for cloud saves, so I found myself cleaning up old files before I finished playing.
Overall: Sadly outside of The Fall, this is the weakest Deus Ex game when it comes to plot and intrigue, and the only reason The Fall is worse is because while Mankind Divided never finished it’s story, The Fall didnt even get past chapter 1. However, at the same time for sheer gameplay and ability to play how you want to, this is arguably one of the best I have played in a long time, rivalling even the original game that started the franchise.
And this really does leave me of two minds on how to score this game. Almost any other game I would put the gameplay first, but Deus Ex has always been deeply entrenched in it’s story and the conspiracy theories entwined through it, making it a much tougher call here.
If you are a fan of the franchise, you should probably pick up and play this game, because for all it’s flaws, it’s still a very good experience within the universe, and quite possibly the last we will ever get. Just don’t get to excited about the plot because it will disappoint you in every way it can. If you get into a game to play with it like a sandbox, you will probably enjoy this game a lot more then most, because even though the game doesn't use vehicles (the world locations are actually to small), it lets you loose to do what you want, and you will have a good time going about it. But if story matters to you, stay the FUCK away from this title. This game is going nowhere good on that fron.
Source’s Listed Requirements:
- Intel Core i3-2100 or AMD equivilant
- 8 GB RAM
- AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2GB) or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 (2GB)
- 45 GB hard drive
- Windwos 7.1 SP1 or above (64-bit OS required)
- AMD FX 8350 (8 cores) running at 4 Ghz
- 16 GB RAM
- NVidia GeForce 960 GTX with 4 GB CRAM
- Windows 10