Sunday Special:

Deus Ex (video game)

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I have beaten Deus Ex!

I have also just read this piece on playing Ocarina of Time for the first, ah, time, over a decade after its release. The only reasons I bring that up is because, one, I find it fascinating when other people are essentially doing the same thing as me, and, two, because I had quite a different experience (also, did anyone else find that all the sex comparisons eventually became annoying?).

Deus Ex, similarly to Ocarina of Time, has been hailed as one of the greatest games ever made; some publication or another named it the Greatest PC Game Ever. Clearly, this was a lofty reputation to live up to. In the name of not wanting to be disappointed fairness, I tempered my expectations. After all, the game is eleven years old, and after watching the trailers for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I feared I wouldn’t be able to adjust to the aged presentation.

All of my fears were completely unfounded. To be honest, however, I should state that graphics are well nigh meaningless to me these days. Look, I remember when Final Fantasy VI had revolutionary graphics, and by damn, it still does to me. And I played through the bizarro world polygon slop of Final Fantasy VII with absolute glee. Thus, the graphics in Deus Ex were actually much better than I expected.

More importantly, the game ran well, with no slowdown, no glitches, nothing. So the technology worry was laid to rest.

I was also given to expect great things from the plot: betrayal, twists, surprises, intrigue, and the like. This… well, plot is not Deus Ex’s strong point. Which isn’t to say the plot was bad, it’s just not great. Some of it felt generic, and then there was the introductory scene which promised all sorts of class warfare themes and never delivered. Frankly, I was relieved: anti-corporate mantras and class warfare motifs may have been cutting edge in 2000, but they quite simply are not in 2011.

In a nutshell, the plot was fine, and even though I found the character development a bit weak, I think it made some sense. Not sure about spoiler protocol for such old games, but minor spoiler alert regardless. Still with me? You should be fine. The weak character development means that when JC has to make a decision about the course of the world’s future, there isn’t much of a clear cut good choice, evil choice, neutral choice; there’s just a choice. Nice touch, that, although I’m not totally convinced it was on purpose.

Let’s get down to it: Deus Ex was great in 2000, and remains great in 2011, because the game broke the mold of the traditional FPS, and it did so very well. The gameplay was spot on (except when I tried to chase fools down with my Dragon Sword – those bastards are shifty! Actually, melee combat was pretty dicey unless I was sneaking). Uh, anyway, as I was saying, the gameplay was great, and I truly felt as though I had numerous options available to complete a mission.

I tended towards mass extinction. But only because I’m a klutz.

Had I not been so klutzy, I enjoyed the feeling that I could hack my way through the security cordon, or find some convenient air ducts, or lockpick my way through to victory. And even though it did lead to some frustration, I also enjoyed running up against a traditional locked door or a keypad door, and wondering whether I could find the key/code to unlock it without resorting to my dwindling supply of tools. This, in addition to my own obsessive tendencies, led to my attempts at exploring the full expanse of each and every location. Which in turn led to me eventually stumbling into a patrol, and resorting to ultra violence.

My only complaint would be that, eventually, I felt worn down by the countless missions. I think that may almost be a comment on modern games, as Deus Ex only took slightly over 20 hours for me to complete. Also, I did tend to over explore and over analyze; the game wouldn’t have felt so long if I had known what the Tracer Tong I was doing. The flip side, of course, is that I would wager subsequent playthroughs are much, much shorter. But that is as it should be. Plus, the very fact that anyone would consider additional playthroughs is a tribute to the game.

I can’t say that Deus Ex is one of the greatest games of all time. I can’t say it’s not, either. Playing the game out of its proper time context robbed me of the proper perspective. But I can certainly say it’s an excellent game that has withstood the ravages of time. I can further say that it is definitely worthy of being in the conversation as one of the best games around, and I think that’s the best purely objective compliment anyone could pay a game.

You’re welcome, Deus Ex. You’re welcome.


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