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Deus Ex: Opinion Divided

Content of the article: "Deus Ex: Opinion Divided"

(By which I mean my opinion is divided, doesn't quite work but I wanted to be smat)

I finished Deus Ex: Mankind Divided last night and having spent hours thinking about it, I have no idea how I felt about it. Before I go any further, I know it was "unfinished" in some way – either the game itself wasn't finished or there were supposed to be expansions or follow-ups that were cancelled, some say to make way for the Marvel Avengers game. I also started out playing stealthy non-lethal but decided to switch to lethal later on.

I guess I'll start with what I didn't like the most, which was the augs and almost everything about them. Due to my play style I never wanted to be a super powered killing machine, but I did want to feel in some way exceptional, I just don't feel like the game delivered that. I could probably write a whole post on what I didn't like about the augs, but to summarise:

  • Magic Praxis kits just appearing when you unlock enough doors is weird. Make me work for upgrades, like in the original!
  • Level design makes some augs essential, some useless. The ability to jump high was the first thing I unlocked, the Dishonoured-style blink was the second, I never used the latter (mainly because I never knew how far I'd blink, if it would disable my cloak and leave me high and dry surrounded by enemies or let me traverse chasms without falling, etc.).
  • They shouldn't drain the bioenergy gauge and reduce the max energy you can recharge because that discourages you from using them. Bad system, poorly implemented.
  • This one is a bit weak but some of the upgrades I got for my super high tech self were explained away in other games as "it's like the backpack you've already got, but bigger" – it felt weird that a slightly larger inventory or slightly reduced recoil cost the same as being able to hack a security camera/drone/bot from a distance or being able to perform takedowns while still cloaked. Not really power fantasy stuff, you know? Maybe if it was like "you can carry three elephants" or "all guns are laser beams in your hands" then I'd be more convinced.
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The guns felt too generic and weak for my liking which is why I avoided all of them except the stun gun, tranq rifle and 10mm pistol, it's rare for me to not even save the game, go on a rampage with guns I'd never normally use then reload but the guns just weren't interesting. Maybe that was a design choice but for a game that touts loud, lethal combat as being a legitimate option (why else would the Titan and Typhoon mods exist?) it felt lame. I'll admit I probably need to go back and play it like a shooter to fully understant this side of it, though.

Voice acting, in some cases, was… Well, a lot like the voice acting in Deus Ex! Which was acceptable 20 years ago but less so now, IMO. I noticed Peter Serafinowicz (almost immediately) and he's quite a big name, even his lines were poor so I blame this more on bad direction than bad talent. Miller's voice acting was properly awful and it shattered the immersion for me every time he spoke.

Quests were mixed. Some were really good, some were just far too samey, ultimately they were mostly "go to a place and speak to a person" but sometimes there'd be a twist that kept me interested, but sometimes I'd deliberately do the "wrong" thing just because I was getting bored of negotiating peaceful solutions with people.

The locations were fantastic, for the most part. Prague looked great and convincingly realistic (with a few exceptions), Golem City was probably one of my favourite locations from a game that I can remember, but the later ones felt like missed opportunities that were overhyped. It felt weird that they went from botched boss fights in Human Revolution to fixing them in the director's cut version to removing them entirely in Mankind Divided (except for one) in much the same way it felt weird that Metal Gear Solid 1-4 all had good boss fights, Peace Walker had awful boss fights so the response was to pretty much cut them in V.

I'm not really sure how I felt about the story, I pretty much ignored it most of the way through but every now and then it piqued my interest, got my hopes up then turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic and too slow. I appreciated that the decision point seemed to actually make a difference, but as I didn't go back to replay it from that point (and won't, as I've now uninstalled it) I don't know if that was just smoke and mirrors.

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The gameplay was a lot of fun, though, although I suspect that's a subjective thing – I don't know what it would've been like playing it as a shooter, but as a sneaky pacifist then a sneaky brawler and finally a (mostly) sneaky murderer it was fun, a lot of fun, actually. But as everyone's experience will probably differ I can't really say much more than that – the hacking minigame was actually quite good and almost always tense, punching holes in walls to sneak up through a gas filled room in order to reach a security terminal to turn the turrets off so you can cross a large room full of bad things that want to kill you… That's just A Good Time, IMO.

Performance was awful and I struggled a lot with unexpected issues in the beginning – the aspect ratio was wrong (had to disable exclusive fullscreen or something) and I kept getting graphics card driver crashes (had to disable DX12). Frame rates were sometimes fine, sometimes very much not fine, definitely poorly optimised. That was especially disappointing because I played Human Revolution at high settings on an ATI 4870 and was thoroughly impressed by how well it ran, but Mankind Divided on a GTX 1080 on high settings was poor.

It definitely felt like a game that I mostly tolerated (but never really disliked, I think it's fair to say) 80% of the time to get to the 20% juicy bits that let me flex my almost pathological need to sneak through an area then backtrack to knock everyone out to steal their hacking software and door codes for doors I'd already hacked. Lots of missed opportunities and weird decisions (or lack thereof) didn't help but it wasn't a bad game by any means, so long as you don't go in expecting a Deus Ex-grade intricate web of deception. I think I'll miss it, but I do at least have both Dishonoured games on my list to cheer me up.

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