Deus Ex is definitely a unique and interesting game. Developed by Ion Storm and released in 2000, it is a game that was the first to do a lot of things, and was praised for doing them, but has never been properly replicated or built upon. Hopefully the soon-to-be-released Deus Ex: Human Revolution will remedy this. I am not the most qualified person to write about this game. During it's day, I had never even heard of it, and the nearly universal approval of the game had only reached my ears a few years ago. I purchased it during a Steam sale some time ago, but I never got around to it for whatever reason.
I had the chance to play that preview build of Human Revolution that has been floating around, and having thoroughly enjoyed that, playing the original Deus Ex jumped up on my priorities list. This has put me in a weird situation, because even though Deus Ex is considered “ahead of its time,” to me it seems more like it was just a game that did things differently. It is just a game that had a lot of interesting and unique ideas, but it is still a game from 2000 running on the first Unreal Engine. The controls are a bit odd, and it takes a bit to adjust to the more old-school type of game that it is.
Just describing the game and its systems is difficult because there is just so much to it, but I'll do what I can. Wikipedia defines it as a science fiction action RPG FPS, which isn't wrong, but encompasses so many things it sort of loses meaning. It has a science fiction setting based around near-future technologies, such as nanotechnology, and a dystopian world that has problems with a society falling apart and conspirators grasping for control. It features a complicated story with a bunch of twists that take the main character, JC Denton, all over the world.
There are a great deal of RPG that are derived from earlier PC RPGs, but are applied in a lot of new ways. At the beginning of the game the player is given five thousand Skill Points to assign to various skills, such as weapon proficiencies, medical ability, and hacking. These skills determine how well JC can do things in the game and are largely responsible for successful the player may be when taking a certain approach to completing objectives. The player is rewarded for doing various things with skill points. There are also nano-augmentations that are given to the player rarely and grants specific abilities that are not otherwise available. Other RPG staples present are an inventory system for items, a monetary system for purchasing them, and a dialogue system for hearing from and interacting with NPCs..
Even with all these RPG systems, the Deus Ex's main form play is that of an FPS. In order to get accurate shots, the player needs to stand still and keep the reticule on the target, which causes the reticule that represents where the shots could land to shrink. This, along with the general ease of getting killed, discourages the more mindless run-and-gun play style of most FPSs and benefits a more tactical or stealth approach. Of course, with the proper skill and nano-aug distribution it is possible to play the game in that way. That, essentially, is the joy of Deus Ex. With the proper setup, the player can go through the game in nearly any way he or she may choose, and there are enough vents to crawl in and things to hack to allow for a lot of different choices.
When I played it was my intention to play stealthily and murderously, so I focused on melee weapons, which can be used to silently dispatch enemies. I would take my time, watch patrol routes, and sneak up on terrorists when they were alone and bashed their skulls in with a crowbar. For groups, I would blast them with pepper spray or a gas grenade, then bashed their skulls in with a crowbar. It wasn't a perfect system, but it got me through things well enough. I probably should have taken some other technical skills in order to get me around security systems though.
|Well, that was almost as embarrassing as not having played Deus Ex until 2011.|
The most impressive thing about Deus Ex is the way it handles choice. It isn't a binary system of good versus evil, where the choice is between petting a kitten or raping it, like so many games still do today, but a more subtle reaction to the way the player acts. There are small things like JC's boss telling him to quit bursting into the women's restroom, but also big things like getting chewed out for senselessly murdering a bunch of people. There were a few times when the game reacted to choices I wasn't aware I was making. Like, I was out exploring when I was supposed to be doing some mission, and when I finally got back to where I was supposed to be, the people I was working with were quite upset that they had to do the job on their own because I was off dicking around. I admire a game that can make me feel like an asshole, even if that wasn't my intention, it is what I was doing.
Deus Ex is just a really interesting game, but I have a hard time getting into it because I played that leaked build of Human Revolution first, and it feels dated by comparison. I know it's not really fair, but considering that Human Revolution incorporates almost all of the stuff that I like about the original, but puts it into a more modern package with a more modern feel and downright gorgeous art design, then that's just what I'd rather play. Also the cybernetic augmentation thing is right up my Ghost in the Shell-loving alley. Still, I have a lot respect for Deus Ex, and it does a lot cool and unique stuff that somehow managed to not be copied a multitude of times since its release.