More an episode than a full-blown sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided plays roughly the same as Human Revolution. There’s more open-ended approaches to problems, and a welcome return of non-lethal options for bosses (or, rather, the game’s sole boss: a mechanized Russian strongman whose nonsensical motivation belies the fact he’s a pawn in a larger conspiracy), but the same sneaking/shooting/hacking/exploring mechanics are in place, jazzed up with eighth-gen polish. This time around, monotone skull-cracker Adam Jensen is in Prague hunting down terrorists, two years after Human Revolution‘s events led to the “augmented”–people who had, like Jensen, been given mechanical attributes that enhance their physical capabilities–being herded into ghettos and camps (an ill-advised racism metaphor in the tradition of X-Men comics). Mankind Divided‘s new wrinkle is Jensen’s double-agent status: while he’s taken on a new assignment as heavy for an Interpol task force, Jensen also works with a hacker collective, spying on his co-workers to expose series big bads the Illuminati. Everyone’s motives are suspect, and Jensen has to suss out ally from enemy. He does this while navigating the increasing strife in the Czech capital, where riot police demand identification and crackdowns are enforced with drones and ED-209 knockoffs.
This future-shocked Eastern Europe locale is well-realized, packed with bystanders and gangsters, cops and activist journos, occupying grubby spaces saturated with sterilized mass media. Eidos Montreal lay out the city with an eye for encouraging memorization, rewarding exploration and discovery of alternate pathways with XP, much like killing or incapacitating enemies (Bethesda should take note for their next Elder Scrolls or Fallout). As the game progresses, the police get more repressive, building towards full-on martial law, testing your knowledge of the various routes (or you could just plow through them, with the right augments and weapons). Mankind Divided gets so good at building around this increasingly hostile space, and Jensen’s movement through it, it becomes a shame when you’re whisked off to different locales–including a finale set entirely in a London skyscraper (this coincides with leaving about a dozen or so subplots dangling, including a quest line about new, secret augments installed in Jensen that is left with a sequel hook). Eidos Montreal would rather sell the idea of a globe-trotting adventure than track the consequences of shadow war hysterics on a single, stratified system.