At the time Deus Ex was released I used to play few games on PC, not many but the eventual ones I got from specialized magazines. I rarely got games from stores to play on a PC, mainly because at the time I considered the PC a strange gaming device. It had its moments but I was so used to playing with a joystick and the fact that not everything was plug-and-play at the time always kept me at a distance. Some games might function right, some games might not, some games might run on my weak system, some games might not. The PC has always (still is) less user-friendly than any console, and for a kid of my age along with my lack of understanding toward PCs, it never really caught me.
Still, the few games I played at that time still have a place in my heart, some are still amongst my favorite games of all time, even though I never considered a great fan of PCs and most games I played came from CDs attached to PC magazines. Deus Ex on the other hand never reached my hands, and having heard a lot of talking about how good this game is I decided to give it a go. Of course Steam and their weekly discounts on games gave me a little push on that and was actually one of the first games I ever bought from them.
Quite a while after having bought it I decided to try it out — isn’t that how Steam’s supposed to work anyway? You buy dozens of games hoping to live long enough to have the will and the time to play them all. First thing I always notice on these older games are how the resolution works, most older games don’t support the high resolutions possible now, if not all of them. And bear in mind that Deus Ex is no exception to that rule, the game has problems with resolution but it has much bigger problems when it comes to wide screen monitors. Getting a chopped off image is the price we all should be willing to pay to play this great game.
What I didn’t know back then (when I started playing the game) and what I know now is that there are user-created mods that should give you a hand on those problems. Actually, there are mods that completely redesign the games to look sharper and much better. I don’t feel bad about only knowing about this mod after I had beaten the game, I probably would have played it with chopped image and uglier scenery since I’m such a purist. Every time I play a game I like to enjoy the game the developers intended me to play, if it’s a game made in 1990, then let’s party like it’s 1990, as crude and archaic as it might look.
That’s exactly what I experienced, Deus Ex in all its glory, no graphical mods, no gameplay mods. I must admit I tried mods after and they’ve certainly done a hell of a job. I hope someday I’ll have the guts to play through it all over again. It wasn’t just graphical problems thwarting my fun, like the game strangely not accepting 32 bits as it kept switching back to 16 bits. I also had sound problems, but fortunately every problem I had was manageable after a quick search on the world wide web.
The first thing you should know about it is that it has one of the best opening theme songs on all video-games, it’s simply that amazing. As a game it is a perfect mix of first person shooter and RPG. The RPG elements show themselves in the form of stat upgrades and augmentations. As you advance your character gathers experience which can be exchanged to upgrade stats you choose. Though some stats are incredibly useful, after a while playing you’ll realize that, some of them are clearly not worth taking into account, especially in exchange for those costly points.
It is possible that many types of character might emerge from that freedom in building, most people will first get the job done for the more emergency stats, and most of them are the same for everyone. You might want to get better at using sniper rifles, but won’t you be using your handgun a lot more often? That’s a question everyone should consider. Maybe for advanced players who know what to expect, not so much. Hacking computers can always be useful, unless you’re quite the trooper and will go writing down every code there is in the game, but won’t one single upgrade suffice? After all, it will only require more skill and swiftness, and that’s never a bad thing.
As for augmentations, now we actually have something more differential all around. During the game you’ll come across upgrades known as augmentations, they give the character some corporeal boost, each one you find will have to be applied to a specific body part but you’ll have to permanently choose an effect. To clear that up with an example, picture this: eventually you’ll come across a leg augmentation (actually one of the first augmentations you’ll find if my memory doesn’t fail me) that will leave you with a dilemma. You either choose to be more stealthy or faster. If you choose the speed enhancement you’ll make a lot of noise while running through enemies, but you’ll be quicker and more susceptible to take less bullets. If you choose to be more stealthy you’ll be able to go unnoticed through enemies and avoid gunfire altogether.
When you choose an augmentation it’s a one way thing, and with the huge disparity between the two choices it’s recommendable that the player think it through before making any rushed decision that will affect the entire playthrough. The augmentations can also be upgraded by finding small canisters. Every augmentation you attach to your body starts at level 1 and can be upgraded up to level 4 if enough small canisters are used. The evolution is pretty clear, let’s say you used the Aqualung augmentation in your torso which upgrades your lungs letting you stay longer underwater, at level 1 you’ll be able to stay underwater for a few seconds more, as you upgrade the amount of time increases, and if it ever reaches level 4 JC Denton will have the ability to stay underwater indefinitely.
Now that I mentioned our playable character let’s know a little bit more about him. JC Denton is a nanotechnology augmented soldier who works for an anti-terrorist organization called UNATCO. He’s in his first day at work when you start the game. He has a brother called Paul who also works for the same organization. Deus Ex story stands as one of the deepest, most complex and engaging to ever grace video-games. In truth, let’s just say that Deus Ex story revolves around JC Denton’s struggle to uncover a web of corruption and lies spread around several levels of power. The story unfolds in such a deliberately methodical manner, everything evolves as the events happen, everything changes suddenly. New twists happen all around, one time you’re operating near an UNATCO base, then right after you find yourself at the other side of the world pursuing information, which might prove useless as facts develop.
The story is complex, there’s no point in describing an abridged version since it feels like many plots mashed into one big story. One can’t exist without the other, and the amount of information you get in each of them is so crucial that you better not miss a single conversation at all. Everything changed abruptly, and the changes are mostly steep. There’s certainly great skill in writing such diversity and still make sense. Most games today only dream of achieving this level of depth, the lack of attention in graphical detail certainly contrasts with the absurd level of quality the plot showcases.
It’s strange really. The huge variety of locations used in the game strangely gives the player a weird sense of immersion, even though most of them look too crude, and it did even at the time of launch. The good job must be done mainly by immersion caused by plot. I believe most of the familiarity you’ll find in levels come from the fact that JC Denton is a relatable character, even if taken in consideration the blandness of the voice-overs or the general lack of empathy. JC Denton is a very strict man, a man of logical thinking and “by the book” actions. Of course, the player’s actions will determine how Denton deals with the world around him, but the general feeling dies hard. And as JC Denton tries to understand the strange occurrences surrounding him, the player will do the same, creating an interesting bond character-player. Levels become much more important when you actually care about what you’re doing as a mean of understanding the situation.
Deus Ex is quite an achievement. I can understand the cult popularity. As any game that tries something huge, it comes off making mistakes along the way, more because playing safe wasn’t gonna cut it. I respect that a lot. Even a decade after launch this game impresses for its story depth, its excellent blend of RPG elements with stealth/action FPS, and general concept. In a time when developers simply try to emulate what’s successful, release new installments to established franchises with little to nothing new, or when it’s hard to remember (or care) about a game’s plot 20 minutes after you turn off the video-game console (or PC), playing a game like this certainly puts a smile on anyone’s face.