Deus Ex: Mankind Divided reviews have been inconsistent to say the least. But it’s actually a really fun game.
Like coriander, when Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was released last year, it was met with what can be best described as a mixed response (#TeamCoriander).
Critically, it received a positive reception. But the Steam review aggregate is less flattering, often citing performance issues and a highly controversial implementation of microtransactions. While I am not being an apologist for taste buds that don’t like coriander and microtransactions and the like, there really is a fun game here. So let’s stop talking about herbs and get stuck in to what makes Mankind Divided genuinely good.
1 – The Performance
When Deus Ex: Mankind Divided came out, there were many, many complaints about the performance on PC. Even people with the most powerful, sexy graphics cards on the market claimed to not be able to run the game well at all. And true, the highest settings of the game can be quite demanding on the system if said system is recommended specification. But at high settings of 1440p, after just overclocking my GTX 970 by 100mhz (that’s right, I’m pretty wild), everything was smooth sailing.
2 – Setting and the Augmented Humans
Much of Mankind Divided takes place in two districts of Prague, a city that has become a flashpoint for tension between the augmented and regular humans. In this universe, the Czech Republic has implemented strict measures against the augmented population, in what the developers of the game refer to as ‘mechanical apartheid’.
Whilst this analogy to racism(or dialectical framework, depending on your interpretation and how fancy you want to sound) might seem trite, contrived or basic in other games, it works here as a back drop.
The rationale for it within the game is an event known as ‘The Aug Incident’, in which the augmented all over the world had a switch flipped and flew into murderous rage. This muddies the waters, adding nuance. It’s like a reverse Gattaca.
The politics of the game never feel like the developers are moralising or being patronising, with perhaps the exception of being stopped by a police officer if you try and go in the Natural queue. But then again, I always went into the Aug queue because it was faster.
The Prague streets are also immensely detailed. The combination of cobblestoned streets and old European buildings, along with futuristic and brutalist buildings, creates a striking science-fiction setting.
Visually, the setting looks best at night when the neon lights reflect off puddles of water, or the warm street lamps glow effervescently in a laneway.
Other mission areas also show an immense amount of detail, such as ‘Golem City’, which is an immense ghetto for the augmented that is tightly packed and full of corruption and filth.
The hub and mission areas truly encapsulate the basics of cyberpunk.
3 – It’s a great stealth game
Whilst you can play this game stealthily or with guns blazing (or some mix of the two – like I did), the game is heavily slanted towards stealth.
You get more experience from playing stealthily and taking enemies out non-lethally. And with the new remote-hacking ability, ghosting your way through the incredibly well designed levels becomes much more viable. Enemy vision works on a line of sight basis, so veterans of the Metal Gear Solid series should feel right at home here.
Even when stealth fails, you can still shoot your way out like a badass spy who fucked up a mission but is still really cool. When infiltrating the Church of the Machine God, I ended up shooting my way through after blowing my cover. Or in Ruzicka Station, when I had to retrieve an item, a fully stealth infiltration failed so I managed to run in and out using my stealth camouflage. Under a hail of gunfire, I utilised the perimeter of the level and managed to escape.
If you found Human Revolution an enjoyable experience, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided does a great job of extending those same design principles. Sure, it may not be the best game ever, but if you read some shifty reviews and thought, nah, I’ll stick to Battlefield, maybe actually give it another shot.