Deus Ex. Just mentioning the game’s name may cause you to want to reinstall and relive this beauty. If you’re looking for something to make any classic PC gamer drool, this is it. Deus Ex is a cyberpunk, first-person RPG that truly oozes and pulsates with gaming goodness. Having won over 40 “Game of the Year” awards, it can be considered a top contenders for best game ever. The real question is, does the game live up to its reputation? Has it aged like a fine, delicate wine? Or is it like the egg salad sandwich you forgot in the company fridge for over a month?
Deus Ex Game Play
Deus Ex was something of a strange beast at its release. It was an genre mash-up between a RPG, FPS, & a stealth game. Putting the three in a blender and passing it onto players was not just novel, it was downright crazy. This game was clearly an RPG first. Deus Ex had 11 skills from which you could choose, each with four different levels to them. The skills themselves were: heavy weapons, pistols, rifles, low-tech (swords, knives, etc…), demolition, environmental training, lock picking (In the year 2052 padlocks are still a thing!), electronic (basically more advanced locks), computer, and swimming. As you complete tasks you can earn skill points, which you put into different areas to improve your character. The game’s true strength lies in that every single skill is viable to level up because each skill is used very often, except swimming–ignore that.
In many other games you’d look for a specific key, lever, or button, and be on your merry way. However, in Deus Ex you’re presented with numerous options. You can pick a lock, bypass it by hacking a pc, knock out a guard and swipe his card, or just blow it up with a rocket launcher.
A large amount of Deus Ex‘s game play is focused around stealth. You are playing the role of what amounts to be a secret agent, after all. The best agents get in and get out while never being seen. Deus Ex’s stealth isn’t as good as Thief’s, but it is certainly workable and fun. You hide in shadows, lean across corners to see the guard’s movements, and then move past when the time is right. The game allows you to move bodies as well, so if you’re forced to dispatch someone, make sure to hide the body or another guard may see him and sound the alarm. There are also silencers, gas grenades, wrist-mounted crossbows (this takes place in 2052, I swear), and many other items to silently and non-lethally deal with an annoying terrorist.
Deus Ex’s combat leaves a bit to be desired. Based upon your skill with a particular firearm, you hover your crosshair over someone, and it slowly becomes smaller. The higher your skill, the faster it shrinks, but unless you’re max rank in that particular weapon category, don’t expect to play the game like a run-and-gun Unreal Tournament-style first person shooter. It is much slower than that, and gives you time to think. Generally taking out your assault rifle and going to town is a last-resort, not to say it isn’t a viable way to play through the whole game. It is simply less rewarding.
Aside from skills, the player will also find nano-augmentation canisters that allow you to choose between a few skills for each part of your body. Your arms can have muscle-speed enhancers put into them to make it so your low-tech weapons now deal more damage. Or instead, you can have nano-machines improve the strength of your muscles, making heavier objects able to be lifted, which opens up new paths in the game. These augmentations can also be upgraded by finding canisters hidden in the game, and leveling them up improves their effectiveness. The augmentation system is fun, well designed, and allows for different avenues of play.
Deus Ex Story
Deus Ex’s story is often met with praise. The year is 2052 and the world is slowly spiraling into disorder and chaos. The rich and poor are separated by massive income differences, with many of the poor living in dilapidated houses, while the rich augment their bodies with cybernetic implants and mechanical devices. The world is being ravaged by a new plague, nicknamed the Grey Death, with no known cure. The only respite from the disease is the vaccine “Ambrosia” that helps to nullify the symptoms, but not cure it. The drug is in high demand, and only the rich and powerful can afford it. This has caused terrorist groups to form, using any means necessary to acquire the vaccine. In response to the terrorist attacks, the UN has formed UNATCO, an anti-terrorist coalition designed to fight against the insurgents, and this is where you the player begins their story.
Deus Ex draws much of its ideas for the future from conspiracy theories; groups such as the Illuminati and the Knights Templar are mentioned. Without giving away anything, the game’s reliance on conspiracy theories is what makes it so interesting. You constantly want to see what happens next, who is in on what, and learn the truth behind it all. The game answers many of these questions, and even leaves a few open for the player to decide. This is intriguing, rather than seeming like lazy writing.
The world building is practically unmatched, with only games in the Elder Scrolls series surpassing it. There are books to read, newspapers to pick up, and computers to hack into with plenty of emails to peruse. You feel like you’re in a realistic world–one that is harsh and unforgiving, but realistic nonetheless. The game also does a wonderful job of explaining what is happening in the world without breaking immersion. In some games, you are playing as a citizen of a kingdom, but can still ask “WHO IS THE KING!?” to someone, and look like a complete idiot. In Deus Ex you’ll find newspapers that reference past events briefly, but give enough information that your brain fills in the rest, and the introduction does a good job of getting you up to speed.
Deus Ex Music
Deus Ex’s third strong suit is definitely its music. It is atmospheric, funky, and futuristic, all while conveying strong emotions. The above theme is the UNATCO theme, a mixture of electronic, jazz, and a bit of techno all rolled together, much like how the game itself mashes up genres. Deus Ex’s music is the kind that sticks with you, giving you goose bumps while listening. The music also subtly shifts for the situation when you’re talking to someone, enter into combat, or move to another level.
Deus Ex Graphics
Deus Ex‘s weak point is its graphics. Having not aged well, or ever being great to begin with, making out details onscreen can get confusing. The game does have a great atmosphere infused into the story, making the sub-par graphics tolerable.
Deus Ex Review Summary
The writing of this review gave me a chance to reflect back to my time with Deus Ex. Does it live up to its reputation? The answer is a resounding yes. Deus Ex is the epitome of gaming, a true classic in every sense. It still feels amazing & hooks you in immediately until the end. Deus Ex’s few problems stop it from achieving the perfect score, but this game is hardly a letdown. Some low res textures, bad voice acting, and dark levels hardly detract from the fun and experience of the game. The game may not be perfect, but it’s damn close.
- Excellent game play
- Fantastic level design
- Amazingly interesting story
- Many game play options, choices, and styles
- Terrible one-liners
- A thinking man’s game
- Wonderful music
- Horrible voice-acting for non-main characters
- Muddled graphics that can make some things hard to see
- First level does a poor job of representing the rest of the game
- Combat feels a bit shallow, especially at low skill ranks
4.5/5 Gep Guns
Recommendations for Games Like Deus Ex
If you’ve played Deus Ex, and are looking for more games to play, I also recommend Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II for more stealth game play goodness. You can even check out the recent 2011 sequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution on PC/PS3/Xbox 360, though I’d try to avoid Deus Ex: Invisible War. It’s not terrible, but it really is the worst in the series.
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