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Fox "spooky" Mulder isn't the only one who can dish out conspiracy theories you know, Warren Spector can too. Who is Warren Spector you ask? One of the chief designers on legendary titles like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief: The Dark Project, that's who. Deus Ex is a game set in a dark and dreary future, where each and every conspiracy theory you can think up is true. Let's just say that world is Fox Mulder's heaven.

When I started writing this review I dueled with myself as to what I should categorize this game under. RPG or FPS? You tell me... I am calling it FPS/RPG. In the game you play the role of Agent J.C. Denton, a biomechanically enhanced and upgradeable operative of UNATCO (the sort my mother-in-law is gonna be). On the first day of your job you find that something is not quite right in UNATCO. I wouldn’t want to reveal too much of the plot, as the plot drives the game to it’s heights of enjoyment, and believe me you would love the plot twists and surprises, but I will tell you this – at the center of all the conspiracy is a man-made nano-virus called “the Grey Death”, it’s cure and Ambrosia.  

The game design is spectacular in one word. The game has one the most immersive world and/or environment ever created after Omikron: the Nomad Soul. The game design is solidly based upon cause and effect and the principals of choice, what you do now will effect your actions later. Let me elaborate: you choose which skills of yours you want to develop and which augmentations (special abilities) to advance as you go on with the game. You can play the game any way you want to. Do you like a silent sniper who hacks computers and disables security systems? Or a quiet thief who picks locks and slips in the back way? Or an Arnold reincarnation that bursts in the room with a rocket launcher and blows everyone to bits? You can make Denton anyone you want to be and the game will play and progress as best suited to the skills you have chosen.

For example: let's say you're faced with laser wires that trigger turrets. Do you A) thrown in a LAM grenade to destroy the trip wires, B) bypass the security grid with a few multitools and your electronics skills, or C) find a convenient ventilation system to crawl through and come out past the problem? The answer? Any of the above.

In Deus Ex, cause and effect is king. If you can't unlock something, detonate it and achieve the same thing. Guards can hear and see you much in the same way as Thief, requiring you to consider your every step, stance and attack. Shoot a guard in the head and he goes down; shoot him in the back of the head and he goes down silently. Shoot a guard in the arm and he drops his gun. Get shot in the arm and it's tough to aim; get shot in the legs and you might have to crawl. Deus Ex never succumbs to the common game syndrome in which an obvious solution is not allowed because it was either too hard to program or the designer wanted you to do something else. If you think it's possible to do, chances are it is.

What all this means is that Deus Ex has the greatest, most fully realized gameplay ever in a first person game, shooter or otherwise. Its level of user customizability and open-ended feel makes for a truly unique and exemplary game. But unlike System Shock, Deus Ex doesn't have the drama to back it up.

As good as the gameplay is, there is never any meaty feeling of danger that usually makes this sort of game fun. In System Shock you were made to feel as a confused, manipulated, terrified human, but in Deus Ex you are an impassive machine. Who cares if The Terminator gets it? There's always a replacement model. Who cares if the world gets the "Gray Death?" They seem like a bunch of sneaky bastards anyway. Finally, there just isn't a villain as hellishly evil as System Shock's SHODAN to give you something concrete to oppose.

While the story is complicated, deep, and also adhered to the cause & effect principle - you only encounter plot points or conversations that you 'choose' to run into, and the game never refers to something that you didn't encounter but will to things that you did, even if they are off the beaten path - it's curiously devoid of humanity. Your brother gets killed and you shrug and say something in your usual deadpan. This is somewhat understandable; since you are half-machine, the human in you can't even come out at key points. Still, it's disconcerting.

In addition, there are some slight technical issues; slowdown with D3D cards is an issue.

Yet despite these flaws, there is no denying that from a gameplay standpoint Deus Ex is utterly revolutionary. It's long, it's malleable, and it demands repeated playings with new approaches. It is, as a game, everything you could ask for... and it's absolutely a blast to play. But it is not, as an experience, as enthralling as it could have been. What it does well, it does better than anything else and what it doesn't do well it still does passably. This is likely to be the best first-person game you'll play all year. Go now, embrace the conspiracy...the eye in the pyramid is calling out... for you.


Game Info

Game Name: Deus Ex

Genre: RPG/FPS
Publisher: Eidos
Reviewed by:
Mail him.

Game Score: [Five lightning rating]

Story / Plot:
Reviewer's Tilt :

Game Tested on:

- PIII 800 Mhz
- 128 MB RAM
- Savage 4 16MB
- Windows ME

The Good: Conspiracy Theories... gives you the feel you are being watched every second.
The Bad: Dumb AI, low framerate on D3D.
The Ugly: Too much conspiracy.... too much Xfiles