I’ve been Let’s Playing the crap out of Mankind Divided, and it wasn’t until I decided to play off the grid that I started enjoying it much more.

This is a series I love warts and all. It’s the closest AAA experience to Genesis Shadowrun but playing while commentating made me forget that.

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I’m absolutely willing to accept the fact that I am sub-par at playing a game while talking and recording. That the pressure of performance causes me to skim over details and moments I would normally relish. That a microphone prompts me to constantly find something to speak about, and more often with Mankind Divided, criticize. Perhaps a better player could draw the audience into a more intimate experience, reading the lore-filled emails with care and taking the slow and steady approach with great satisfaction.

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But for me, my play style changed when I simply sat back and played for myself. The original Deus Ex excelled at level design and backstory. The first level was massive and begged to be explored and completed in a variety of ways. Mankind Divided has a different setup with a hub and smaller buildings to infiltrate, but I still found it more enjoyable to methodically work my way through the Palisade Bank, hacking every computer and reading every email. To linger near a news broadcast long enough to hear the entire interview was rewarding and supported the themes of the game quite well. To fail at combat or not find the solution immediately while recording can be stressful, but dying multiple times before experimenting to find a creative solution feels great and is why I fell in love with the series in the first place. Too often I complain about modern games holding my hand and making me feel like my input is barely needed. The best moments in Deus Ex are about how each player decides to deal with a situation.

The PS4 has an unfortunate limitation of not allowing the console audio to route simultaneously through the headphone jack and the HDMI cable. Not worrying about the television volume bleeding into my microphone allows me to fully immerse with loud headphone volume. Hearing the frightened cries of innocent office workers in my isolated earbuds had me feeling more sympathy to them. Rather than taking them down with a martial arts flurry as if I was callously playing GTA, I started to avoid harming them in any way. This resulted in an interesting piece of emergent gameplay. As I scrambled to hide from a heavily armed security bot, I wound up choosing the same piece of cover as a scared office employee. The worker panicked at my presence and stood up at the wrong time, catching a hailstorm of bullets and crumpling in front of me, dead.

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    man of the people

I’m not sure if the lesson is to either always play with headphones, choose suitable games to record, or become a more relaxed Let’s Player, but I know I’ll have fun finding out.

How do you like your commentary with games?