Gameplay follows a certain cadence. In the game's hub levels you'll run around picking up quests, breaking into apartments and robbing everything not nailed down. The sheer depth of the world is astounding, running into the cashier at a store and then realising you've already robbed their apartment across town is an odd experience but helps tie the entire world together. Each hub feels like a coherent place and everyone has their own motives and secrets and piecing these together, even when they don't mean anything to you, is incredibly compelling.
Then, at just around the time the hubs are starting to feel like a bit of a drag, you'll run into a task that requires you to deal with an objective in a sealed area: maybe to break onto a crime scene to investigate a terrorist attack, rob a bank or shut down a drug lab. These moments are when the game really comes together - the sealed areas forming three dimensional puzzles that can be solved in a variety of different ways. Perhaps you want to go in guns blazing, perhaps you want to go in and out like a ghost. It's impossible for me to continue that sentence with all the different ways you can tackle the problem without taking up this entire page.
Many of the problems and rough areas from Human Revolution have been smoothed over, and upgrade options are much more generous so you'll never feel like you're locked into a path. I particularly appreciated the wide range of new augs available. Even though I didn't touch many of them in my play-through, the sheer variety means that when I want to play through it again in a few months I'll find plenty of new toys to excite me.
They've also done serious work on the graphics, something many people complained about when it came to the original game. Instead of an older engine like its predecessor, the graphics here look top-of-the-line, and the soundtrack of moody synth work helps build atmosphere. They're not needed; Deus Ex will stand alone as a fantastic experience, but these augments to the sound and graphics are strong additions to a quality package.
My role as a Deus Ex purist that never kills has been tough. Weapons and combat have been cleaned up massively and the upgrades available for guns are so rewarding that I've spent my time lusting after some murder. For this, there are the Jensen Stories, standalone adventures you can play after the main storyline to shed more light on things, but also to let you experience a smaller chunk of Deus Ex without having to commit long-term. I enjoyed it as a footnote to the campaign and appreciated the inclusion.
Then, rounding out the package, there's the Breach mode. This is full of booster packs, XP grinding and time challenges, set in a virtual reality world. It's fun, and it delivers a lot of the thrill of the main game's sealed objectives, but robbed of their context and tied to a progression system I found it didn't have a lot of the impact for me. It's a competitive mode with leaderboards, so maybe this will change when the floodgates open and I can play it with people, but for now it's a fun curio and little more.
In a year filled with great games, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks like it could be one of the strongest, and it's tough to imagine a world where it's not on everyone's lips come game-of-the-year time. Deus Ex's world is denser than any I've seen in recent memory, and it's got the gameplay chops to match. But for now, as we edge towards a jam-packed autumn release schedule, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is game of the year.