Go buy this game – those opening words of PC Gamer‘s 94% review were enough for me. With my first paycheck ever, I grabbed the foil silver and blue box (back when they were still in their original, monstrous sizes) and made my way to the checkout. At the tender age of 16, I was afraid I was going to be carded because of the game’s Mature rating, denying my acquisition of this absolute beauty – nope! Little did I realize that I was beginning an epic adventure that I would never forget. Long after the Halos, Half-Lifes, and Gears of Wars have stampeded across the action game landscape, Deus Ex is still the Best Shooter Ever Made, Period.
The pitch was easy: take every conspiracy you can think of (Men in black, Area 51, shadowy organizations? Check, check, and check!) and bundle them into a first-person-shooter-slash-role-playing-game that left the gameplay up to you as you hid, battled, and conversed through a gritty cyberpunk universe. This is no corridor shooter, every single mission has a variety of solutions that reflect how you build your character. You play as JC Denton, the monotone, trench-coated, experimental super agent who just graduated from UNATCO’s academy, equipped with nano-technology that can be altered and amended to make him even more powerful and specialized. Want to be a stealth character? Make your steps quieter. Dishing it out? Get the regenerate augmentation. Travel the globe, meet new people, and watch as the world you encountered as you entered it becomes drastically different as you leave it. This game’s depth makes Bioshock look like Modern Warfare.
Also, the game kicked my ass. The first level puts you on Liberty Island where terrorists have holed up in the Statue of Liberty. It just so happens one of your fellow agents, the old-school, tank-like Gunther, is being held prisoner after trying to Rambo the situation. Your brother Paul briefs you initially, granting you one of your first weapons. Far from Quake 3 or Unreal, the game required a methodical approach: so do you stun prod all the enemies you encounter? Do you meet Philbin on the docks on the other end of the island for a special code that’ll make your entrance easier? Do you skip all that and just infiltrate via the backside of the pedestal? Barge in through the front with guns blazing? The choice is yours!
I died a lot. Of course when you died, the game took a metric forever to reload. Also, the game was pretty ugly. Yet somehow, those points worked for it: spending 45 seconds each time I died staring at a static ‘LOADING’ pane gave me plenty of time to strategize my next play while the muted color palette and scruffy presentation lent the world a grit that made it feel genuine. The game was also long, and by the time you reached the last act, your actions in changing the narrative were better realized and the conclusion(s) befit a great journey. You bought and traded, interacted with a massive cast of characters, micromanaged your inventory, and killed (or didn’t kill) key players in the plot. The sprawling nature of the game also benefited from multiple playthroughs, letting you pick up on huge plot points, alternate solutions, or even entire levels you missed the first time around.
The sequel – Invisible War – ignored many of the reasons why the original game rocked so hard, but I have faith that the new Human Revolution (due out this year for every major platform) will relive the glory of the original game, serving as a prequel during a time when humans were modified with large, clunky mechanical elements rather than grey goo. Deus Ex is $10 on Steam and any machine that still boots today will run it, so you have absolutely no excuse not to play it except for the dozens of hours you’ll lose to sheer awesomeness.