What is there to like about this game? To be frank - everything. Each element of this game has been brought together with such verve and flair that the result is something that totally transcends the concept of what a game should be. Deus Ex is a truly unique thing - this is not merely a 'game', this is so incalculably great it's more of a one in a lifetime experience. No, really!
When people traditionally think of an FPS game with a strong plot, many would be inclined to name Half-Life. Yet when you analyse Half-Life's plot in some more detail, you realise that effectively it's identical to that of Doom - scientists accidentally open portal to another dimension, aliens appear and try to take over the world blah blah blah. Add in some friendly scientists and security guards along the way, and have them robotically tell the player what to do, where to go next, and suddenly everyone thinks it's the second coming. For example, the usual dialogue in Half-Life involves some bored security guy with lousy AI informing you that the next section of the game you encounter will involve riding a train. Or going down a lift. Or ducking under some pipes. Yawn. And people even nowadays mistake this for a plot! Enter Deus Ex...
The plot of Deus Ex is such that it's a bit like starring in your very own sci-fi thriller movie; A sort of combination of The Matrix, Blade Runner, X-Files, and 007. This is not simply 'fun' or a diversion, this is so totally immersive and the characterisation so well done that the player is drawn into the game world like never before. The level of interactivity with what you can see is unparalleled. Essentially, if you can see it, it can be interacted with.
Although the game is largely linear in structure, each objective can be completed in several different ways, giving the game massive replayability value. This is one of the few games that has captured my attention so completely that I had no choice but to complete it - but that wasn't enough. Thus far I have played it through a total of 7 times, each time discovering new places, or consequences for different actions. For example, in the first mission where terrorists are holed up in the Statue of Liberty, you can either hack the security terminal and go in the front, or find the UNATCO informant and get a key to the front door, or take the long route round the back way up the gigantic stack of crates. Another example is where you are protecting a certain injured NPC in a hotel room when your apartment is raided. Either you can escape out the window and save yourself, leaving the NPC to die. Or fight your way through about 20 heavily armed soldiers, save him, and meet up later in the game. Because of the 'emotional attachment' I had to this character, I had no choice but to take Option B... Each of your actions or responses has a definite effect on how NPCs react to you, making the game feel very real.
The really great thing about Deus Ex is how the plot builds itself up to epic proportions - as opposed to laming itself out only a third of the way through like Half Life. There are so many plot twists and turns, so many conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, and it is all developed so rapidly that it really grabs your attention and refuses to let go.
The soundtrack is probably the best for a game yet. It's really what holds the game together for me, adding depth and emotion to the levels. Produced by Straylight Productions (the same people who did the music for Unreal), it's kind of like the game equivalent of John Williams' Star Wars score. All the tunes are instantly memorable, and I enjoy them so much that despite having several hundred mp3s on my hard drive, I still listen to the Deus Ex tunes on a regular basis. The game is honestly worth getting for the music alone!
I love the graphics (based on the Unreal engine). Of course, the developers could have opted for say, the Quake 3 engine, but I unquestionably prefer the Unreal engine as the lighting is superb and atmospheric and everything looks very real and organic. Also, despite having only a Pentium II 400, I can run this game with practically all visual options on and it runs quite fast.
There really wasn't anything that had an adverse effect on my enjoyment of this game. People seem to think that because there's a big ol' box for stuff you don't like, that you have to nitpick and point out the comparatively *trivial* niggles that this game has.
Often cited is the in-game speech - which often veers in quality of acting from top notch Hollywood production to school play and back again in the space of a few seconds. This totally doesn't matter though as the characterisation and dialogue is so good that you forget that the voice acting is something less great. There are literally hundreds of really great quotes from Deus Ex, the scripting is THAT good.
The game often criticised for having bad enemy AI. Yet in all the FPS games I have played, games that feature superb AI are in my opinion no better than those which don't - even in some cases having great AI is annoying. An example would be the marines in Half-Life which magically know exactly where you are despite you not making a sound. You're then on the receiving of a hail of grenades and you die. So you reload your game, but you die again. So you reload. But then you die. So you have to reload, until by sheer luck you manage the get pass the marines. Having really good AI as in Half-Life's case makes the game unbalanced and in my opinion, the AI in Deus Ex, while being far from perfect, does not adversely affect gameplay. The aim of an FPS should be to challenge the player, but not make it so hard that you spend more time hitting the load saved game key than actually playing. Deus Ex succeeds in getting the balance just right, even at higher skill levels.
The Bottom Line
I'm always wary of describing games as 'classic' or as a 'masterpiece'. Invariably once you've made your grand claim, you'll soon find another game that surpasses it, and that game you thought so highly of begins to look only average. So instead, so I don't contradict myself in future, I will say that thus far this is my favourite game ever, on any platform. It really is that good! So if it's not in your collection, and you are looking for a new title, buy this now!