Published on July 17th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley0
The last of the new wave of PC games in the late 90’s, Deus Ex was created by the same team that made Daikatana, which hardly inspires much confidence, nevertheless, having already played Deus Ex: Human Revolution and resultantly enjoying it, I was less skeptical of playing the predecessor.
The cyberpunk world of Deus Ex is set in the near future and the events take place in New York, where JC Denton is starting out as an agent at UNATCO, a highly-specialised government agency which deals with internal affairs and terrorism. Denton is a cybernetically augmented human whose superior agent brother’s feats earns him high anticipation of his abilities on his first day after he is asked to quell a terrorist attack on Liberty Island. He soon learns that the government has a limited supply of Ambrosia, a drug which cures people of the Gray Death, a fatal illness which ravages the lower classes as it is left unchecked, with the Ambrosia being delivered in favour of the rich and powerful – I don’t think the game leaves you with any doubt at all that UNATCO are baddies.
Much in the same vein as Thief or System Shock 2, which shared some creators, Deus Ex features 1st person adventure mechanics and seems to blend the two inspirational games together, with elements of RPG and stealth. There are numerous plot and gameplay paths in the game, exemplifying choice, various unusual ones can be made with regard to the story and objectives and you could decide progression style to get past guards by lockpicking a door, killing or sneaking.
Skill points can be gained through completing missions and exploration and allow Denton to level up one of his passive abilities, such as small guns, swimming or lockpicking for example and there are various permanent augmentations you can add on different parts of his body which can be found throughout the game, these often require activation for use and use up Bio-Electric energy (basically MP).
I was warned that due to the over-powered skills and abilities later on, the beginning of the game is rather hard, as there aren’t any decent skills to help. However, I found that it was relatively easy to go through if you don’t mind doing an aggressive play-through, however I was initially attempting a no-kill one and was having some difficulty progressing, such is my aptitude.
Despite large environments, the game is simple to navigate as there aren’t windy corridors or maze-like caverns that can be found in the likes of Thief, this is one of the downsides as I like to get a bit lost in games, as I seriously doubt if you plonked me in a building I would be able to find the right room and person without at least a hundred laps. There are several objectives to each mission which are usually beneficial and give great rewards both within the context of the game and as part of plotline.
The gameplay is incredibly immersive, with no load times and everything is rendered in-game, the guards have commendable AI and are vastly improved from the likes of Goldeneye, which is the closest videogame comparison you can come up with for Deus Ex. Obviously it’s a lot better though, Christ those guards were dense in Goldeneye, sometimes they would just run right up to you and you could chop them in the face.
The narrative and characters are fantastic, there is more depth than initially perceived, however the story is very predictable, with some of its finer moments being locked in less obvious corners. Although not as atmospheric in the same sense as System Shock 2, there is a complete world behind Deus Ex, although you won’t be living in the moment like in the former, there is a great sense of accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, it feels like the entire city is living and thriving when you turn off the game, not just a few NPC’s mooching around.
With the multiple endings and choices in the game it is probably good for replay value, it gets a little bit too formulaic by the very end, with some of the different pathways feeling rather rushed and could have used the build up to make the last level more option-specific as well as slowly dripping some of the philosophy rather than just slathering it on as if they had lost confidence in the rest of the game.
It’s probably not for everyone, it’s definitely a distinctive game from its era, with wonderful and charming game design and colourful characters that just wouldn’t work in a modern game, but the mechanics are still very solid and is probably the most refined of the lot. Also this guy is in it. What more could you ever want?