Developer: Eidos Montreal
Release Date: 23/08/2016
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux, OS X
They were a small development studio comprised of forward-thinking developers dedicated to pushing the industry boundaries.
Deux Ex was the magnum opus of their fruitful life and we've seen the series morph into a different being with every instalment, that's why this review will be a tough one. Judging Mankind Divided means judging the whole series and it's evolution, and also the future of the games.
So here we are again behind the stapled-on sunglasses of Adam Jensen after the events of Human Revolution. He's found a new job working with a secret government agency known as ‘Task Force 29’ and is hunting down the terrorists responsible for bombing a train station. Of course, this unfolds with the world conspiracy and cloak and dagger themes of the series, but there's a definite sense of maturity and direction over other instalments.
The story and side missions play out with a fluid pacing like something out of a TV mini-series than an actual game and each pivotal character you meet will challenge your opinion on human augmentation. The lines between man and machine are constantly blurred as if to pay homage to other fiction like Bladerunner or Ghost In The Shell and this is what the central plot of Mankind Divided revolves around. If you've played anything Deus Ex before this will be an obvious one, even if there's a feeling that the story could be more than what it is.
It feels like Mankind Divided is asking more questions with fewer answers.
Similar to Human Revolution, you navigate Adam through a series of missions all working towards securing an objective, making it to a set checkpoint or finding a person of interest to uncover more of the plot. The staple has always been the multiple ways to complete each objective, do you take a stealthy approach and crawl through service ducts, disable cameras and pacify guards without raising alarms? Or do you parkour over the foyer turnstile, slotting every man woman and child in the room and trip every alarm so the enemy can prepare for the incoming bulldozer of death?
Catering to different playstyles has always been the cornerstone of Deus Ex. and of course, there's always a middle ground, and Mankind Divided has no shortage of options. But Square Enix have moved on from Human Revolution’s playstyle somewhat and merged the styles of play to break the repetition.
And the crux of the matter is whether this a good thing, or not?
Sure, Human Revolution was a great game, and Mankind Divided is really just an evolution of its predecessor. But trudging the same environments and talking to the same shiny fuck with staunch opinions on human augmentation is a ham sandwich we've been choking down in every single one of these games. The effects of human augmentation on society are monumental and it feels like only one part of the story is being told here.
There's a goldmine of ideas about evolution through cybernetics that's only being glossed over through side missions and DLC. We rarely get to touch on them. I just hope that good things come in three's and Eidos Montreal can end this trilogy with something the series hasn't seen before.
(Side note: At the time of writing this I asked Stroggo what he would put in the next DX game had he been in charge, and i got a fucking essay in return.)
Now the visuals in Mankind Divided are definitely something to stop and appreciate, not just in the technical complexity but in the art style and attention to detail that Eidos Montreal have put in to immerse you in this very living world. City streets are littered with tech trash and futuristic vehicles (some just look like fancy mopeds) and every alleyway is sure to lead to something worth your time. This was true in previous games but it's definitely ramped up in MD and there’s still plenty to do aside from the main story in each of the hubs you visit.
In future it’d be nice to see a bit more variation in these settings as the transition from futuristic city street, to a secret lab in the mountains, back to city street, then underground crime syndicate hideout is getting a bit tiresome.
Sure, these locations are the staple of a Deus Ex game but there's plenty of new locations that could be used in the next DX that they’ve been hinting at for some time (Australia is apparently heavily involved in the Aug-rights movement, make a fucking DLC Eidos Montreal).
So in general, Eidos Montreal have given us much of the same of what made Human Revolution so successful. Same great gameplay, same cyberpunk espionage story that makes Deus Ex so iconic, the music is virtually untouched, and most of the concerns with the aforementioned have been relieved in this newest game. And this can be both a curse and a blessing - a blessing because we get to eat another slice of the cheese pizza, a curse because it's still just cheese.
"And so as i mentioned at the start, what is next for the series? At the time of writing this Eidos Montreal have stated the series has been put on hiatus until further notice. And there's still a massive gap between these prequels and the original games. So, the future of this cyberpunk RPG is uncertain. If anything happens relating, you'll be the first to know." - Nick