Personally, I've always considered Iron Storm's cyberpunk epic Deus Ex to be the pinnacle of Western RPGs. It was a game that combined smart writing and a captivating story with pristine mechanics, allowing you to forge your own path through its gloomy, conspiracy riddled story. Eleven years after its release, we got a prequel in the form of 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, centering around setting all the major players up for Deus Ex's shadowy UNATCO organization and shining a light on some of the dealings of the mysterious Illuminati. While it wasn't nearly as good as the original, Human Revolution certainly outshone basically every other game in 2011. Five years later, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks to do the very same.
A lot has changed since 2027's infamous "Aug Incident," where the Panchaea installation broadcast a mysterious signal that made augmented individuals across the globe go berserk, killing millions of augmented and "naturals" alike. While our hero Adam Jensen managed to shut down the haywire frequency, the damage was done. The rift between augs and naturals has grown bigger than ever before. In the years since the incident, Jensen has seemingly aligned with an Interpol task force, while secretly working with an underground anti-Illuminati collective known as Juggernaut. As expected in a Deus Ex game, it doesn't take long for the world to start unraveling at a rapid pace, and Jensen is caught right in the middle.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided begins with an extraction mission very similar to the tutorial area of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, allowing you to select from four different weapons to best suit your playstyle before being dumped into the rather linear level. Instead of an augmentation factory, you're on the rooftop of a construction site in Dubai, long-abandoned after the augmented workforce went on a rampage during the Aug Incident. Gameplay is practically identical to Human Revolution, allowing you to either shoot or sneak your way through heavily fortified positions, switching in and out of first and third person when taking cover.
All of Jensen's augmentations are carried over from Human Revolution, from the beefy Typhoon grenade launchers built into his chest to his augmented skin that lets him completely disappear for a short period of time. While you do end up losing about half of your augmentations after the tutorial mission, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided wastes no time in letting you build them back up—as well as check out new augmentations, such as blade launchers or short-ranged dashes that remind me of Dishonored's blink ability.
While there are multiple routes to take through the tutorial in Dubai, the real star of the show level design-wise is Mankind Divided's impeccably detailed hub world of Prague. There are so many ways to navigate through the city, and nearly all of them have a worthwhile payoff—be it simple loot or the start of an exciting new sidequest. Every apartment I've
broken wandered into was different from the last, with tons of unique e-books to read and plenty of objects to be hacked, allowing you to gaze into the daily life of citizens in this dystopic version of the Czech Republic. Deus Ex: Human Revolution absolutely trounced its RPG competition in the world building department, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided just takes it one step further.
Speaking of sidequests, while I haven't done much of the main quest in my first seven hours, I have been doing quite a bit of these side objectives, ranging from hunting down drug dealers to chasing hackers who are trying to blow your cover. A personal favorite so far had to be a lengthy encounter with a man named Viznik, who speaks of a secretive community hidden away. It's amazing that a quest this wild and fantastical exists in Deus Ex, and it's even more amazing that the unfocused gamer could miss the area entirely.
While exploring the city is great, traveling from one large chunk to the other reveals some baffling technical issues. I ran this on a PC that passed all the minimum requirements with flying colors, yet I literally had to wait six minutes looking at Adam sitting on the subway while the second part of the city loaded. This has happened twice so far, and I honestly dread the next time I have to return to the subways.
Even with this technical issue, I found it hard to keep a grin off my face throughout my short time with Mankind Divided thus far. If it continues down this path, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided could easily surpass the 2011 prequel and soar right past other RPGs released this year.
To put it simply, I absolutely asked for this.