Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – review. The illusion of choice

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DEUS Ex: Mankind Divided is a slow burning game that, in the first hours, tries very hard to make you hate it.

The initial hour of Mankind Divided is, quite simply, terrible.

There is a very long cutscene which throws a dozen identical characters at you, none of them have a distinct look or personality, they are just cardboard cut outs fulfilling their role in the plot.

After a bog standard introduction, you are dropped on a roof top.

The game lets you choose your gun to suit how you want to play, I chose a machine gun so that I had the option of a shoot out.

Unfortunately, though there are shooting mechanics, the game is so catered towards stealth that other play styles just don’t work properly.

It is like a swiss army knife where one tool is made from steel and the others are made from butter.

It creates this illusion that you can choose the way you play; you cannot.

No, instead you have a metric tonne of abilities that just make it slightly easier to get into the labyrinth of ventilation shafts that cover every area.

That is the majority of the gameplay: smash a wall to reach a vent, hack a door to reach a vent, dash at super-human speed to reach a vent or hack a computer that opens the fucking vents.

Others who have played the game may argue that there is a robust combat system in play.

It is there, but it really doesn’t want you to use it.

It is clunky, has counter intuitive controls and takes every opportunity to break the immersion.

All your augmentation abilities are tied to the D-pad so you cannot move (use the left stick) and use them at the same time; this is just bad design.

As in every stealth game, you can do silent takedowns when you are behind someone, but they are not seamless.

The game breaks the flow by: cutting to black, giving a tiny non-interactive cutscene where you kill a dude, cutting to black again and then restarting gameplay.

An issue found in this takedown system is also present in the cover mechanics, the camera switches to third-person for absolutely no functional reason.

I suspect that Eidos sunk so much money into over designing their extremely generic, ‘edgy’, sunglasses toting, douchebag protagonist, Adam Jensen, that they needed frequent third-person switches to justify it.

Having a camera that yo-yos around the room whenever you try to take cover makes gunfights unpleasant at best.

So as a game of choice, Deus Ex is not good and it also fails at being something all videogames need to be; user friendly.

It’s like old Windows software.

Tutorials give you the basics but miss small crucial things, like; your battery only recharges a tiny amount by itself, all augmentations need to be unlocked again after the first mission, your footsteps can alert enemies, you can be spotted while hacking and ‘triangle’ puts your gun away.

Yet if you play it the way it wants you to, in the niche manner the controls dictate, it can actually be quite fun and almost too easy.

Finding your way through a maze of corridors without being seen feels rewarding, especially if you employ the use of several augmentations (superpower things).

It feels like Metal Gear Solid, but with a crap camera and without the capacity to give an enjoyable fight.

Late in the game, you can use your abilities for more than three seconds at a time and it is actually exciting.

You skip around the levels finding your own way through the vents, knocking out the bad guys and you genuinely feel like a bad-ass.

It is just a shame you have to endure three hours of poorly explained, ill thought out and generally boring gameplay before Mankind Divided is actually half decent.

Positives:
Looks really sharp,
mountains of upgrades,
becomes a good game half way through.

Negatives:
It’s a bad game until half way through,
boring colour scheme,
boring introduction,
boring story,
boring characters,
the controls are all pants,
this is a bog standard stealth game that lies about being anything more.

6.9/10

Try if you like:
Dishonoured (basically the same but with some actual creativity and less vents),
Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Thief 1 and 2

Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on PS4

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