I’ve never felt so conflicted about a game I enjoyed this much.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does an impressive job of disappointing you at every turn, only for an amazing, fun and interesting surprise to be right around the corner. The game’s world has so much tender love and care put into it and there’s always something fun to do, but I kept feeling underwhelmed by the gameplay and story.
Mankind Divided is the sequel to Eidos Montreal’s previous entry in the series, Human Revolution. Both games have a unique charm rooted in their oddly stiff movement and combat that dates back to the original in the year 2000.
The game has deep-rooted issues caused by its dependence on the hub-world of Prague, where you spend most of the game, as well as a slew of other issues. You never really feel like you’re allowed to really let loose with the game’s combat.
Something great I did love about Mankind Divided is how it takes everything bad about Human Revolution’s flawed storytelling, and tosses it out the window. The story in Mankind Divided is much easier to follow along. Additionally, your decisions throughout the game actually matter in the end as opposed to Human Revolution’s lackluster ending. Its a great relief, even if Mankind Divided ended prematurely.
The World Feels Real and Believable
My biggest gripe about Human Revolution (besides the story being confusing) was the way the game’s world barely felt real. All the world-changing events occurring around you are barely seen in Human Revolution. All the riots are off camera. It was hard to get invested in the story and the world it takes place in.
Mankind Divided fixes this to a T. So many little bits and bobs throughout the game’s world makes everything you’re told way more believable. When civilians tell you the cops in Prague are racist and all-around terrible, you have reason to believe the same.
The world is full of segregation and hate is thrown at the player’s character Adam Jensen. You truly feel like you’re not welcome in the city. The game tries to take cues from modern social issues and does so to resounding effect, making the world truly feel like it is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis.
During a curfew in Prague later in the game, a couple were speaking and one of them says “The cops are going nuts. A man dragged his wife out by her hair and started beating her in the streets, and the police arrested them both for breaking curfew.”
At one point, I was walking around Prague and a police officer stops and arrests a man, accusing the man of murdering his girlfriend. The man, now handcuffed and on his knees, is speaking, sounding angry, confused and sad all at the same time yelling after finding out his girlfriend is dead and was arrested for it.
This isn’t a cutscene, its not something I have to engage in, it just happens. I could’ve easily walked past and not noticed. Even if I had walked by, little unique moments like this in my ear are what help me stay immersed. The city is alive, and I can watch it live.
Most developers wouldn’t take the time to include such minute details, but Eidos, having five years to make this game, put as much care into every nook and cranny of the game. Eidos looked at the world they crafted in Human Revolution and instead of recreating that, they built on it, which shows great intelligence and investment in a franchise. Those are important qualities which make the game much easier to respect the way I do.
Next Gen Graphics That Reminisce On Its Predecessor
Human Revolution was a pretty game. It was not a good looking game, but it was pretty. The game did a great job of hiding where the art team’s work was lackluster, and highlighted where the game showed beauty.
Mankind Divided does the same, but in an interesting way. The game does not have impressive texture quality in all cases, but its clear the art director had a few too many espressos before brainstorming ideas on making the game look good.
There is a stupid amount of detail where it was not necessary. In Prague, you would likely walk around the hub world the entire game without realizing that the stones on the floor were not just textures, but rather actual stones 3D-modeled to look like stepping stones.
They appear 3D atleast, and you can see both sides of the stones in the floor. If this is some trick of the game’s engine and not a handcrafted floor model, I’m even more impressed.
The game also has some incredible character models, with extreme amounts of detail. Jensen is so unbelievably detailed, its almost creepy how real he looks.
Eidos learned from their mistakes in Human Revolution. Rather than an A, B or C ending a-la Mass Effect 3 again, the ending of the game is heavily effected by your major choices in the game. How much so? Spoiler alert, the worst ending in the game leads to the death of millions.
Even prior to the ending, you feel as though your choices make a huge difference to the game’s world. Completing side missions have a surprising effect on the game world. While trying to sneak by patrolling police officers during the game’s curfew stage, you have to pass through a super-heavily guarded area to continue. If you both completed a certain side quest, AND made a certain choice during that side quest, a character from that previously completed quest kills every cop in the area for you. Neat-o.
Even if Mankind Divided doesn’t go full Heavy Rain with dozens of endings made by player-decisions the fact that your decisions make a difference really improved my enjoyment of the story.
Even the smallest choices make a difference. If you complete a sidequest which has you shutting down a cult, you find members of the cult hiding in the sewers to avoid police during curfew (or atleast I thought they were the lost cultists, they had the same character models).
Having your decisions impact the game world in so many small, or big ways means I was happier with having taken time to complete those side missions. Because missions and my choices in them had an effect on the world, they’re more memorable and I feel like my time was well spent with them.
Side Missions Are Stories That Stand On Their Own
Almost every side mission in the game stands on its own, and contributes to how enjoyable the game is just as much if not more than some of the main story missions. They’re diverse, and constantly hook the player into completing them.
One notable side mission called “The Harvester,” is a mission which tasks the player with investigating a serial killer attacking augmented people. The mission plays out like a typical, hardboiled detective story. This may sound generic or boring, but its actually pretty refreshing. Its a good break from all the sneaking and pressing Q to stun you do for most of the game.
Once again, the story fits and adds to the game’s world and that makes being in said world that much more enjoyable.
Half The Fun Is Shooting, But You Barely Do It
Deus Ex, at its heart, is a RPS, or Role-playing shooter. Sadly, the time you’re supposed to spend shooting turns out to be pretty weak.
It sounds kind of pretentious to be dissapointed by the lack of killing in the game, but when you compare it to its predecessors you spend a ludicrous amount of time not shooting anything. In Human Revolution, whether you played lethal or non-lethal there was lots of shooting to be done.In Mankind Divided when you get into a gunfight you’re probably dead. Theres so little fun to the gunfights because if you don’t die in the first few seconds, its probably because you already killed everyone. Even when you do get in a good firefight, it turns into a hallway shooter because of the map layout in-game. You’re clearly supposed to play stealthy only, which is disappointing because I want to be able to play however I want whenever I want during the game.
The game locks you into one play-style and its truly disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that an all-out guns blazing playstyle isn’t possible, its just way tougher and nowhere as nuanced as the stealth mechanics so it may not be as fun.
Late in the game, you’re put in a section outside of Prague with wide open spaces for you to move around in. The second I saw the room I just thought “this is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Within a minute, I had cleared the several dozen enemies, and I had more fun during that sequence than I did during all the stealth I did throughout the whole game combined. The game just had so much potential for fun combat, but it was just not fully imagined.
Additional Content Is Fun, But At What Cost?
Mankind Divided ends with a setup expecting a sequel. Eidos is one hundred percent expecting a trilogy from this series. The game ended leaving so many questions unanswered. After finishing the game, it feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of the story. Its almost as if the game had two chapters, and ended at the end of the first chapter.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole online challenge mode to the game called Breach.
As fun as the mode is,it brings into question how much time was diverted from developing the main game to creating this mode? How much more content could have been in the main story had the time spent on breach been put into the main game?
If Breach had been left out and the game took as much as another year in development, could we have gotten an instant game of the year with a single player with twice the substance as the game we ended up getting?
I felt like the game’s main story didn’t last long enough (30 hours, completing everything the game had to offer) and playing through the additional content is a melancholy experience as I wonder if this is what we’re getting instead of a fully fleshed out story.
Artifacting/low quality video during cutscenes
Pre-rendered cutscenes look great, or atleast they would if it weren’t for the atrocious artifacting during the video. Artifacting is something that occurs during video compression which is necessary to keep the cutscenes from becoming gigabytes large. If you wan’t a good example of artifacting (outside of Mankind Divided) go on YouTube, find an Arma 3 or Far Cry Primal video and set it to 1080p. You’ll probably notice the image is still a bit “fuzzy” looking or blocky looking. This is because artifacting is heavier when there’s a small or similar color palette. The game shows off its best texture quality, model quality and lighting during its cutscenes but the horrendously blocky visuals due to the artifacting ruins the video.
WHAT. NO, THIS IS NOT OK.
Ok, lets run down everything wrong with this. This is a single player game. This is absolutely unnecessary but it was shoe-horned in anyways. I finished the game without purchasing any of the praxis kits until the end just to see how much money I would have to spend to finish the game with every skill maxed out. After finishing every side mission, main mission, and point of interest for tons and tons of experience, I still had 18 total praxis kit needed to max out my character, not including the special abilities which cost more than one praxis kit. That’s a ton of potential abilities locked from the player unless they’re willing to spend extra money on top of the money they spent on a single player game.
Secondly, you will NEVER have to buy credits. I finished the game with tens of thousands of credits left over so I could’ve bought merchant’s entire inventories if I wanted to with the money I had.
Here’s where the microtransactions get really bad. They’re deleted when you finish the game. Microtransactions do not carry over between playthroughs of the game, so if I spent 14 dollars on praxis kits, they’re gone when I finish the game.
It may seem a bit understandable, why give a player 20 levels right at the start of the game? Well you can purchase them again right at the start so it seems like Eidos disagrees with that sentiment. The game should let you keep the microtransactions since you payed for them, or just shouldn’t have them at all.
Note: When discussing performance and bugs, always remember, I’m playing this game on PC and how I play the game with its settings and my PC Specs mean I will not have the same experience you might have. You may occur the same issues I encounter, you may not. You may even encounter issues I will never see because of your computers exact setup.
I played Mankind Divided on my PC’s GTX 960 overclocked graphics card, I got a solid 45 frames at medium to high graphics. That may seem decent, until you realize most people don’t have middle-upper quality graphics cards or higher like I do. The game gets pretty ugly at the lower graphics settings so you seem to lose a lot of the game’s production value when playing on a weaker PC. There are also issues which horribly tank performance, such as Multisample Anti-aliasing is literally unusable. MSAA is a form of anti-aliasing which is a function that soften edges and removes the pixelated look of objects in-game.
It tanks framerate about 30-40 frames. Thats more than the Witcher 3's infamous Nvidia Hairworks.
Something funny about that is that I noticed no difference between the game with or without MSAA. Try and guess which one of these photos has MSAA and which doesn’t! I sure can’t!
There are also some notable issues with near gamebreaking bugs besides the many times the game crashed while I played. I had a bug which repeated dozens of times throughout my playthrough where the controls would lock, whatever gun I was holding would continuously fire, and move forward at a slight angle. Its one of the weirdest bugs I’ve encountered in gaming and its also one of the most frustrating. The amount of times I had to load a previous save because bug occurred and broke my stealth was ludicrous. Because of this bug I won’t even be attempting the game’s “I didn’t ask for this” difficulty which gives you one life before starting the game over. If the bug occurred, and I died because of it, I could lose hours of playing the game all because of a bug.
There are also tons of minuscule issues that make parts of the game frustrating. I could never use the 4x weapon attachments because of a weird issue where the screen and then the scope would turn black until almost half a second after scoping in. It sounds like its not that bad, but it can be disorienting when in the middle of a fight
For a game with a QA team bigger than my screen, there was a ton of bugs for me to deal with.
Funny, the only legitimate loading screen in-game is the previously shown train sequence but I probably spent a solid hour or two just watching that loading screen.
The hub world of Prague is split into two sections, a north and south side. Both side and main quests have you going back and forth from the north to south side, and you have to take the subway to do so.
The loading time is usually so long I have time to get up and do something else while I wait. Its really frustrating to have to go through a loading screen for every step of a quest.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided provides for a flawed but fun time that I thoroughly recommend. Similar to its predecessor, the game is full of issues but the overall experience is just so enthralling that I could easily look past them.
Except the microtransactions. Those are still terrible and should be shamed. Shame on you Square Enix for putting microtransactions in this game. Shame.
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