Top positive review
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Conspiracy Theories R Us
on 6 September 2000
Deus Ex is a game that's slow to reveal its strengths. For the first hour or so, you'll be wondering why you bothered. After all, it's just a poor-man's version of Thief with sci-fi trappings. Isn't it? Then, before you know it, everything starts falling into place. You've been playing for over a week, utterly enthralled, anxious to learn how everything pans out, eager to play the game over from the beginning and try out alternative "what if?" scenarios. In short, you're hooked.
One thing you notice early on is the "fiddle factor". There's so many objects you can manipulate, whether or not they have any bearing on the action. All this helps create a greater sense of depth and immersion than most other games in this genre manage. SS2 had "fiddly bits", but not to the same degree that Deus Ex has. Ie, apartments have working TV sets, showers, toilets, windows, computer terminals, vases of flowers, ornaments, cupboards, fridges, cookers, microwaves, etc. Tables and chairs can be picked up, thrown around, bashed to pieces, etc. The New York level has a little basketball court tucked away, complete with a ball you can toss through the hoops.
This isn't as trivial as it might seem. There's one level where a bunch of guards raid an apartment building where you and your brother are holed up. There are many options available to you -- the one I chose was to run to a back room, open up the window and crawl out onto the fire escape. However, I loaded it up again later and tried a new tactic. Knowing that the guards would be rushing into the room, I piled the corridor behind the door full of tables and chairs. Sure enough, as expected, the guards barged into the room but found themselves blocked by all the furntiture. As they were all bunched together, wondering what to do, I simply tossed a grenade their way and caught them all in one go!
The attention to detail right across the game is second to none. I'd literally be here all night listing all the wonderful little touches I've encountered so far (my savegame file has recorded 15 hours worth of solid play and I'm only halfway through the game). Full marks go to the Hong Kong level, with its market area full of stall-holders, ominous "big brother-like" gun-fire detection poles, mech-bots lurking in shadows, humming with power, waiting for someone to make a minor transgression, citizens going about their daily business (I followed a little boy around for about 10 minutes before realising he was running between two groups of people, trying to play them off against one another in order to earn himself some money -- nothing to do with the game or my mission), etc.
The level of interaction with NPCs is one of the highest I've seen in a game outside Baldur's Gate (and spin-offs). Every single character in the game has something to say. Talking to some characters will even cause spin-off sub-plots and secondary missions/goals to be generated for you.
Each level is huge and packed to the rafters full of secrets. Some levels you'll return to more than once (such as the UNATCO HQ, Tracer Tong's Hong Kong hideout, etc), revealing areas you'd previously overlooked. There will also be numerous buildings, passageways and avenues of exploration that don't have any direct bearing on your current mission, but nevertheless reveal some nice little surprises and rewards for your trouble. I managed to find my way to the top of some skyscraper in Hong Kong, had a bit of a search around in the dark and found I could get onto a ledge. I followed the ledge round and found a sniper rifle, discarded ammo and some binoculars. Using the binoculars, I discovered that this vantage point was ideal for sniping at the window of an apartment across the street.
Another great thing about the game is the numerous solutions to the vast majority of puzzles within the game. Get into an online discussion with others players, revealing how you solved a particular puzzle, and you'll soon discover that everyone else solved it in their own unique way. Without giving too much away, there's a point in the game where you need to get rid of erm, an "enemy" agent. My method was to visit a weapons specialist and buy the neccessary weapon for dispatching them. A friend's method was to hack into the agent's employer's security terminal and remotely activate the agent's kill-switch (a hard-wired part of the agent's brain that kills them instantly). Other folks on the net came up with other ways to exterminate the agent.
Plot-wise, the game's good fun. It's basically a pastiche of just about every conspiracy theory you can think of, but Ion pull it off in such a way that it never feels corny or contrived. The plot itself is supplemented by numerous devices within the game that fill in all the background details of the world Deus Ex is set in. Ie, you'll find newspapers detailing news stories that have some relevance to the plot you're involved with. There are public access terminals on street corners that allow citizens to read generic electronic news bulletins. Most of the "important" people within the game have their own private computer terminals, chock full of emails to and from various individuals (some anonymous and mysterious). Finding the ID and password to these terminals helps, although with the right skills it's possible to hack them.
Overall, thoroughly recommended. The best fun I've had since Thief 2 and System Shock 2. Roll on Deus Ex 2!