Deus Ex Machina, God-machine, UNATCO, FEMA, One-world Government – what does this all mean? Enter Deus Ex, a trippy, cyber-punk adventure game that will pit you in the very eye of the hurricane. When Deus Ex was first released for the PC back in 2000, it amassed a huge cult following the likes of which are comparable only to Hideo Kojima’s tirade on the console market. Thanks to its decidedly rich and engaging storyline and true non-linear nature, Deus Ex was regarded as hands down, the best game for the PC in the year of its release. As the story’s hero, JC Denton, you are charged with unraveling a conspiracy that reaches to the very top of the universe’s one world government. Not an easy task by any means. As the story unfolds and you are made privy to more information, you begin to realize the true scope and power of the intentions from the powers that be. The game certainly shows its age in the visual department, which may potentially turn people off to the title. A graphical overhaul would have certainly helped but for those who don’t judge a book by their covers, a deep, engrossing adventure awaits. This is a near-identical, faithful port of the original game, for better or worse.
While Deus Ex may at first seem like your run-of-the-mill FPS shoot-em up, the depth of gameplay and various RPG elements integrated into the game make this title unique and original in its own right. As you progress through the game, you’ll make decisions that will directly affect the outcome of the scenario, and you’ll also collect experience points that can be used towards refining your nano-augmented skills. One of the most appealing facets of the game is its ability to include multiple solutions for every objective. This adds a completely new degree of immersiveness, since you rarely feel obligated to conform to a linear path of progress. If gaming is in fact going to reach the same level of accepted entertainment as literature and cinema, it’s going to be games like this that help to get it there.
The graphics look as if they are constructed of papier-mache; like faceless, generic representations of their real-life counterparts. The lack of detail, graphically, leaves a lot of room for imagination. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the unambiguously rendered surroundings in the game are actually beneficial, but thanks to the incredibly inspired story of Deus Ex, they hardly detract from the experience like you'd think they would. Visually, you can expect the same offerings of PC FPS games from two years past.
If you remember an old Sega CD title by the name of Rise of the Dragon, then you might be familiar with the style of this game's soundtrack. Music consists of anxious, pacing, sweeping, underplayed scores when you are either exploring out in the field or in the confines of safety back at base. When in a hostile situation, the music revs up a few notches to convey a sense of urgency. Overall, the music nicely fits the subject matter and various situations that you will find yourself in. Voice acting is done very well, with each character in the game’s universe having their own unique personality. Every piece of dialogue is expressed through vocal interaction and voice-overs are realistic throughout the entire experience.
Deus Ex takes place in the near future, set in a world where technological and biochemical oppression runs rampant. And as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, tensions rise to a plateau never before realized, with the majority of the population struggling just to survive. To make matters worse a fatal epidemic known as the “gray death” has been unleashed on the world seemingly out of nowhere, and the only people with the cure, known as Ambrosia, aren’t sharing. As you can imagine this does not sit well with the millions of people that the plague has already infected, and thus an internal war is waged. With UNATCO (The United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition) taking terrorist countermeasures against the same people the agency has sworn to protect, Deus Ex is a window into a bleak futuristic world indeed.
Playing the part of JC Denton, a rookie agent for UNATCO and one of only two nano-augmented agents, your initial mission will be to retrieve a shipment of Ambrosia that the NSF (National Secessionist Force) hijacked. As the story unfolds, you will begin to second-guess your employers’ intentions and begin to realize that there may in fact be more powers at work then UNATCO would have you believe. Your brother, Paul Denton, will also play a large part in the game’s universe, compelling you even more into believing the theory of a conspiracy. Paul Denton is the first nano-augmented agent under the employ of UNATCO and you will keep in constant contact with him as he reveals, layer by layer, the story of Deus Ex until he eventually realizes the ultimate destiny of humankind’s convergence with technology.
This is all presented in a flawless integration of FPS and RPG play dynamics and is at once, entertaining and open for various methods of approach. A typical scenario in Deus Ex will present you with 4-5 different options for success. This gives you the ability to play the game in whatever method suits you personally, be it stealth or jumping head-long into a barrage of enemy gunfire. At first, this game may seem a bit daunting in its difficulty but once you come to terms with the fact that nearly anything is possible, the game’s brilliance of design becomes quite apparent.
There are tons of optional information that you can explore, like books, emails, and data-cubes, but it is not necessary to indulge in this content to progress through the game. I would however, recommend giving a data-cube a look-see every now and again as they can hold pertinent information like security bypass codes, logins and passwords to computer accounts, and interesting information regarding the situation that your currently in. There will also be quite a bit of character interaction that is presented via audio dialogue. Your actions within the game will sometimes affect what you or a character says, or doesn’t say. Overall, Ion Storm did a great job of integrating dynamic character interaction and you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself in a situation that seems to repeat what you already know. As you discover new areas and accomplish objectives, you’ll be awarded with skill points that you can use towards any number of skills; anything from the aqua-lung, which allows you to swim more efficiently, to the multi-tool, which allows you to refine your lock-picking technique.
The combat in Dues Ex is a bit lackluster due to the cumbersome controls of using a gamepad and because it utilizes the long-outdated unreal engine. Precision is definitely not a key-point in the games gameplay; the somewhat sluggish controls force you to approach each potentially hostile situation very cautiously. You may also find that your ammunition supply is more often then not depleted to the bare essentials, in which case blowing everything up becomes even less of an option. This is a thinking man’s FPS, and success will ultimately rest on your strategic approach to the game. The stealth aspect of the game is also a little rough around the edges since sneaking past guards or security cameras is based almost entirely on trial and error. At times, you’ll be spotted despite the fact that you are seemingly well hidden, and at other times a guard will look right through you when you’re standing in plain view. However, the fact that you are not forced to play the game in any particular way makes accomplishing goals a lot less tedious and aggravating then if you were required to go about it in a more linear fashion. While Ion Storm does include multiple possibilities in Deus Ex, it does not quite nail any one mode of play. It is a culmination of all the somewhat loose-ended offerings that make this game so fun.
Other then stealth and combat options, you’ll also have the ability to accomplish goals through means of electronic bypassing and sabotage. Become a skilled enough hacker and you’ll be able to turn cameras off, instruct enemy turrets to destroy allies, or simply bypass them altogether. If the main route to an objective is littered with enemies and you are low on energy, it might be a good idea to bypass a security door and take the road less traveled. Hacking also becomes useful in tapping into intranet networks, making you privy to who is talking about what. There are tons of options for progressing throughout the game and it is very unlikely that any two games will play out in exactly the same fashion. There are four controller layouts in case the default setup doesn't float your boat, but the PS2 version lacks the PC's ability to fully customize your control preference.
Deus Ex will take anywhere from 15-30 hours to complete depending on the choices you make throughout the game. Endless hours can be spent exploring the well thought out levels of the game. DX presents an involving storyline that becomes more and more interesting as new characters and secrets are unearthed, and on a few occasions you will be forced to make decisions that will pit you on either side of the surfacing conspiracy. Expect many plot-twists and surprising outcomes as the story unfolds. Overall, this game feels like a well-written cyberpunk novel that grabs you and does not let go. If you’ve already played through the PC version then there isn’t much reason to go out and buy this game for the PS2. Newcomers to the title, however, have more than enough reason to slap down fifty bucks.
This is a scary game, but not scary in the Zombies-and-Ghosts kind of way -- scary in the one-world-government-conspiracy way. And it’s also a very adult game, not in the gore-and-hookers kind of way -- adult in the sense that the storyline is geared for an intellectual audience. If you can get past the games technical shortcomings, then you’ll be abundantly rewarded with an experience that transcends conventional console shooters.