IN JENSEN WE TRUST!
Game: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Developer: Edios Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
(Review copy provided by publisher)
I’m really not sure why, but this was an oddly difficult game for me to review. I’ve been a fan of the series pretty much from the release of Deus Ex on the PlayStation 2 way back in 2002. I was twelve years old at that point and had no idea that this series would still be running fourteen plus years on. The twenty six year old version of me is now a massive science fiction nerd and the world of Deus Ex still instills with me excitement, however the themes of Mankind Divided fill me with a heavy heart for all the right reasons.
Mankind Divided is the fourth installment of the Deus Ex series and is a direct sequel to Human Revolution. The game is set two years after the devastating Aug-Incident that takes place at the end of Human Revolution where against their own will; augmented humans worldwide turned into frenzied death machines, attacking and killing indiscriminately. There is a now an air of mistrust between naturals/pure humans and their augmented co-inhabitants. For those who didn’t get to play Human Revolution there is a 12 minute optional recap video at the start of Mankind Divided for you to catch up on, and its definitely worth a watch even if you’re in the know.
For me, Mankind Divided has some pretty big shoes to fill. Alongside The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Human Revolution was one of my favorite games of 2011. The game retains some of the core strengths from its successful predecessor in the form of heavy RPG choice and consequence story elements, stealth and subterfuge and thankfully it’s exceedingly badass protagonist…
For a second time, you’re dropped deep into the boots of Alex Murphy Adam Jensen, a highly augmented, take-no-shit, super cop with the ability to break down walls of the physical and emotional kind. If that doesn’t give you a good enough picture, Jensen is basically RoboCop meets Judge Dredd with mostly all of his human facilities. After recovering from his injuries sustained in the last game; Jensen is recruited as a counter-terrorist field agent for a newly formed division of Interpol called Task Force 29. Being the only Aug in the task force, some of Jensen’s comrades are a little weary of him/seem to dislike him… but that doesn’t seem to faze our hero.
You pretty much start out as the overpowered, invincible Human Revolution Jensen, with the ability to scale buildings with a single leap, crack skulls and shoot tranquilizer darts through the eye of a needle… thankfully that changes pretty quickly allowing you to customize Jensen your way using “Praxis Points” and with the implementation of new augmentations, you can rebuild him, better, faster and stronger. I am trying my best to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but my version of Jensen is basically a rolling tank with the augmented hacking skills of Legion from Mass Effect. I tried my best to install a few stealth augments, but alas I am not exactly known for my subtlety. With that being said Mankind Divided has some incredible new mechanics. Icuras Dashing your way around the rooftops of Prague, manipulating security features to aid in infiltration and Jensen’s beast pulse cannon makes for an interesting morning.
So far in the story, Jensen has been tasked with snuffing out and dismantling a heavily augmented terrorist cell and it’s basically up to you how you go about doing it. Like Human Revolution, there are about 10 different ways of completing a mission and you’re pretty much spoiled for choice. I have always thought of Jensen as more of a free agent in the sense that even though his bosses might breathe down his neck, he has his own personal interest in events that happen around him and will inevitably do what he (or I) wants to do. I can back this up by saying at this point of the story I was told it was imperative that I attend a meet as soon as possible, forgot about it and then spent just under sixteen real time hours completing side missions at my leisure. The only downfall about that was there was pretty much no consequence for being late, so it felt like it wasn’t as important as it was made out to be.
I really want to revisit something I briefly mentioned earlier regarding Mankind Divided leaving me with a heavy heart. I got the same feeling when watching Breaking Bad. It gets tense really quickly and I found myself having to take a break after six or so hours and play/watch something lighthearted just so I could take a breather and remove myself from the edge of the seat. Some of the themes are pretty heavy and if you’re not careful; you can get sucked in pretty easily. Mankind Divided is a game of stealth, espionage, scandal, conspiracy, religion, discrimination, prejudice… the list goes on. The big controversial themes that everyone is talking about are “Mechanical Apartheid” and segregation.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle online before the games release when the word apartheid was being thrown around willy-nilly, but now that I’ve sank hours of my life into Mankind Divided, it’s basically spot on. You’re an augmented human in a world where most of civilization hates you. Maybe not you in general, but your kind. Jensen brushes off the prejudice but there was only so many times that I could be called a “clank” and not take it to heart. You’re treated like a second class citizen, not only by the general population, but by the police too. Augs are stopped at every checkpoint to show the police their credentials. There are aug/natural only shops, aug/natural only benches, subway entrances, bins, toilets… it’s really bad and it makes you think about real-life current events. Other than a wee bit of casual nerd rage, I am usually pretty emotionally disconnected from games. So Edios and Square Enix have managed to do something that many other developers/publishers have failed to do.
After thirty or so hours, I am still no where near finished with Mankind Divided. I have spent so long completing side missions and basically just breaking into peoples homes, lockers, garages, vehicles, pants… just to hack their computers to read their emails. I have met some very interesting characters, culled a religious fanatic, raged against man, accidentally stunned naturals for calling me a “clank”, accidentally stunned police officers for calling me “clank”, accidentally gassed myself to death before I found the respirator augment, accidentally gassed naturals to death for calling me a… well you get the picture. I am having difficulties picking faults with this game, but if I had one tiny criticism it would be the aforementioned lack of urgency to rush into the campaign, but I suppose that’s not really even a fault in itself. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is quite possibly the best in the series so far and most certainty fills those boots I mentioned earlier. Well done chaps, you’ve earned yourself a;
Great review, can’t wait to pick it up!
Thanks Nick, I tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible. It’s such a great game, especially if you’re a fan of the series. If you’re not, it’s still a real gem.