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PC Game Review: Deus Ex

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Okay, so I'm down with a cold and taking a short break from playing Rad Rodgers in order to take a look at a pretty special game. Where Doom and Quake can be considered the grandfathers of the first person shooter genre, Deus Ex can really be considered one of the grandfathers of the stealth shooter genre and has spawned one sequel and two prequels. So there really isn't much to be said about the game which hasn't been said already. But I'm gonna try my best to give my own unique perspective on this in this retrospective review of one of the greatest first person stealth cyberpunk RPG's of all time.


I don't really remember the first time I played Deus Ex, but I think it was somewhere around 2001-2002. And I don't really remember much of the experience, other than the fact I thought Jaime Reyes looked and sounded an awful lot like my dad (which gave me a kind of weird family relationship with the character), but beyond that it was never a game I completely understood. I mostly messed around with cheat codes to give myself god mode, all augmentations and a crapload of skills and just going through it like an overpowered dick. Of course later on I discovered that wasn't really that fun and not really the point of the game, even though I originally completed the game that way.


The game was primarily designed and conceptualized by Warren Spector, who up until the development of Deus Ex had worked with Looking Glass Studios who famously developed System Shock, System Shock 2 as well as the Thief games and it's easy to see Deus Ex being a bit of a logical evolution of those games. Although it feels a lot more balanced in terms of gameplay, focusing more on giving players a set of options on how to complete a level, which is what was really groundbreaking about it. Meaning there was never a wrong way to play the game, and how the player approached each mission could vary depending on their playstyle and chosen skillset. It's a game more about roleplaying and choosing your own approach, rather than going along with whatever approach the developer might intend, which is what truly sets it apart from other stealth games of its day such as Metal Gear Solid, where there was a bigger emphasis on a certain playstyle, while Deus Ex is more open to a variety of playstyles. There is nothing stopping you from killing every single enemy in a level, though the game will change depending on your actions, as everything you do invariably has consequences, which was the most groundbreaking thing about the game. For instance it is possible to go through the entire game without killing a single NPC by hand (the bosses are required to be taken out but you can do so without touching them). Of course doing so is very difficult and will require some ingenuity, but just the fact it is possible speaks volumes about how focused Deus Ex is on player freedom. Of course this doesn't mean the game won't punish you for doing pretty stupid things, but it does so in a very believable way. The game seems very focused on making its world believable and everyone around you will act in a very realistic and believable manner, so whenever you do something stupid and have to take the consequences for it, it feels more like the world reacting to you and less like the game trying to punish you.



*insert Benny Hill theme here*


The story in Deus Ex starts off simple enough. You're a fresh recruit off the academy, part of a new breed of soldiers who are augmented with nanobots in their blood stream that allow them access to superhuman abilities, such as regenerating health, lights from their eyes, increased jump height and so on. Due to the reliance on nanomachines to do all the work, these new prototypes are considered the evolution of mankind, and a generation above the "mechs", the more typical mechanically augmented human commonly associated with cyberpunk. Your name is J.C. Denton, and your first assignment is on Liberty Island, where a group of terrorists (the NSF) have taken over the island and your task is to sneak into the Statue of Liberty and interrogate the NSF leader about the shipment of Ambrosia, a vaccine that is the only known cure for a plague that has struck the nation, the Grey Death. Acquiring the location, which happens to be an underground bunker below Castle Clinton in Battery Park, you head there with your assigned partner, Anna Navarre in what can only be described as a buddy cop setup if I ever saw one, seeing as Anna Navarre is one of the older mechs who have a lot of resentment for the newer nano augmented agents, but is still willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you can manage to impress her. Once you have located the ambrosia you are sent to Hell's Kitchen to locate a warehouse to blow up the NSF' power generator. When you get back from the mission, your brother has disappeared and you are tasked with going to an airfield to eliminate one of the terrorist leaders, Juan Lebedev as well as securing the remaining shipment of Ambrosia. However when you get there, things take a big change. Your brother Paul reveals he's working with the NSF to uncover a conspiracy within the government, convinced that the Grey Death is a man made virus. And if you allow Juan Lebedev to live long enough to talk, he will inform you that you and your brother are part of this conspiracy, as you were bio-engineered from birth to accept nanomachines into your body. Regardless of whether he lives or dies, before you can travel to Hong Kong to assassinate a triad leader, your helicopter pilot brings you back to Hell's Kitchen where your brother reveals he is dying. A kill switch has been enabled and he will be dead within 24 hours.


And that's all I wanna spoil for you. While the story does get a little convoluted, especially later on, it is incredibly engaging and despite the at times cringeworthy voice acting, it is an incredibly big story involving conspiracies, AI's, aliens and pretty much anything you can think of that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of the X-Files. While Deus Ex is pretty much a product of the late 90's with its Matrix-influenced protagonist and gritty realistic portrayal of the near future, it still feels pretty relevant today and I honestly find it a more believable portrayal of the future than a lot of cyberpunk games, if only cause it feels so rooted in reality.



Welcome to China, where the military carry fucking flamethrowers...


When Deus Ex came out there weren't really anything that could compare to its gameplay. The closest comparison would obviously be System Shock 2 which featured a similar gameplay system, but where System Shock 2 was more of a cult hit and a critical darling that never really found a mainstream audience, Deus Ex immideately became a best seller. And it is fairly easy to see why. It ditches some of the more cumbersome features from the System Shock games and streamlines a lot of them without dumbing it down.


The augmentation system is fairly easy to grasp. You have basically slots for different parts of your body that can be augmented and using these augmentations is accessible via the F3-F12 keys on your keyboard. You can find augmentations in the form of canisters (most of them hidden in hard to reach places), each containing 2 augmentations, forcing you to choose between the two as once installed, an augmentation is permanently embedded in your system and irreplacable. The RPG elements come into play via skill points that can be spent upgrading various abilities, everything from how good you are with weapon groups to hacking computers and using lockpicks. Skill points are rewarded fairly sparse and coupled with the permanent nature of augmentations, it's generally a good idea to pick a playstyle you wanna go for and sticking to it (you know, actually roleplaying). It is a bit of an oldschool mentality and this strict enforcement was either more relaxed or removed entirely in future installments.


Combat feels a little janky. It's hard to describe but movement can feel a little clunky at times, and it's clear the game wasn't really designed to be a shooter first and foremost. What I would often end up doing was sneaking up to enemies and taking them out, then moving their bodies to a hidden spot, or sniping them from afar with a rifle. Weapons can also be upgraded with weapon mods that add laser sights, silencers and increase range, accuracy and reload speed. Some mods might not be compatible with certain weapons, such as in the fact you can't add a silencer to a rocket launcher (as tempting as it would be).



Not sure what a wine bottle is doing in this cell.


Graphically the game hasn't really held up that well. Models in particular have a fairly low texture resolution and the animations can come off as a bit janky. But on the plus side, it runs on the early Unreal engine which features the classic detailed textures, meaning that certain wall textures will look really detailed up close, and the animations are generally fairly decent for the time. Using modern mods can offer texture replacements with high resolution graphics and new models for the characters, though I much prefer the original graphics. The game takes place pretty much entirely at night time, giving it a very unique atmosphere where you never see sunlight in the entire game (which is ironic considering J.C. wears his sunglasses the entire time).


The soundtrack is legendary of course. Alexander Brandon who also worked on Jazz Jackrabbit 2 did a fair bit of it and it's all really well done. It uses the tracker format that was also used in games like Unreal Tournament, and it gives it a very unique feel. Pretty much all of the tracks are really memorable and add to the game's atmosphere, and it's impossible to imagine the game without them. And as mention the voice acting can be hit or miss. It ranges from badass to almost so bad it's good territory...



Talk about hitting the wall.


That being said, Deus Ex is an amazing experience and has held up remarkably well. There is a saying that every time someone mentions Deus Ex, someone reinstalls it and I've been guilty of that on more than one occasion. The world is incredibly dense and rich with interesting characters that all act realistically to your actions and everything you do affects the game in some way. There's immense replay value to the game and to this day I still keep finding new stuff in the game whenever I play it. It's by no means a perfect game, but it is a true classic and one everyone should play at least once. Because it is impossible to imagine modern gaming without Deus Ex as its unique blend of gameplay styles created a genre all of its own. And its dark cyberpunk atmosphere draws you in again and again. And whether you play the original, or one of the various mods (including the extremely impressive Revision mod), Deus Ex is a must-play if you enjoy this genre of games.


STORY: 8/10



SOUND: 8/10




Source: http://alyxxgameroom.blogspot.no/2018/03/pc-game-review-deus-ex.html

Game developments at http://nukedprotons.blogspot.com

Check out my music at http://technomancer.bandcamp.com

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