Review by Darchaen

"The game that was three years of my life"

Introduction
As a person, gamer and a member of the still close community, I feel that it's only right for me to review Deus Ex. On June 22, 2000, six years ago as I write this, Deus Ex was first released for the PC by Ion Storm and Eidos. It easily made many Game of the Year lists, and in 2001, Deus Ex: GOTY (Game of the Year) was released, which was the core game with a multiplayer modification bundled in allowing players to play against eachother online in deathmatch or team deathmatch.
Being based on the Unreal Engine 1.5, it was highly moddable and dedicated players and casual fans alike all began to make their own multiplayer maps and mods with a downloadable software development kit which was the Deus Ex UnrealEditor. A strong community based around keeping the game playable and fresh for time to come began to flourish and Deus Ex established itself as one of the greatest games of all time.

Story

The story category just had to come first in this review because Deus Ex has one of if not the most intelligent story of any video game. Although video games often have weak plots that are less like stories and more like background related excuses for unique gameplay, Deus Ex excels by having a cyber-punk and conspiracy fueled story fit for a thriller movie or novel.
Dont worry about spoilers, the plot twists are too good to give away in the review.

The game takes place in the early 2050's (The actual year is debated, and regarded as taking place in either 2052, 2054 or 2051) which sets you up for near-future technologies to be available to anyone (One example are the cleaner bots which are automated vacuums you will see in some areas). However, the main change in the world of the future isn't technological, it's political. The United States and just about everywhere else have been turned into near third-world shadows of their former selves. Drugs, violence and just about everything else are mainstream in all but the most wealthy of areas, and revolutionists are blaming the government.

You play as JC Denton who is a nano-augmented agent fresh out of the training academy who has come to work at the United Nations Anti Terrorism Coalition or UNATCO where your brother Paul is already one of the best field operatives.
You work alongside agents Anna Navarre and Gunther Hermann who are earlier subjects in the augmentation project and despise you for your lack of disfigurement and better abilities and ultimately fear that your kind will replace theirs, leaving them to be literally thrown into the trash somewhere.

However, nothing is as it seems in the USA, North America or the world for that matter and you will soon find out that everyone has their own agenda and that an age old conspiracy is finally starting to shift towards a new world order. One particular moment of peripeteia about a fifth of the way through the game had me emotionally reacting to the in-game world and feeling confused and distrusting, not knowing who was really who or what was what as if I was JC Denton. Not many video game shave plot twists that work that well. Many popular and widely known conspiracy theories have been smoothly worked together here such as The Illuminati, Majestic-12, The Knights Templar, grays, Men in Black, Black Helicopters and more- It's beyond Dale Gribble's imagination yet still believable when set against story elements. No plot holes here.

There's also a great deal of philosophy here that idealists will find interesting, as well as the fact that the science fiction is not really science fiction for the most part, but competely plausible scientific topics that we just aren't advanced enough to begin experimenting with. Modern literature is also mentioned and pieces from a book called Jacob's Shadow can be found throughout the game. Jacobs Shadow is a book about many of the same themes Deus Ex is, and most of the time, the particular parts of the book you are able to read are relevant to the current storyline. This game is definitely not afraid to be smarter than you are, and always has you thinking- not only about the game, but how it all reflects on the world that we live in.

Exploration is the name of discovering the truth to it's fullest extent. Alot of sensitive information is presented through e-mails and "datacubes", so an area should never be rushed through, and the player is always presented with many story related bonuses for deciding to explore a non-critical room instead of bypassing it that keep the plot constantly developing. There are also many different ways to let side-story lines develop and you have many choices that allow you to shape the world, and the people you encounter in it.

In the end, no matter how you choose to do things, the final level lets you choose between three different objectives which you can complete in order to beat it. Each way triggers a different ending with a unique outcome for mankind. Although that sounds cheap, it's still fun replaying through and seeing the different paths you can take along the way, even if the final result is decided at the end of the game.

Graphics/Visuals

The graphics are still strong now and were magnificent at the time of it's release. Based on Unreal technology, game designers Warren Spector and Harvey Smith have done a great job bringing everything in Deus Ex from the characters to the decals to life. While playing, you'll notice that everything feels grand and yet unimpressive at the same time, particularly in the New York City levels, and that characters even seem as if they're all coated in something shiny. It's possible that this was done for environmental realism, however characters tend to feel a little surreal.

3-D Meshes on the other hand are well done, as well as textures and sometimes 2-D textures look as if they're three dimensional. This game features some of the best lighting I have ever seen in a video game. It beautifully highlights just the right areas while leaving levels generally dark, as every level either takes place inside or at night, which is no small feat. Lighting makes or breaks the realism of a game, and I found the lighting in Deus Ex to be exceptional and hard to imitate while making your own level in the UnrealEditor.

Costume and character design is all good stuff, and doesn't at all feel repetitive. From the soldiers and terrorists to the hobos and secret service members, everyone looks authentic here as lots of detail was visibly put in to the character skins (the textures stretched across meshes to make them more than groups of polygons). Another noticible feature about the citizens you'll encounter in Deus Ex is that they all look sick and beaten inside and derived of hope, which reflects upon the dirty, plagued environment that most of them share. One small note here- the character Ford Schick is modelled after game creator Warren Spector. Item and weapons are equally well done. All weapon designs are unique and the game sports some particularly high-tech heavy weaponry such as the GEP Gun, a stunning Plasma Rifle, and even your basic napalm flamethrower. The user interface is very well done and gives you the option to change the color scheme and opacity of both the HUD and the menu seperately.

Sound/Audio

Listening to Deus Ex's music, it's catchier than commercial jingles, but still good to listen to. Although the music is techno themed as a majority, it's the best I've ever heard- techno or video game soundtrack as a whole, and it definitely fits with the game's cyber-punk theme. You'll hear everything from soft, ominous wandering tunes, to dance rythms to full out combat songs that get your blood pumping right when it needs to be. The voice acting is also good, although it has fallen into much criticism by people saying that the main characters (Especially JC) are emotionless. What many people don't understand is that JC is supposed to be emotionless because his emotions are yours. When many theories and such are presented to him, his character needs to remain unbiased and emotionless. If JC were to sound as if he thought someone was lying or telling the truth, then the mystery wouldn't belong to the player anymore. They would automatically believe everything that JC seems to, and one of the main roleplaying elements would be ruined.

In game, your weapon sounds are basic- nothing special, nothing that makes them bad. The only really annoying thing about Deus Ex's sound is the sound which characters make when they die. Upon their death (Not when they are rendered unconscious), all non-player characters make one of two extremely annoying nerve racking sounds (One for male, one for female) that can only be described as the sound you might make if I castrated you with a rusty object. It's not that bad after you get used to it, but the screams will surely throw your belief in the voice actors off.

Gameplay

The only way to truly understand how it feels to play Deus Ex is to play it for yourself. It's a monster hybrid of a first person shooter and roleplaying game, and the results are great. Your character, JC, can level up skills with skill points that can be obtained by completing mission objectives, as well as the small skill point bonuses awarded to things such as exploration. Your skills are upgraded from untrained to trained, to advanced, to master. Some skills you can train in are weapons skills such as low tech, sniping, pistols, heavy, assault, and skills like electronics and lockpicking that allow you to pick locks and bypass keypads, cameras, turrets and anything else electronic with disposable lockpicks and multitools.

There is also the ever handy computers skill that lets you hack computers with an Ice Breaker to do anything from read emails and take over enemy turrets to using special computer functions. The ability to upgrade your skills really lets you decide how you want to play the game through- do you want to play through the whole game being the mere shadow of yourself, never being seen? Do you want to be a badass who storms in assault gun firing loudly, taking everyone out in quick succession? Or maybe you want to be an elite hacker, able to sleuth through system security and make machine turrets do the fighting for you... Not to forget being a crossover of whatever you want. No matter which approach you take to the challenges presented with Deus Ex, the gameplay is just as rewarding.

You can also find augmentation cannisters which are used to either install augmentations or upgrade your current augmentations depending on which type they are. There are two ROM modules in each cannister, so you need to make a choice between two augmentatons. One example is the first cannister you find which allows you to install combat strength, which, when activated, increases melee damage, or superhuman strength, which allows you to lift very heavy objects, allowing you to take many alternate paths throughout the game. When you first install an augmentation, it is at level one, and when you use upgrade cannisters, it increases the level, thereby improving the augmentation in different ways depending on what the augmentation does. This is very well implemented in the game, and you'll definitely want to try playing through again with different augmentations.

Deus Ex is a very open ended game, letting you do whatever you want at your own pace, and although the game is divided into thirteen "levels", you wouldn't even be able to tell where one ends and the next begins if the map files in the Deus Ex folder weren't labeled. Seriously. Gameplay is very involving and makes use of the sound and good graphics to immerse you in the full atmosphere of the fictional near-futuristic world Ion Storm has created. Level design is great and allows you to complete missions a minimum of three different ways, and that's not including the different approaches you can take to them.

Gameplay itself consists of Primary and Secondary objectives that are given to you by people you meet. Most often, primary objectives are given to you by whoever you work for and need to be completed. Secondary objectives can range from objectives that are part of your main mission, to side-missions that you can find by talking to the many people you will find around. I found the objectives all unique. Except for the first three missions which all take place in New York City (The first one on Liberty Island), you will find yourself in many different, exotic places such as Hong Kong and France as well as other cities, all of which you not only work in the streets, but infiltrating bases, hideouts and research facilities right below the surface of the public eye's attention.

You'll of course, need some nice equipment. The arms and devices suppied to you in Deus Ex are different than in other games. For one thing, there are the skilled tools- lock picks and multitools, and there are also many different classes of unique weapons that range from throwing knives to the GEP Gun rocket launcher. I found both the stealth approach and combat to both be solid. Think of the stealth elements to be those of Thief, and the combat to be like your basic FPS. It's all great, playable, and a lot of fun.

Multiplayer

While the multiplayer is only available to those who have the Game of the Year Edition or those who have downloaded a multiplayer patch, it's hard to find the original Deus Ex anyway and you're most likely going to get the GOTY. Multiplayer and the community around it is quick changing, but even after six years, there are still a small number of people who play the multiplayer. The reason that players stuck around the multiplayer community for so long is that it is very highly moddable, and players can create their own maps and do just about anything else they want, as the UnrealEditor gives you access to all of the same tools used to make the game itself, including the ability to view source scripts for studying scripters.

Multplayer consists of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, but it's still fast paced and fun, especially with a high number of people playing (Which is hard to find now that the community's main base has died off a bit). The default multiplayer maps bundled with the game are based on levels in the game such as a map based on the Area 51 Hangar part of the game, or Smuggler's lair, but you'll find plenty more custom maps online than originals.

Replay Value
This game has replay value like no other. Deus Ex is a very long game and will take you at least a week to beat even the second time around. The story can have many different outcomes leading up to the end, and there are an infinite amount of ways to play the game depending on which skills and augmentations you choose, as well as there being many different ways to complete objectives as well as side missions. You're definitely going to find something new every time you play this through, wether it's your first or your fifth time around. Not to mention, the multiplayer expands the replayability far beyond the single-player game, and it's moddable and mappable. If you're like many people, you'll have as much fun making and testing your own single and multiplayer levels as you will playing the game.

Final Thoughts

When Deus Ex was released in 2000, it was a great game. And even after six years, it's still worth playing, and still highly enjoyable. You'll never play anything like Deus Ex, and I really recommend that you buy it or download it (legally). You can find it at your discount games store for under ten bucks, or download it online for under twenty, and it's definitely worth it. Driven by a strong storyline, passionate level design, and an overall great concept created by people who love their job, this game is a first person shooter, a roleplaying game, a classic, and the game that was three years of my life.

Features
+ Strong story filled to the brim with age-old conspiracies and corruption
+ Multipath levels that let you choose to be the soldier or the spy
+ This game is no doubt more intelligent than you
+ The replay value is so high you can literally spend however long you like playing the game through and even making your own levels.
+ Graphics are good and well animated
- However, they are a bit dated.
+ The music is unique, and it's a good thing
- The deaths sound horrible
+ Magnificent Lighting


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/06


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