With improvements made to the gunplay, praxis / levelling system and other numerous tweaks, as well as including slightly larger play areas than the previous entry in the series, this should have been a great success. However, I found this entry to be slightly poorer than 'Human Revolution' (and, by extension, the original Deus Ex). I'm left with a similar feeling as I had after completing 'Rise of the Tomb Raider' last year. Both RotTR and Mankind Divided are good games, they just both felt a little soul-less and a little too close in look, feel and execution to their respective prequels. Because both the re-booted Tomb Raider and Human Revolution were the first entries in their respective series for many years, it was quite a buzz to play these series again on modern hardware. This feeling did not carry over to their sequels and I found getting to the end of the game less enjoyable than before. It's almost as if the game came out too soon after Human Revolution or it didn't differentiate itself enough from its prequel to invoke the same response. It's a feeling that permeates this game. It is ostensibly 'better' than the previous entry, but less inspired or well-crafted. You almost get the impression that the creators felt that way, too, and have pushed this out of the door as if finishing by rote rather than for any great love of what they have created. This sentiment is encapsulated in the Prague setting...
The Prague setting is re-used a little too much in this game. It's refreshing to visit at first being set in the day time initially which seems unusual for Deus Ex. However, the same location is used three times throughout the game and it over-stays its welcome a bit, especially when the city is broken down into smaller areas that are accessible by underground (and a long loading screen) and especially when the police patrols attack during your final visit to the city (making a pacifist play through a right pain at this point). When the game does break free from Prague it ends up feeling and playing much more like the original 'Deus Ex'. Golem City is an inspired setting, especially when crossing the neck between the stacks when approaching the ARC base. Similarly
I think Deus Ex works best when you're given a location to infiltrate, loads of options and you have to make informed decisions about how to level your character and use your abilities and resources to break-in or get out. Rarely in the modern Deus Ex games have they managed to emulate this feeling that was so great about the original Deus Ex - which seems quite baffling considering how old that game now is. Even in this entry, for pretty much every time you're tasked with entering a location / room, you can see immediately that you can either hack a door / computer or sneak in a duct or punch if a wall or take down the patrols. Rinse and repeat for 20 hours. It's just a little flat and one-tonal. I felt with the original Deus Ex, your resources were stretched and you were forced to be creative, adapting tactics on the fly - being forced to improvise choke points when it was too dangerous to stun - adapting your playstyle on the basis of the limited nano-augmentations that you were allowed. You could study the environment from afar and plan your approach. It just felt more emergent rather than simply getting past a block in the path.
With this game, it feels like you're simply waiting to level-up enough or find enough praxis points to open up a skill so that can now either (a) move a heavy crate our of the way of the door or (b) jump over a wall. And both of these decision are muted by the fact that you are swimming in enough ammo and stun rounds to simply kill or incapacitate any one on the path anyway. What's more your achievements and character customisation decisions are further neutered by the fact that, if you're willing to, you can spank money on buying individual praxis points as monetized DLC / levelling. This left quite a bad taste in my mouth. The game should be crafted so that the customisation of your skills matter not so that you can simply hardwire Jensen from the outset if you're willing to pay through the nose.
Also, Adam Jensen is great but, after two games and a smattering of DLC he really does become a bit boring. Why not change the protagonist? A female lead might have made a refreshing change (and yes I do know you can select to play as a female Denton in Invisible War). Again, it goes back to the fact that, stylistically, it's just a little familiar.
Aside from the greedy monetization and over reliance on the previous game's design and mechanisms, there are also some baffling oversights that could have quickly been rectified. For instance, you need to move incapacitated bodies fairly regularly so who in their right mind thought this game's system of dragging the bodies by their limbs as they flop and flap and drag on the scenery was a good system? I'm sure the original Deus Ex allowed you to at least carry bodies over your shoulder avoiding this bizarre loop of carefully and efficiently downing an enemy with a silenced stun round before taking six passes at dragging them by their foot around a door frame while rousing the suspicions of a previously-EMP disabled security camera that's come back to life in the time it has taken me to jam a folded and battered body through a four-foot wide door gap.
The graphics look great when up-scaled to 4K on my Pro. At times, the scenes are truly like what I pictured the original Deus Ex looking like on future hardware. However, the graphics can be really yanky. A 60fps 1080p variant would have been appreciated. The juddery 4k presentation compounds the terrible lip syncing, and the animations (especially during the many one-to-one character conversations) are stilted and puppet-like.
So, after all of these criticisms, would I recommend the game? Yes (especially as it can now be picked up for about £8 new). At its core, 'Deus Ex' is such a compelling gameplay experience and the story (although a much smaller game than previous entries) is appealing. I also really enjoyed how the game is increasingly placing a greater emphasis on characters and organisations that featured in the original Deus Ex's storyline. It just all feels a little too lazy as if Square Enix felt like they had an easy-win on their hands after the success of Human Revolution. "Let's pump-out a game that's stylistically and mechanically the same as the previous one, make it narrower in scope, couple it with a poorly considered pre-launch pre-order DLC campaign and monetized DLC levelling system and call it part of a new 'Deus Ex Universe' where we plan to release a similarly narrow iteration of the same game again next time. Let's even make the box art practically identical! They'll love it"
The thing is, I do love Deus Ex. I will probably buy another sequel (if it gets released after the new Marvel-related game the team is working on) even if it is another 'cookie cutter' sequel like this one - but try and mix it up a little bit more next time, please Square Enix.