E3 2001 Report: Deus Ex

Read everything currently known about the PlayStation 2 version of Deus Ex.

Ion Storm's Deus Ex was originally released for the PC in June of last year, and it gained accolades from many PC gaming magazines and sites. Now, the night before the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles officially begins, publisher Eidos Interactive announced that an updated version of the game is headed to the PlayStation 2 later this year. We've gathered facts known about the PC original, as well as new information about its PS2 brother.

"This game blurs the lines between traditional genres," explains Ion Storm's Warren Spector. "[Many at Ion Storm] insist it's an RPG, some say it's an action game, while others call it in adventure game." Like Spector's previous work, Deus Ex is completely open-ended, and since it isn't grounded in a specific set of rules, it doesn't dictate to players how to play the game. It's the players, and not Spector's design team, that decide how each situation will take place and how each problem will be solved. As a result, Deus Ex doesn't play like any single game but instead borrows elements from a wide spectrum of genres. For gamers who prefer fast-paced action, Deus Ex is a first-person shooter; it's an RPG for those who prefer character building and interaction; and those who like quest-based missions will find that Deus Ex is a solid adventure game.

The defining factor for this open-ended gameplay is Deus Ex's skill system, a series of customizable talents that let you decide what kind of character you want to play throughout the game, in essence, differentiating your player from everyone else's. In addition, the ability to augment your body and modify your weapons ensures that you'll get a different experience every time you play Deus Ex.

The world of Deus Ex takes place in a dark future where crime has taken over every aspect of society. Armed to the teeth and bristling with machine guns and ballistic armor, the police of this future resemble an invading army, not a domestic peacekeeping force. Disease and drugs run rampant through the streets, and the landscapes are dotted with ruined buildings and aging landmarks that are overrun by homeless people, orphaned children and street thugs that range from petty thieves to mob bosses. You assume the role of J.C. Denton, a new recruit of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, or UNATCO. As Denton, your character is thrust into a world steeped in lies, betrayal, and conspiracy. In true X-Files fashion, you'll come to trust no one in your search for the truth behind the events that transpire throughout the game.

Deus Ex has more than 10,000 lines of spoken dialogue, nearly three times as many as any other Eidos game. The conversations you'll have with other characters in the game will be presented in a traditional text-tree format that gives J.C. a number of different responses for each scenario. Not only will you get a different answer by varying your own responses, but the entire outcome of a certain mission can be affected by your decisions. In a demonstration given to us by the game's lead designer, Harvey Smith, J.C. is given orders to assassinate a Mafia ringleader on sight. But after meeting with him, the terrorist exonerates himself, and J.C. is subsequently given the option of letting him go. But if he does so, J.C. will be forced to stop his own partner, who's bent on taking the mob leader's life. Another adventure element of the game is the ability to talk to NPCs multiple times and get not only a different response from each, but different goals to accomplish as well. "Only 50 percent of the game is plot critical," says Spector. "The rest is made up of secondary goals that you can choose to accomplish or ignore."

But at its core, Deus Ex is an action game - specifically, a first-person sneaker similar to Thief but set in the near future. And like other such action games, your character is given an arsenal of modern-day weapons and items with which to dispatch his enemies. Deus Ex's arsenal includes handguns, shotguns, rifles, and machine guns, as well as lighter melee weapons and heavier assault guns. Since J.C. starts out the game green, he'll have some difficulty handling any new weapon that comes into his possession. This is where some of Deus Ex's role-playing elements come into play. As in many RPGs, you'll be awarded experience points, called skill points in Deus Ex, every time you accomplish a goal. You can assign these points to a number of skills, including one of five weapon-handling skills, which will improve J.C.'s effectiveness with the game's arsenal. As J.C. progresses through the game, he'll become more proficient with the use of weaponry and be able to dispatch his enemies with ease.

Then again, the game isn't all action. In fact, you can play through Deus Ex with a minimal amount of fighting. Instead of confronting enemies, you can opt to sneak around them. Instead of using brute force to destroy security systems, you can choose to hack into and disable them. "The game is completely self-balancing," explains Spector. "If you kill everyone you run into, you'll burn through your resources but will be able to pick more up from the dead bodies you leave around. But if you ignore the enemies, you keep the resources you have." Unlike other RPGs, you're not penalized for avoiding combat. In Deus Ex, you're awarded the skill points not for killing enemies, but for accomplishing goals - goals that you accomplish by either the direct approach or through more covert means. Deus Ex leaves it completely up to you. These points can be attributed to 11 skills. These skills include everything from handling a rifle to hacking into computers. There's no limit to the combination of skills you'll be able to customize.

Eidos said that the PlayStation 2 version of the game will be tweaked to allow console players to focus more on the action than on menu navigation and inventory management, and that the control has been designed from the ground up to work with the PS2 Dual Shock Controller. The game's graphics and sound effects will also be upgraded. We'll get a chance to see what sort of affect these changes have made on the game later in the E3 show.

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