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A few weeks ago, I wrote a glowing preview for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided after playing for about seven hours. Now I wish I had waited a bit longer before writing my impressions, as it was around the eight hour mark that things started going drastically downhill. I can remember it, clear as day, dropping down into Golem City and going to talk to the leader of an Augmented Rights group. I remember walking up to a big Russian man with an eye that reminded me of a fleshy version of the Solid Eye from Metal Gear Solid 4. I remember the moment we initiated dialogue, I noticed that the game’s story was falling apart at the seams. I couldn’t believe it. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the latest entry in one of the smartest written series in gaming. Storywise, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is basically anything but.

Everywhere you go, you’ll stumble into some unfortunate soul being crushed under the iron boot of the dystopian hell that is Prague – but the game’s parallels to real world oppression and racism feel a tad off. The entire time I played, I couldn’t wrap my head around why the developers would try to make the oppressed underdogs we’re supposed to be rooting for powerful cyborgs, with bodies and limbs of metal. They have hands that could literally pop an average person’s head open like a watermelon with just a casual grab. They can install all sorts of crazy augmentations – ranging from arm blades to the ability to dash around in bursts of light. The Russian I just mentioned has giant steel arms and can wield a massive rifle like it’s nothing more than a derringer. To top it all off, they have shown that they are able to go berserk and start slaughtering indiscriminately with just the right radio frequency.

This isn’t equatable to any racial segregation in history – an angle the game so desperately tries to push with ‘Augs’ and ‘Naturals’ signs and segregated lines that feel a bit too on the nose. I’m not saying games shouldn’t try to tackle serious issues. Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution did so brilliantly, but I am saying that they should certainly be handled with more tact and care than the ‘mechanical apartheid’ the game features.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Subway

Another thing strangely missing from Mankind Divided is any sort of fairness from the verbal sparring. There’s nothing here that quite matches the fantastic debate at the bar or conversation with Morpheus found in the original Deus Ex, and sometimes it feels like its not even trying to come close. The rigorous debates Jensen gets in are skin-deep at best, and it’s very clear who is in the wrong from the get-go.

I’ve seen some people complain about how the story and lore are convoluted and hard to follow, and while I agree – I don’t exactly think that’s a mistake on the developer’s part. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a game about conspiracies that are bigger than one man, one city, even one country. As to be expected from a game about international conspiracies and features the Illuminati as a prominent force, all of our star players are nothing more than pawns in a massive web of secretive operations. It’s convoluted, yes, but that’s the point. Jensen is just stumbling into a world he has no place in, and it’s not until the plotline of the original that some of the characters and organizations will get some sort of conclusion.

While I will defend leaving plot threads that will get resolved by the time of the first game, I can’t defend the game’s own self-contained plot not wrapping up, in what feels like the most blatant ‘buy our epilogue DLC’ cliffhanger ending since Asura’s Wrath. Despite spending many hours with it, the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided wraps up in a way that makes me ask “Really? That’s it?”

Thankfully, as mentioned in my preview, where the actual story stumbles, the worldbuilding does more than enough to keep players interested. I spent a good chunk – maybe even half of my playtime – just exploring the dystopian Prague and helping out its residents. Mankind Divided‘s vision of Prague has to be one of the most well-realized and fascinating worlds I’ve ever seen in a game – one that even managed to make the boring hacking minigame from Deus Ex: Human Revolution bearable just to see what juicy info was on the other side.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Cult

Much like the aforementioned hacking minigame, basically all of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s gameplay is a carbon copy of that found in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. You sneak around using a mix of first person movement and third-person cover systems, occasionally getting into rudimentary gunfights if you fail at the game are so inclined. As to be expected, there are multiple ways to get through a level, each suiting a different playstyle. Sure, you could just waltz right through a place, crouch-walking and dashing between chest-high walls, but eagle-eyed and creative players will be able to find all sorts of crazy routes to accomplish any given objective.

But while that’s all very similar to the game’s predecessor, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided manages to mix it up with a few new augmentations. While I never got the point of some of them (Why launch the blade out of your arm? It’s perfectly fine right where it is), I did enjoy long range hacking and the Icarus Dash, which basically acts like a more offensive version of Dishonored‘s blink, allowing you to dash around and barrel right through anyone in your path. Still, nothing is anywhere near as useful than the original set, and at least those don’t require you to complete a sidequest to use properly – and until I did that late in my playthrough, I was just content using the augmentations carried over from the original. And while the aforementioned two were fun to use, they didn’t add much to my experience. When you get down to it, all the new augmentations feel like unnecessary baggage.

Speaking of unnecessary baggage, I can’t help but wonder what the point of Breach Mode is – besides being an obvious ploy to sell microtransactions. In this spinoff mode, you play as a hacker breaking into digital ‘vaults’ with a physical avatar ala Tron using mechanics from the base game, but without any of the thrilling level design. It’s a strange, arcade-oriented side mode that’s not only completely forgettable, it bases itself on the most boring sequence in the campaign involving hacking into a digital world. It’s boring, it’s unnecessary, and it reeks of sleaze.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Breach

I walked out of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided feeling conflicted, perhaps more than any other game I’ve played this year. Its story is boring by any standards – and only made worse by comparison to the other titles in the series – and the gameplay just feels like more of the same with a few bells and whistles stacked on top. The game sucked me in, sure, but how much of that obsessive playing was really me having fun? And how much of it was just hoping, in vain, that maybe it’d reach the glory of its predecessors?

I don’t know. And after playing through it, I don’t particularly care.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was reviewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Load

More About This Game

6.5
 

Good

Summary

A mechanically solid game with some fantastic level design that sadly delivers a narrative that is ho-hum at best.


Perry Ruhland

Staff Writer

Filmmaker. Entertainment critic. Genre film aficionado. Has bad taste and hot takes.



  • Azure

    Eh, knocking it to a 6 might be a bit too harsh for having a below average story. Gameplay is good, replayabilty is there, world building is quite good (like finding the side story about a drug that can kill augs or the Dave sanctuary (where you can find his brothers shop)), breach is literally a tacked on piece of garbage that doesn’t take away from the main game.

    The quality of the game is really good and honestly people are getting a bit too cynical when games leave it at a cliffhanger. I believe the Dev’s did it in a good way too (outside of the microtransaction BS that they were forced to add in)

  • Yosharian

    Wow. Did I wander onto Rock Paper Shotgun by accident?

    > The entire time I played, I couldn’t wrap my head around why the developers would try to make the oppressed underdogs we’re supposed to be rooting for powerful cyborgs, with bodies and limbs of metal. They have hands that could literally pop an average person’s head open like a watermelon with just a casual grab. They can install all sorts of crazy augmentations – ranging from arm blades to the ability to dash around in bursts of light.

    The augmentations you describe are military grade. The augs you see being pushed around and oppressed in-game aren’t carrying mil-grade augs, they just have replacement limbs that are, yes, strong, but nowhere near the strength you describe.

    This is clear from looking both at the promo material for MD and in-game events. The promo video featuring a man and wife who suffered during the aug incident have suffered due to the woman going crazy during the incident. Notice that the husband doesn’t have any severed limbs, or scars, or serious injuries.

    In-game you will speak to a character who tells the player of a moment when a patient of hers, who was augmented, lost control and went berserk. Said character suffers from no mutilations, severed limbs, or serious injuries of any sort, let alone a ‘squashed head’.

    Some industrial augmentations are much stronger, but they don’t represent the majority of augmentations found on citizens in the game, and the vast majority of civilians could not afford, let alone have the contacts to obtain, military grade augmentations like arm blades. You’ve completed misunderstood the world the game is set in.

    > To top it all off, they have shown that they are able to go berserk and start slaughtering indiscriminately with just the right radio frequency.

    You haven’t got a clue. For starters, the only reason any of that was able to occur was due to an Illuminati plot to replace the standard biochips in augmentations with a custom one designed to send people berserk. The only reason this succeeded at all was because of a conspiracy involving a major biotech corporation supplying LIMB with the custom chips secretly.

    Secondly, it’s not as simple as ‘the right radio frequency’. You make it sound like some schmuck with a cb radio can cause anyone to go crazy. You’d need a massive broadcasting array similar to the one found in Panchaea, and the authority to override any existing signals in order to send one particular signal. Then, you’d need to crack every single biochip in the world and customize them to all issue an override at a specific signal frequency. Then, you’d need some way of sending the signal without it being traced back to you.

    Yeah, it’s just ‘the right radio frequency’ that’s needed, not at all an insanely complex conspiracy involving augmentation customizations and massive broadcasting arrays.

    On the back of all this utter nonsense you push the claim that:

    > This isn’t equatable to any racial segregation in history – an angle the game so desperately tries to push with ‘Augs’ and ‘Naturals’ signs and segregated lines that feel a bit too on the nose. I’m not saying games shouldn’t try to tackle serious issues. Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution did so brilliantly, but I am saying that they should certainly be handled with more tact and care than the ‘mechanical apartheid’ the game features.

    DE:MD definitely has some story issues but to say that they handled the political issue without tact and care betrays your social justice biases, and the way you misinterpret the issues detailed above is just laughable.

  • NorBdelta

    I had similar sentiments. But the psychological effects I suspect would play a serious role in such forms of oppression. I am no expert however.

  • Cosmonaut

    Gotta say, I’m tired of the microtransaction bitching around this game. I put 30 hours into the game before I knew there were microtransactions. And even then, it was from a reddit post from someone who was bitching about how they would never buy the game because of them.

    The story, I’ll agree was a bit ham fisted at times, but the environments and lore stashed around the levels were interesting. It’s been a long time since I ended up losing track of time just exploring the world in a game.

  • Rurik

    They warrant bitching when a game that use to have cheat codes that gave access to it a feature they now charge real money. Rather or not it is needed is not the point of being upset.

  • Luministrus

    What a well thought argument you have there.

  • Phelonious Monk

    Thank you. The is one of the only accurate and honest critical reviews of this game I have read.

    For all the talk about the writing and storytelling in Mankind Divided, being strong, I couldn’t believ I was playing the same game everyone else was talking about.

  • >betrays your social justice biases

    This is why we can’t have nice things. I fucking knew as soon as I read that line in the review there would be a cunt like you in the comments immediately crying ‘OMG SJW BULLSHIT’.

    You do realise that there are reasons beyond ‘muh representation’ to care about how this shit is handled in vidya, right? It doesn’t have to be because you believe in patriarchy or white supremacy or any other made up oppression bullshit, sometimes it’s because when devs handle these issues poorly, it comes across as ham-handed, weakens the overall writing as a whole, and makes the devs look like they’re just looking for a pat on the back for being super woke about current issues.

    The rest of your TL;DR ramblings drop you in the same camp as the Uncharted fanboys who can’t stand to hear a bad word against their precious series and lose their spaghetti in every comment section they can find.

    Grow up and learn to handle criticism of your toys, you fucking child.

  • Yosharian

    A cunt eh? Sounds like I hit a nerve.

  • Don’t flatter yourself, cunto, and that’s a bit rich coming from the autist who wrote a bloated butthurt screed in the comments section.

  • Yosharian

    > autist

    > butthurt

    Physician, heal thyself!

  • lel ok, keep pretending you’re not massively pissy someone criticised your precious vidya

  • windypeak91 .

    Christ, if you even accuse techraptor of being sjw-infected then I dunno what else is out there for you. Maybe if the_donald start writing game reviews

  • Yosharian

    I call it as I see it no matter the website I happen to be on.

    Oh and I’m a Trump supporter now? That’s novel.

  • Luministrus

    He had good points, and what you posted added literally nothing to the conversation. If you want to refute a point, write an actual argument.

  • Luministrus

    Then why join the conversation if you have nothing to add? Don’t speak just to say something.
    And just because other people have an opinion on an objective topic doesn’t mean his are invalidated. I come to this site because there is actual intelligent discussion most of the time. If I wanted an echo chamber that drowns out dissenting opinions, I’d read /r/gaming more.

  • Reptile

    6 is a bit too much if you consider that they made the Praxis stuff you use to level up augs a micro-transaction item, well that isn’t THAT bad, until you put the cherry at the top, your bought Praxis stuff doesn’t carry to a new save, so if you spend 10 bucks on praxis, and you start a new playthrough to try new play styles, guess what, you will have to spend those 10 bucks again (if you REALLY want those praxis). Its optional yeah, but I think it should carry to all saves.

  • Azure

    The main game was not tampered to make you buy the kits, it is a shit thing to put there to catch out the impatient or the morons, but at the same time they are not even shoving it in your face. No where during play time did it pop up saying hey looks like you could do with buying these kits to progress etc etc. This isn’t defending micro-transactions but they didn’t take anything away from the game by adding them in.

  • Reptile

    While I agree it isn’t tampered, not being able to reuse praxi you bought on other saves is bullshit, they should not get a free pass just because isn’t shoving it on our faces, next they will push it to test our limits and soon enought “DLC” will happen again.

  • (This comment contains a few spoilers)

    It is a mistake to see anti-Aug sentiments in the game as analogous to racism (a mistake even one in-game character makes). It is not. Race is not a choice. Being augments *is* a choice for most people (other than a few like Talos Rucker and Adam “I didn’t ask for this” Jensen). Johnny Gunn regretted the choice he made to join Belltower and be augmented, but accepted it had indeed been his choice.

    And then the Aug Incident happened, making people who made that choice suddenly seem dangerous. And indeed they are.

    So anti-Aug sentiment is more analogous post-AIDS anti-homosexual sentiment (or possibly even private gun ownership): which is to say you are despised as a person who made a choice that makes you dangerous.

    A fascinating dialogue can occur in the sewers between Jensen & the Neon Chemist. In defence of what she is doing, she says words to the effect (this is not exact, I am doing it from memory):

    “Some people choose to augment their bodies with mechanical devices, others choose to use chemicals so they see rainbows. I have no prejudice against either.”

    And it is a really good point. Although I had killed several Dvali thugs to get there… I ended up walking away and not blowing the place up (and thus effectively failing the mission). Why? They were selling to people who wanted what they made, so who am I to decide otherwise for them? There were even telling their dealers NOT to sell to augs (it kills them as it clashes with neuropozine). It was only run by gangsters because the state had made it illegal, something they were now doing to augs.

    To see the anti-Aug notions underpinning the game as a riff on racism is wrong, it is a riff on freedom of choice, and its consequences and dissents.