Retrospective: Deus Ex • Page 2

Ghost of the machine.

Some players will dart out of the window and escape, others will defend their brother to the death, others still will hide in the cupboard. One set of players will continue with Paul, the rest may well assume that his time had simply come - his death seemingly ordained by the game developers.

The game's brilliance is that it wraps itself around your character, making you an active participant in the most vital parts of the story - whether you're shooting early holes in Anna Navarre on an NSF plane, or (ahem) deciding the fate of humanity by going into one of three rooms at the game's close.

There's something else about Deus Ex though, which once soldered together neurons that now can never be severed. Deus Ex allowed for experimental gameplay like no other, and it remains the quintessential 'Hmm. I wonder if...' experience.

My personal anecdote, which has bored 10 years' worth of pub tables, was also in the early Hell's Kitchen hub. It came at the point at which you have climbed through four floors of UNATCO troops, and once you've sent a signal out from its roof a message from Walton Simons informs you that all of the troops you've just sauntered past now have orders to kill.

Bereft of medikits and shot about in the chest, I may have been a big man - but I was out of shape. Rather than fight my way down through the building I followed a gut instinct - tossed a few crates off the side of the building to cushion my fall and jumped down.

JC Denton is essentially a workplace harassment suit waiting to happen.

I smashed my legs to pieces and had to deliver a hasty headshot from pavement level, but I dragged myself away from the danger zone and lived to fight another day. 10 years on, the magic I felt then is still with me. I may have forgotten the Greasels, but I remember breaking my legs like it was yesterday.

Deus Ex not only gave you a degree of control in the way it told an otherwise linear story, but also gave you the tools to muck around within its game world in the way you saw fit.

This wasn't just restricted to the way you built up your character, or solely in how blood-thirsty you were, but also in the way you negotiated your way past its challenges and characters. Brilliantly, Ion Storm also had enough ken to program in a show of awareness of how you were playing the game.

It's a simple thing, but get a repeated nugget of information from a bum on the street and JC will pipe up that he already knows it. Other games would be content for NPCs to bark at you in a vacuum - in Deus Ex there is both action and reaction.

"JCDentonJCDentonJCDenton... he appeared! *Gasp* It's true!"

Kill too many people and the chap in the armoury will refuse to give you extra ammunition, watch Simons interrogate the NSF and the Men in Black will indicate his displeasure top-side, go into the ladies' toilet and... well you know what happens when you go in the ladies' toilets. Swoon!

There's a myriad of reasons that Deus Ex was a great game - by my estimation the greatest I ever played. It's a crime that it not only never got a worthy sequel, but also that no-one thought to cut and paste the template and at least create more games of it ilk.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines came close, in spurts, and perhaps you can see some echoes in the wares of BioWare and Obsidian... But somehow gaming let the most part of the magic disappear up into the ether. That Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks as good and worthy as it does is nothing but a blessing.

In any case, and please excuse me for attempting to direct something as organic as a comments thread, I'd love to hear your own personal Deus Ex stories. The moments that just blew your mind, and made you fall in love with that big sunglass-wearing hunk JC Denton before he unified with that great big mainframe in the sky.

Stuff other than the simple joy of piling pot plants and furniture on people's desks would probably be best though. Even if that's yet another good reason for the game being ace.

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About the author

Will Porter

Will Porter


Will ‘Velvet Owl’ Porter is a roaming freelance writer who most recently worked with The Creative Assembly on Alien: Isolation. You can find out how cold/hungry he is by following @Batsphinx on Twitter.


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