Review by Zarvok

"Deus Ex; Also known as 'Crack 2: The Addiction Continues'"

My theory about Deus Ex is that the people over at Ion Storm were experimenting with creating some sort of ultra-addictive drug and instead accidentally created Deus Ex. This game held me firmly in its forceful yet pleasant grasp from the moment I picked it up until I completed the third ending, never letting me move from my seat to eat, sleep, or even make a bathroom run. Here is why…

STORY - 10/10
As the game opens, it is revealed that the main character (you) is a man by the name of JC Denton. You and your brother, Paul Denton, are the first two test subjects in the new “nano-augmentation” process. This basically means that you have all kinds of special abilities (which will be described in more detail later) and a radio-like device in your head that allows you to communicate with anyone who has the proper equipment.

In the game, other types of augmentation have been around for a while. These types of augmentation do essentially the same things as your nano-augmentations, but there is one major difference. Your nano-augmentations are virtually invisible, whereas the old types of augmentations are very visible, and people with them basically look half human and half machine. As you quickly find out, this causes many people with the old augmentation type to be jealous of you and your brother.

JC and Paul Denton work for an anti-terrorist organization called UNATCO. UNATCO is partially under the control of the US government, but not completely. Paul has had the nano-augmentations for longer than you, and has been with UNATCO for a while. You, on the other hand, have just had the augmentations installed recently and when the game starts, you are on your first UNATCO mission. UNATCO is closely observing you and Paul as test subjects of this new technology.

A new plague, known only as the “Gray Death,” has descended upon the world and no cure for it has been discovered. The only treatment is a regular dose of a rare medicine called ambrosia. UNATCO is hard at work protecting the US’s supply of ambrosia from several terrorist groups as the game starts.

I can’t really say anything more about what happens without spoiling this game’s incredible story. With more plot twists in every hour of gameplay than you can shake a stick at, it is no wonder that people all over the place are raving about the stunning work of art we call Deus Ex.

GAMEPLAY - 9/10
Deus Ex’s gameplay is another one of its many strong points. On the surface, Deus Ex looks like a first person shooter. The familiar viewpoint of a FPS (first person view with your hand and current weapon in sight) is indeed the main view for much of the game. This confuses many gamers, who only take a quick look at it, into thinking that it is nothing more than your standard FPS with a little bit of plot thrown in. This, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

First of all, even when you are moving about the world in this FPS view, there are frequent cut scenes and conversations where you move into third person view and are treated to interesting voice acting. During these interactions with other characters, you are often given options as to what to do and say. The choices you make further develop your character and other characters will see you differently depending on the choices you make. These choices can completely change the course of the game.

These frequent conversations allow for a spectacular RPG-like story development where the player gains a real feel for what is going on in the world and how it is affecting the people. These are not the only RPG elements, however. We also see systems that are similar to the experience point and character customization techniques found in RPGs. JC Denton is able to upgrade his augmentation systems by collecting augmentation canisters that provide him with new abilities, and upgrade canisters to upgrade the abilities you choose. Every augmentation canister fits into one “slot,” and when you use the canister, you are given the option of two distinct augmentations to put in that slot. For example, upon finding the augmentation canister for the eyes, you will have the option of installing the Targeting augmentation, which helps you lock in on targets and provides information about targeted enemies, or the Vision Enhancement augmentation, which allows you to see in the dark and use infrared imaging.

These augmentations are upgradeable to higher levels with upgrade canisters. At higher levels, the augmentations do better things. For example, at higher levels, the Targeting augmentation allows you to zoom in closer to an enemy and gain more info about that enemy, and the Vision Enhancement augmentation allows you to see through some walls at higher levels. Most augmentations can be upgraded four times, but there aren’t enough upgrade canisters to upgrade them all, so the player has to make a decision on which is more important.

In addition to being able to upgrade augmentations, JC’s proficiency at different weapons and skills can be upgraded by using “skill points.” There are several classes of weapon proficiencies that can be upgraded, like heavy weapons and melee weapons. In addition to this, skill points can be used to upgrade JC’s proficiency at a number of interesting skills, like computer hacking, lock picking, and swimming. Skill points are awarded for several things, including completing important objectives and for exploration. The game encourages exploration of its massive areas through this and many other techniques, giving it an adventure feel at some points.

This adventure feel is increased by the amazing amount of interactivity included in the game. You can do something with almost everything you can see. TVs can be turned on, ATMs can be hacked, newspapers and books can be read, and soda and candy machines actually dispense candy and soda.

Another unique feature of Deus Ex is how many different possible solutions there are to each individual task. For example, whenever you are trying to get from one place to another, you will always have the choice of several different routes. You have the option of trying to kill all the enemies you come across and blow down all the doors, you have the option of sneaking past the enemies and finding the hidden keys and passcodes that allow you to move from one area to another, and you also usually have the option of finding alternate routes, as there are often ventilation shafts and crawlspaces to move from place to place in. In addition, there are other smaller differences in the way you solve problems. The choices you make as to what you say and do when interacting with other characters in the game will change how the world sees you, and this has a surprisingly large effect on what happens in the game.

I personally feel that the combination of these elements from so many different genres makes this game a truly unique and exciting gaming experience.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND - 7/10
As many people point out about this game, the graphics are not exactly the best around, nor were they when the game came out. I, however, find that when I am playing a game this is often not quite as important as most people make it out to be. The graphics in Deus Ex are not spectacular, but they also are not so bad as to cause me enjoy the game less, so I can’t give them too low of a score. I was impressed in several portions of the game by the huge areas like New York City that are done in great detail. This is certainly not the case for the whole game though, and I could almost feel the designers rushing to get the graphics done as I watched their quality decline over the course of the game.

The sound in this game was very impressive. First of all, every single character in the game had every single one of his or her lines voice-acted. There are few sections of the game where the accents aren’t done so well and the voice acting isn’t spectacular, but it isn’t really bad enough to detract from the impressiveness of everything in the game being voice-acted. As far as sound effects go, they seemed pretty realistic to me. I don’t regularly infiltrate secret bases or fire machine guns, but I was impressed with how well the effects fit my mental picture of how things should sound.

Deus Ex’s musical score is what really impressed me about its sound. I don’t know who composed the music for this game, but they deserve several very large cookies. There is a large number of songs in the game that you are almost guaranteed to be humming for weeks after you beat it.

REPLAYABILITY - 7/10
As I said earlier, there are multiple ways through every mission, and this means that you will never see everything if you play through only once or twice. The number of areas that I never saw on my first time through really surprised me when I played through it again, and so I definitely recommend playing through this one at least twice. The game does advertise having three endings, and indeed three distinct endings do exist. The only problem with this is that it isn’t done very well. You only have to make a choice about which ending to take about 20 minutes from the end of the game. Because of this oversight, a simple save file at the point where you must make a decision allows you to get all three endings without playing through again. All three endings are very much worth viewing though, and would be well worth another play through if it was required.

DIFFICULTY
This game is not an easy one. Even on the easy levels, you will die many times on your way through it. This would be a real bummer if it was because of slow control or impossible AI, but it isn’t. The game is difficult because of the nature of the activities involved in beating it, not because the computer cheats or anything like that. It is always perfectly fair, and with enough practice, you probably could get through it easily. I feel that this difficulty really adds a sense of heart-pounding excitement to the game, which only serves to make it more fun.

CONCLUSION:
With such a captivating story and addictive gameplay, Deus Ex should be on everyone’s “must have” list. I recommend this game to all gamers out there, regardless of what their preferred genre is, as this game encompasses all genres in its fascinating uniqueness.

Pros
- Incredible Story
- Great Music
- Unbelievably fun/addictive

Cons
- Hard to find a multiplayer server
- Uhh… It costs money?

Overall (not an average): 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/09/01, Updated 08/09/01


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