Deus Ex


Review by · August 1, 2001

Warren Spector’s crowning achievement, Deus Ex combines the best parts of a first-person shooter and an RPG to create a chilling masterpiece that won’t soon be forgotten. Deus Ex proves to not only be one of the best games of all time, but possibly the greatest game the PC has seen yet.

Deus Ex has a storyline unlike any other. You play as JC Denton, UNATCO agent working to eliminate terrorism. Current terrorists? Why, the NSF of course, who is hijacking Ambrosia, the important vaccine to a worldwide plague known as the Gray Death and keeping it from important people.

Now, the thing is, as JC gets deeper into this, he’ll discover some startling conspiracies. Whom should he trust? This is the meat of Deus Ex, and it never fails to surprise. The plot is filled with twists and turns, and the choices made affect the ending to the game. The truths he uncovers are not only startling but might remind you of present day. Chilling and well told, Deus Ex contains one of the most intriguing plots incorporated in a RPG.

The characters in Deus Ex are equally as impressive as its convoluted plot. Throughout the game you will encounter a great number of characters that will ask for your hand in trust; now, should you trust them?

Characterization is done exceptionally well, with real-time scenes between characters. JC Denton himself is both the kick-ass hero with great one-liners and the cool headed man who knows what is right and wrong.

The character design itself is also original- JC’s cold cybernetic implants make him seem less human and more machine, and his quiet, mechanical personality might make him seem like just that at first, yet he develops as the plot grows deeper, and you see him understand what’s going on around him and what he must do- and that choice is left up to the gamer.

Other characters add to the game and each has distinct, memorable parts that were integral to the game’s progression.

Deus Ex features mostly melodic, ambient music, seemingly inspired by techno and jazz, and comes out to be a wonderful soundtrack that both serves the mood and can be listened to alone. The melodies are the most powerful parts of the soundtrack, and change according to situation- if an enemy spots JC, a fast paced piece will play to get the adrenaline pumping. The themes for city areas are memorable and I found myself humming them quite often.

Possibly the best piece on the soundtrack is the main theme itself, for it combines powerful synth orchestra to create a song that seemingly embodies the feel of Deus Ex.

The sound effects are just as good – each weapon has its own sound effect that is clear and on target, and the voice acting is very impressive, albeit with some cheesy accents here and there. The 3-D surround sound is also impressive, and little things like the ambient sound effects become more powerful and much more of a presence. Deus Ex is auditory excellence.

The gameplay in Deus Ex is even more impressive than the plot and characters. Deus Ex is a first person shooter. If you don’t like first person shooters at all, then stay away. However, those with even the slightest interest will be drawn in.

This isn’t just shooting everyone and finding the switch to the next level: Deus Ex incorporates much more complicated gameplay. JC has specific missions, whether it is to meet someone or destroy a factory. Most of the time, avoiding the enemy is better than fighting head on, even though a vast array of weapons are available for use and upgrades are aplenty.

JC himself can be upgraded – as the gamer progresses through Deus Ex, skill points are awarded and can be allocated to attributes such as electronics, which will allow JC to hack computer systems faster. Augmentations can also be found and used, to give JC powers such as super-strength or enhanced speed.

The varied missions make for the most interesting levels and the deep skills system makes for custom characters. Interaction with characters is also great – for instance, JC can wander the roads of Hong Kong’s shopping district and just talk to people. Pull a gun, and the police will come to apprehend JC. Things like this give the game more realism and also make for a deeper experience. The new multiplayer patch available at Deus Ex’s homepage makes the game even more playable and adds near infinite replay value.

Deus Ex runs off a modified Unreal engine, and the graphics prove to be just as stunning as Unreal was back when it was released. The polygon count is high and the detail enormous, so play this on a high end PC to get the full experience. I ran it on a Pentium III with a Voodoo 5 5500 AGP with high detail, full effects and anti-aliasing completely eliminating the jagged edges, and I never had an instance of slowdown (in 1024×768, too).

The graphics were amazing – the textures were detailed and the character models looked great as well, although the facial textures could have been better. There were instances where I was in awe, like the UNATCO headquarters front desk, where you can see the reflection of the room in the mirror-like floor. The fully polygonal world was amazing. This is one of the PC’s finest looking games and though it has some graphical glitches, these are easily overlooked in the grand scheme of the game’s overall beauty.

Ion Storm, a North American publisher, developed Deus Ex and the game’s localization was aimed at Americans, so it should be near perfect. It is. Deus Ex features some of the best voice acting work I’ve heard, and almost everything is spoken dialogue. While here and there I found instances of cheesy accents, that’s not enough of a vice to take off points. The text is near flawless and there are even some classic lines littered about.

While Deus Ex is full of meat, it can be beaten in 15-20 hours. Now, if you have the multiplayer patch, expect to be playing a lot more than that. The game has three endings so multiple play-through is almost unavoidable.

The control is excellent, and since it’s fully customizable it easily accommodates to any gamer. The only nitpick I had was the unbalanced difficulty near the end of the game; some of the areas just seemed too easy and then an explosion of difficult traps, puzzles or enemies was presented. Still, this doesn’t make for much less of an experience, and I highly recommend Deus Ex. It’s probably the best PC game of all time, besting even the mighty Half-Life.

Overall Score 97
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Robert Bogdanowicz

Robert Bogdanowicz

Robert was part of RPGFan's reviews team from 2001-2005. During his tenure, Robert bolstered our review offerings by lending his unique voice and critique of the world of RPGs. Being a critic can be tough work sometimes, but his steadfast work helped maintain the quality of reviews RPGFan is known for.