The hit try-not-to-shoot-’em-up is currently available (January 2018) on PlayStation Plus for free. So I checked it out.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (MA-15)
Tested on PlayStation 4 (also on Xbox One, Windows)
Copy purchased (PlayStation Plus subscription)
Original release: August 2016
Set in Prague in 2029, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided follows Adam Jensen, an Augmented (cybernetically enhanced) Interpol agent and part-time Keanu Reeves impersonator. During the events of the previous game (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) two years prior, a malicious broadcast caused millions of Augmented folk to fly into a murderous rage. Jensen, while successful in stopping the transmission (obviously), is injured and in a coma for an undisclosed period of time afterwards.
Following the Incident (as it became known), the world is deeply suspicious of the Augmented; Augs are essentially segregated from society, living in ghettos outside major cities, while the world’s various governments debate a bill that would require mandatory disabling of their enhancements. As an Augmented person, you can’t even ride the Metro in the same car as a Natural- police will stop you and demand to see your papers (in a cutscene).
A local train station is bombed, with the prime suspects being the local Augmented Rights Coalition, who insist they are peaceful and do not support terrorism. Meanwhile, after Jensen is injured in the attack, he discovers that he was given a bunch of inactive experimental augmentations after the Incident… but by whom? And to what end?
The game is essentially a first-person shooter with cover mechanics- hit L3 to glue yourself to a wall, hold L2 to use iron sights, etc- but that isn’t giving it enough credit. Mankind Divided is all about stealth; avoiding combat is often preferable, and faster, than barging into a room guns ablaze. As you progress you can buy or enhance your Augmentations to allow you to become invisible, reduce the sounds you make, breathe underwater (or in poison gas) to traverse sewers and vents, and see- or punch- through walls to plan your next move.
As a result, each main mission can be quite lengthy, depending on your playstyle. The game also lets you save-scum a bit to experiment with different tactics, so you can essentially learn the layout of each map through trial and error before making your way through to the objectives. Whether you think this is a bad thing that kills tension, or a good thing that reduces frustration, is up to you; just make sure you save regularly as the game’s auto-save is never quite as reliable as you think it is.
The stealth mechanic of the game even extends to conversations and cutscenes. Many missions feature conversations where the right approach- sometimes aggressive, sometimes conciliatory- will accomplish the objective without a bullet being fired. Not only is it possible to complete the entire campaign without killing anyone or tripping any alarms, there are Achievements (Trophies on PS4) for doing so. (Another reason to save your game frequently.)
There isn’t a ‘karma’ mechanic like in titles like Infamous or Mass Effect; rather, particular characters might enlist you for side missions for additional rewards, depending on your approach. However, this often means you are faced with choices that only go one way- killing or saving a particular character, for example, might open up different options (and lock some out) later on in the story. Proceeding with main story missions also locks out some side quests, although the game does warn you if you’re about to hit such a point of no return.
As a result, Mankind Divided will drive completionists crazy as it isn’t possible to experience everything the game has to offer in a single playthrough. To achieve 100% completion, and get those precious, precious Achievements or Trophies, you’ll need at least two runs through the game- indeed, one of the Achievements isn’t even available on the first run. You can take all your cool accumulated toys and gadgets into the second playthrough, though.
Combat can be a bit frustrating if you try to play the game as a shooter. Jensen isn’t exactly bulletproof, although you can upgrade his health and armour throughout the game; health does regenerate, but painfully slowly, and you’ll very quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you have attackers from multiple sides. In addition, the guns feel a little bit weedy. A headshot will generally take down most mooks but body armour makes torso shots unviable, and later in the game, most enemies will also be in helmets that require multiple bullets to destroy.
Accordingly it pays to try to thin the herd, even if you are intending on killing everyone rather than going for non-lethal methods. You can use distractions like thrown objects and deliberately tripped alarms to draw people to you (or away, as needed), equip silenced and scoped weapons to avoid confrontation, or just punch people out to avoid making too much noise. This gives the game a slower, more deliberate, pace, than most shooters. I didn’t have any trouble with the game’s difficulty on the medium setting, most of my deaths stemming from my impatience rather than any cheap or overpowered enemies.
The pace is also broken up by cutscenes between the main story missions. After a major event in the game you can wander around Prague, meeting people, accepting or discovering side quests, and buying and selling your inventory. This is also quite slow as fast travel around Prague is limited- you can’t just warp to your apartment or the office, and some parts of town are quite dangerous, requiring you to manually work your way across the block. There is also a lot of talking in this game, although most of the scenes are skippable (or at least, can be accelerated). There’s even a lot of talking before the game starts if you so choose; it offers you the option of watching a 12-minute summary of the events of Human Revolution to get caught up.
I did run into a few bugs, some of which were discussed when the game was first released; in particular there seems to be a recurring issue where the game crashes back to the PS4 dashboard when you board a train. This doesn’t seem to be isolated to just the PS4 version, either, although I generally didn’t lose a whole lot of progress once I worked out you could save at literally any point in the game. Otherwise it generally runs pretty smoothly, only stuttering periodically when it’s accessing the hard drive to load or save data.
If you’re the kind of person who complains about the length of a video game’s campaign, then Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is right up your alley. If you’re a completionist or Achievement hunter, you could easily get 50 or 60 hours out of the game and multiple playthroughs; the guide at Playstation Trophies (warning: spoilers at that link) says 50 hours or so to 100% the game. I personally felt the game went on a little too long, although I tend to accumulate sidequests and over-level my characters so perhaps I brought that on myself.
But overall it’s definitely worth the download- as an older game it’s cheaply available, and at the time of writing it’s a PlayStation Plus download and available to subscribers for free (until February 1, 2018, or thereabouts). As in most things, just be prepared to think before you shoot.