Review by Soliduous
"Best PC game ever made"
Superb. I'm reviewing this in May 2003, and this game was made using an original Unreal Tournament-style engine. This may be the second-greatest videogame ever made (the first being Dynasty Warriors 4, which I unfortunately can't review for Gamefaqs because there are too many entries). Certainly the greatest FPS. I mean, I've played it all (minus Half-Life) and nothing comes close to the depth and fun of Deus Ex.
PRESENTATION - 5
GRAPHICS - 5
Compared to games made today, the Unreal engine is, uh, showing its age. After all, Unreal Tournament 2k3 is out, and games like Zone of the Enders 2 and Splinter Cell have showed us what's coming. Yet enough cool things about this game nets it a total average score.
Still, everything is bright and clear, looks good (despite LOW poly counts) and the HUD system is simply brilliant. It's clear and helpful without obscuring the screen. Furthermore, the menu system(s) are AMAZING. They provide so much information so quickly that I've assigned each one it's own hotkey that I have already memorized. You can even edit notes you've automatically collected, not that I can understand why you would want to do so.
One graphical touch was a proprietary system that automatically links up the voice acting to character lip/teeth movements so it looks like they're actually talking. For a game with such few polygons, the effect is stunningly realistic, and truly keeps you vested emotionally in the game. This also means that if you use the DX level maker to make your own level, you can record voice into it through a microphone and the characters will automatically lip-synch to it.
Indeed, there is so much to touch and play around with everywhere in the Deus Ex world that it's one of the most realistic virtual creations of all time. Virtually everything can be picked up and tossed around, more so if you have Augmented strength installed and activated. There are even pool tables and basketballs that use an early form of rag doll physics to let you ''play.'' Lamps turn on, letting you see better, banking terminals hang from walls, and everything without exception fits into the world as it should be. Example: pretty much every structure in the game has a bathroom (usually one for each gender) not to contain a clue or item (they usually don't), but just because a real hotel would have a bathroom there.
The only other nice graphical touch is the reflections in mirrors and even smooth tile floors. I mean, it really annoys me when modern games have to have every single mirror in the game appear broken just so the programmers don't have to write reflection coding (Splinter Cell!).
Also, all the characters look good and have a distinctive visual personality (except, obviously, for the generic, repeated guys). For a game this old, it's impressive that there are so many different enemy types.
AUDIO - 10
Well, what's there in terms of voices and gunshots, sound just fine. And the music is kinda nifty. But what really sells this category is the boats-and-boats-loads of quality voice acting everywhere in the game. Every single comment any character makes has voice-acting attached to it, and given that this is a game with heavy RPG leanings, that's ALOT. I mean, Deus Ex must have set some kinda record for most minutes of voice acting that still hasn't been broken four years later. And alot of it is pretty good quality. I always look forward to hearing from the major characters, and I love the protagonist's strong, calm voice. Only some of the generic characters have kinda overdone poor accents.
STORY - 10
The storyline concerns a Johnny Mnemonic-world with nano-tech enhanced supersoldiers and terrorist factions. Pay attention to the religious and other symbolism (''JC,'' anyone?) in the game. Much of the story takes its cue from beloved conspiracy theories, and much of the dialogue is a running discourse on political philosophy. Major themes such as Terrorism, Technology, Biowarfare, Individualism, National Sovereignty, International Human Rights, Freedom of Speech/Press, and Civil Disobedience run through the entire game.
In addition to having a superb storyline (which was copied by a bunch of future games), the ubiquity of story elements scattered around the world. Other than the cutscenes, books and newspapers (which yield a paragraph article when clicked) and e-mail correspondences (which must be accessed from a computer using the right username/password), and public news terminals provide constant information about the world around you. You can ignore all of this, but in doing so you'll miss out on a bunch of dramatic-irony-fueled jokes and added storyline bits. It's cool to come into a med lab and read a paragraph from a report on nanotechnology, then go to your boss' office and read his guidelines for interacting with local police.
Another amazing and unique feature of Deus Ex is the fact that your actions have consequences. Kill someone, and his friends will attack you. Kill many people, and the more pacifistic members of your team will refuse to help you out. Kill no one, and the more aggressive members of your team will mock you. Most conversations have choices that make the game part Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Finally, there are three endings.
I love so many of the characters; they're great to talk to. On your first playthrough, you'll see alot of the surprises coming because each major event leaves consequences and clues in logical places. Other times, you'll slap yourself and say, ''I shoulda seen this coming!'' Talking to NPC's fills you in on what's been happening, suggests a sub-quest, lets you purchase things, or just kills time.
CONTROLS - 10
Deus Ex plays like a first-person shotter.
The cool thing is how many things you can do, even though the control scheme isn't at all confusing. You can lean to the side with the easily-accessible Q and E buttons. The Right mouse button activates pretty much anything in the world, picks up bodies, crates, and collects objects, AND puts away anything in your hands. The mouse wheel switches weapons, and the third mouse button drops objects (you can only carry so much). The upper two rows of keys control your special upgrades and the extensive (but very easy-to-use) menu system.
Deus Ex's manual is ...well, nonexistent. You won't need one. Everything needed to play the game and play it well is in the game itself. Between the ease of play, the wonderful menu system, and the advice characters and books yield, you won't have any problems.
CAMERA - 4
It's a standard first-person view for a FPS. You kinda have to give most FPS's an average score because the first-person viewpoint looks the same for all of them. My only complaint is that you can't switch to thier-person view, not that you would want that.
FEEL - 10
As you've gathered, I really enjoyed controlling this character. Everything is easily-accessible, and I absolutely love interacting with this living, breathing world.
GAMEPLAY - 10
MECHANICS - 10
Deus Ex is often described as an RPG. This is because your character tailors his play style based on which upgrades he chooses.
There are 3 tiers of skill development:
1) There is a basic set of skills selectable from the start of the game. You start with just a few experience points, and you get more each time you complete a primary or secondary goal (there's a useful goals menu screen) or access a ''secret'' area. These include things like the 4 different categories of weapons (improving them improves the damage such weapons do and reduces the weapon spread), swimming, lockpicking (reduces the number of lockpicks it takes to open the same locked door), electronics (same as lockpicking, but for multitools opening security-encrypted doors), swimming, using temporary armor/hazard suits, hacking (lets you TEMPORARILY access security panels and rob ATM's...but unless it's upgraded, you won't have enough time to read someone else's e-mails), etc.
2) Then there are nanotech Augmentations, which are permanently installed components. You find these very occasionally (although 3 at once twice in the game), and you should have everything available by the fifth level. Each Aug canister (you need a Medbot to install them) gives you a choice of two powers. You may choose one or the other but not both. Activating one of these uses up Biolectric power, which must be replenished either through collectible cells or a rare Recharge bot. These include:
Infolink - default, allows ppl. to contact you midmission
IFF - default, the cursor will change green for allys, red for enemies, and white for neutral.
Light - flashlight eyes, minimal energy usage
Speed/Jumping power OR Run Silent
Lift Heavy Objects OR Melee Weapon Strength
Environmental Resistance OR Aqualung
Energy Shield OR Regeneration
Temporarily Make another Aug more powerful OR reduce total Energy usage
Cloak OR Radar Transparency
Ballistic Protection OR EMP Shield
Vision Enhancment OR Targeting
Detonate Enemies' Rockets Early OR Spy Drone
Which Augs you install depends on your play style and which enemies you fear most. You'll often find that Augs you scoffed at end up possibly being very important.
In addition to the Augs themselves, there are Aug Upgrade canisters which you can use to improve the effect of most of the Augmentations.
3) Finally, there are weapon modifications that you find in the game every so often. These can add a scope or laser sight to the chosen gun, or improve its range, clip size, recoil, or balance.
What's amazing about this system is how it lets you build your character the way you want to. For example, by choosing the heavy object lifting Aug and the Run/Jump Aug, I've been able to solve many of the puzzles of the game through platforming. Had I gone the other way with those choices, I could have used Run Silent to sneak up to an unsuspecting enemy and then Melee Weapon Strength to take him down with one blow from a baton.
The name of the game is Limitations. Since your inventory menu can only carry so much, you have to choose weapons you like and improve them. I carry a melee sword, a HEAVILY modded pistol, a Rocket Launcher, and a Flame thrower. With Advanced Pistol and every possible mod attached, it's equally useful in close ranges and (with the scope and laser sight) sniping. The flame thrower takes care of buches of enemies running up steps to aid their comrades. The rocket launcher is for heavy robots and blowing open doors (I never upgraded my lockpicking/electronics skill...otherwise, I'd run out of lockpicks).
The next time I play, I'll upgrade and mod an assault rifle, try out the plasma gun, and the sniper rifle. There are also shotguns and minicrossbows and throwing knives...oh, my! Don't be fooled by all the upgrading, Deus Ex is still a first-person shooter at heart. What TYPE of FPS depends on what type you want to make it. Many guns have alternate ammo (the crossbow has flare/normal/tranq darts, and the rocket launcher has an alternate rocket that spews a gas that lights humans on fire).
Basically, there are four ways to deal with enemies in the game:
1) Run and gun, my favorite method. With the Aug-improver and Ballistic Protection on, I can stand there, take hits, and slowly pick off enemies at leisure (although you run out of Bioelecticity REAL fast, so I only use them up when there's a recharge bot nearby--and medbots help).
2) Stealth. If you throw out bottles/crates (or much better, long-lasting flares) out, you can attract enemies to a location while you sneak by them. It's helpful if you have Cloak (Radar Transparency works much better, though, against the more dangerous security system) and Run Silent. Deus Ex may not have the shadow-creating capabilities of Splinter Cell or the disguise-using abilities of Hitman 2, but it's enemy-invisible viewcone based stealth aspects are fully funcitonal; Bots and acoustic sensors even react differently than humans. It's fully possible to beat the whole game without killing a single person, and players have proven it.
3) Ninja-style: combining Stealth and Violence, sneak up to enemies and kill them, then drag their bodies into the shadows.
4) Intellect. In many cases, you can take over turrets or other bots and get them to attack your enemies. Fun!, but not always reliable.
LEVEL DESIGN - 9
Excellent. Each level is open-ended and allows you 3 ways to accomplish each task.
Levels are Hitman 2-style open and make for excellent replayability. You can usually go back to areas you've beaten, and you often have to.
Another amazing choice is that, although upgrades can be very useful, the developers have ensured that no player ever needs to have a specific skill/Aug to beat a level or even a portion of a level.
Let's say I come to a locked door. I can pick the lock, and the higher my lockpicking skills, the fewer lockpicks I'll need. Alternatively, I could search around the level for a character who will give me lock code on my nanokeyring. Or (my favorite), I can attack a grenade/mine to the door and use my pistol to blow it (and anything near it) wide open. Or, you could hack a nearby security terminal and open the door electronically. Or, I can get inside the room through vents or another way. Or, I can forget the door altogether and get what I need somewhere else. It's all in how you choose to play, which is not to say that the game is easy, but it is fun. It's WONDERFUL to play a game where you're never ignorant of where to go next, not because it's easy, but because there's always another way.
ENEMIES - 9
Nice. There's a good assortment of standard FPS-baddies programmed to allow for stealth and killer robots. Humans will die with just about anything, and you can often knock them unconscious (should you wish to curry favor with the more human NPC's) with riot prods, gas grenades, pepper spray, and tranquilizer crossbow darts. Robots can have their insides scrambled with EMP grenades, a special grenade that makes them attack other bots, or occasionally the right security terminal. Unlike humans, robots need explosive weapons to kill.
REPLAY - 10
Given the multiple endings, character customization, and multifaceted levels, you can play the game through at least three times and get totally different experiences.
There's also a level editor, although a never mess with that.
Finally, is multiplayer in a vareity of modes. You've got deathmatch and team dm with Augs at the beginning, based on kills, or not at all, etc. Personally, I think the MP mode of DX is kinda a wash given that there are better multiplayer modes out there (Battlefield 1942, Unreal Tournament 2k3) but it's good if you like the original Unreal Tournament.
You MUST play this game somehow. It's that good. Put down Enter the Matrix, Wolverine X2, and check out this true classic.
Part First Person Shooter, part Immersive Role Playing Simmulation, part Stealth game, part Inventroy Management, part Platforming Game, part Psychology Exam, part Futuristic Vision, part Choose Your Own Adventure Book, part Conspiracy Novel, with Multiplayer modes aplenty. This game has it all and does it all well. There is no need to play any other video game until the sequel comes out.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/26/03, Updated 06/08/03
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