Previsions of the future
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, man has fused with adolescent cybernetic technology and the results are…erratic.
Media propaganda is spoon-fed to the public by corporate controlled intelligence, while revolutionary journalists coordinate their insurgency beneath the streets of Prague. Cultural uncertainty, in regards to a marginalized augmented population devolves into virulent paranoia, as law enforcement deploys brutal tactics to handle the “opposition”. Political leaders seek to destroy autonomy via the guise of benevolent technological innovation for all. In the shadows, a clandestine group seeks to establish governance without opposition by obliterating civilized institutions with carefully calculated maneuvering. This is the world of Mankind Divided, a future gone astray…a future not far off from our own.
After 60 hours of exploring every nook and cranny of an exhaustively detailed Prague 2029, I am fixated on a disturbingly plausible future, in which the technological singularity is knocking on the door of artificial general intelligence.
In Mankind Divided, the primary narrative handles these themes overtly and tends to take a backseat to the well-crafted subtlety of its side missions. While the main story ends abruptly, the side missions are well fleshed out and provide consequential and meaningful resolutions for each action and decision you make. Side missions offer compelling twists and turns while exploring the more existential themes the game has to offer.
Mankind Divided retains the same stealth/action and RPG elements of its predecessors, while vastly improving the fluidity of its mechanics by allowing the player to efficiently implement a strategic chain of augmented maneuvering at a faster pace than prior iterations. The developers have incorporated more limiting energy usage mechanics this time around, which require calculated movements throughout the environment if the player wants to remain the hunter and not the hunted. A plethora of interesting augmentation options open up several creative avenues for the player to navigate the environment and snuff out the enemy. The new “experimental augmentations” enhance the protagonist with prototype technology, such as remote hacking, and my personal favorite, the Tesla, which functions as an offensive stealth option, projectile stun with multi-targeting functionality. These new augmentations are not only a blast to use, they’re viable and just as accessible as their more “standard” counterparts.
Stealth is relatively the same as it was in its predecessor, Human Revolution. Unlike Human Revolution, a more aggressive style of play is enhanced by complimentary augmentations such as Titan armor (temporary invulnerability) and a more expansive set of weapon handling augments. I decided to go with a non-lethal ghost playthrough my first time around, after briefly experimenting with a lethal approach which felt a bit clunky in terms of target acquisition. Environmental exploitation, coupled with hastily adaptive stealth, made for some truly memorable moments that left me feeling like a cybernetic predator.
Exquisite, gothic architecture overshadows the cobbled streets of Prague. Claustrophobic and dizzying corridors harbor the occult and criminal alike below. Graffiti and ivy contest one another over surface domain, while alleyways shelter capitulated prey within the shadows. Ebony towers loom ominously over denizens with a scornful facade. Streets are illuminated by the glow of screens perpetuating 24 hour propaganda, while flyers rallying the resistance occupy every corner. Colossal, prison like structures harbor the demonized and afraid within a maze of wire and metal.
The environment is alluring and immersive, as it pulls the player through a nebulous glimpse of a future slowly overriding antiquity. The experience is enhanced by the games wonderful lighting and nuanced textures, which meld the noire and dystopian themes into a plausible glimpse of the future. The graphical fidelity of this game does come with a hefty cost for graphic enthusiasts looking to run ultra-settings on PC. My GTX 1070 goes from 65 fps avg. with MXAA off, to 40 fps avg. with MXAA 2x enabled. Fortunately, the graphics options are expansive and allow the user to manipulate multiple, lighting, shadow and anti-aliasing settings. The Dawn Engine is quite capable of rendering large, intricate maps without additional loading; however, I feel there was room for further optimization.
Sweeping orchestral piano, layered over top trip hop and ambient electronic elements provide an ethereal, resonant backdrop for the environment. The soundtrack, composed by the brilliant Michael McCann, ebbs and flows with the pulse of the games action. Activated augmentations provide a satisfyingly unique sound cue just before the bone crushing impact of a takedown. Shots from a tranquilized sniper rifle utter a muzzled wisp just before they strike their target. Mechanized enemies vibrate the floor with a threatening stride of hydraulic impact. The atmosphere is a richly innovative blend of visual and sonic ambition.
Swallow the Red Pill
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided offers the player a chance to explore its expansive universe with freedom and creativity. Each encounter provides the opportunity to navigate challenges in uniquely satisfying ways. Viable stealth, action, lethal, or nonlethal playstyle hybrids provide enough replay value, coupled with a multi-layered narrative that rewards environmental exploration with context. Fully realized, gorgeous environments within the alluring, dystopian world of Deus Ex, challenge the player to embrace the future of humanity and all of its consequences.
|+Vast arsenal of augmentations allow for a truly unique playstyle||-Poorly optimized for PC|
|+Compelling side stories provide rich context for the world and its inhabitants||-Guns don’t handle well enough to effectively utilize with aggressive playstyles|
|+Meticulous attention to detail throughout each environment. Each environment tells a story and serves a purpose to the underlying themes|