Deus Ex : Mankind Divided

Let me make this clear from the outset - Mankind Divided is one of those games that you just have to play at least once to try. It is by no means perfect, but there is so much to enjoy in the game that if you do get into, it is oh so easy to forgive some of its greater flaws. And the thing is, the game is not without its flaws by any means - in fact, it has one of the most frustrating flaws I've come across in a game, but it is well worth playing in spite of this.

I'm going to start with the bad, just to lay it all on the table so you know what you are getting yourself into.

Firstly, the plot more or less falls flat. This is for two reasons, one major one (which I will come back to below), but also because the main plot in the game tries to carry on the plot from the first game and largely fails. Sure, there is some continuity - including a helpful 10 minute video reminding at the start of the game articulating the main plot points from the Human Revolution (HR), but there are many hints at characters and plot points from the first game that are essentially not followed up on or poorly articulated in the sequel. By the end of the game, sure, I had fought back against a terrorist threat, but i never really felt Mankind was Divided, the stakes were really highly or that I was fighting for the future of humanity. The real peaks of the main plot were, no spoilers, not really that exciting or resolved- it was felt very much like i was playing out someone else's story rather than shaping my own in terms of the main plot.

Secondly, and this is the major point mentioned above, the game seemingly ends 2/3 of the way through. The "final" missions stopped and the ending sequence was essentially a recap of some of the main events of the game. I looked around my living room wondering had i blacked out and missed something but basically, nope, the game just finished at the point I thought the final act was being teed up. The cynic in me thought this was because the intent was leave the game open for another sequel, but apparently (or at least according to the internet), the plug was pulled on the game and it had to be launced 2/3rds complete. It figures, and it shows.

The plot aside, there are other flaws - your player character becomes over powered in the game and, even on the 2nd highest difficulty, becomes relatively easy about half way through the game I played on "give me deus ex" and while i died multiple times, it always felt like a "good challenge" rather than "Christ this is hard". There are uninspiring game sequences - in particular where you infiltrate a neuro-network to solve a bunch of fairly boring box based puzzles - and the game restricts you to a relatively small number of game areas. While Prague is used as a hub for the game missions, a larger world is mentioned but, ultimately you've got one main area and dozen or so side areas to explore in standalone missions. In short, on occasions, the scope feels restrictive sometimes, not just tight or well managed.

Now then - if you've got this far and are a thinking "but he said he loved the game", then bear with me, because i do. Like i also said - the flaws are there, but they are oh so easy to forgive in the context of the wider game. In fact, the fact that they all feel so minor is a testament to how wonderful the core game is. 

Few games have such variety of gameplay and reward innovation as MD does. You can play as a hacker, hacker / assassin, Sniper, Non Lethal Sniper, Stealth, Stealth Assassin, Tank, Explorer and many mor different variations of traditional combat tropes. If you dont like combat you can, virtually avoid it entirely using mainly close quarters non-lethal take downs. Also, the game rewards you for varying your style -  sure, you may find it hard to switch from a tank to a stealth expert, but you can still try and while it can be hard, you can succeed. This is a game designed with flexibility in mind and it rewards innovation. Rarely - if ever - did i feel restricted in how i played the game. In fact, i enjoyed trying different tactics out my reloading my save game just to see if could complete a certain section another way. The game is that good that, in game, you want to replay sections of it. 

Then you have the side missions. And by side missions, what i really mean is world building. While the main plot falls somewhat flat, the side missions are fascinating for the most part. They play out in interesting ways, you face complex moral choices, get a much greater feel for what matters in the Deus Ex universe and, somewhat ironically, connect the game to its predecessor in a way the main plot fails to. They are also incredibly varied - you get to play detective, investigator, combat pro, explorer, political activist, people smugglerand many more roles and often have big choices that play out in interesting ways in the game. If the main plot is the spine of the game, the side missions are the heart and soul and, for the most part, where the real enjoyment can be had.

Prague. What a city. The recreation of a futuristic Prague is oppressive, hostile, beautiful, tortured and believable. As access to the different quarters of the city unfold, your appreciation of what the developers have done grows. You begin to realise that you have a sewer system to explore, a criminal underbelly you can influence - working with or against - citizens you can help or abuse, all set against an astonishingly beautiful backdrop. Just when you think you've got Prague susses, the game pulls one of its most enjoyable twists on you. Spoiler alert - but (in what turns out to be the final third of the game), the police that have already been out in force in Prague, suddenly transform the city to a curfew zone. They are heavily armored and armed, openly hostile to anyone in the street and have multiple reinforcements. You've still got to get around - i mean its not like your job is done - you've just got to be incredibly creative in how you do so and it is incredibly enjoyable. When this happens i genuinely felt like i was playing in a game that was designed around me, had given me the tools to succeed and allowed me to shape the game how i wanted. It was bloody brilliant.

Then there are many one off highlights - the bank heist mission is incredible and can be played many different ways, Jensen's take downs are super as always, one or two of the main plot twists are, genuinely, really interesting, some of the augments you can take are downright great fun to play with (the slow-down time one and exploding ball bearings are GREAT) and even the final boss fight is a blast. 

Yes - the game has some big problems, yet the fact that these problems feel so, so small when you play Deus Ex - Mankind Divided tell you all you need to know about how wonderful the game really is and why it is well worth completing.