What an odd game to review? Deus Ex is a game I've had for a long time, thanks to the very kind Nintendo_Warrio, it's his favourtie game and he wanted me to play it so he bought me a copy when it was super cheap on steam. Sad to say... I kinda hated it when I played it at first and after only a few hours I gave up on it. However this year Human Revolution cameo ut, and it looked cool so I bought it and LOVED IT. This inspired me to take up Deus Ex again, and I must say despite it's awful first impression it does grow on you and I was really starting to like it at the end. That said it does have alot of issues... Wait, I'm starting to review it outside of the review, I better just post the review. Here's the link where you can click those lovely thumb up and thumb down buttons, and here's the review itself. It's really long. Really long! But it's a complex game that I feel strongly about!
Though it provides a great experience overall, Deus Ex has too many objective flaws to warrant a proper recommendation.
Ion Storm's conspiracy laden sci-fi first person shooter Deus Ex is heralded as one of the finest games of its time. It fused shooting, stealth, story and many other elements to create a sandbox game that put a lot of power in the player. It is a game where there is no one approach to any given situation, and although it doesn't always do a good job of making each approach particularly viable, the fact it offers so much divergence is impressive in itself. A lot of these features fall under the category of impressive for the time however, but even now the amount of freedom offered in terms of gameplay and story is still very impressive and not something you see very often in modern games. Its separate parts have become extremely dated, and some of them weren't even great to start off with, but when taken as a whole Deus Ex is quite impressive, even today. However there are far too many caveats to warrant a real recommendation. A dedicated player will find a lot to like in Deus Ex, but the amount you have to put up with to appreciate the greatness may make Deus Ex a waste of money for many players. As a museum piece it's impressive, and when viewed with nostalgia it's fantastic. However when played today as a newcomer to the series, it will take a lot of effort to see what made this game so special when it was released.
On a fundamental level there is a lot wrong with Deus Ex. Most of this comes from the gameplay itself, the freedom allowed to the player is most impressive and makes Deus Ex, at its best, a rewarding experience and a refreshingly different one, however this freedom is also its downfall. Though the freedom to choose between multiple options is available, no one of these options is particularly good. The two main approaches in the game are shooting and stealth, and while these are both functional; calling them good would be an overstatement. Due to its RPG nature the guns are very unsatisfying to shoot, they are made to the RPG convention of weapons only become good when you sink experience points into them. This works quite well in a standard RPG when it lends itself to the gameplay, Deus Ex is not a standard RPG though. It is a shooter with RPG elements fused into it, these are what give it its identity and are what make it great, but they are also a source of problems. It isn't very fun to pick up a pistol for the first time and shoot a guard to no effect; this is due to the deliberate inaccuracy of the weapons. When a weapon is drawn the cross hair is huge, indicating that bullets could fire off at any point in this large area, if you hold your gun still then the cross hair narrows and shooting suddenly becomes viable. This isn't the worst of ideas, but it does make Deus Ex not work like a conventional shooter. Which is very annoying for those who wish to play it as such, and even more annoying still as the game is supposed to promote being able to play it how you like. On top of this the only shot that really matters in Deus Ex is a headshot; this is made even worse by the aiming in general. Weapons are supposed to be upgraded and therefore start life as inaccurate and weak guns with huge amounts of recoil. This means that shooting becomes more viable late in the game, but at the start it's a poor option and just doesn't feel good or control well. Also late game enemies and level design choices mean that shooting is never a truly viable option, you can get through the game guns blazing but it won't feel like a great shooter, in fact it will feel like a bad one.
Some of the game's choices put the fate of the world truly in your hands
This brings us to the other main option; the stealthy approach. Much like the gunplay, the stealth is deeply floored and not satisfying. There is of course an innate appeal to making your way through a hostile area unnoticed and the result is rewarding, however the stealth itself is simply poorly done. The stealth in Deus Ex doesn't lend itself well to the first person perspective, you are supposed to memorise guard patterns and sneak around whilst their backs are turned. This works in a game like Metal Gear solid where you can see the guards from your third person perspective whilst you hide out of sight, sadly this is not the case in Deus Ex. The game often calls for you to be stealthy in enclosed environments, a guard will be walking up and down a route you want to take and you can only take it when he is facing the other way. This is very simple, but the perspective makes it a pain to pull off. You have to find a safe spot where the guard can't see you; the problem here is that due to the perspective, if the guard can't see you then you cannot see the guard. This means that you don't know when he is facing the other way and the AI is such that if you lean out quickly to check where he is, on many occasions he will notice you and attack you. This makes stealth very frustrating and is only overcome by copious quick saving and blind leaps of faith. All in all it is not a satisfying way to play the game and furthers the point that although many options are presented to you, the viability of these options is questionable.
The enemy AI is a problem in general, they act in very odd ways and their frenetic and idiotic behaviour when put under pressure makes them a pain to deal with. Enemies will react to seeing you with hostility, and they will react to damage with hostility. Basically if they see you or you shoot at them they will shoot back. This is all fine, but the problem comes in when they start to take damage. The basic AI routine for an enemy on their last legs is to flee madly in no particular direction. This is incredibly annoying and just looks stupid. It makes sense that a guard under fire would want to raise the alarm, but sometimes they just run for the sake of it. It would be natural to seek cover in a gunfight for protection, but the Deus Ex AI is far happier running around randomly in the open. This is just a further element that makes both stealth and gunplay annoying approaches to take. It's great that the game provides the player with choice, but choice itself isn't innately good, especially when you are just choosing between bad things.
That trench coated augmented kid, sure plays a mean pinball
In some respects it is because Deus Ex is an old game and has aged poorly, but many the problems really transcend this and stood out at the time of release also (on top of this many older games still hold up extremely well). There are examples of games at the time which deal with the gameplay elements that Deus Ex offers in far better ways, Metal Gear solid did stealth excellently and there were countless first person shooters on the PC at the time with great gunplay. These issues give Deus Ex a strong barrier to entry to a new player, the game is simply overly complex, and this complexity makes it not very accessible. Though its complexity is definitely a large part of its charm, and its identity, definite stream lining is needed. The RPG elements and interface can be daunting to first time players, even things like the health system- which is separated down into separate health bars for each body part (you can lose arms and legs and carry on playing but if you lose your torso or head you die) - are needlessly complex and can make it a confusing game to play. This is a double edged sword though, because the health system is great, there is a definite entertainment to losing a leg and being able to carry on; and it's nice to have a more realistic and contextual approach to health and damage. In the end though, some simplification is needed and as it stands Deus Ex's steep learning curve will seriously put off players.
If you are committed to playing the game despite all these factors, and have the endurance to strive through its shortcomings, you will be rewarded. Deus Ex is not a bad game, it is a great one, and this becomes quite clear the deeper you get into it. Choice manifests its way into the gameplay really nicely and there are some clear divergent paths that incentivise a second playthrough. The gameplay itself may make you only want to play this once but those who enjoy the experience are given plenty of reason to revisit it. There are three endings for example and all of which are very good, if a bit short. Being able to shape the story to a certain degree makes you want to at least try certain parts again to see how things can change and on top of this, the story itself is excellent and the story telling superb. The game rewards exploration also, so even without playing it a second time you can get more than your money's worth from the amount of time you can sink into a single playthrough. It is a game which requires your complete concentration and this makes it an immersive experience throughout your time with it, there are multiple paths and secrets hidden around the expansive levels and sizeable city hubs that require a keen eye to find for example, and the attention needed to spot these really makes you appreciate the well crafted world. It's a testament to Ion Storm's skill at creating a compelling that the exploration is so rewarding outside of the extrinsic rewards of XP for finding secret areas, and of course the discovery of multiple paths. It really is a superb world they have created and one you will enjoy spending time in.
The shooting mechanics make it quite clear that JC Denton should spend more time here
This exploration ties into the story also, you can hack computers to read emails, which shed light on some of the characters in the narrative, and find notes left behind which can give you door codes or interesting story information. Outside of this the story develops due to your choices, though there is a straight forward narrative the sandbox nature of the gameplay can change it. Killing a character (when allowed, and you are allowed surprisingly often) for example can open a new path and at some points you are given definite choices to progress the story. These choices are really well done and transcend the typical, good versus evil, it is never clear which is the 'right' choice because it's just down to the player to follow what they think is the right path to the truth. The story itself is all about the spread of a disease called the Gray Death, the powers that govern the world, terrorism, freedom fighting, conspiracies, scientific experimentation and progression, religion and many other themes. It's deep, complex, philosophical and very entertaining. The campaign is quite long, clocking in at a good deal over twenty hours for an average playthrough, and in that duration the story twists and turns in ways that keep you interested and guessing. You play as JC Denton, who is pretty much a government spy that can upgrade his own body parts, this has a relatively small effect on the gameplay (though it can become very useful at a few points later in the game) but it has a large effect on the story, and an interesting one too. The Deus Ex universe is one in which human augmentation has become mainstream, people have robotic limbs and random implants to make them better, and you are host to the latest advancements in that technology. However what is the cost of these advancements and why are you the show piece? All will be revealed as you make your way through Deus Ex's many mysteries.
The story takes you to a lot of different locations, though there isn't that much variety in visual design. For its time Deus Ex wasn't a great looking game, the textures are simplistic and dull, and there are very few character models. Now however the game is just ugly, very ugly. Those who come to Deus Ex 1 having played this year's artistically strong Human Revolution will be very taken aback. Deus Ex is not a looker. Luckily the world itself is brought to life through great and very real feeling characters who add to the depth of the experience. If you are a graphically minded gamer, it may be worth skipping out on Deus Ex even if you love Human Revolution. In fact love of the most recent addition to the series does not entail like of the original Deus Ex in any way. It's a very different game and one that is not as player friendly. If you love the world of Human Revolution, and the story, (and can put up with dated game design) then you will still enjoy Deus Ex. The role playing possibilities are excellent, and this interesting take on humanities future is strangely realistic in some very interesting ways, it isn't that fun to interact with at times but it is a fun world to exist in.
Crouch+Stun Prod= Stealth
As a role playing game Deus Ex is fantastic, it has several groundbreaking features that are well ahead of its time and provides a deep, thought provoking experience that you can shape yourself. The sandbox itself is amazing, though the tools are poor, the separate elements of Deus Ex are very weak and the act of playing the game in action heavy levels can be quite laborious. However this is weighed out by the joy of exploration, character interaction and role playing. If you prize moment to moment gameplay above all else then Deus Ex will not stand up anymore, if you like story and the role playing element of RPGs then Deus Ex is still very impressive and worth playing. It's very easy to play through Human Revolution and be tempted by Deus Ex 1's availability on steam, but potential purchasers should ere on the side of caution. This game is not for everyone, it never was but now its appeal is narrower still. If you are able to overlook the game's many foibles to reach the brilliance at its core, then Deus Ex comes with a definite recommendation. It's an important game that warrants playing to a certain kind of gamer. However it's hard to recommend this title completely due to a number of very obvious and obtrusive issues. It's still a great game, but it takes a lot of dedication for this greatness to shine.