Review by Denouement

"Deus Ex: Fun and Addictive"

As one of the top games of 2000, Deus Ex is a huge hit that has spawned both a definite sequel, and a port to the next-generation consoles. The popularity of this game is based on its somewhat revolutionary and unique combination of shoot-em-up and stealth action, along with a great storyline. The game, while not known for sheer frame rate or detail, forces you to appreciate its graphics for their artful, story-setting nature. Deus Ex is certainly worthy of the accolade many have awarded it: top PC game, all genres, of 2000.

CONCEPT (10/10)
Deus Ex is clearly a first-person shooter, and shows influences of games like Quake in its fighting engine. However, its creators have added a deep and intriguing story. To me, it is reminiscent of the way Metal Gear Solid introduced tactical action to most people. Not only does it include tactical, stealth-based missions, it also incorporates the kind of deep plot and storyline that were missing from some previous FPS games for the PC. Even beyond that, you will find as your character develops that his strengths and weaknesses can be adjusted in a manner suggestive of an RPG like Diablo II.

The world of Deus Ex is a somewhat apocalyptic one. The governments of the world have collapsed and the main forces in the world are various terrorist/military factions, versus the powerful UNATCO agency. Just as you would suspect, in a game of this depth, few characters are purely good or bad, though there are obvious heroes and clear villains by the end. Still, you can never be sure what will happen next.

In the game, you are JC Denton, a UN agent sent out to deal with some terrorists. I won't spoil it, but it is a thriller style plot, like something out of a good spy movie. The endless twists, double-crossings, and intrigues will leave you breathless and begging for more. Your mission will take you around the world and into locations both seedy and dangerous.

GAMEPLAY (10/10)
The storyline of Deus Ex has literally dozens of back cuts and different routes you can take. As far as FPS games go, it is the ultimate example of a ''nonlinear'' storyline. Will you go for a front on assault? Will you try to sneak your way past the guards? Or will you choose a completely different place to make your entry? Deus Ex has all the bases covered for whatever choice you make. Game controls are basic, but fluid; simply aim and shoot with the mouse, simple as that. I can't comment on other controller setups, i.e. joystick etc. Other functions are controlled from a central menu that operates on a well designed tab-based system. Most objects in the game can be manipulated, though only your actual weapons can be used for fighting; you can't lob a sofa at a guard and expect him to fall down, it will just bounce off him.

The character development scheme, however, deserves special attention because it is somewhat unique among FPS games. First, you learn certain skills, including weapon proficiencies, by using skill points you build up during the game. You also have a large initial allotment of skill points, so you have an immediate opportunity for major customization--if you like shooting, improve a weapon skill; if you like stealth, you might pick a lock picking or computer skill to open locked doors. Aside from skills, there is a second development system, in which you improve your physical skills, called the ''augmentation'' method. As the game progresses, you can gain improved physical skills that allow you to beat harder and harder obstacles and enemies. The two different systems, both pretty original and well conceived, are high points of the game.

The graphics here are somewhat mediocre and won't wow you with their quality. They don't have anything horribly wrong--no jaggies, and your character won't half disappear into a solid wall. They are just somehow lacking a certain pizzazz that would send them over the top. Part of the reason for this is a pervasive blandness, especially in the textures of your surroundings. There is a definite sameness to everything. This feeling is heightened by the fact that all furniture looks the same; every chair-on-wheels and sofa in the game has exactly the same design. It's a minor flaw, and certainly doesn't affect the gameplay, but one the developers shouldn't have overlooked.

Deus Ex has a dark feeling to it. The entire game takes place at night, under spotty streetlights, in seedy nightclubs, and shadowy alleys, and they are portrayed perfectly to convey the right atmosphere. The corpses, both friendly and enemy, that litter some areas, left over from earlier confrontations, heighten this feeling. This game's graphics are great not for their technical value, but for their artistic value and contribution to the story. A still screenshot will not portray Deus Ex in an amazing light, but when you are playing you see the true greatness in this game's visual effect.

SOUND & MUSIC (9/10)
The music in this game is a highlight and would work well as a soundtrack for any spy/action movie. Obviously, as in every game, it can get repetitive, as they can only fit so much music on a disc. But, by the standards of video games, it is excellent. Sounds are about what you would expect: different weapon sounds, different sounds when you pick things up and drop them, etc. Ambient noises are also great. Some of the best are on the docks at Liberty Island, in the early moments of the game, when you hear the creaking dock and the waves, and then later in New York City, the sounds really bring the atmosphere to life. But, watch out for your movement sounds, such as your footsteps running through a sewer or subway, as enemies will hear them and come after you.

EXTRA (6/10)
Not much to speak of. No multiplayer in this game. There is a training simulation level where you can learn the mechanics of the game before starting, but it's not really necessary. But I'll throw replay value in under extras, and in this category the game excels. Just think about it. Maybe ten levels, though the game isn't broken up like that, with at least two ways to complete each one. That's two to the tenth power, equals more than 1024 ways to play this game, each time different. Seriously, that would get boring, but it does reflect that fact that once you beat Deus Ex, you WILL come back and play it again.

OVERALL (9/10)
Hopefully you already have this game and are just reading to see what I thought of it. But seriously, this game is an instant classic and might be to the PC what Metal Gear Solid was to the console; a legendary game that is often imitated but never equaled. Other than somewhat iffy graphics, this game wraps up an all-around perfect performance.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/12/02, Updated 04/10/03

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