SummaryIt is not the God of video games... but it comes close
The GoodYou know how there are sometimes games everyone keep recommending to you, asking you to play them, and you resist stubbornly, perhaps without even realizing why, talk rudely to your friends, and say: "Gimme a break! I'm not interested! Got that?!"
Well, that's what happened between my game-playing buddies, Deus Ex, and myself. Nearly everyone spoke about this game as if it were a sacred object, almost an idol, worthy of zealous admiration and maybe even human sacrifices. Nearly every review was positive - no, positive is not the correct word. The game was praised up to the point of calling it the Messiah of gaming, the savior of sinful player souls, and the way to a new, enlightened gaming paradise.
Since I usually can't stand this kind of hype, Deus Ex annoyed me long before I actually laid my paws on it. But when I read some of the reviews more carefully and realized the game was a kind of a fancy mixture between FPS, sneaking game, RPG, and adventure, I understood I wouldn't be myself if I didn't try it.
I can't say I fell in love with the game from the moment I inserted the disc into the drive. In fact, the game was heating up pretty slowly. The intro sequence is rather unspectacular, and the first mission not particularly exciting. But times has passed, and it really grew on me.
It is interesting that the atmosphere in the game also develops gradually. The more I played, the more I got sucked into the game, and finally I found myself praising it for what I was already prepared to condemn: its atmosphere. It increases slowly, the more missions you get, and the more clear the relationships between the different characters of the game become. After you get your partner, and your brother appears on the scene as a really important figure, Deus Ex becomes more than just interesting - it actually gets captivating and fascinating.
One of the decisive gameplay elements here is the fantastic interaction with the world, which can be almost compared to Ultima-style "if it is there, you can use it" kind of gameplay. You can fool around with pretty much everything you see, and sometimes the results are more interesting and rewarding than you'd expect. I absolutely love this kind of attention to interaction and detail. I mean, which other game lets you take a break from the story, walk over to a playground and play some basketball?
Deus Ex is a spiritual successor to the fantastic System Shock 2, especially in the way it experiments with different genres. Like System Shock 2, it is also primarily a FPS with strong RPG elements; but it goes even further than its predecessor in merging various playing styles into a single coherent and immensely satisfying whole.
The magic of Deus Ex is that it allows you to play it the way you want to. The different genres are not "over-imposed" on each other, but are merged in such a way that you won't notice it; you'll simply feel that you can do whatever you want. The subtlety of this genre-mixing is astounding; but even more astounding is the fact the game actually works as a representative of any of the genres it contains, taken separately.
Basically, if you liked straight-forward shooters, you can play Deus Ex as one. If you liked Thief-style sneaking, Deus Ex provides it for you as well. If you like RPGs, you can focus your attention on that aspect when playing this game. The thing is that Deus Ex only rarely throws at you tasks that can be completed only in one way; it doesn't have "shooting missions", "stealth missions", etc. You don't need to disable every single alarm or to hack every single computer system to get what you need. The game conveniently offers you several ways of solving a problem. If it doesn't go with force, try using the brains; and vice versa. You choose the approach by yourself almost at any given moment. This is the greatness of Deus Ex.
I loved the RPG touch. You gather "experience points" which you can then allocate to make your character more skillful. You choose yourself how to do it, like in a true hardcore RPG. You can upgrade your weapon skills, or your ability to pick locks, or your swimming, etc. and all those skills are important, it really shows in the game and is a testimony of its fantastic programming. Then there are the bio-upgrades which work a lot like equipment or even like magic spells, you can protect your characters from various poisons and similar things, heal him, make him jump higher, and so on.
The locations of Deus Ex are, for the most part, interesting, large and detailed. You visit large urban areas such as New York or Hong-Kong (one of the best levels), there's no linear "go there, talk to that guy, take this" advancement; on the contrary, you wander around like in a RPG or an adventure game, talk to characters, gather objects, and so on.
The story is more than just a simple "good guys vs. bad guys" thing it seems in the beginning. And the characters are more than just anonymous voices who give you missions. Yes, it takes time to get into the story, but its development and the ending makes up for the long wait. And the final part lets you choose between three ways, each one of which leads to a convincing (in its own way), yet a problematic ending. Bravo! There's no "save the world, get the girl" stuff: you should apply your philosophy and your vision of the world to the game. It is like Shin Megami Tensei, only a bit more concrete.
The BadI could mention some obvious flaws such as the not-so-hot graphics in certain areas, the somewhat repetitive level design (too many "square" levels, vents are a bit overused), the length of the game, which is not always a plus (it starts repeating itself, and while some parts are brilliant and full of plot twists, others are just "missions" devoid of story), the average voice acting, the dubious AI (you drop an electronic grenade to disable an alarm two meters from the guard, but he ignores it completely; you run loudly towards a terrorist, and instead of turning his head back at the noise, he waits until you aim your gun at his skull, and says something like "Aha! An intruder, eh? I think you shouldn't be here! Or am I wrong? Maybe it should be so?") and so on. But to tell you the truth, those things didn't really bother me.
The story is not that great. Interesting, yes, with a couple of very good twists, and some fantastic moral choices in the end, but it couldn't help being a bit dry and uninvolved for a game of this scope. Also, the writing is definitely less than stellar; some of the dialogue seems to be taken straight out of a not particularly brilliant B-rated movie.
The Bottom LineThere is no doubt about that: Deus Ex is amazing. Incredible gameplay flexibility, marvelous interactive world, interesting locations and a good plot make it an outstanding shooter/RPG hybrid and an overwhelming, deeply satisfying experience. It fully deserves the praise it has got and stands out as one of the most remarkable achievements of video game design.