Deus Ex, released in the year 2000 and developed by Ion Storm, one of the most beloved games of its time and still regarded by fans as one the best games ever made but 17th years after its release does it still hold its charm?
This time I’m not writing a review but rather my overall thoughts on the game, its influence and pretty much how I think it is to play it today for someone who didn’t have the chance to play it when it was released.
Deus Ex, for those that are not aware, is a futuristic, cyberpunk RPG First Person Shooter hybrid. Here I think it’s worth mentioning the first thing to be aware of: Deus Ex is much more RPG than First Person Shooter. Not accepting that will certainly hindrance much of the enjoyment one would have with the game playing it for the first time today.
Long-time fans, please, forgive me but the shooting mechanics of Deus Ex are not good. I’m not saying this comparing it with current games in mind but games released around the same time or even before it.
For example, two very good games, two of my favorites of that time, System Shock 2 and No One Lives Forever are not only a little but many times better than Deus Ex when it comes to shooting.
Sure these games are much more Shooters than anything else and it’s only natural shooting in three games should feel better, and like I mentioned, Deus Ex is more an RPG than any other thing, yet this does not excuse Deus Ex combat for feeling so cumbersome, slow, inefficient and tedious.
The game is built on the unreal engine, engine responsible for one of the most fun shooters of its time, Unreal Tournament, and yet it feels exactly the opposite. To make it clear, when starting the game you have to gradually level up your skills in various departments, that includes specializations with various kinds of weapons, which is great in an RPG but your crosshair is so wide when you first start and takes so long to line up you can’t barely hit a target without standing still for about 15 seconds.
In the enemy A.I. stands another big problem with the gameplay. Weather you decide to play the game guns blazing or in a stealth manner. Comparing it to Thief: The Dark Project or Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation and one can only wish the A. I. and steatlh were handled better.
Ater hammering on the game so much one might think I hated it. Well, not really. I think for each criticism I have for Deus Ex I have a compliment as well.
First, what I think to be to this day the best aspect of Deus EX that still stands the test of time is the music. It’s not easy to describe how the music adds to something but here I would compare it to the movie Blade Runner. The music is more subtle but I think it captures the essence of a somewhat dystopian, cyberpunk future.
Another thing I wholeheartedly commend the game for is its embrace for RPG mechanics. Back when it was released it was rare to see games blending genres so much like Deus Ex did. The skills you can choose and augmentation options are mostly good, fun and unique enough that they make you invested in the world.
Deus Ex and System Shock 2 – Shaping the way for the future of First Person Shooters
The world you’re in, as the tone of the game, is dark. It helps it feels mysterious and full of secrets. Levels are big and vice the player many options on how to approach to objectives (most of the times).
Giving players option is great and the influence this game had on future games I can only be grateful for but I do have some complains here. Levels are big and full of places to go but they always feel empty and lifeless. For example, in the second level of the game there is a base you can go. The area is big but there are so few people in there it feels like a ghost bar. In my opinion they could’ve done a smaller space with the same amount of people and it would’ve felt livelier. Other think I didn’t enjoy is that there are so many stuff you can’t hack or explode that it made me feel like these abilities are mostly for side activities but rarely an option for the main quest.
On the end the only thing left I’dlike to talk about is the graphics and overall presentation. The game is old and it sure looks like. It didn’t stand out for its graphics even back when it was released, let alone now but honestly it didn’t bother me one bit. I have to admit I somewhat enjoyed them. It gave me some nostalgic feeling. Probably remembering me of the many games I played at that time. However, if you have no nostalgia for these graphics it saddens me to say that nowadays they are lackluster as I don’t think even artistically speaking it leaves a lot to be desired. When comparing to games released at the same time like No One Lives Forever, Resident Evil Code Veronica, Soul Calibur, Shenmue, Final Fantasy IX, Baldur’s Gate II, among others, one can’t help but question why every environment looks so bland.
In the end I’m thankful for what Deus Ex did to gaming. It certainly inspired, alongside some other titles, so many other beloved titles. The inclusion of RPG mechanics in shooters, choices that are not so clear or obvious, leading to better storylines with consequences and morality to think about. If we like games that have any of those stuff we have Deus Ex to thank for (together wth System Shock 2).
So, even though my opinions on Deus Ex are highly mixed I would still recommend this game for anyone that likes games like Dishonored, the Bioshock series, the recent Deus Ex games or pretty much any other that does more that just mindless shotting. Its negatives did have an effect on me that it is hard for me to digest but I can still appreciate what it does right and everything it stands for, and its legacy.
With all that, give Deus Ex a try. It may not be what it once was but it is still a world worth visiting.