Review by Goodbye Galaxy
"An amalgamation of everything that is wonderful about videogames."
Combine great first-person action sequences with intense stealth missions and RPG elements. What do you get? Deus Ex.
You play as JC Denton, the second of a new breed of elite agent who has been augmented with nanomachines. The game starts as JC starts his first mission for his employer, the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, or UNATCO. The game is set in a grim future of sorts, where a strange virus known as the Grey Death is running rampant, and the only known vaccine, Ambrosia, is always in short supply. During the first bit of the game, you simply complete missions for UNATCO, but as you progress, the story takes twists and turns involving huge conspiracy theories. You'll travel from New York, to Hong Kong, to Paris, trying to uncover clues pertaining to the mysterious Grey Death, and the masterminds behind it.
The gameplay takes place from a first-person perspective. However, I would hesitate before calling it a first-person shooter because that's not really what the game is about. In most cases, the enemy outnumbers you greatly, and to try to bust in guns-a-blazin' is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Rather, the game focuses on stealth and character interaction. You've got to sneak around corners, through air ducts, and crawl through sewers to get to where you want to go. Also, levels are rarely linear, and usually vast and complex. They're also always full of NPCs for you to interact with. Sometimes they'll just mumble something and ask to be left alone, but other times they'll provide you with clues pertaining to your current mission, or even offer you new missions altogether.
There are also great RPG elements thrown into the mix. As you complete missions, you'll get upgrade points, which you can then spend to enhance one of your attributes. You can make yourself better with certain weapons, or upgrade your computer hacking abilities, or even increase your ability to hold your breath underwater. And you don't just get points for completing missions; you also get points for exploring, and finding secret areas. In fact, Deus Ex is probably the best game for exploring, and you'll want to make sure you do so. Every nook and cranny contains something useful. In addition to upgrading yourself this way, you'll also occasionally find augmentation canisters, which you can install onto yourself to grant new abilities. By the end of the game, JC Denton will be optimized to your playing style.
Each mission almost always has a half-dozen ways of completing it. For instance, say you arrive at a locked door that requires a code to open. You could try to find someone who knows the code, and get them to tell you; or you could try to find a memo to someone with the code written on it; or you could use one of your multi-tools and try to hack your way through the door; or maybe you could just go Rambo-style and blow the door to hell with a couple of missiles.
This game is also one of the few games where your actions actually do have consequences. Some actions you make during the game will affect which characters like you and which hate you. Sometimes, characters will live or die based on what you do. It's never anything that affects the actual gameplay, but rather it affects the role-playing experience. Throughout the game you'll become attached to the characters, so it's actually sad to see one of them die.
The graphics are pretty decent, if perhaps a little dated by now. To give you an idea, they're better than Half-Life, but worse than Halo. The designers did a great job with the art-direction too. You can really tell that the world has gone to hell. Garbage is everywhere, and people look like they're half dead (often, they actually are).
From a sound perspective, the game is excellent and...not so excellent. The soundtrack contains some of the best music ever used in a videogame. The music ranges from intense techno, to epic symphonic stuff. The in-game sound effects are also very well done, adding an excellent layer of ambience. The voice acting, on the other hand, could use some work. Some of it is really well done, but often it's lacking. And when you get to Hong Kong, it's actually laughably bad. I could swear that they just took some random Chinese guy who hardly knew any English, and got him to read the lines. I'm also not a fan of JC's voice...it's a little too macho.
Another gripe about this game is the cramped inventory. This especially becomes an issue when you realize that the rocket launcher takes up about a third of it. I realize that they wanted to limit the amount of goodies you can hold, but it prevented me from keeping things like gas grenades and other fun stuff around. It's a small complaint though, and is thoroughly overshadowed by the game's brilliance.
Deus Ex is one of those rare games that just blow everything else out of the water. Its fantastic use of stealth, action, and RPG elements combined with great exploration and non-linearity makes this game one of the best ever made.
-Rewarded for exploration
-Multiple ways to complete missions
-Voice acting (sometimes)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/06
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