Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Alright. Time for a RETRO review! I am extremely excited for Deus Ex: Human Revolution (coming out in August), so while I wait for that to come out, I've been playing its predecessor, Deus Ex, which came out for the PC back in 2000. Deus Ex is a game that I've seen pop up on Top 10 lists of awesome games for a while (notably there are many people that would place Deus Ex as the best game of all time), but never got around to playing until now. And to put it really briefly, I have to say that it deserves the praise. Without further ado, here we go!

The long version:
Deus Ex is a PC game released in 2000, its gameplay mixes elements from first person shooters, role playing games, and adventure games. In Deus Ex, you play as JC Denton, a new member of UNATCO, an international counter-terrorist agency. You are the second UNATCO agent to have nanobot augmentations (the norm at this point is mechanical augmentation), the first being your brother Paul. A plague called the Gray Death has been sweeping the world, and the limited quantities of vaccine (called Ambrosia) available mean that the rich and powerful are given preference. The game begins with you being sent to retrieve a shipment of Ambrosia that was stolen by the NSF, a terrorist organization. As you recover the shipment, you begin to uncover evidence of a grand conspiracy out to take over the world, and your quest for the truth will ultimately determine the fate of the world. Looking back, there aren't actually very many twists in the plot, but I still found the story incredibly compelling. There isn't a strict morality system, but playing through this game has made me think through some difficult philosophical questions, much more so than any other game I've played.
However, the story is not perfect. There's a point in the game where the player has to make an important choice. It felt like the story should have branched somewhat at this point, but the next segment of the game is the same regardless of what you choose to do, which was somewhat disappointing. There are three possible endings, but all three options are thrust upon the player very suddenly in the last level. There isn't much throughout the main plot that suggests at these options, and the characters that offer you these choices don't react very much when you don't obey their plan, which makes the final decision lose a bit of its impact.

While Deus Ex may not have a morality system, the core focus of the game is about making choices through gameplay. There are always multiple ways to approach the objective at hand, and the player can play the game however they want to, whether it's charging in guns blazing or sneaking quietly around all the enemies. Supplementing this extremely flexible level design is an RPG like skill system, which lets JC become progressively better at what he does. However, keeping with the theme of player choice, the amount of skill points accessible to the player is limited, so the player will have to decide which skills will be more crucial to their style of play (for example, the heavy weapons skill isn't very useful to someone who plays entirely stealthily, but the hacking skill can be much more useful). Another important component of giving player choice is the augmentation system. Throughout the game JC can find augmentation canisters and install an augmentation, which grants him a special ability to use at the cost of bioelectrical energy. JC has a limited number of augmentation slots, so again the player has to decide which augmentation will be more useful to their play style, though unfortunately some augmentations are very clearly more useful than others. The player has limited inventory space (and larger items like heavy weapons take up more space in the inventory), meaning more decisions have to be made regarding what to take with you. Most of the weapons available to the player (at least, the guns) can also be upgraded, though upgrades are limited. The number of options available to the player is just massive.
Overall, the choice system works great, but there are flaws. JC's shooting ability at the start of the game is nearly useless, which makes it difficult to go a direct action route early on, but at the end of the game he is practically untouchable (with the proper upgrades, the sniper rifle is just godly). One of the slightly larger problems is that installing an augmentation is permanent, there is no way to change that augmentation. Because of this, one bad augmentation choice I made at the start of the game carried all the way through that playthrough. All in all though, the system works very well and it's a blast to play through the game figuring out what you can do and where you can go. One area of a game that I don't usually comment on is the replay value but I feel like this needs to be mentioned for Deus Ex. Deus Ex has immense replay value because of the different approaches you can take to each level and the different skill and augmentation sets you can choose from. In addition, there's a large number of mods out there that tweak the system (different augmentations, skills, weapons, fan-made missions, etc), extending replay value even further.

Another thing I don't usually comment on, the sounds in the game. I really enjoyed the soundtrack to Deus Ex, but the voice acting is quite frankly atrocious. The biggest problem for me were the terrible accents. It's bearable in small amounts, but then the game sends you to Hong Kong and then Paris, where you'll be surrounded by terrible Chinese and French accents. This is really a minor complaint, I don't actually have that big an issue with the accents, I just think that it's silly how the chosen story locales are probably the worst possible ones to have bad accents for.

Short and simple:
Deus Ex makes it fun to explore, experiment, and experience every possibility, and in my opinion, that's what makes it a truly great game.
Pros: The story is intriguing with its focus on global conspiracy. The gameplay gives the player an immense number of ways to play the game, and it's actually fun to see how you can do things differently. Tons of replay value.
Cons: The player's choices don't have very much impact on the plot. The gameplay also has its flaws, particularly with balancing all the options it provides its players (though an argument can be made that this is more realistic, your options in real life aren't always going to be equally difficult/viable either). And the accents...

My 'Score': 11 (years since Deus Ex came out)

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