Reviews from the Backroom: Deus Ex

Reviews From The Backroom: Deus Ex

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As of late, there have been many games released that incorporate different game-play genres together, namely RPG and shooter elements. We have Bioshock, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Mass Effect, and so on. One of the first game to attempt this was the 2000 release, Deus Ex. Regarded as one of the (if not THE) greatest P.C. games of all time (the PS2 release was rather a disappointment), Deus Ex was expansive, engaging, and was an overall grand experience. In 2000, there was no other game quite like it.

Basement? Police Station? HQ of a super-secret organization? Who knows.
Basement? Police Station? HQ of a super-secret organization? Who knows.

But, does it still hold up today?

One of the recurring questions around The Escapist is "What makes this game so special?". This question is often brought up by a person who didn't grow up playing games from the same era, and there is a good reason for it. Deus Ex has simply aged poorly.

Most of the reason for this comes from the graphics, the biggest complaint any fresh pair of eyes has toward this game. Textures seem blurred, people are blocky, different aspects of an object may range from being too simplistic to being almost cartoonish. The list goes on.

Normally, using the graphics of an older game as a fault would be considered in poor taste, but in this case, they are on such a level that they actually effect the way you play the game. This is mostly due to the fact that the simplistic copy-paste textures and backgrounds make the world feel bland and give it a poor atmospheric feel. Again, normally not a problem. But Deus Ex is a game based around stealth and the ability to hunt down hidden items and areas. Therein lies the problem. Due to simplistic world textures, hidden doors and areas can stick out like a sore thumb, and hidden items are usually about as subtle as a a rave-dancer. Fortunately, this never becomes a game-breaker, and can just be written off as an unfortunate happenstance towards the game engine.

Unfortunately, combat is a whole different story. Over the past few years, I've talked with several different people who've played this game for the first time, and every single one of them told me that the game cheats. Why? 3 bullets to the head, they tell me, should be more than enough to take a person down. Deus Ex begs to differ, and arbitrarily decides whether or not your bullet hit the intended target. While the ability to aim is determined by a statistic (much like everything else), there are times when the actual impact area of a bullet is too obvious to ignore, and this often causes frustration. Besides combat, there is stealth, which this game does quite a bit more poorly than any other that incorporates stealth elements. Often, you'll find yourself crawling slowly and quietly through a shadowy area, only for someone yards, rooftops, even buildings away to spot you. Again, statistics are in play here, but even with a high level ability it's hit-and-miss.

Yes, this game does have quite the number of issues. Fortunately, the positives still far outweigh the negatives.

It's still awesome and you know it.
It's still awesome and you know it.

For starters, the story. You start off being a low ranking officer in UNATCO, an anti-terrorist agency at work across the globe. You start out in New York, a plague stricken city full of rioting, looting, and terrorist activities; where a shipment of plague vaccine has been stolen by the terrorist group... "Those really bad guys who might be French". From there on, anything is a spoiler, but suffice to say the story takes several twists, demands constant attention, and never fails to excite. Despite the rather fast-moving nature of the story, the game never leaves the player in the dust, and is easy to follow.

One of the better elements lies in the items you find and use throughout the game. Guns range from small-caliber pistols to Anti-tank missiles, and all of them have a specific part to play. Despite the fact that most of these weapons would be considered situational, some can be used just about anywhere, thanks to modification. You can add silencers, scopes, laser-sights, recoil-dampeners, there are even mods that give your weapon additional range. Some weapons can use all of the mods, and others only a few, but the modifications are easy to use, have a noticeable effect, and allow the player to create weapons for a wide range of uses.

There are three ways to open that door alone. Three.
There are three ways to open that door alone. Three.

Having items for different possible situations is also a key part of Deus Ex, as the environments can range from claustrophobic warehouses, twisting city streets, night-clubs, and wide open areas. These environments all have their own unique feel, and demand that the player slow-down, take stock, and plan accordingly. You can infiltrate a barricaded warehouse by picking terrorists off at a distance from roof-tops (by upgrading your rifle and rifle skill), stealth your way in with a silenced pistol (upgrading pistols and pistol skill), use non-lethal force (such as with gas-grenades and tazers), or run in with your Assault rifle and Shotgun out, blazing through enemy ranks while using up med kits and body-armor. Infiltration routes are also numerous, and all have different obstacles to overcome. For instance, do you disarm traps and security cameras while crawling through a sewer, or fight your way in the front door and set up cover? While they look simple on the outside, the environs presented to the player are fleshed out extremely well, and are still some of the most memorable.

Where this game shines through the strongest is with the RPG elements added in. Balance is the name of the game here, and it's quite obvious that the developers painstakingly made this game a challenge without making it punishing or unplayable. Any number of different skill sets can be upgraded, downgraded, or mixed; skill points are numerous, and finding them is properly balanced between player-effort and payoff. As stated in the Zero Punctuation review of "Alpha Protocol", the player can choose just about any number of skills to specialize in and still be able to finish the game.

Overall:

Deus Ex hasn't aged well. It looks blocky, flat, and can sometimes be a hassle to play. But, everything considered, this game is fleshed out far too well to be considered not worth playing. It's challenging, intriguing, and a rewarding experience. Since it is still very compatible with today's computers, and the Game of the Year Edition is available on Steam, there is no excuse not to play. Highly Recommended.

P.S.

If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! And if you have any suggestions for future games to get for my back-room, let me know!


My goodness, these reviews seem to fall off quickly.

Ah Deus Ex - a large part of my "unreasonably high standards" that I'm told I have regarding FPS titles stems from the bit where Deus Ex was my first real foray into FPS games. Oh sure, I'd mucked about with games like Heretic's multiplayer back in my formative years (via serial networking, whee!), some really old 'sci-fi tank' games like Stellar 7 or Spectre VR, and the first game I ever purchased for myself was Descent, which is certainly played from the first person perspective, but the bulk of my games library prior to Deus Ex involved zero gravity; so mostly things in space, or space ships inside enclosed spaces (which was totally awesome by the way).

So I'd never really sat down and played your typical FPS all the way through prior to my session with the demo for Deus Ex (the first Jedi Knight doesn't really count since you could play that entirely from 3rd person and I did just that). After looking at the clock and realizing it was 6 AM and I'd just spent the entire night playing said demo (the first time I'd ever 'unintentionally' stayed up all night doing anything), I realized I'd encountered something special.

So for me Deus Ex is the benchmark against which I've been comparing every subsequent FPS title, mostly to their detriment, heh.

Gildan Bladeborn:
Ah Deus Ex - a large part of my "unreasonably high standards" that I'm told I have regarding FPS titles stems from the bit where Deus Ex was my first real foray into FPS games. Oh sure, I'd mucked about with games like Heretic's multiplayer back in my formative years (via serial networking, whee!), some really old 'sci-fi tank' games like Stellar 7 or Spectre VR, and the first game I ever purchased for myself was Descent, which is certainly played from the first person perspective, but the bulk of my games library prior to Deus Ex involved zero gravity; so mostly things in space, or space ships inside enclosed spaces (which was totally awesome by the way).

So I'd never really sat down and played your typical FPS all the way through prior to my session with the demo for Deus Ex (the first Jedi Knight doesn't really count since you could play that entirely from 3rd person and I did just that). After looking at the clock and realizing it was 6 AM and I'd just spent the entire night playing said demo (the first time I'd ever 'unintentionally' stayed up all night doing anything), I realized I'd encountered something special.

So for me Deus Ex is the benchmark against which I've been comparing every subsequent FPS title, mostly to their detriment, heh.

You know, you mention Descent a lot.

How about a Descent 3 review, eh?

I got this game during the steam sale. goddamn is it hard, but it's awesome.

The first FPS I played... and an old man I was when I got it.

Like most other gamers, I've compared subsequent FPS's (and a lot of RPG's for that matter as far as levelling up is concerned) to it, and it's been difficult to beat. Give it an HD makeover, and it'd be the best action-game to date.

But, I reckon it has aged... not well, but better than a lot of others, as gameplay is challenging without being overwhelming, even if graphics are a bit blech.

One complaint I do have is the stealthing about: whack a guy and he'll scream like a eunuch, but his mates who are five metres away don't bat an eyelid... always left me with a feeling of disappointment for some reason. The whole reason for whacking him is the LAMs that I've planted so when they started the chasing - boom... ah well.

Great review BTW, like the style.

I thought it was a piece of crap when I first played it, way back in 2002. I tried it again recently, and you know what? I hated it even more. Still, great review. It was well written, informative and very entertaining.

As to the graphics, there is a high resolution texture pack available for download. It doesn't make a massive difference due to the engine's age, but it smooths out a lot of the roughness.

Though, judging by the reflections in the lobby screenie, you may already have it?

Otherwise, nice review, unfortunately you're preaching to the choir personally. :) Though, you didn't mention the voicework, which is rather a big part of the game considering it's primarily full voiced. I only mention this because there's sort of a divide between people who like the vo work and those who think it's low-budget garbage. I'm in the former camp, but I get that someone could find it odd or grating in many places.

I may have played this game for about 5 hours but most of that is me restarting because I just keep dying or some such. One time I found myself being unable to play having no access to medical kits while having both legs crippled. I don' know about you, but trying to finish a mission crawling as NPCs casually talk to you is a bit unnerving and annoying.

Good game, just unforgiving to differ on your thoughts.

Super Toast:
I thought it was a piece of crap when I first played it, way back in 2002. I tried it again recently, and you know what? I hated it even more. Still, great review. It was well written, informative and very entertaining.

Many Bothans died hearing (seeing?) you say that.

OT: "But Deus Ex is a game based around stealth"

Gotta disagree. Deus Ex is a game based around choice. If you place your skill points correctly then you can do the whole shooty-shooty-bang-bang if you want, and likewise, you can do the whole sneaky-sneaky thing when you want.

And you can do absolutely everything between, around, above and below that.

Woodsey:

Super Toast:
I thought it was a piece of crap when I first played it, way back in 2002. I tried it again recently, and you know what? I hated it even more. Still, great review. It was well written, informative and very entertaining.

Many Bothans died hearing (seeing?) you say that.

OT: "But Deus Ex is a game based around stealth"

Gotta disagree. Deus Ex is a game based around choice. If you place your skill points correctly then you can do the whole shooty-shooty-bang-bang if you want, and likewise, you can do the whole sneaky-sneaky thing when you want.

And you can do absolutely everything between, around, above and below that.

Well... eventually you can do all those things, yes. Relying on anything other than the element of surprise initially is a good way to end up in a bodybag, since you don't really have the hardware or skills to survive "balls out action extravaganzas!" right at the start.

Gildan Bladeborn:

Woodsey:

Super Toast:
I thought it was a piece of crap when I first played it, way back in 2002. I tried it again recently, and you know what? I hated it even more. Still, great review. It was well written, informative and very entertaining.

Many Bothans died hearing (seeing?) you say that.

OT: "But Deus Ex is a game based around stealth"

Gotta disagree. Deus Ex is a game based around choice. If you place your skill points correctly then you can do the whole shooty-shooty-bang-bang if you want, and likewise, you can do the whole sneaky-sneaky thing when you want.

And you can do absolutely everything between, around, above and below that.

Well... eventually you can do all those things, yes. Relying on anything other than the element of surprise initially is a good way to end up in a bodybag, since you don't really have the hardware or skills to survive "balls out action extravaganzas!" right at the start.

All of those options are perfectly viable ones on Liberty Island. Shooting works less well, but you can still get away with it (if you're exceptionally boring).

Woodsey:

OT: "But Deus Ex is a game based around stealth"

Gotta disagree. Deus Ex is a game based around choice. If you place your skill points correctly then you can do the whole shooty-shooty-bang-bang if you want, and likewise, you can do the whole sneaky-sneaky thing when you want.

Ugh. That's the problem I had reviewing this game, there was just so much to cover, and I didn't want a wall of text. So, I went off of what I did, which is kind of a mix of everything (spreading out the points requires stealthing here and there).

GothmogII:

Though, judging by the reflections in the lobby screenie, you may already have it?

Nah, that was actually standard. I'd be interested in some info on that HD pack, if you'd be so kind? ;)

I liked this review, and I LOVE Deus Ex. Can't wait for the next Deus Ex

My god! You lunatic! Why are you attacking that mech with a sword?!?! He'll detonate when you kill him! (Also, I think that picture does reveal just a few little spoilers.)

Also, there are 3 ways to open the flight deck 2 door? But I thought there were just 2 keys (in 2 different lockers) and the ventilation shaft? And I could never use the ventilation shaft.

Finally, I found that a headshot with a pistol was generally an insta-kill against all but the strongest enemies, but I was playing on easy, so I could be wrong.

Good review though!

 

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