One of the most interesting new abilities you can earn is the power to hack anything remotely. Separate processing lines for ‘augs’ and ‘naturals’ in a Prague train station.
Nanjing Night Net

If you’re taking direct action, you’ll find combat much slicker and more open this time around.

Prague is a beautifully-realised city, but an oppressive place for augs.

In 2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution reinvigorated the storied cyberpunk series with a game full of conspiracy, intrigue and player choice, and while the story has been significantly narrowed for the sequel, Mankind Divided, the game has otherwise been strengthened and enhanced across the board.

If you’re not familiar, Deus Ex is all about transhumanism and the integration of technology with human biology. In the game’s universe this integration is often shown to be a double-edged sword, both in a narrative and a gameplay sense.

While your player character has the ability to extend their physical and mental capabilities with “augments”, so too do many of the enemies you’ll face. The situation has also meant brand new forms of crime, from terrorist attacks to people having expensive augments forcibly removed for sale on the black market. And, of course, there’s government and Illuminati forces working behind the scenes to leverage the technology for their own advantage.

Following the events of Human Revolution, when mechanically-augmented humans around the world were hacked and became violent, “augs” are no longer considered fashionable but are feared, shunned and treated like second class citizens. Mankind Divided touches on the parallels between this and contemporary racism and xenophobia, but — thankfully, given the holes in the metaphor — doesn’t delve too deep.

Not only does the game look and sound better, having stepped up a console generation since last time, but its systems are more complex and its world more believable this time around too. The backbone that made the last game so great is still very much there — this is still an experience all about exploration and crafting solutions to open-ended problems on the fly — but it’s much more polished.

You won’t be travelling the world or exposing a whole series of international conspiracies in this one though, as the story is much more restrained. After a series of terror attacks are pinned on aug activists, you take control of returning superhuman protagonist Adam Jensen to get to the bottom of it.

Gameplay is again a mix of stealth, hacking, exploration and combat — in whatever quantities you like — using Jensen’s augments which range from blades that extend from your arms to pheromones that can be deployed to socially manipulate people into compliance. Each ability will open up your options in surprising ways, and as you progress it’s great fun to return to previous areas and see what new havoc you can wreak, new areas you can creep into or different conversations you can have.

Smartly, Mankind Divided avoids the sequel trope of resetting your character’s abilities to zero at the start of the game. Instead, Jensen discovers a set of mysterious “experimental” augments hidden inside his own body. These new abilities are powerful, but his body can’t produce enough power to use them all, at least at first. You need to weigh up the abilities you want and those you’re happy to block off permanently as you go.

Other new additions, like a refined cover system and real-time gun modification, really sell the idea that your experience is a direct result of your choices. Those who favour a direct approach will find combat much improved, and shooting your way out of every situation is a viable strategy now (although it can’t match the satisfaction of sneaking through an area undetected or bluffing your way through, so guns were always still a last resort for me). Also improved from the last game: every problem, boss battles included, can be solved in a large variety of ways, so you never feel as though you made the “wrong” choice by strengthening one trait over another.

As always, exploration is greatly encouraged and often well rewarded. If you want you can run from main mission to main mission to get through the story as quickly as possible, but you’d be missing the most interesting parts of the game.

The city of Prague, where much of Mankind Divided takes place, is a huge, sprawling hub filled with people to talk to, hidden areas to find and apartments to break into. Not only will conversing with its inhabitants and finding ways to explore all its alleys and rooftops give you more options to complete your missions, but it will give you access to multi-part, legitimately interesting side-quests you could otherwise have missed entirely.

It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole several hours long between main story missions— be it investigating a drug lab or finding a way to put a stop to an extorsion ring — and the side mission design is so good it’s crazy to think some people won’t see them at all.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

 

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