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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided review: HDR brilliance

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A brilliantly designed stealth shooter, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided now has HDR support on PS4


Available formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Buy Deus Ex: Mankind Divided now from Green Man Gaming

Most of us have probably done something stupid in the past we don’t even remember, but imagine waking up to the fact that you’ve just murdered your entire family through no fault of your own. That’s the kind of hangover the cybernetically enhanced citizens of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided have to deal with on a daily basis, and it’s this sense of guilt, sorrow and persecution that forms the backbone of Eidos Montreal’s latest Deus Ex game.

Set two years after the devastating “Incident” of Human Revolution, where all augmented citizens went on a murderous rampage after their robotic implants went haywire, Mankind Divided depicts a world fraught with tension. Augs are now despised and marginalised, and returning hero Adam Jensen quickly finds himself torn between fighting for his people’s rights and helping his new Interpol taskforce blame and sabotage a leading aug rebel group based in Prague.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided screenshot03

As you’d expect from Deus Ex, all this provides fertile breeding ground for the series’ trademark moral decisions and branching gameplay options. The approach you take still largely slots into two broad categories – stealth or assault – but it’s clear that Mankind Divided‘s level designers might have had a few augmentations of their own installed since the days of Human Revolution.

It can’t be easy to conceive so many naturally unfolding routes and alleyways, but Mankind Divided does so with aplomb, expertly skirting around the age-old “flashing pathways” tactic for something subtler and more refined. For instance, while you can still highlight certain entry points using Jensen’s Smart Vision augment (which depletes Jensen’s biocells at a rate of knots, preventing users from abusing its power too often), other pathways require a little more detective work, whether it’s catching a glimpse of a floating curtain in an open window up above, or spying a fallen grate from a nearby air duct.

It’s refreshing for a game to be this hands-off, and it makes the act of discovery feel that much sweeter. However, that doesn’t explain why Mankind Divided also feels the need to highlight all the useless bits of scene dressing as well. Yes, I may be able to throw an empty box or an old bottle to create a distraction, but that doesn’t mean I need every interactable object ringed with a white halo. I guess some habits die hard.

Still, it’s a small complaint, and you quickly learn to ignore it. Less easy to brush off is the warren-like structure of Prague itself. With its identi-kit streets and unrelenting grey, brutalist architecture, I never really found my way round this hellish, dystopian hub world, prompting a rather heavy reliance on the – admittedly excellent – mission markers to guide me toward my next destination.

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However, that’s not to say it’s lacking in incidental detail, as its murmuring citizens, heavy military presence and superb voice work all come together to give Prague and all the other key locations their beating hearts. These are busy, uneasy places, and acting out of turn even in a fairly unpopulated street still has the potential to send everyone into a mass panic. It also makes the plights of its citizens all the more heartfelt, as these small moments of hope are often still tinged with the game’s overarching tragedy.

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Validate the identification papers of a mournful man who unknowingly killed his own grandson, for instance, and you could consign a bipolar actress also in need of sanctuary to a life of misery in Prague’s augmented ghetto, Golem City. Likewise, the underground news ring Samizdat are largely on the side of the trodden-down people, but their unwanted probes into Interpol’s cover business could jeopardise Jensen’s ability to do his job. You can keep them quiet by force, but unlock Jensen’s Social Enhancer augment and you might be able to persuade them to cease their investigation without getting violent. Those are just the sidequests, too, the frequently black-and-white outcomes of which are often just a dry run for the significantly greyer main story missions.

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The augmentation system has also been refined this time around – it turns out that someone installed a few new augments on Jensen while he was out cold after the events of Human Revolution. Instead of merely upgrading certain skill trees, you now have to manage the stability of Jensen’s overall abilities by permanently disabling some of his powers. Some of these decisions will be fairly clear-cut depending on what play style you tend to adopt, but when you never quite know how future events will play out, getting rid of one forever can be a surprisingly tough call to make.

This becomes particularly apparent when you end up getting into combat, as my PC build of the game tended to make enemies freeze on the spot when they became aware of my presence, training their guns on my last known position for minutes at a time. That’s a long time to wait for the alert system to reset when you’re stuck in an air duct.

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Breach screenshot^ In Breach mode, the game takes on a stylised, low polygon art style that marries well with its hacker-led storyline

That said, I often found that the whole process took longer when I moved away immediately, since inching closer to my targets usually made them spring back into action. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a patch, but it does rather break your sense of immersion when you’re deliberately trying to coax them into different kinds of behaviours.

Still, when you pull off that perfect heist and sneak in and out undetected, all those bugbears soon melt away. Throw in its time-attack Breach mode, which pits your stealth skills against the clock and fills out even more of the game’s back story, and there’s plenty here to keep old and newcomers alike to the series enthralled for hours.

It’s also one of the first games on PS4 to get an update for HDR support. You’ll need an HDR compatible TV to see the changes high dynamic range brings to the game, but enabling it in-game is simple. Just head over to the options menu in-game, navigate to the menu option and toggle HDR on. You’ll also need to make sure you the RGB range in your PS4’s system settings is set to full. When you return to the game, you’ll see much richer colours and deeper blacks, particularly on Jensen’s augmented arm. Admittedly, there don’t seem to be any real benefits during pre-rendered cutscenes, but Prague itself really comes alive when you’re wandering around in-game. 

Ultimately, though, its combat might not be completely perfect, but when the world’s this rich and densely detailed, its flaws quickly fade into insignificance. 

Buy Deus Ex: Mankind Divided now from Steam

Available formatsPC, PS4, Xbox One
PC requirements
OS SupportWindows 7
Minimum CPUIntel Core i3 -2100 or AMD equivalent
Minimum GPUNvidia GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon HD 7870
Minimum RAM8GB
Hard disk space45GB

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