It is 2029. Subsequent to the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the so-called, somewhat euphemistic “Aug Incident” two years previously, cybernetically enhanced people have become cultural lepers, segregated from society and confined to slums under the questionable authority of an emerging paranoid-dystopian global police state, while those people responsible for it crouch behind disinformation and specious propaganda, plotting their next big thing. So, that sucks.
As part of Interpol’s counter-terrorism division Task Force 29, ex-Sarif Industries’ chief security officer and card-carrying Matrix fan club member Adam Jensen gets on the scene and (inevitably) finds himself in the middle of a whole new conspiracy, because that’s kind of his thing, and everything goes from bad to much worse. Starting with that embarrassing goatee. Seriously, what is this, 1994? Get out.
This review is super-duper late, I know. That’s because it took me about a million years to finish Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and approximately half that time was reloading save games. And that’s because, first, the game’s loading times are outrageous, and next, I wanted the ultra prestigious “Foxiest of the Hounds” achievement for not tripping any alarms, so every time I messed up, I had to reload a previous save. Anyway. I didn’t trip any alarms. I don’t even have the tooltip entry for alarms. I also didn’t get the achievement. This is shit. I’m giving it a zero.
Okay, I’m not. But I could’ve if I’d wanted to.
Anyway. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a somewhat inconsistent game. The premise is decent enough, I suppose, but the unfolding narrative is derivative and predictable, and the clumsy, even vulgar misappropriation of phrases like “mechanical apartheid” and “aug lives matter” only serve to further undermine its vapid conclusion that “this stuff is, like, bad” without ever actually critically examining these things or engaging with them in any meaningful way whatsoever.
Instead, you’ll spend most of your time creeping through air-conditioning ducts and snooping through private email correspondences and dragging bodies behind boxes from one plot point to the next without much regard for this ostensibly volatile political situation, because it doesn’t even matter. It’s background noise, and occasionally an extra five seconds of waiting on a loading screen while somebody checks your ID. In the end, I couldn’t even explain what exactly had happened, only that it involved a terrible South African accent, a villain made almost entirely of cheap paperback sci-fi clichés, and a finale that was over before it properly started.
And what a shame, because the level design is brilliant. Most of the game takes place in and around Prague – special mention goes to the squalid, neon-sleazy Golem City ghetto district, one of the most vividly realised locations I’ve ever seen in a game, in which for some inscrutable reason you play only a single mission – with one or two long-distance trips to other places as things get going. What it misses in diversity, though, it makes up for moment-to-moment with ingenuity and complexity, and I was able to accomplish the same objectives in multiple different ways.
This one time, for example, I got stuck at an illegal checkpoint. I could simply confront the guy in charge, but he’d freak out, start shooting, and attract some unwanted attention from the local cops. So, I chose to blab to the cops, prompting them to rush in and start shooting. Deciding I didn’t want to be responsible for any accidental civilian casualties either, however, I reloaded the game, clambered to the top of a nearby building, and took out the asshole and his cronies with tranquiliser darts instead. There’s a real sense of opportunity that’s hard to find in games that usually want you to do this thing that way. In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you’ve got options.
This is also supported by the available skills and abilities, catering to gun-runners, tippy-toes, and everybody else in between. And unlike Deus Ex: Human Revolution, going full ghost ops won’t incur any infuriating penalties in boss battles, because there’s only one, and if you know what you’re doing, you don’t even have to fight. HA.