Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
It feels as if game developers have spent the past ten years learning how to efficiently build the design ideas conceived in the ten years before that. As a result, where the original Deus Ex’s commitment to systemic design offered player’s options which surprised, Deus Ex Mankind Divided has boiled those systems down to a tight, repeatable loop.
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Mankind Divided brings back Adam Jensen, though this time he’s in Prague and a double agent. Still, the procedure is the same as in the previous game, Deus Ex Human Revolution. You have gruff conversations, you crouch through vents, you sneak up on men and press either the lethal or nonlethal-flavoured go-away button. I find this enormously satisfying, because it supports a slow, methodical mastery of space. Prague initially seems a vast warren of side streets filled with deadly guards, but by the game’s end you’ve discovered so many holes and shortcuts through it that it’s like swiss cheese.
It’s beautiful, too. Mankind Divided rewards your exploration with stunning architecture at every turn, whether you’re outside a club, in a ramshackle stairwell or staring at the grandiose ceilings of a ritzy apartment.
From the development team’s perspective, I suspect those repeatable loops are desirable because they make the always-difficult creation process more predictable for a producer’s budget spreadsheet. For player’s, the response seemed to be more mixed. A lot of other people on this site found Mankind Divided a slog. For me, who only ever wanted more Human Revolution, it was exactly what I wanted.