Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Further Thoughts

I’m over halfway through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, now, and I’m suckered in until the end.

Initially, whilst I had fun, I wasn’t convinced I was going to see it through, with it all feeling a bit “robotic” (no pun intended there).  I went through the motions, and enjoyed, but also endured.  Now, however, I’ve hit that sweet-spot where I’m genuinely invested in the game and the story.

The story

Whilst not exactly groundbreaking, in fact, a little cliched in parts (government higher-ups may have ulterior motives to those doing the “dirty work” on the ground), I’m into it.  After all, does a story need to be completely unique and original to be enjoyed?

I’ve done every side-mission available to pad-out the world and the environment in which Adam Jensen lives.  I’ve found myself knocking people out and dragging them (quite literally) out of enemy strongholds, investigating a murder, breaking into apartments and returning a favour or two, to an underworld boss.

Everything so far, apart from the murder, has tied-in nicely with the wider narrative, and has rarely seemed superfluous which is really cool.

The “augs” vs humans debate and segregation is a strong angle and it really works, continuing the great work done in Human Revolution.

The world

I think one of the biggest assets that Mankind Divided has, is the physical locations you have to explore.  Prague is huge, split-up into several parts to be explored, all reachable via the subway (the segregated entrances, exits and platforms for augs, really cement the theme).

As an augmented human, police stop and check my papers frequently, and there is a very strong police presence, persistent in every area.  There is a sense of a real “world” here, where the issues are real, the people are affected by them and everyone has something to say.

The best part of the world, though, is how it looks.  It exudes the future, but in a dark and dingy way.  It’s a dirty, moody feel, but it works, adding a depth to everywhere you go and everything you do.

The mechanics

The whole game is built around a core set of mechanics.  You move around in a first-person perspective, you take cover and get a third-person perspective, and you mix between the two throughout.

My playstyle is such that I try and remain undetected and move through areas with minimal fuss.  All of my augmentations are geared towards keeping me unseen and giving me access to hack as many doorways and terminals as possible.  If I can take control of security measures, I will.  If I can get a passcode to a safe or a room, I will.

Mankind Divided, much like Human Revolution before it, allows for a great level of freedom in how you approach any room or situation.  I don’t know how or why anyone would run-and-gun through, but it’s definitely possible.

Barring my one accidental kill, I’ve been knocking people out, or sedating them, like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s great. I can literally reach an objective any way that I want, and the augments and controls allow for me to choose how my Adam Jensen behaves within the world.

I can see through walls, I can turn invisible, and most importantly, I’ve managed to make the power consumption of these two core abilities, minimal, so I get more out of them.

Augmentations

Adam Jensen, like many others in this world, is an “aug”.  A human that has abilites and enhancements thanks to technological augmentations.

Of course, as the main protagonist, Adam has better augmentations than most.  Giving him a whole host of potential abilities.  Improved health, cloaking, hacking abilities, visual aides, you name it.

Early on in the game, it comes to light that there are even more black market abilities hidden within the software and hardware that Adam has installed.  You can’t use them all, and in fact, using one at all, for a start, requires other abilites to be turned off, so as not to overheat!

These new abilities are great, a fast dash-type ability (think “blink” from Dishonored), armoured skin, remote hacking.  Some really nice additions to Adam’s arsenal.

I’m using the remote hacking, which has made a nice difference in how I approach rooms, turning windows opaque before I enter a room is a huge help!

Voice acting and cinematics

This game has a strange way of approaching cut-scenes……sometimes they’re in-game, sometimes they’re pre-rendered.  So far, I haven’t seen anything worthy of pre-rendering, that makes a scene stand out over the in-engine scenes.  Very odd.

In the scenes that aren’t pre-rendered the voice acting feels stiff and a little “off”, mouth movements and animations don’t match the way things are being said.

The pre-rendered scenes are much better and the voice acting is much better suited.

Everyone is doing an amicable job, and Adam Jensen is that typical gruff, protagonist.  His voice in particular seems to be a little out-of-the-times, and comes across as a bit of a retro take on this type of character.  It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just a bit early 00’s.

Key conversations

There are moments in the game that you’re faced with “winning” conversations.  It reminds me a little of L.A. Noire, but without the facial cues.  You need to respond in the right way to determine the outcome of a conversation.

So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to fumble through and get the “right” conclusions.  In fact, I unlocked an augmentation that helps me read a person in these scenarios (after the first one), which has been a real help in navigating through the murky waters.

I like this element, allowing me to maintain my stealth/kill-free run, by talking people around.  Plus, you feel like you’re changing the perspectives of some core characters, which helps with the immersion.  Really nice.

Music

I’ve found myself at times, really noticing the music.  Some ambient future-techno sounds, then a slap on a bass to keep it going.

Sometimes I barely notice it, but that’s more because I’m so focused on not being seen, or running away, that my heart is racing and I’ve no time for anything but what I’m doing.

It’s not obtrusive, it fits the tone of the world, and every now and then I catch it and just take it in.

Good enough for me!  Although, that’s probably a massive disservice to the composer.

I did get access to a soundtrack sample, so I’ll listen to that and see how it comes across.

Overall impression

Mankind Divided has my attention.  I get to approach everything in my way, I’m enjoying the story and the world.  It looks great, sounds good (apart from dodgy cutscenes) and feels good to control.

It’s never going to be deemed a masterpiece, what with the cliches and the fact that it bears a striking resemblance to Human Revolution.  It’s more of the same, rather than a whole new take on the series.  That’s fine though. Not everything has to be unique.

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.  The core elements are great, it works, and it works well.

Vents

One side-note to any future architects in the world:  Think about your vents and ducts a little.

I’ve had so much access to places by just opening an vent, and wandering through, it’s super useful, and the first thing I look for in any area, but they’re perhaps not ideal for our future banks and strongholds……

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