The best game ever, and even that doesn't do it justice.
--IMPORTANT NOTE—Whatever I write in this section won’t be enough. This game is such that it is possible to rain plaudits on it for hours and still have more to talk about. I will have forgotten many things about the game which are brilliant after I’ve finished. So please consider this section a summary of what makes this a work of genius, rather than a full account. I could never list everything.
Deus Ex is a masterpiece. It is the first game ever to completely shatter all preconceptions about how to make games. Its influence will be seen on games in years to come. Why? Because it reverses the law of making games and the relationship that the gamer has with the game. Deus Ex has opened the door and paved the way for the future, it’s destroyed traditions used by developers that up until now haven’t even been challenged.
The original school of thought, the undisputed leaders of which are Valve (with Half-Life); believes that to create a truly enticing game experience, ideas and events must happen in a way that fit so seamlessly together that the world really feels alive. Half-Life is the most tightly scripted and one of the most intense games ever. However, the game is leading the gamer. As the developer creates games like this he is saying “Right, this is what you must do, this is how to do it, this is what will happen, and this is why”. This does of course make great things possible, like rooms collapsing. But since the events are scripted, they happen every time. These are the developer’s events trying to amuse you instead of you making your own events. Until the launch of Deus Ex, it was thought the technology for the player to be able to dictate to the game instead of vice versa was years and years away. Of course, some critics and gamesplayers don’t like this radical new way of thinking. Yet Deus Ex proves that when done correctly, these games are the future. It may not have done it perfectly but it’s shown them the path. It’s a bit like Method Acting, and Deus Ex is Stanislavski.
The method that Deus Ex is showing is one where developers will be able to create a gaming world so rich that sequences and events will happen because of the player and won’t be scripted. The gamer will be able to find his own way to have fun, there won’t be any “intended” ways. Until now, this was nearly unthinkable. This game has nearly done it straight away. In one game, the entire basis of creating games is being questioned. That’s got to be one hell of a compliment.
Deus Ex gives the gamer freedom. You can blast your way through this game or you can sneak your way through it, each way is just as enjoyable to the people who prefer that style. It’s possible to kill nearly everyone in the whole game and it’s possible to do nearly half the game without killing ANYONE. You can talk to everyone, you can talk to nearly no-one. You can hack computers or you can blow them. You can skip objectives if they’re morally wrong to you or are unnecessary. Every choice you make, no matter how small, opens up and closes routes for you. If you love Thief you’ll be right at home here. If you love Medal Of Honour you’ll be right at home here. Name another game that can do that.
The plot is more complex, deep, and vast than any other game or any film I can think of. The major characters have incredibly deep personalities. You brother, for example, is a humanist and a freedom fighter. He tends to avoid casualties wherever possible. He’s charismatic yet very secretive, and is utterly self-less. Always strives for the greater good. That’s some guy, and many of the characters are just as complex. And since the creator, Warren Spector, is something of a master of narrative; you rarely lose track of the plot. Even in it’s biggest stages.
Now that I’ve mentioned about 1/10 (literally) of the ideas and revolutionary aspects of Deus Ex, lets go onto the technical side. This is the most interactive and detailed game ever. Nearly every object in the whole game can be acted upon. Chairs can be moved and destroyed. Lamps can be turned on and off (or destroyed). It’s possible to clear an entire kitchen of every pot, pan, plate, dish, roast chicken and joint of beef if you wanted to.
Sound plays an integral part and NPCs act on it, though perhaps not as well as System Shock 2. Then there is the unparalleled attention to detail. Famous works of art and literature pop up every where. Every character in the game blinks. It’s possible to walk into a bar and find people talking for 5 minutes about philosophy and ethics, with no real consequence in the game. I’m still only barely scratching the surface about what this game is and what it will hopefully do to the whole gaming industry. But lets hope others follow it’s lead. It has reversed the law of game design and is the only game where you can lead the game rather than the game leading you, you can find your own enjoyment. Here’s one last example: On the first level you are on Liberty Island on some docks, you’re told to meet your brother because he’ll explain everything and then you have to enter the Statue Of Liberty and find a terrorist leader. As soon as I’d spoken to my brother, I jumped into the sea and started whacking fish with a crowbar I’d found, I was having a great time and I was doing it for over 20 minutes. After that, I got out and started piling up boxes to see how high I could jump back into the sea again. By the time I was done messing about, 45 minutes has passed! I’d been entertained for 45 minutes and I hadn’t even started the game yet! I’d barely even walked 4 feet!
I’d better stop because I’m getting too passionate. And there is still so much I haven’t said. I haven’t mentioned how the characters are so real you almost care for them. Or how the game engine is so great it can create over 100 entities on screen at a time and have no slowdown. And I run this game on a PII 266! Or the huge outdoor environments. Or how a dog will chase a cat if they’re near to one another.
There are no words to express what this game is, but “art” is the closest.
Oh who cares? Ok the graphics look a little ropy now and haven’t aged as well as System Shock 2’s. The music is pretty poor and repetitive and isn’t used as a plot device unlike Looking Glass’s opus. The game doesn’t have that slick presentation and glossy style that I like and which was once again present in SS2. If you’re trying to pick up a body and your inventory is full, you have to drop some stuff, take what they’re carrying, and then move the body. If you back towards the edge of a level, after it loads you’ll be facing the other way. Most importantly and the only one that is really significant; the game may come across as pretentious depending on your point of view. The box cover and name does little to help this. Indeed, it may seem like Warren Spector is trying to push gaming into art and failing. After all, games still haven’t got past the “good guy Vs bad guy” staple. Despite what that Deus Ex claims to be, you are still saving the world against evil people.
But Jeez! What kind of game is this if the highest criticism you can give it is that it (arguably) doesn’t succeed in becoming art and could be dismissed as pretentious? I wouldn’t DREAM of giving a criticism like this to any other game out there! Deus Ex operates on a different plane anyway.
The Bottom Line
Genre-blurring, boundary-moving, door-breaking, tradition-shattering, ultra full, video art. Massive conspiracies, government cover-ups, genetic engineering, snooker...Deus Ex is a world in a CD. It doesn't transcend it's parts like System Shock 2, but that's only because it has too many. The best game ever for any platform.