What Deus Ex
may lack in graphics (not a lot), almost completely makes up for in gameplay. An aside: when I received this game, I was deep into a classic underdog, System Shock
. (Yes, the first one.) Despite having to slow down the game to finish it, as it wasn't meant to run on modern-day computers, I found it to be the singularly most enthralling game experience of my life. When I started playing Deus Ex
, I started noticing all sorts of similarities. And then I started correlating them both to another favorite, Thief: Gold
. When I found out that all three were masterminded by Warren Spector, I had simultaneous feelings of surprise ('Holy crap!') and realization of the obvious ('Well, no crap!').
I didn't find Deus Ex as enthralling as I found System Shock. But that's like saying a movie's not quite as good as The Empire Strikes Back. It's still a damned good game, and a wonderful widening of the spectrum of games that Warren Spector's presented the gaming world with.
You're J.C. Denton, the second nano-augmented agent for UNATCO, a United States-based peacekeeping force. When you start the game, you get to customize your character. You can choose to specialize in various skills -- want to be an expert lockpicker? Go ahead. Want to be able to run in, guns a-blaze? Have at it. Deus Ex is marked by this ability to customize gameplay to your own style. If you want to play it Thief-style, it'll let you. If you want to play it Quake-style, it'll let you do that too -- to a point. DE is still an RPG, and as such, you're going to have to solve a few
puzzles and figure out a few things whether you're a blazing guns type or not.
As you play the game, you'll find yourself embroiled in a plot that is reminiscent of nothing so much as the entire first three seasons of X-Files, rolled into one. Conspiracies and weirdness abound, and you're in the middle of it. I found a highly pleasing mix of ones that were broadcast easily, and ones that took me completely by surprise. Yes, some of them are kind of cliché, but the plot will suck you up into it despite all of that. (And hell, it's only cliché because we've all been watching X-Files for the past six years or so.)
One of the many things that Deus Ex does so well is present a gameworld that's genuinely shaped by your decisions. This is no black-and-white world, where the right choice is clear. You're going to make some hairy decisions, ones that you may regret later -- but you'll often find that the alternative is just as bad. And people keep track of you. If you're a slaughtermonkey, they'll note that. If you're a skulky bastard, they'll note that too. It's really a testament to design when you WANT to know what people think of you, simply because it's not completely plot-driven. Very, very nice.
The game does have its problems. It runs pretty choppy on anything non-Voodoo based (although they're busy fixing that, and as of this writing a beta patch is already out), and the save files are absolutely enormous as you progress throughout the game -- tens of megs are the norm. And the one thing that had me suspending my disbelief is the fact that when someone gets shot, say, from a turret that you hacked, they immediately know where -you- are and start coming after you. Are they psychic? Huh? I must have missed something.
Nonetheless, Deus Ex will provide you with many, many, many hours of entertaining gameplay. And you can always play through the game some other way -- ball-busting gangster instead of sneakthief, or the other way around. How many games let you do that sort of thing and don't end up cheating themselves?