Ex-cellent! (Gee... can't believe nobody else thought of that before! ;D)
Deus Ex... What else to say? I almost feel there are already too many reviews for this game here, but well another one can't hurt, right? I really can't add much more praise to this game so I'll just stick to confirming that all of it is well deserved. Really, to those who still have their doubts about this game and ask themselves "is it really that good? Or is it all hype?" All I have to say is that it isn't that good. It's even better.
The premise of the game is part System Shock (man, Spector must have a real thing with AI's!) and part X-files slapped on a first person rpg with fps elements, but the game takes all preconceptions you may have over all these genres, influences, etc. and mixes it into one very well made whole which manages to amaze even diehard gamers like myself... well maybe that's overstretching it but yeah, it's VERY good.
Granted, a lot of the marvel of the game comes courtesy of a lot of groundwork that was laid in previous games so it's not as "original" as one would like to assume (a certain person I know thinks this is the holy grail of gaming simply because he completely skipped past all of Spector's early works). But still Deus Ex manages to take all that has been done before and expand it to pharaonic proportions. Want cyberpunk ambience? Have as much as you want. Non-linearity? Ten times as much as you have ever seen. Complex storyline? Take every conspiracy theory and add some more. That's how Deus Ex feels, it's ideas may not have sprung first, but it sure is the best incarnation to date of them.
I could go on and on about each aspect of the game that has been tuned to perfection, but instead let me adress what I think is the golden nugget of Deus Ex: It's freedom of choices. At virtually no point in the adventure the game makes any preconceptions about what your choices may be, for each objective there is a million different ways to accomplish your objective be it guns-blazing, sneaky or whatever. Thus Deus Ex has done something utterly amazing: it has found the absolute cure for gaming frustration. Sure, you may love a certain type of games, But every now and then you need a change of pace right? Well Deus Ex changes paces with you. Got tired of sneaking around? How about some stress-relieving shootouts? Want to stop "playing" for a while and just talk with npc's and interact with the world? Go right ahead! Anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Thus you are never stuck in the game, you always find another solution to whatever problem lies ahead of you, and you are always moving forward. The sense of progress is constant, and it's a remarkable feat to accomplish in any game. This is quite simply: admirable.
Well, there are some bad things about Deus Ex I'm afraid: First of all it's AI is braindead. Seriously. It uses the so popular pre-set reactions that make it look like it actually thinks when it goes and hits the alarm or whatever, but in reality there's very little under the hood. In fact, the AI suffers from the deadly "Headless chicken" syndrome, when no alarms are around, the enemies will start to run around frantically with absolutely no purpose whatsoever whenever you show up, shoot someone, or do whatever. Fully emulating the behavior of... you guessed it, a headless chicken. Furthermore, there are also some serious issues like their indifference to knocked-out bodies (if they are dead, sure they start to run around, but if they are ko'd... guess they probably figure they are taking a nap. Face first. In the middle of a corridor... a-ha)
Also something that is truly horrible is the voice-acting. AHHHGH!!! Memo for Deus Ex 2: get professional voice actors!. Most characters sound like they had a gun pointed at them, and those who don't simply can't act, like Simons who is simply HORRIBLE, and don't even get me started on the "foreigners" and their painfully overacted accents. Seriously, I though my ears were bleeding at times, and I have heard everything from the abominable (but ground-breaking we must admit) Ultima Underworld opening to the Resident Evil games.
Now, this is all... shall we say on the technical area, the game does have a cohesive (though sometimes cliched) story, but I also have a bone to pick with the "creative" aspect of the game.
Whenever you play a game, watch a movie, etc. you make concessions to it depending on the game's setting and other things in order to get into the adventure. Thus nobody complains that in Mario Bros. there are talking mushrooms or that Mario can't jump so much without getting tired, since we accept that Mario's games are totally free of our physics laws and happen in a fantastic reality where we accept those things. Deus Ex on the other hand, is "for real".
Sure, it's sci-fi, but it's rooted in our reality, in our world. In fact, every fantastical or outrageous element in the game is explained and justified with luxury of detail both to add to the ambience and to ground the game in our reality. So Deus Ex takes the stance that it's serious and "realistic" and lets go of practically every concession we make to videogames. Now, I have nothing against this, but it's tricky business to make something "real" and I'm afraid not even Spector and his group of elite coders got it right.
Sure, they added realistic details to the game, real-life reactions to certain events, etc. etc. etc. But they missed out on lots of simple stuff. Stuff that is so blatantly stupid that I couldn't stop myself from laughing whenever they popped up, and in fact it's stuff that doesn't concern the game per se, but the narrative/dramatic qualities of it. I wouldn't even call them flaws, but "goofs" since it seems like stuff that got lifted from those hilarous mails that go around the net by the title of "Stuff we learn from the movies" or variants of it. Allow me to list a few: The bad guy that tells you his plan and laughs maniatically (with the optional "The world is Mine!!! Bwahahahaha!!") the "I'm-so-cool-I-talk-in-a-low-key-drone-and-I-never-raise-my-voice"; the one man army vs a million terrorist/conspiracy soldiers; the self destruct button, characters that are lifted right out of comic books and are either "good" or bad to the bone, etc. etc. etc. But those that were most amusing to me had to be the ones related to the "internationality" that the game was given. Let me tell you a secret as a certified non-US resident: We all secretly speak english. Seriously! All that mumbo jumbo about different languages is a hoax, we are only people who speak english in different accents! In fact, when we are alone we like to discuss in english!! I swear it's true! And thank god that Deus Ex has blown the cover on this big hoax showing us all as we really are! :)))
....Seriously, sometimes the game seemed to become something like "American tourist: The simulation" :)) With wonderful bits like J.C. approaching a couple in paris and going "Yo! 'Sup bro? Heard anything 'bout Silohuete?" :)) Ok,ok so I'm stretching it, but that is pretty much J.C.'s approach to "spying" in the whole game, complete with a Matrix-get up and a low key drone-like voice.... yeah, "conspicuous" it ain't! :))
So yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking: I'm nothing but a little bitch. But remember that in the box it says "epic globe-hopping adventure", etc. etc. Not "cyberpunk B-grade James Bond clone" so I think I'm right when pointing out whenever the so vaunted "realism" comes apart at the seams.
The Bottom Line
Quite simply Deus Ex is a superb game, I can't help pointing out the few flaws because... well, maybe I am nothing but a little bitch :) But still, American tourist simulation or not, braindead AI or not, terrible voice acting or not, Deus Ex is fantastic. It's a remarkable game and everyone who considers him/herself a serious gamer HAS to own it. There is no way around it, Deus Ex is a defining moment in the history of videogames and no one should miss it.