Monday, 29 August 2016

Deus Ex Mankind Divided Impressions - Cyberpunk Relapse

Lately, I've been trying to find some joy in playing some game, any game, mostly because I've been a tiny bit disappointed in one certain title and felt really betrayed by some developers and publishers, and yes, I'm counting Square Enix among them. However, I've been pleasantly surprised by Deus Ex Mankind Divided. I've had a few doubts and paranoia did made me question Eidos and Nixxes, the devs, and their showing-off with the gameplay trailers and overall confidence in their game. They went so far as to renounce the embargo on reviews earlier before release, and that's something you don't see much from triple A titles these days. That got me questioning: what's the catch? Well, let's just start with the good parts of the game.

 The good
I'll be honest, I haven't finished the game, and I'm only halfway or so, maybe deeper, but I'm aware of what this game is all about. What I mean by that is that it's a great follow-up to Deus Ex Human Revolution in every sense, and I mean it. If there was one thing you loved about Human Revolution, aside from the setting, of course, then it's all here, and better. Okay, to be more specific, the gameplay is amazingly familiar. The shooting, the hacking, the stealthiness, the climbing through vents, they're all back and they've been improved so much more.

There are new, more types of weapons, there's crafting, there are new and amazing augs that are actually referenced in the story, the hacking has been slightly improved with a couple of new viruses to use, and I don't even know where to start with the numerous paths and ways you can take to reach an objective. If you're an explorer like me, you're going to be so upset for using a good multi tool to unlock a door when you could've just used the air shaft hidden behind a trash bin or in plain sight. There are so many paths, it's almost overwhelming. It's also encouraged by the immense size of the levels and the only city hub of the game, set in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague (or Praha, as they call it in the game), a country where the titular divided mankind is in a constant tug of war between the militarized police who abuse their force on the augmented and ARC, a faction of augmented rebels who make their voiced heard through terrorist acts. Beyond these, there's the Interpol trying to catch ARC's leaders and a hacker nicknamed Janus, head of a shadow group called Juggernaut Collective, opponents of the Illuminati. And, of course, in the middle of it all, Adam Jensen is caught again. I cannot get enough of his passive-aggressive ways of dealing with trouble, and Elias Toufexis does again a great job of portraying this awesome character with his memorable hoarse voice.

The sound is fantastic, Michael McCan's music enriches the highly atmospheric tone of the game. And lastly, it look fantastic. The graphics are breathtaking and the environments are incredibly rich in detail. I have noticed the same voice-lip sync and odd character animation from Human Revolution, and it's even weirder seeing these on these amazing graphics, but these are trivial things I'm not going to bother going further into complaining about when they've improved upon the formula in so many ways. You know, it's like when you play a game, you love it, but think that some things should be done better or a bit differently. Yeah, that's what Mankind Divided is in contrast to Human Revolution. Eidos already proved they are a listening dev, and I'm pretty sure they will start listening further down the line.

The bad
Well, my biggest complain is that it's a formula and the devs have played it too safe. It's definitely not the Far Cry 4 of Far Cry 3, but it's not Far Cry Primal either. Which can be a good thing? Maybe? I loved Human Revolution so very much and I really asked for more of that, so can I really complain? It's not a simple DLC, let me tell you, although I can already see the DLC content they'll be releasing. One will surely be a prequel DLC about Adam Jensen's adventures in Antarctica, because they've spent so much time talking about that part, I somehow can't imagine it not being showed one way or another.

My biggest disappointment, however, is that one and only city hub. It is big, it's split into two different sections bounded by a subway ride/loading screen, and the loading screens aren't short, let me tell you. To me that's a little complain, because I've installed the game on an SSD, a good one too, but I have heard some people talking about minutes of waiting for the game to load. Back at the city hub, it's full of life, miserable life oddly mixed with arrogant pricks life, but abundant nonetheless. There's rich architecture everywhere and it's filled with personality, while the background looks so fantastic I'd like to go there. But even as it stands, it's somehow not Hengsha. I would've loved for them to actually make what they where originally planned for Hengsha in Human Revolution, a huge thriving city above the one we've played in. Instead, Eidos focused more on detail, lots and lots of detail, I'll give it to them, while the settings of the away missions are almost city hubs in scale and chock-full of variety and verticality. Still doesn't quench the thirst for more, if you know what I mean.

The main story is interesting, there are a lot of factions, there's stuff happening and it's a logical follow-up to Human Revolution's event's. But I somehow feel distracted by side-missions, which are more fun than the main plot. Seriously, there was a main branching mission where I finished it with swift stealth around the level and a quick CASIE conversation, while a side quest where I had to solve a murder was more challenging and involving then I'd expected, and that surprised me in a very good way. It actually reminded me of another game I really loved and I had the same disposition: The Witcher 2. Amazing side missions, lame storyline. I somehow couldn't feel as immersed to what is happening as I've felt in Human Revolution, where Adam Jensen had a personal grudge with everyone, and there were so many characters! So big, yet the more I think of it, the more it starts breaking apart. There still are many characters, but their parts are so small in the bigger picture, while Adam Jensen feels like a Mad Max in the whole story, he's our vessel through a stormy sea which we have to navigate with only the complain for getting wet.

And if I have to, I have to. I'll say something about the microtransactions. I think it's crappy business practices I do no support, more so in a single-player full-priced game. That being said, I didn't felt bothered by it. The store is somewhere in the main menu, easy to miss, and the game doesn't ever mention anything about it. Also, the core gameplay is definitely not built around microtransactions. Sure, being able to buy bundles of Praxis that change the way you play the game and make you really OP in a game that encourages stealth and challenge is a lot like cheating, but then it's not something you can't just ignore by clicking Play and let other do what they want. The only downside to this is that it may encourage the publisher to push them further if it turns out to be successful. So all I can say is, please don't let it become successful! Just respect Deus Ex and play the game as it's supposed to be played.

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