Deus Ex – A retrospective review of old and new

deus ex mankind dividedFor those of you unfamiliar with the world of Deus Ex, let me begin by confessing to being a fan from the very beginning, and before you consider not continuing to read my biased comments, take a moment to consider where my loyalty stems from. I’m not talking “Call of Duty” loyalty where you feel the need to have the latest chapter of the heavily marketed series where you must have this year’s latest offering because everyone else on your friends list have it and you’re missing out if you don’t

Currently I am the only one on my friends list who has Deus Ex Mankind Divided, and that actually makes the secret a little bit more special, and yet I have had this game pinned to my home screen since last December. For those of you already a fan of the series you will know why this is, so welcome back to another (hopefully) layered piece of wonderful future tech story telling.

From the earliest of beginnings when Deus Ex landed on the PC back in the 2000s to present day whether it be on PC or console, I have slowly been drawn into the world of human and machine, augments and the story of Adam Jenson.

deus ex mankind divided

When Deus Ex was first mooted on the PC back in the year 2000, it was trailed as visually stunning and groundbreaking from a story telling perspective, with multiple branches to the story, 7 endings (if I remember correctly) and the ability to play it your way. Full on assault or stealth, there were always more than one way for you to reach your goal. Thinking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if it still held its own both visually and game play against today’s other multi-million pound IPs, and while I write this I yearn to test that theory…but maybe for another day. So what has changed?

Thankfully Square Enix have stuck to the DNA which makes the original Deus Ex so fond to remember, and so difficult to let go, and have continued to take it to another level. If it ain’t broken just make it better. Why have 7 endings when you can have 10? And I haven’t even mentioned the side quests which are so numerous and often as engaging and challenging as the main quest itself. And it is a credit to the story telling that you are always in touch with the main story arc and know exactly what your goals are, unlike other games where action takes precedent and the story is “bolted” on. This so far is my experience of previous Deus Ex, so what about present day…?

deus ex mankind divided

Mankind Divided begins with a slick modern interface with the usual options. I begin with the absorbing 10 minute or so recap video of Human Revolution, and it is when watching this that you really get an understanding of the power of the story telling this game (series) brings. I was gripped from start to finish and I’m amazed looking back at just how big that game is, and all I wanted to do was load that back up and play it again, which is why I’ve spent 500 words reminiscing, but have I mentioned how much I love this series?

The next step is to check out the achievements and I’m delighted to see the old favourites are there, in particular the Pacifist achievement, Complete the Game without killing a single person , including bosses or not setting off a single alarm. For those of you who are full on action freaks DON’T TURN AWAY, because if you want a full on assault shoot-em-up then remember you can play the game that way, but if you really want to appreciate the full complexity of the options available you will quickly find stealth is one of the major draws of this game. And if you think this game is soft, just wait until you see the full armaments available to Adam, and that’s just his augments. From stun to lethal, he caters for all.

My biggest decision before starting the game is do I choose Normal Difficulty and enjoy the huge story and side quests while going for these achievements or do I go straight for Hard mode? I’m already planning multiple play-throughs, that’s the strength of the game – I’m reassured by the game confirming Normal as challenging and how the game should be played. Hard next time.

At this point I don’t want to go into further details and spoil the story, because if you are not familiar with the series then I totally recommend you rewind one episode and play Human Revolution, where you start with nothing and unlock the augments as you play developing Adam as you go just like any well oiled RPG.

For those of you who have played, you don’t need me to say anymore, and this is one of the most pleasing aspects of Mankind Divided – the story begins a few months after Revolution, and unlike many series where you play the “follow-up” and somehow your character has just lost everything and you start again, your character here starts already upgraded as you would expect, and there is a very clever mechanic in the story where you kind of have to re-build your augmentations, and you may find a few surprises too. I’m looking forward to finding out what they do.

On first load-up the prelude is as expected. Graphically familiar, very detailed and well planned multi-layered structures. There’s more colour to Mankind and strangely the way the game highlights objects in the world makes the game seem graphically inferior and lip sync is annoyingly not on point too, but these are small prices to pay when you factor in the way the game flows so smoothly and don’t detract from the overall experience.

New to this iteration is the way the cover system and ability to vault over objects and seamlessly takedown your foe. New control layouts for your controller exist too. New set-ups recommended by the developer or stick to your tried and tested 3rd person controls if you prefer. This level of detail continues throughout the game. Your first choice non-lethal or full on assault, I choose the tranquilizer gun to aim for the achievement for Pacifist.

deus ex mankind divided

My play style is slow and steady and I will happily branch off to make sure I get that last collectable or side quest, The prelude allows you to gain familiarity with your control scheme and has handy short tutorials which show you the new mechanics, whilst progressing the story, and although Adam is quite augmented the level is still a challenge. 2 hours in and the scene is set and the first surprise is revealed, and during this time I get to use most of Adam’s abilities. Very satisfying and the opening credits roll.

As the game begins set in the historical city of Prague the next story arc is delivered and your quest for answers begins. The city is huge and detailed, from sewers to multi story flats and at every corner there is a surprise or possible side quest just a hack away. Your hacking skills too low, then jump up on the ledge and break-in through the window. Haven’t upgraded your legs? Look for the secret vent. Or just move on and look for clues, someone somewhere is bound to have left a pocket secretary lying around with the code number and then return when you have it. Or you overhear it in a conversation and you investigate. The options are endless, and these are just the side quests.

I could only be disappointed with Deus Ex Mankind Divided, but 5 hours in and I am just getting started and looking forward to uncovering the multiple endings. And I haven’t even mentioned the Vendors, Trading, Crafting, Weapon Customisation, Collectables, Secrets, Easter Eggs and even the Combat and Bosses. Or the augments, and upgrade tree and the Piraxis to upgrade your augments. Or the sub-games for hacking. Oh, and there’s multiplayer this time around, although I am yet to try that. I will report back.

Don’t forget Praxis makes perfect. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then play Deus Ex, you will not regret it.

Stay tuned for the full review soon.

[Words by Andy Beresford]

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