Wednesday, 22 January 2003

Game Review: Deus Ex

Freedom is something that game developers are constantly promising gamers, very few games however offer the levels of freedom that is promised. In the last few years many games have promised massive levels of freedom, most notably Shenmue and Red Faction, but in actuality neither gave the player many choices. Deus Ex is the exception, a game that lives up to the hype and goes well beyond it.

The player is cast as anti-terrorist agent JC Denton. Denton has been nano-enhanced, he has certain skills that can be upgraded at various points in the game (night vision, silent running etc), but these opportunities are rare, and the player is not given the opportunity to upgrade everything. This forces the player to make choices about Denton's development; would you rather run faster or silently? In addition to these nano-augmentations the player can increase skills in certain categories on completion of level goals. These range from sniping ability to swimming speed. Increasing Denton's lock-picking skills make doors easier to breach but this may be at a cost to Denton's computer hacking skills, then what happens if there is no door, merely a PC to hack? Get into this line of thinking and the intricacies of Deus Ex will become clear.

The goals are clearly defined; how they are completed is left entirely up to the player. The player may be required to enter a terrorist compound - this could involve going in machine guns blazing and killing everyone in sight, or a more subtle attack with a sniper rifle might be favoured - but what about that air-vent over there? That way conflict would be avoided, but now a lock pick is needed.

Performing any action in the Deus Ex universe matters; it's all about making the player accountable for their actions. Early in the game the player is given the opportunity to explore the UNATCO Headquarters where Denton works. If the player should enter the women's toilets, Denton will later receive a dressing down from your boss, and the female employees will respond to you accordingly. This might seem small, but it is merely an example of the levels of AI the developers have implemented to make the game universe more tangible.

The only slight criticism would be the disintegration of the plot into sub X-Files Sci-Fi nonsense. However, while the plot becomes a tad confusing, it is not a flaw substantial enough to detract from the overall quality of the gaming experience. It's a glorious game - one of the best I've ever played.

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