Review by Bkstunt_31
Prope Perficio: Nearly Perfect
God from the Machine...
A decade is a LONG time, especially in the PC gaming world. Many games can't stand that sort of "test of time". With the recent release (and raving reviews) of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, my interest in the Deus Ex series was sparked anew. I have heard MANY good things about Deus Ex in the past and even started it up years ago but just couldn't get into it. Well, now I've beaten the game entirely and I'm ready to tell you if Deus Ex is worth your time!
Never Trust "The Man".
You take on the role of JC Denton, a heavily augmented human soldier working for UNATCO (The UN's world-wide security force). The world has both grown substantially in technology (you ARE essentially sporting several nano-technology systems throughout your body after all) and has been cursed with a deadly virus: the Gray Death. The Gray Death soon spread world-wide and although a cure was bound (named "Ambrosia"), it is in such short supply that the UN is essentially only giving it to certain individuals and military personnel while leaving the common man to suffer. Naturally, several rebellious groups have sprung up as a result of the controlled Ambrosia. One group, the NSF, has taken over the Tower of Liberty and it's your first assignment to infiltrate the grounds and apprehend their leader.
Ok, so you have this dystopian future with a universal plague and a limited cure. A pretty good setting, right? Well to add even more suspense and thrills, the world of Deus Ex is FULL of conspiracy. You'll encounter MANY corporations that each have their own dirty little secrets. However, what makes Deus Ex's setting so memorable is how immersive it aspires to be. Throughout the game you'll come across newspapers, public message terminals, and even books that shed light on world events. However as you get deeper into the game and start to unravel what is happening, Deus Ex starts to delve into more personal and philosophical issues such as governmental models and the meaning of humanity (which is especially relevant to JC).
The overall game story is quite good, with plenty of corruption and a nice stream of significant revelations to uncover. However, the game could have been so much more. While the game does offer you THREE unique endings, all of the choices that you must make to achieve these endings happen SO LATE IN THE GAME that you can easily see them all by replaying the game's last 30 minutes. That seems like a poor design choice given how the game plays out. For example, you could spread out the CRITICAL game-ending choices well before the game's final area, and there were PLENTY of critical junctures that would have been PERFECT for that. Don't get me wrong though: I'm just TRYING to find something wrong with the story at all and that's the BIGGEST thing I can think of (which isn't a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination). Overall, the story is quite good, immersing you into an intriguing future and letting you uncover the truth for yourself.
Variety is the spice of life.
One of the defining features of Deus Ex is its emphasis on game play variety... what variety there is anyways. Deus Ex is essentially a first-person shooter, but it packs in so much more than that. You have an inventory menu divided into boxes where you can store stuff. You have objectives as well as side-objectives that award you skill points upon completion. You have Skills as well as several Abilities (most courtesy of your augmentation). Heck, ever your augmentations can be LEVELED UP, so you can see that there's a strong RPG presence at work here.
Now I said "what variety there is anyways" up there for a reason: there's a FEW levels of variety in Deus Ex. In the actual GAME PLAY, you can often choose between the "brute force" path or the "stealth" path. Of course, there is no "Best" path (the "Best" way to play is somewhere between the two) and you can win through either choice. With these option in mind, many of the game's skills will help you specialize in either brute force or stealth. Of course, the game's levels are also designed with this in mind: you'll often have to reach a certain location to complete an objective and almost always you'll find MULTIPLE paths to get there. Usually these are just a "front door" path which is usually heavily guarded and the "back door" path which sometimes requires INVENTIVE manipulation of the game's environment and stealth. Sometimes it's a mix of both! Of course the game also has camera's, gun turrets, and various mechanical devices that attempt to corral you or keep you out of certain areas, but even most of these are by-passable thanks to lock-picks and multi-tools. Overall, to actually REACH your objectives you really only have TWO choices: Force or Stealth, which isn't what most people would call "variety".
However, most of the game's real variety comes into your choices. After all, you will only get so many skill points: what are you going to spend them on? Also, Augmentations are handled on a "per body part" basis. For example, you can augment your torso, but you have to pick ONE out of TWO AVAILABLE augmentations, meaning you're always going to have to pick and choose your abilities. Then there's the problem of what abilities you're going to level up first. Deus Ex really does offer a lot of choices, even if some of them (like the "front door/back door" choices) are a bit repetitive at times.
The core game is still a blast to play, primarily due to the excellent programming and attention to detail. Helpful items can be found literally anywhere. You can damage enemies in several body parts (Torso, Head, Arms, Legs...). There is also a plethora of computers and mechanical gadgets to tinker with that can greatly help or hinder you. The attention to detail can make or break you, leading to some very addictive game play. There is very little to complain about in Deus Ex game play wise, however the addition of a standard SHOP and the ability to SELL ITEMS would have done wonders for the game...
A secret in every corner...
Being over a decade old, you may balk at playing the game due to the graphics alone... after all, we've made a LOT of graphical improvements in our games in the last 10 years. Well don't fret my friend, Deus Ex is STILL a good-looking game that has stood the test of time. In fact, thanks to the wonderful attention to detail, you will LOVE exploring the world of Deus Ex. There are PLENTY of secrets and hidden items to find, and scouring the world will greatly help you in your quest since lock-picks and multi-tools are in limited supply.
We've already touched on how the developers made the game world to give you a variety of choices on HOW to reach your target, meaning that there are multiple paths everywhere you go, but we never really touched on the world itself. Being set in the future, the game world looks a lot like a bleaker technology-riddled present. However, the game loads in areas, meaning that you'll often have a HUB area with a bunch of areas connected to it. Most of the game's areas are PRETTY LINEAR, albeit with many side-paths and secrets to find. The game is smart about it's levels too: enemies can HEAR you if you aren't crouching, and certain materials that you walk on are louder than others (more of that "attention to detail" that gamers lover). The lighting throughout the game is spectacular as well as many of the areas throughout the game are . I also really enjoyed the character design throughout the game: NPC's are interesting as are the enemy designs. I mean, if you went and played through the game today you can tell that it is dated graphically, but it will still be enjoyable and it is FANTASTIC for being over a decade old.
The weakest link?
The sound-track in Deus Ex is a mixed bag in my mind. On one hand you have some GREAT songs here. A lot of the tracks (like 'The Synapse') are downright catchy, but there are also quite a few tracks that are just there, seeming to be too mellow to notice or care about. It balances out to be an enjoyable listening experience though, with most of the tracks fitting the games setting. Personally, I was reminded a LOT of the SNES game Shadowrun when I was playing, which has a similar setting and quite a few catchy tunes itself.
The voice acting in the game is fairly average. JC himself is pretty plain, and naturally that's who you're going to hear the most of. The other voices are fairly plain as well, even with the varied nationalities you'll encounter.
For a "first-person shooter", this game has average voice acting and sound effects with an above-average soundtrack (I don't usually expect a good soundtrack from shooters). Even if I consider the audio to be the "weakest link" of the game and then say the soundtrack is above average, what's that say about the rest of the game!?
The joy is in the journey!
For those of us who like to get the MOST our of our games, Deus Ex, being the game of choices that is, offers some built-in re-playability. Trying out new paths, skills, and augmentations is the main attraction of playing a second play-through, naturally. Like I said in the beginning of the review, the game DOES feature three different endings, but you can easily see them all by replaying the last half-hour of the game, which is disappointing. Still, with the amount of choices that are built into the game, you can play through it again in a drastically different way than your first time.
Being over a decade old also help's with another thing: price. You can easily find Deus Ex at most of the online digital game provider sites (think Steam) for $10 or less, which is a good deal considering how many hours you can get out of this game if you tried. My first play-through clocked in at around 24 hours! So as you can imagine, you'll get your money's worth out of this game if you wanted to.
Overall: 9/10 (Outstanding, Almost Perfect)
With it's addicting game play, conspiracy-filled story, gritty setting, and choices galore Deus Ex is a game that you just plain shouldn't miss out on. It takes a while to sink its teeth into you, but once you play for a few hours you won't want to stop. It may have taken me a decade to play through it, but I can clearly see that it is a CLASSIC game, and if you haven't played it yet and are even remotely interested in it you shouldn't hesitate to pick it up. It won't disappoint. Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Deus Ex (US, 06/23/00)
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