Deus Ex Reader Review
“Civilization is near collapse, the world economy is in chaos, and deadly viruses ravage the earth.” (blurb on the back of the box). You play the role of JC Denton, a biomodified super agent, deployed for anti-terrorist measures. You’re also a rookie, and in many ways a continuation of a controlled experiment. Created by developer Ion Storm in 2000, the key mastermind being renowned Studio Director Warren Spector. Deus Ex happens to be a lengthy, time-consuming, complex, comprehensive, often demanding and challenging encounter, with a steep learning curve.
Deus Ex is set in a believable world either enhanced or damaged by life-changing technology (such as legal or illegal human biomodification which uses Nanotechnology), with hints of science fiction but marred by similar problems to those known in the world of today. A world of intrigue and realistic government conspiracies, secret shadowy organizations that have existed for eons, replete with Inner Circles pulling the puppet strings of world leaders to suit their own ends. Also included are the familiar rug-pulling plot twists and nefarious but charismatic villains. You could call it clichéd in that sense, though the way it’s played out certainly isn’t; as it deals effectively with complex social, political and philosophical issues in an appealing way.
There are more some remarkable characters within the story (and this includes JC’s suave, cool and collected manner). There’s Chad Dumier, leader of the Silhouette organizational rebel uprising, a principled man but somewhat “unethical” in his tactics. Gunther Hermann, a ferocious Arnie-like agent, hilarious but creepy, who stops at nothing and no one to scale the heights of recognition and victory. Anna Navarre, a cold, ruthless, mysterious agent who’s hard to trust. Walter Simons, a fascinatingly charming but hard-hearted villain and Bob Page, powerful but deceitful mogul who charades as a public welfare crusader, but houses ambitious and forbidding aims. These just scratch the surface of the wealth of interesting personalities you’ll find.
Deus Ex is a seminal game, as its main gameplay idea is one of freedom. You dictate how you play, as the game throws a multitude of questions at you. What multiple-choice responses do you make in conversations (eg. do you bribe someone for information, insult their ideas, agree with them, agree to help them, lie to them etc.), who do you ally with or work against? What tools do you pick up or use, what tallied skill points do you develop and in what quantity, or what biomodification augmentations to install and upgrade? These are all questions that only the individual player can answer, and choose from. In effect this makes each person’s game a distinctive experience.
The freedom isn’t in the sense that you can actually go absolutely anywhere you please, but where you’re deployed, or whatever you’re told to do, you decide how to solve the problems in your own way. It has been designed for the player to experiment with a huge array of possible options, or even create their own. These options also allow for ‘emergence’ in gameplay, which is that different and unexpected outcomes can result, or ‘emerge’ from whatever approach you choose to take. There are even three separate endings that can play out from the choices you make throughout the entire adventure.
Deus Ex takes you on a globe-trotting adventure, some highlights include frequenting in the bowels of “Hell’s Kitchen” (New York), a den of prostitutes and corrupt government officials (or was that somewhere else? My memory’s a bit hazy). Hong Kong, a city caught up in Triad warfare, purposefully incited by imperceptible major players. Or even occupied Paris (you’ll have to find out for yourselves exactly “who” occupies the city), concealing catacombs of insurgent activity - again these are just some flashes of the myriad locations. There’s also a brilliant, varied, scene-setting and mood changing soundtrack to go with these locations (check it out here if you’re interested).
Remarkable idiosyncrasies also present themselves and manage to work convincingly in the atmosphere of the game. Nanotech-enhanced super agents, Area 51 and the ability to walk into a bar, engage in conversation for information (sometimes “bribable”), have a drink and leave intoxicated, screen blurring utilized effectively. Spector presents a world you can get lost in with enigmatic characters and concepts, snippets of narrative teasingly revealed in readable book extracts, data cubes, personal emails accessed on hacked computer systems, intercom links and crossovers wired into consciousness like a personal radio chip in your brain; encouraging or hampering your progress, be they friend or foe. I could go on and on. A thriving black market trade which you can freely indulge in, automated security bots whose circuits can be scrambled over to your side, AI Constructs with ideologies of world domination, revolutionaries who seek enlightenment via unreasonable utopian dreams…
As a player you had that uneasy feeling, that rare sense that you are just a pawn in a very high-ranking chess game between some major players, a mystifying chess game, where a definable finale is unpredictable. It’s a darkly humoured dystopia, a unique atmosphere that no other game seems to have quite matched. It isn’t even as depressing as it sounds, managing to remain a lot of fun, while messing about with so many options and enjoying the characters, soaking in and absorbing the wonderful dialogue and script. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll love, you’ll feel awkward, you’ll feel pathos, you’ll come to hate, you’ll be confused at times and then have your questions answered, with more questions arising in all three of the endings.
There are no black and white, right or wrong decisions, instead are the various shades of grey. All that’s left is to enter the machine, and make your own experience; if you dare. Still the best game ever I reckon. Just remember to trust no one, including yourself.
10 / 10