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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Deus Ex Mankind Divided.

Transcript Edit

Put your mouth over a jet-powered soft serve dispenser and get ready to cream out of every orifice because there's a new Deu-Sex sequel - or rather a sequel to the prequel to Deu-Sex, Deu-Sex: Human Revolution, which I think was about some kind of prostitute uprising while Deu-Sex: Mankind Divided is about an agreement being reached and the sex humans going back to spreading themselves all and sundry. NONE OF THAT IS TRUE!

Mankind Divided is, however, the second instalment in the life of one of the gaming's newest and hottest personalities, Adam "I never asked for a throat lozenge" Jensen, best known for his iconic pointy face and voice like a coffee grinder trying to seduce an asthma inhaler. Fans have learned to love his incredible strength of character that compels him to always do the right thing, or to always do the wrong thing, or to go back and forth between doing the wrong thing and right thing depending on his mood, his remaining stun gun ammo and whether or not there are any vending machines to throw at people. Because this is a Deus Ex game, and you know what that means - choice and consequences, cautionary cyberpunk near-futures infused with relevant societal issues of the day, and a protagonist who'd get cut out of a Matrix sequel for taking themselves way too fucking seriously.

In the aftermath of the climax of the previous game, when someone drove all the mechanically augmented humans kill-crazy by doing the equivalent of posting an honest review for the new Ghostbusters on the Internet, humanity is reeling from the attack and augmented humans are regarded with fear and suspicion on the off chance that something might flip the crazy murderer switch again at any moment.

So welcome to episode 2 of the clumsiest racism analogy in all of speculative fiction. You can't split humanity into augmented and not augmented because having oven hobs instead of nipples is not a trait unique to specific families, unless babies are having their legs snapped off as they emerge from the womb and replaced with shelf brackets. To say nothing of the fact that you can't make the few bad apples argument if literally every augmented person went off their hydraulic cybertrolleys and a certain amount of fear might be justified if no one knows if the insane murderer switch isn't still lying around somewhere for some family dog to accidentally trip while rubbing his ass on the carpet.

Hey, remember how in the original Deus Ex the augmented humans were a pretty small minority and no one made much of a fuss about them because, hey, turns out a bloke with JCBs lodged in his armpits is a useful thing to have in peacekeeping force or when some furniture needs assembling? And that most of the conflict in the setting of that game was rooted in the divide between rich and poor and insidious population control orchestrated by corporate interests and the media? Oh, no! Such themes would be completely irrelevant in the current climate, especially since triple-A game publishers haven't finished paying all the installments on their nuclear equipped supervillain bunker on the moon, let's just make it all about the people putting sandwich toasters in their kneecaps.

Adam Jenson finds himself stationed in Prague as part of a top-level anti-terror organisation whose higher-ups are quite probably obviously blatantly definitely being leaned on by the secret world government, which you might recognise as being the starting premise of pretty much every Deus Ex game. Fortunately, they save a bit of time by having Adam already working undercover with a secret pro-freedom resistance, who you can tell are the good guys because they are much more racially and sexually diverse. Things explode, tensions rise, and Adam must choose whether to side with his fellow augmented and the obviously corrupted militant fuckheads who hate him.

Maybe it's not as straightforward as that but even as Mankind Divided makes use of the time honoured Deus Ex tradition of dropping us in the middle of a nuanced situation with nothing but a fish slice and a couple of pages that fell out of a social studies 101 textbook, there is no obfuscating its way out of blatantly being Deus Ex: Another One, The Game. It hits all the same beats as reliably as one-hit wonder playing their annual comeback tour. You're based in a hub city where you rub shoulders with every level of society, there's an inexplicably high tech laser security system in the sewers, at one point, you have a boss fight with a ridiculously huge, augmented bloke with a comically overdone accent, they even replay the whole subplot about Adam discovering and getting to grips with all the retro consoles and kitchen appliances that someone sewed into his fat arse without his permission. How, you ask? Well, apparently after the end of the last game - and incidentally the game couldn't give two squirts of motor oil infused spunk which button you pressed on the Endingtron 3000 and I suspect it couldn't at the time either - Adam spent some time in a coma clinic and someone implanted a fresh batch of Game & Watch handhelds into his buttocks. Blimey, Adam better hope he never goes to robot prison, there seems to be something about his bum that makes people want to stuff it full of hardware every time he goes to sleep.

Mankind Divided is a textbook expansion pack sequel, but the problem with that is that Human Revolution was just OK. And when you do a copy-paste of a game that's just OK then any positive feeling the good bit might have given us falls away as the annoyances repeat themselves. I can't stand the way the game goes to cutscene every time you take out a guard or break a wall or break wind, with a pause, a cinematic fade to black and a musical sting as Adam ceremoniously farts with the tenor saxophone implanted in his rectum. It is about as conducive to the flow of gameplay as a fat bloke jumping on a skilift.

The upgrade is still pretty shoddily designed as well with a lot of redundancy. 'Want the ability to mark 5 targets?' 'Not really, since I can see them all on the radar anyway and marking them requires me to pop up from cover and gormlessly stare at them for a second like they're my high school crush and I'm hiding in their dad's rose bushes.' 'Well then how about the ability to mark 40 targets? There is nowhere in the game where there are that many but it will come in handy after you get bored and switch to playing Serious Sam instead!'

I also resent how it doesn't matter for shit whether you take lethal or nonlethal approach because I always take the stealth option on the off chance the game has the balls to have consequences. And the slightest mistake leaves me completely surrounded by the ungrateful bastard I permitted to live. Half the time it wasn't even my mistake. I'd be trying to stealthily kangaroo my way across rooftops when Adam would decide that grabbing the next ledge would ruin his manicure and drop into a dumpster full of bells and airhorns.

What I'm saying is that Human Revolution had more room for improvement than this. Yes, one or two complaints were addressed - lo and behold, the boss fight has a stealthy option, sort of - but take careful note of my phrasing there: boss FIGHT. As in singular. As in, this game is as insultingly short as a budget gob job. There's only one hub city and after getting dicked about by the Illuminati for about half the length of an acceptable Deus Ex game everything abruptly ends with Adam Jensen vowing to get dicked about maximum 7 or 8 more times before totally asking them to pack it in. And that's what kills it more than shoddy gameplay or half-baked premise, which in Deus Ex is almost part of the charm. I mean, come on. Augmentation racism? Where's the dividing line? 'Alright, Mrs. Stevens, we've successfully fitted your pacemaker, now piss off to the ghetto you aug scum.'

Addenda Edit

  • Split right down the middle: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • So I presume I'm not aug scum if I just have pierced ears, but would I have to go to the ghetto if I glued a blinking led to it
  • I never asked for piss
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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