Are you ready to take another augmented leap into the future? It’s been two years since the traumatic conclusion of Human Revolution, and, regardless of which of the game-ending buttons you (as robotic sunglasses fanatic Adam Jensen) happened to press, the outcome is the same - mankind and the augmented no longer live in harmony.
It can lead to strange conversations with NPCs after missions, where you may have accidentally killed one enemy and they speak to you like you are a serial killer, but it’s nice to see some consequences to optional objectives not being completed and the order things are done having some impact - even if ultimately the situation turns out the same way regardless.
While there are certainly always two or more ways to achieve most objectives, the reality comes down to hack a computer/keypad, find a handy vent or shoot up the place. There is still variety to be had though, particularly with the, albeit inconsistently-implemented, social augmentation, which returns from the last game, which gives you clues to navigate a conversation and persuade your foes with carefully constructed responses.
Those in the mood for combat won’t be disappointed, with a wealth of new augmentations - which it turns out were buried deep inside Jensen all along - and a weapons system which has just the right amount of variety without becoming laboured and complex.
The trouble is that the game really really wants you to play it quiet. It makes perfect sense of course, why would Interpol, which Jensen now works for after being a company man in the last game, want to attract unnecessary attention? The answer is that they wouldn’t, and so you find yourself awkwardly navigating ledges and knocking enemies out to get the job done.
In his own HQ the security feels particularly lapse, with no one batting an eyelid as Jensen breaks into one password protected computer terminal after another
The AI makes your life easier in this respect, as Jensen seemingly can get away with most things without being particularly subtle at all. In his own HQ the security feels particularly lapse, with no one batting an eyelid as he breaks into one password protected computer terminal after another, reading emails and disabling security countermeasures.
All of this is merely following the rules of ‘being a game’ of course, and that’s where Mankind Divided feels the most at home. Its physics puzzles, hacking mini-game and searching for keycards feel like something from a bygone era, now that single player games in particular are embracing that cinematic feel more and more.
There’s shades here of pivotal games like Half-Life 2, but it’s easy to forget that that game came out 12 years ago, and so for some Mankind Divided may run the risk of feeling archaic.
The rules it does follow though it does with great balance and precision, there might not be as deep and interesting characters as you might find in something like Mass Effect, but there’s just the right amount going on to keep you hunting for that next objective, without overwhelming you with a map full of meaningless symbols and a seemingly endless list of side quests.
The setting changes a few times as the story begins to unfold - a fairly unoriginal, but compelling mix of politics, conspiracy and intolerance - and as Jensen begins to make more use of his augmentations he becomes more and more in control of every aspect of the world, even on normal difficulty.
The world doesn’t feel like it has the cool factor in the same way as Human Revolution, something which is clearly intentional as the heavily stylised aesthetic of a world in a golden age gives way to a derelict and dilapidated setting which reflects the mood of its inhabitants (again, without much subtlety).
Those who haven’t played the previous title needn’t worry, as a 12 minute recap video gets you up to speed with the basics, and, despite bombarding you with names, few story threads and characters really follow through, and those that do have exposition of their own.
In the end the game really reflects the world it tries to portray accurately, giving you reason enough to care about what is going on and structuring its gameplay accordingly. If you’re expecting an arresting story to carry you through then you may leave disappointed, as really it’s the gameplay here which wins the day.
While it might not be for everyone, Mankind Divided proves that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to create a game which is fun to play, and if that’s all you’re after then you will be absolutely satisfied.