It’s pointless, it really is. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot hide my unadulterated love for this game. In this writer’s humble opinion, Deus Ex is possibly the best game ever made, or at the very least, one of the top three.
Placing you in the role of JC Denton, a nano-tech-augmented agent for U.N.A.T.C.O. (United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition), the games takes place in a not-too-distant, dystopian future where a deadly virus known as the ‘Grey Death’ has culled much of the world’s population. Despite having made major advancements in technology (such as JC’s nanite enhancements and other agents’ mechanical, enhancements), mankind is unable to cure the disease, and only one company has manufactured a vaccine, Ambrosia, which can prevent the infection. This vaccine is in short supply, rationed to high ranking government officials and other VIPs. The world is also infested with terrorist groups, such as the game’s initial antagonist, the NSF.
The story in Deus Ex begins with some seemingly normal missions involving this terrorist group and a stolen batch of Ambrosia, but things soon twist and turn, and the plot becomes heavily steeped in conspiracy, with shady government agencies, mysterious secret organisations and an age old legacy all coming into play. The end result is one of the best stories ever told in gaming, and one that you really do feel a part of as you progress through the title.
Before Deus Ex came along, I was perfectly content to play standard shoot-everything-that-moves FPS titles till the cows came home. I loved the genre, and couldn’t get enough. But, when I experienced Warren Spector’s epic, my outlook was blown wide open, and my enjoyment of FPS titles was altered forever. Deus Ex was so far ahead of any FPS it was truly scary, and I’d never be quite as content with bog standard FPS, or indeed, any other title ever again.
Here we had a game that let you do what you wanted… for real. Practically every single mission and encounter in the game let you decide how to approach it. You could go in guns blazing, or you could use your head and play stealthily and tactically. You could bypass and take control of security systems, use non-lethal takedowns and could customise your character’s many and varied skills how you saw fit (thanks to the heavy RPG elements and JC’s augmented nature). In-game characters would even change their opinion of you, depending on your actions in the field, and, at a couple of points in the story, your choices would actually change the events to come.
Gameplay itself borrowed heavily from both System Shock and Thief (also superbly high-calibre games), and the Unreal Engine handled everything asked of it perfectly. The game was also lengthy, with the average player taking around 18-20 hours to complete it, and the replay value, thanks to the open nature of the game and multiple endings, was excellent.
When you consider that all of this was crammed into a game back in 2000, you really do begin to respect the achievement Ion Storm managed. Graphically, the game was never a looker, but when it came to complex and involving, open gameplay, there was nothing to challenge it. Even today, no game has come close to matching Deus Ex‘s balance, including its own sequel, Invisible War. Some found the game a little too complex at the time (with many criticising the opening mission), but for anyone wanting a more involving and adventurous title, it was nigh-on perfect.
I can honestly say that, despite being heavily into games, and being a fan of most genres, I’ve never, not even once, enjoyed a game as much as my initial play through of Deus Ex. Yes, there have since been games far more technically impressive, and even titles that have challenged, and perhaps surpassed Deus Ex‘s complex mechanics (such as Morrowind and Fallout 3), but I’ve still to play a game that can top the experience this classic delivered.
To put it simply, if you’ve never played the original Deus Ex, you should find it and play it immediately. Ideally, try to play it on PC, as this is by far the best version (you can also download the first version of a high-def texture mod at www.offtopicproductions.dreamhosters.com/hdtp). However, you can also get the game on PS2. This is slightly cut-down, with a streamlined inventory system and chopped up levels, but it still retains much of the game’s core mechanics.
The sequel, Invisible War was also a great game, but it did lose a lot of the original’s features (such as the inventory and superior augmentation system) and was far smaller in scale, with shorter missions and restricted areas. Still, it’s also well worth a punt.
A third game was also produced by Crystal Dynamics as a more action-oriented and multiplayer affair, but this was re-branded, emerging as Project: Snowblind. It was an enjoyable game, but featured little in the way of Deus Ex‘s identity, save an augmentation system that gave the main character several super-human abilities.
Fans of the series were left stranded for some time until, finally, Eidos Montreal announced in 2007 that it was working on Deus Ex 3. Few details have emerged since this statement. A teaser trailer was released in late 2007, and scant details of the plot have also been revealed.
The game will take place in 2027, and will serve as a prequel to the original Deus Ex. Apparently, the main character will be a security guard called Adam Jensen, and biomechanical augmentation will be the main focus when it comes to special abilities (as the nano-augmentaiton seen in the original is not yet implemented). Events will feature the same conspiracy-laden plots, and should lead up to the creation of U.N.A.T.C.O. and take players right into the plot of the original game.
This sounds promising, but as a full-on, hardcore fan of the original game, I’m also very, very wary about any sequels, and will wait until the game arrives before I get too excited about another dose of Deus Ex.