Review by mark24173

"Gaming gets no better"

I've been playing games for 20 years or more, and in simple terms, Deus Ex is one of the three best games I've ever played. Ironically - given that this is basically a PC game - the first time I experienced it was on the PS2, where it immediately made an impression on me. It wasn't until I started playing it on PC, however, that I realised just what an extraordinary game it is.

The first thing which really makes an impression is the phenomenally immersive atmosphere. Designing this game must have been a labour of love for the programming team, because it is so detailed and well put together, it is almost impossible not to get drawn right into the story from the get-go. The first level (excluding the training level) is designed to perfection, letting the player get used to the controls (which are all redefinable) and skills. Whilst it is true that you can play this game any way you want, the early levels are more conducive to a stealthy approach, because JC (your character) doesn't yet have the skills to be an effective fighting machine.

The story is a great, cyber-punk / noir affair which isn't afraid to show its intelligence. It is one of the best stories, probably THE best, in gaming history. It would make a great movie or novel in its own right. What makes the whole experience even better is how many ways you can play through it. Deus Ex features a system in which you can continually upgrade JC's abilities in a number of ways - you could design him to be a master soldier who blasts his way through the game, or a master hacker who uses computers to take out enemies, or a master lockpicker, or a great swimmer who can stay underwater for ever, or any and all combinations of these. In that sense, Deus Ex has literally infinite replay value.

The way you deal with the situations in the game will affect your relationship with the other characters. As just one example, in the beginning mission you have to infiltrate a certain place and capture a rebel leader. Your brother Paul is the first major character you meet in the game and he instructs you to be careful not to kill too many people. Some of the soldiers on your team, however, are more macho and if you follow Paul's advice and avoid or tranquilize most of the enemy guards, your own team will accuse you of being too soft. If you take the other path and massacre everyone, you'll get a pat on the back from some of the soldiers, but Paul won't be impressed. And if you kill the rebel leader (against instructions; you are supposed only to interrogate him) you will get a carpeting from your boss when you return to HQ. This is only one such example of how you interact with the other characters, and this continues throughout the game.

Graphically, Deus Ex of course is a product of its time, but musically it's not. The music fits the game to perfection, giving a generally moody air to the game. It could best be described as darkly ambient, although there are of course faster pieces for fighting scenes.

The writing is wonderful, with a wicked sense of humour here and there (the break room scene with Gunther and the orange juice is brilliant), although for the most part Deus Ex is a pretty serious game which goes into some thought-provoking issues, and does so without lecturing or judging. It's miles and miles ahead of most games' attempts to be profound; maybe only the Metal Gear games can claim a similar level of intellectually challenging material. There is so much to read in the game that it's worth taking it slowly to find as much as you can.

The voice acting is, to be fair, nothing special, but it's not terrible. For the time of its release, the sheer amount of voice acting is astonishing (almost every NPC in the game has a line or two and some have a lot more - and there are hundreds of NPCs). There are a few dodgy accents (the game takes place in several countries) but stacked up against the thousands of virtues this game has, the voice acting is a drop in the bucket as far as complaints go. In fact, I think the voice acting is about the only thing which merits even the slightest complaint.

Deus Ex is one of those timeless games. It plays brilliantly now as it did then, it is mature, intelligent, designed by a phenomenal team, and is one of those games which goes beyond being a great game and becomes instead a great work of art.

As close to perfect as video games will ever get.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/16/10

Game Release: Deus Ex (Game of the Year Edition) (US, 05/08/01)


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