Deus Ex is one of those games that comes along and shakes the industry. It’s one of those benchmark titles that revolutionises the genre and shows off what developers can really do. Sorry if I’ve jumped straight to the summary, but it has to be said. The moment when you load up the first level, you know it’s special.
The game is set in the future where you are a nano-engineered agent for the United Nations Sponsored Anti Terrorist Organisation (see, ridiculously long names are here to stay!). A shipment of Ambrosia – not the dessert! – which is the only cure for the ‘Grey Death’has been stolen and you’ve got to get it back. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say the plot is a rollercoaster of twists and turns.
Deus Ex is a first person shooter with a difference, a big difference. Instead of your standard ‘blast everything’ fare, it places a large tactical element in the gameplay. There’s always several ways of doing things, from sneaking and hacking to full on frontal assaults. Being able to choose how you play it and develop your own style of play is the key innovation in the game.
Your character can gain skill points as you progress, allowing him to specialise in certain areas, such as lockpicking or medicine. You have to be careful what you choose to ‘upgrade’ as it can alter the way you play the game. Train yourself in hacking and sniping, and you’ll be staying as far away from targets as possible, over-riding security systems to advance. The great thing is, is that you’ll want to play it over and over again to try out the different styles and strategies, and each time you do so, you’ll get to explore parts you’ve never ventured in before.
Of course, a sneaker-shooter needs some well thought out level design. Thankfully Deus Ex has got it just right. The developers have added in air ducts and underwater passages, giving you multiple ways round problems and obstructions. As well as this, you never feel like they’re tacked on routes, it doesn’t ever feel like there is a set down path across the level. Apart from the basic mapping, the levels themselves are packed with interactive objects and little details. It just feels like the game is part of a larger universe, not an artificial world placed around you like a bubble.
You’d think with all this depth that it would take ages to get into, like some of the RPGs these days. Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy to start up and get into. It could have been extremely hard with all the complications, but the developer has put time and effort into creating a functional interface. Everything you look at with the crosshair/cursor is described in detail, which will keep players from searching the manual for clues. The game also logs conversations, notes and codes; an invaluable addition.
Deus Ex isn’t exactly a looker, but it’s better than the average game. However, the gameplay shines so much that the run of the mill visuals aren’t really not noticeable. The atmosphere is well developed, giving it a dark, eerie undertone.
Like I said earlier, there’s so many ways to play Deus Ex that you’ll be back for more to try it another way. There’s no multiplayer option – a co-op mode would have been nice – but the single player-experience is good enough to keep you interested for ages.
While it’s hasn’t got stunning visuals, Deus Ex has some of the deepest single player experiences available. The gameplay is simply revolutionary and will probably alter the genre. Ion Storm have gone beyond the call of duty to create a unique, elegant and fulfilling game. I only hope that other developers will pay attention to this benchmark title.