The RPS Verdict: Deus Ex

By RPS on June 22nd, 2010 at 2:14 pm.


It’s been a while since we got together to do a verdict. That splendid Deus Ex anniversary seems like the right kind of time to do so. Below we judge the game, ten years on. Does it live up to the legend?

Jim: Are we ready to talk about Deus Ex being ten years old?
Alec: 10 years? it doesn’t look a day over nine and a half
Jim: Kieron, you’re probably the best person to sum things up. What is Deus Ex?
Kieron: I will never escape the duty of custodian of the Deus Ex flame. Deus Ex is Ion Stom Austin’s 2000 PC Game. It’s the thing which prevents Ion Storm being looked at nearly as badly as it was looking for a while. Where Daikatana was a famous disaster and Anachronox was a visionary if niche underperformer, Warren Spector’s team made Deus Ex the state of the art of videogames. There’s some who’d argue it’s still, in its ambition and achievement, the state of the art today. As in, we haven’t gone further. It’s a first person RPG – what was later termed by Ion Storm as “The Immersive Sim”. In the lineage of Ultima Underworld, it models a realistic physics-based universe and sets you forth to have an adventure. In this case, a 21st century cyberpunk/Conspiracy-theory thriller.


It’s notable for two main reasons. Firstly, it’s the aesthetic inverse of Thief in terms of the lineage. Thief concentrated to one aspect of the immersive sim – stealth – and made the whole game about it. Deus Ex included everything – from stealth to conversation to violence – hell, to multiple ways of violence. Secondly – which leads on from the first – it was the game which brought the concept of freedom of choice far more to the forefront that other first-person games. Levels were open places for expression of your skills. You made it up as you went along. Rather than a level saying what you should do – a puzzle to be solved – often Deus Ex presented a problem, gave you the tools and let you at it.

It also had terrible voice-acting. That’s Deus Ex.
Alec: Don’t forget the Greasels
Kieron: I was saving that for Jim. Custodian of the Greasels
Jim: Fucking greasels! But let us not dwell on them.
Kieron: Probably best to start with saying everyone’s experience of DX.
Jim: Alec, you want to go first?
Alec: My experience of Deus Ex was buying based on – egads! – a PC Zone review, then leaving it on the bus on the way home. So I copied it from a friend, and played it over the course of the following 18 months. It was the first game where I combed every single corner, tried every permutation (via savegames), because I was so amazed at the possibilties, the depth. I thought you just played games to get to the end. Deus Ex changed that. But I never invested many points in swimming, which means there’s still some manner of goodie at the bottom of the canal which I’ve never found. One day. One day.
Jim: My experience was a little strange, I think, because it was based on Kieron reviewing it.
Kieron: Man!

Jim: It was the game Kieron was reviewing when I started work at PC Gamer. But I couldn’t play it myself, so I was simply getting all these hyperbolic reports about what had happened, why it was exciting, and so on. I think the 95% scored review was sent to press at the start of my second week on the mag. That, I thought, was what being on PC Gamer was going to be like.
Kieron: Oh, man, heartbreaking. My first game I reviewed was Thief: The Dark Project. It totally gives you a false impression.
Jim: And actually at the time, I just assumed that games were going to be like that in the future.
Alec: What was the first game they gave you to review, Jim?
Jim: An Army Men game. I can’t remember the name. Anyway, the original System Shock at basically signposted the future, as far as I was concerned, DX seemed like just another waypoint on the road to our immersive sim horizons. I went on to get Deus Ex when it came out a few weeks on, and I played it through, even playing it at a Quake 3 LAN i went to, instead of the matches I should have been playing.
John: The first game I reviewed for PC Gamer was Minigolf. I gave it 3%. I had a very accurate impression of the following eleven years.
Jim: I am playing it again at the moment and, I think, enjoying more this time.
Alec: I admit I’ve only dipped in and out of DX since. Too many videos of the bad acting, too many write-ups claiming impossible things, too much hyperbole. I want to cling to my memories and experience, not have it tainted by age, creakiness and other people’s bluster. Even looking in on it last night, I was horrified by how not-huge the levels seemed now. I didn’t want to destroy their grandeur in my memory, so I couldn’t stay for long.
Kieron: I suspect we’re going to come back to the idea of Deus Ex as an ambassador of what we though would be the future.
John: I’ve only played DX through once. I’ve played the start of it a lot of times since. But part of me doesn’t want to replace the memory I have of it. For me it doesn’t really get stored in the “A game I played” category in my head. It has its own unique folder. I remember it like someone might remember a three month interailing trip. So playing it again would be like revisiting those places in the hope of recapturing those old memories.
Alec: “Remember when we stayed here? They had those nice biscuits.”

Jim: There is a lot of random food in DX.
Kieron: I’m still annoyed at how fast Cigarettes kill you.
Alec: Deus Ex is a signpost to our anti-smoking game future.
John: Plus, how could I approach it without cynicism? For me, playing it through, it was an unfolding mystery. I was, and this is the most crucial thing, making decisions. I’d not be making decisions another time. I’d be making calculated choices.
Kieron: I dunno – Like Jim, I’m replaying it at the moment, and there’s a sort of joy to playing with some of the options. I blew up Anna Navere last night. With the LAM-on-the-way-into-the-jet trick. Which is the sort of thing everyone talks about, but I finally got around to trying it myself. It’s been so long that I’m fine with it.
John:This is my point. It would be about trying things out. Rather than a truly honest experience. Which is awesome – I’ve done the same with KotOR and so on. But I kind of don’t want to do it to DX.
Kieron: DX is less about the emotional options though, rather than mechanic expression – which I suspect we’ll get onto in a minute. Me though: I haven’t actually completed it a second time either oddly – which means none of us have, which is interesting. As Jim said, I reviewed it – and may write a little about the whole story to do with that period then – and ended up getting involved with the SDK with a mod called The Cassandra Project. So even though I’ve never played it all through again, I’ve been deep into the guts of the beast. I suspect that also contributed to me not doing another complete playthrough. I’ve seen DX in a way which none of you guys have.

Kieron: Okay, why the hell does DX matter? I mean, really. There’s 10 year anniversaries all the time. DX is the only game we’ve even considered doing. Not Planescape, not Longest Journey or Quake 3 or anything which is our touchstones. But we’re doing DX. Why?
John: I considered doing TLJ. But then I forgot.
Alec: Deus Ex is generationally important to us, as PC gamers in our early 30s. And it turned up in an age where games were looking fairly pathetic and meatheaded, saying “no – this is not good enough.” It hit at a time where we wanted more, where we wanted to validate both our hobby and our career choice.
Jim: I’ll venture something. I suspect I’m the person who likes DX the least out of the four of us. I was very critical of it at the time. There’s a lot I didn’t like about how it worked. And I think that’s because I didn’t like how a lot of the different tools it provided worked, and lots of the mechanical bits annoyed me. Ladders, fucking Greasels. Even guns and skills. But, and this is the bit about importance, the issue was that it *had* all those tools. It was a big box of things, all done to different degrees of proficiency. Rather than a couple of things done well. Deus Ex is broad in a way I think we’d like lots of other games to be. And yet they aren’t. Designers prefer to get a few things right.
Kieron: This is the reason why Deus Ex would only get a 9/10 in Edge. There’s a whole school of thought based on games which would argue that is a failing. To the school of thought who’d argue against that, it’s the Ocarina of Time.
Alec: Well, you could also argue it led to things like Pathologic, which are almost unplayable.
Kieron: Pathologic as a true son of DX is an interesting one to think about. Though I bristled a bit at Alec’s suggestion. Before deciding he’s right about it being a game which was *just* a bit more grown up. I don’t think it was a complete oddity, but seeing a game which had clearly read a whole load of the same books I had was a startling joy. (I mean, was Silhouette informed by the Situationalists? I never had the heart to ask Warren or Harvey)
Alec: But what I really think is that its absolute multitude of possibilites led to a splintering of exploration from all its ideas, Pathologic being just one.
John: Yeah, that’s the thing. I think its mechanics were splendid, but I don’t think the combination of FPS and RPG was why it was special. It was special because it was smart, and it made me smarter for playing it. It was well read, it was eloquent, and it was proud of that.

Jim: The importance, though, was probably in its unique position, appearing at a crucial time for shooters, and a crucial time for RPGs. It took elements from them all and put them together in a way that didn’t really have too many parallels. (totally disagreeing with John!)
John: Let’s fight!
Jim: We can settle it with a game of DX multiplayer, later.
Kieron: I suspect this is showing your biases, if you know what I mean.
John: I’ve said this before, but it was playing DX that made me realise I didn’t know anything about politics, and it started me off in the direction of learning.
Alec: I had read none of those books, nor indeed any cyberpunk. Which made it doubly amazing to me, and I had no qualms or questions about what it was telling me at the time – it was a whole new, bewilderingly incredible world. But yes, as with John it was effective in making me really question government for the first time.
Kieron: Deus Ex as Public Enemy. Never thought of it like that.
Alec: Don’t believe the hype (about new labour) Like I say, this is the importance for me – the right game at an incredibly formative period of my life. The period where my brain started to grow. If I hadn’t played Deus Ex, if I’d have an N64 instead… I shudder to think.
Jim: It’s an incredibly rich storyworld, really. And not one set in a fantasy land, but in the real world, a bit further down the road. I think, actually, it is worth playing it again now for precisely that reason. I “get” more of it now than I did when I was 21.
Kieron: Yes – I’ll agree with that. I was actually kind of bewildered how sledgehammer it was. In the same way – but opposite aesthetics – I got from playing Sacrifice, that I’m a better gamer now makes it a better game.
Jim: Interesting – perhaps that’s it’s real value? A game we can agree was edifying, rather than, eugh, “fun”.
Alec: A game that taught us to think bigger, even as we clubbed greasels to death
Kieron: The reason why it’s such this touchstone is because *this was the next logical step of how we of a generation saw games going*. As in, Deus Ex was natural. Jim McCauley reviewing it deliberately positioned it as “The best game in the world”. And presented the idea that it was a lineage, like Best Boxer or whatever
Jim: Goddamn greasels.

Kieron: And anyone who believed in a certain way of games would agree with it. The reason why DX is remembered… is that in those terms, in that idea of what games “should” be like, it’s never been superceded. As in, it was a gateway into the future. We all believed it would be, because that’s what happens. And then it didn’t.
John: It’s the Half-Life 2 of, um, games that aren’t Half-Life 2.
Kieron: And the future we were expecting and then the future didn’t happen. It’s our “Where’s our rocketpacks?”: Where’s our Deus Ex 2!
Alec: It was very much The Game Of Its Time.
Jim: But it’s down to design philosophy, I think. Games have been pushed to do fewer things, and to do them better.
Kieron: The crowbar was a nod to Half-Life, of course. It wasn’t a game that was just at the apex of the Looking Glass tree – it was a game which also sublimated the id-derived culture.
Jim: Deus Ex feels like the last time doing a lot of things was really okay. Even big games RPGy like Fallout 3 lack the broad messiness.
John: Is that a financial thing? Did LG hit a sweet spot where it was affordable to be good at a lot of things? And now to focus that broadly would push you over the $100m mark?
Kieron: John’s basically right. I’m talking to a load of devs for interviews at the moment and the question I’m asking them all is “The 00s trend was basically you trying to work out a way to make a game which used DX’s ideas, but sell enough to justify it” DX’s 500k isn’t enough.
Jim: But isn’t that down to marketing? That *also* suffers from deliberate simplification.
Alec: I was intervewing THQ’s Danny Bilson for GI the other day, and his stance was that all their games have to be blockbuster or bust now. That’s the philosophy. RIsks can be taken, but only within the shell of something palatable to COD players.
Jim: The assumption is that gamers don’t want complexity.
Kieron: I don’t think Jim’s right. I just think there’s complex and there’s complex. I think it’s just about the money. The problem with a DX game is that it needs AAA-aesthetics. (Not that DX was cutting edge at the time)
Alec: Y’know, I’m not sure it does.

Jim: The Witcher sells a million copies, a DX style game could easily do the same.
Kieron: It needs to be comparable to whatever a FPS game is doing
Alec: A cheap deus ex would have to avoid trying to be photoreal, but a Russian studio could totally do a king’s bounty on something interesting
Kieron: Witcher outsold DX1 in the same time, it’s worth noting. But yeah – if a development studio worked in that space, it could.
Jim: It’s interesting to see a few people in the RPS comments saying “Stalker is the only thing that holds up DX heritage”, which is basically “give a shooter a sandbox and an inventory”
Kieron: That’s the other thing I find interesting: very few studios try it. Though Central/East Europeans do try it. I mean, Boiling Point.
John: Well, how smart do you have to be to get it right? Genuine question. Were Looking Glass / Ion Storm exceptionally clever? Does it take that level of intelligence to be able to pull this off?
Kieron: I think they’re enormously hard games to design. I say this from experience. Or close enough.
Jim: Very smart, but I am not sure that’s got anything to do with trying to make it. I think people make a) what they think people want to play, and b) what they themselves want to play. I don’t think DX is what most dev teams would *want* to make. A few do, as we will see from the interviews this week, but they are in the minority.
Alec: yeah, it’s about resources, being able to investigate, test and fix every permutation. That’s why these risks aren’t taken, devs have to cater for every possible place a player can be, and every possible situation they could be in. With budgets and graphical assets and team-sizes ever-rising… well, it becomes a terrifying task
Kieron: DX totally accepts that occasionally crazy shit will happen.
Jim: And that’s why it works.

Kieron: Okay – let’s step away from the myth to the actuality. How does it hold up now?
Jim: It remains ludicrously ugly, but that’s somehow ok.
Alec: I quite like the ugly, but the darkness is comical, given how much we snigger at brown games now. I don’t think any of it is in daytime, is it?
Jim: No blue skies.
Alec: The first level remains a marvel. A whole lot of talking and urgency, but you’re almost immediately let off the hook to wander. Terrorist attack, but I’m busy breaking into a unatco basement for minor toys.
Jim: The painful thing, going back, is that is it really is so refreshing to play with tranquiliser darts and trip bombs and batons and sniper rifles. So much stuff! From the start!
Kieron: The first level is fascinating. At the time, it was viewed as a problem, as in, something which turned a lot of people off. Looked at today, and it’s a fucking masterpiece.
Jim: There’s so much there. Patching up different parts of your body. Having your legs shot off and not being able to reach the medkit on the table. So many variables.
Alec: Stealth right off the bat too, and it’s sort of hard – for an opener, it throws so much of the game right at you immediately
Kieron: The stealth’s terrible, bless it. And yeah, that’s why it tripped everyone up – that it *does* throw so much at you.
Jim: Actually the first level annoyed me when I originally played it. I felt like the way I bodged through was clumsy and inelegant.
Alec: And the running noise. Is he in high heels?
Jim: heh
Kieron: Deus Sexy!
Jim: Future fashions for men.

Kieron: I’m really enjoying playing it, but fuck me, is it twitchy. Some of its boundaries are just so ill-defined. I’m playing much more deadly than I did back in the day because Stealth is so twitchy.
Alec: Oh, and I love the casualness of the robot. It starts you on a wooden dock, filled with FPS-trad crates and then – hey- giant robot, just wandering about. Not mentioned, not interacted with, just there. Here Is Your World.
Jim: I did much better this time. But originally it was the gas station level, I think, that really made it for me. Because it was short, and I replayed it. And it was totally different each time. And I really began to realise how the game could throw things down differently.
Kieron: That’s a lovely level. What do you think about the skill-mechanics now? As in, how the reticule ties to your character’s skill? A couple of mechanic things – it’s interesting how that if you stand still, basically you end up with a nearly perfect aim. It’s an incredibly badly done “skill” system. In terms of its stated aim. But playing now, once you accept it, it works.
Jim: Yeah, that was one of my original gripes, I think. The game felt messy. But when you see that taken away, you realise the value in it.
Kieron: The health is the other thing – I’m actually not sure the body stuff really matters that much. In DX, generally speaking, you’re either dead or alive.
Alec: It does want to stop you from just running around shooting wildly. Even though choice obviously remains within that, it’s pretty up-front about not letting you be Doomguy. You *have* to be an agent.
Kieron: But you can be doomguy if you’re standing still! It’s quite mental in that way.
Alec: Doomguy = strafin.g
Kieron: Well, half-life guy (i.e. String of perfect head-shots)
Alec: Yeah. But then, Denton is an agent.
John:Can we talk about the twist?

Kieron: Er… I suspect we’re boring john here. You got anything you think we should be talking about?
Jim: Yes, the story, does that hold up too?
Kieron: Well, the twist isn’t. You watch the intro and you know who’s the bad guys. You know all the conspiracies are true.
John: I have a story about that.
Kieron: HIT US
John: Back then, I was doing youth work. And this older kid, around 17, had also played it and he was very right wing in certain respects. And he was really cross about it. He believed that the government were distributing the vaccine correctly. And he felt like he had been forced into this change of sides, and was trying to help the government from the other side. But the game doesn’t really endorse this nearly as well. Do you think it’s a very biased narrative?
Kieron: Yes.
Jim: Goddamn Liberal agenda!
John: It’s an interesting way in which the game really doesn’t support choice.
Kieron: It’s a conspiracy about a government falling into a fake-disease with a fake-vaccine
Alec: I like that nice Bob Page. He has a lovely smile.
Kieron: I talked to Warren Spector about this once, as in, about the game having a pro-pacifist bias. Because while characters respond to you if you kill or not. The characters who are likeable like you if you’re good. Or less violent. And the moral monsters like you if you use force. In other words “You are like us”
Alec: yes, you can’t be mates with Page or Simmons
Kieron: It’s a game which is very happy to give you choice… and then judge you on it
Alec: Although you can horrify Simmons, interestingly, if you murder the prisoners near the start.
Kieron: i.e. If Anna Navere likes me, something’s probably wrong. I don’t think its bias is a problem. I mean, 1984 isn’t any weaker because it doesn’t argue for the system. It’s a game with something to say.
Alec: “If only you could talk to the monsters.”
Kieron: And it’s a fine example of how player-choice doesn’t actually mean the game can’t be about a developer’s expression too. Actually – can I say Ste’s riposte to that? The “If only you could talk to the monsters”?
Alec: I suspect you’re going to anyway.
Kieron: He noted that… well, Deus Ex is Doom… if you could talk to the monsters. And it *is* something. Deus Ex is the game which proved that Edge 7/10 review right, basically.
Alec: “If only you could teach the monsters the errors of their ways”
John: Is DX3 going to scrape the legacy?
Alec: DX3 may pick up where DX left off, but we’re still missing 10 years of progress.
Jim: We’re missing ten years of something, but perhaps it something that needed time. After all, we’re seeing the legacy of UO and Eve in MMOs again now (Mortal, Darkfall, Perpetuum, Earthrise). Perhaps the legacy of DX is simply taking time to make itself known.
Kieron: I do kinda half wonder whether when the kids who were 18 in 2000 get to positions of power – which should be in the next 10 years – we’ll be seeing stuff. Look at me be optimistic.
John: Go Kieron!
Alec: Isn’t that people like Clint Hocking?
Jim: We’ll come to that, later in the week!
Kieron: What a shame.


Our verdict: SALE!

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162 Comments »

  1. Seniath says:

    What a shame.

  2. Spinoza says:

    Art in the age of mechanical manipulation

  3. dartt says:

    What a shame.

  4. Meat Circus says:

    6/10 then?

  5. Mythrilfan says:

    What a shame.

  6. CMaster says:

    @John – While that’s an extreme example, I think it isn’t an unusal feeling. At the time you are forced to switch sides away from UNATCO, you haven’t really been given any reason to. The majority of people leave UNATCO at that point only because they have to – a common comment you see is people saying they would have liked it if you could remain with UNATCO longer. Eventually, it is assumed, you’d find plenty of evidence that they were working for the bad guys – certainly it becomes pretty clear post-Hong Kong that making the switch was right. But the point is at that time, you didn’t know. All you had was Paul’s word, and up until this point, you really didn’t have that stronger relationship with Paul. Hell, he’d been quite happy to let the NSF guys try and kill you.

    • Malagate says:

      @CMaster, I felt almost exactly the same when I got forced into that choice as well. I was thinking, why should I follow the renegade brother and betray the organisation I’ve been loyally working for just because he said so?

      Heck, all they would have needed was an option to turn in Paul and then get a non-standard game over screen. Shortest game ever, but that’ll teach ya for trusting your evil government more than your noble brother!

  7. Solivagant says:

    This is a great read!
    I remember my first encounter with the robots. The first one (in the dock) I realized was friendly. I has asked Paul Denton for the GEP Gun by the way.
    So after a while I’ve killed some soldiers, and I’m reaching the other side of the island (near the dock with Filben, the bum-NSF spy) and I see the robot and I instantly think: “it’s going to kill me”. So I whip out the GEP gun and fire at it. I miss and / or just hurt it a bit (terrible aim) it starts firing at me and I die.

    I had this reaction because during the tutorial I had the “pleasure” of being shot at by the robot in the end until my legs were off. Since you’re invulnerable, you can’t die in the tutorial, but without legs, you’re too SLOW! I had to claw my way the rest of the tutorial, pressing the buttons for the holograms with Bob Page and Reyes etc.

    Most probably I subconsciously thought that I was going to suffer the same fate, so I immediately shot at it. I didn’t even notice the green reticule. It’s a fantastic game.

  8. Rob says:

    I identify particularly with what Alec said about replaying. It was only on my third playthrough that I discovered you could kill a character I had just assumed was invincible, giving me additional dialogue I had never before seen both there and then, and with references back to it on two later occasions. That level of detail – that it had been thought that someone would do that, that they should be allowed to so it, and that the game should respond to it – is for me what makes Deus Ex great.

  9. billyblaze says:

    I recently compiled a guide on how to mod Deus Ex up via HighRes mods, new shaders (even DX10), and a mod that corrects most of the minor annoying gameplay quirks Deus Ex has. You can find it here: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/ceuyh/step_by_step_moddingguide_deus_ex_i_spilled_my/ – because I’m not daring enough to try embedding the link without the possibility to edit my post.

  10. billyblaze says:

    I recently compiled a guide on how to mod Deus Ex up via HighRes mods, new shaders (even DX10), and a mod that corrects most of the minor annoying gameplay quirks Deus Ex has. You can find it here: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/ceuyh/step_by_step_moddingguide_deus_ex_i_spilled_my/ – because I’m not daring enough to try embedding the link

  11. Colthor says:

    It’s a shame and a disappointment; for games, the future really isn’t as good as it used to be.

    But I think the reason Deus Ex worked was simply pure, blind luck. So many parts of the game are broken, and yet it’s still one of, if not the, greatest games ever. Just because it tries do do everything, and it lets you get away with it.

    • CMaster says:

      On the insane, lets you do anything trip:
      There’s a video somewhere, of somebody killing Maggie Chow by throwing multitools onto her head from a height. Things like this are the joy of creating a simulation, giving people a goal and setting them loose. It’s why careful scripting leads to some great experiences, but is in a lot of ways the much greater effort way of making a good game, and certainly makes a game people will only play once.

  12. itsallcrap says:

    I bought DX about five years after it came out, which was about two years after switching to using a PC as my main games machine.

    Everything it did I had seen before.

    I guess I just missed out…

    • disperse says:

      @itsallcrap

      Really? What games did you play that made it seem less groundbreaking? I’m not being argumentative here, I’m actually curious which games borrowed from Deus Ex’s mechanics as I always felt it was sort of an anomaly with no true followers.

    • itsallcrap says:

      There probably weren’t any that followed the gameplay experience as a whole, but the point is, every individual little apparent ingenuity had been used somewhere else, meaning the fact that they were all there together struck me as something that obviously would have been done at some point.

      Reading people going on about it reminds me of how English teachers insist you should appreciate how bold Jane Eyre was. I have no doubt I probably should, but having arrived too late, I’ll just never quite get it for myself.

    • itsallcrap says:

      Afterthought:

      Um, actually I suppose I would have to concede that any living English teachers do not remember first-hand the society into which Jane Eyre was released.

      Nonetheless, I expect you can see what I’m getting at despite my inability to come up with a decent analogy…

    • disperse says:

      @itsallcrap

      To be fair, everything Deus Ex did System Shock 2 did earlier (which SS1 did, which Ultima Underworld did…). Deus Ex refined the concept and the level design was tight (TM Quinns).

      That said, it seemed like a evolution of the concepts whereas every other game that came after Deus Ex seemed like a compromise.

    • user@example.com says:

      TVTropes calls that Seinfeld is Unfunny, or something like that. It’s a bit like a Kid These Days reading Neuromancer – they still might think it’s awesome, and a classic, but they’ll probably have seen all of its tricks before. Maybe not done as well, maybe not all together, but so many of the things that made Deus Ex special have shown up elsewhere, or enough to make it feel familiar for a first-time player.

      If you went back and played Thief for the first time now, you might think it’s a cool implementation of stealth gameplay, but it wouldn’t be revolutionary.

    • frymaster says:

      “a bit like a Kid These Days reading Neuromancer – they still might think it’s awesome, and a classic, but they’ll probably have seen all of its tricks before”

      I gave that to my mate to read, and he said (fully aware of the irony, I might add) “this is hard to read because it’s such a rip-off of The Matrix”

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I dunno about that Thief example. Sure other people have done the straightforward mechanics about as good other places, but I haven’t found any other games that get the level design down nearly as well. Levels like “Life of the Party” or “First City Bank and Trust” allow a freedom of approach that is matched in maybe only Deus Ex itself, and certainly no other stealth games I’ve found.

      I’d love to be proven wrong on this one, if someone has an example of a stealth game that did levels as well as Thief I’d gladly give it a spin.

  13. disperse says:

    I think Kieron touches on this by mentioning “AAA-aesthetics” but I think the reason another Deus Ex has not been made is the amount of labor required to create assets in modern games.

    When Deus Ex was released it was acceptable to have blocky models, levels that reused the same textures, and that every UNATCO soldier looked the same. When you spend so many man hours (read money) creating an interesting photo-realistic set piece you don’t want to place it in a non-linear level where the player may never see it.

    For 10 years, “modern graphics” have suppressed the development of gameplay.

    • John says:

      Yeah it’s fun to compare the credits of Deus Ex 1 and 2. Deus Ex has 3 programmers. Invisible War has 27 programmers and tech developers. Who knows how many are working on DX3.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      Well yes, in the sense that the horsepower wasn’t being put into more complex mechanics, AI and all that. But modern graphics are really good at the ‘immersion’ part of the ‘immersive sim’ thing, and Deus Ex *was* an FPS, and used the visceralness of that viewpoint to add to the sense of ‘being in’ rather than just ‘acting on’ a world.

      So, you know, don’t under-estimate the visuals!

      But the ‘sim’ part – the immersiveness you get out of the world seeming to ‘work’ properly. Yeah, could do with some progress!

    • disperse says:

      @AndrewC

      I have to respectfully disagree on immersiveness requiring modern graphics. I find the lack of choice to be the most immersion breaking aspect of any game (chest-high unclimbable walls, doors painted onto walls, etc.)

      I played a fair bit of Minecraft recently and found it to be suitably immersive even with its (literally) blocky graphics. Our visual system is finely tuned to seek out and interpret patterns. Don’t underestimate the human imagination.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      Sexy graphics aren’t necessary, but they sure can be effective.

    • disperse says:

      The problem with sexy graphics is designers went from being able to design wide-open spaces to having to limit games to narrow corridors (Doom 3 anyone?). Clearly, modern graphics hardware is going to render this point moot, but the detailed 3d models and photo-realistic textures are always going to take more time to develop than the primitive assets of games from the 90s.

      What excites me most about modern games are real-time physics, destructive environments, and player-created content all of which are easier to implement when you limit the number of triangles in your polygons. Again, you may look at Minecraft and say “what primitive graphics”, I look at Minecraft and say “what possibilities”.

    • disperse says:

      By “destructive environments”, I mean “destructible environments”. Of course, “destructive environments” could be fun too.

    • Wilson says:

      @disperse – I agree. Modern graphics are wonderful, and they have there place, but I’m disappointed that so few developers are willing to push the boat in areas such as dynamic environments or sheer number of assets for example, things which can’t be done if you want the latest graphics.

      I’m not sure that I agree with AndrewC completely. Good graphics can be immersive, but it can also make the slight mistakes or occasional wonky animations that you get in games far more jarring. If a game has mediocre graphics, you start filtering that kind of thing out naturally, while if everything else is beautiful mistakes can ruin the immersion.

      I think Minecraft is a fantastic example of the opportunities modern technology allows if you put graphics to one side (and I still think Minecraft looks lovely).

    • Wilson says:

      Doh, I used ‘there’ instead of ‘their’. And it annoys me when people mix those up. Sorry anyone who also gets annoyed by that!

    • disperse says:

      @Wilson

      Yes. The graphics of AAA games are deep in the Uncanny valley.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      If the world were better, graphics wouldn’t be considered as important by developers as they are. They forget/ are ignorant of how easily people can become immersed in a gameworld.

  14. Mr.Ferret says:

    One of the best games ever made, i played it when i was about 12, finished it too and tried my best to understand it, have played it through about once or twice a year since.

    I’m now in my 2nd year of uni studying game design,

    The future is not lost.

    • Premium User Badge Ging says:

      but that still puts you a minimum of about 6 years away from having any actual chance of creating something that you have designed, assuming it’s gotten past the rest of the team, the producers, the publishers (and their marketing department) to the point where it’s got funding and is on its way (which is still no guarantee)!

      Not to put a downer on the big plan but it’s what I tell my students when they talk about making the games they want to make as soon as they graduate and find jobs.

    • Mr.Ferret says:

      For sure, im in Australia too so even less chance, need to believe in something. Im leading a 5 man team on a small racing game that we are starting development on next year, its a start and we all have to start somewhere.

      I came up with an idea for a sci fi space game when i was about 6 or 7…a lot like mass effect too now looking at it, wish i wrote it down or was born 10 years earlier lol.

    • Kast says:

      @Ging – Talk about a buzz kill.

      I’d hope that most students (myself included) recognise that our dreams won’t come true the day we graduate or even for several years after that but we can’t let that stop us now, can we? The future may not come for a long time but if we push hard enough (and are manipulative enough) we can forge it ourselves in time. One way or another, as Mr. Ferret said, the future is coming.

    • Premium User Badge Ging says:

      Talk about a buzz kill.

      I’d hope that most students (myself included) recognise that our dreams won’t come true the day we graduate or even for several years after that but we can’t let that stop us now, can we? The future may not come for a long time but if we push hard enough (and are manipulative enough) we can forge it ourselves in time. One way or another, as Mr. Ferret said, the future is coming.

      @Kast If I am a buzz kill, it’s because I’m a realist about the current state of the industry and the studios that make the big name games. Note how I never said it wouldn’t or can’t happen, just that there’s still a fair bit of time in between being a 2nd year games design student and someone who can push through their own design and get it all the way to the end.

      You say the future is coming, I say the future never arrives!

      I look forward to the day when todays crop of enlightened design students reach the point where they’re designing and developing titles that follow on in the footsteps of games like DX and System Shock – in whatever form they think best, I’ll be one of the first in the queue to pick them up and play them.

    • Premium User Badge Ging says:

      I’m also a realist in seeing that I’m a numpty who can’t delete the text he’s copied and pasted into the reply box to save scrolling back up to read it – my bad!

    • bob_d says:

      I don’t think it’s a lack of designers who want to makes games like this that’s the reason why they aren’t being made. Deus Ex is on my top three favorite games list, and I’m a designer; other designers I know are similarly enthusiastic about it.
      Development and marketing costs are now so high that it’s possible to make a top-selling game that actually loses money. There’s a reason why the only developers making similar games are in Eastern Europe, where development costs are lower. That The Witcher had more sales than Deus Ex doesn’t mean much, as it had much higher development costs, despite where it was made. A modern equivalent to Deus Ex now would need many times the sales Deus Ex had just to break even. This means that the big studios are more conservative about their choices and independent studios are disappearing, or don’t have the resources to make a game like this now. What this means is that for Western developers, the economic realities of the game industry are dictating a lot of the decisions about what sort of games get made, rather than the actual designers.

    • bob_d says:

      @Ging:
      Yeah, I know people who, after the better part of two decades in the game business, and after starting up their own studios, _still_ aren’t making the *types* of games they want to make, much less making the specific games they want.

      @ Mr.Ferret:
      I’m not trying to be mean, but ideas aren’t actually worth anything, despite what many people believe. The ability to actually *implement* the idea is what’s valuable. (As a game designer that means being able to write clear, comprehensive specs that describe all the game mechanics, and even that’s not very valuable, frankly. You can’t copyright game mechanics.) Having an idea that’s similar to a successful product indicates that you may not have been completely off-base, but you have to recognize that there were any number of other people who not only had the same idea but also developed designs, prototypes or even games that implemented the idea in various ways with varying levels of success and completion. In fact, the game industry is really built around the same ideas getting recycled again and again. Some studios, frankly, have done nothing but use the same idea for all their games; the different implementations turn the idea into different games.

    • Mr.Ferret says:

      I’m well aware of all that Bob, the racing game for next year is somewhat based of Micro Machines, but for the current generation, an XBL title.

      And thats the thing, it’s about getting a finished product, with menus music sounds and a selection of cars and tracks, im having trouble trying to explain that to my programmers at the moment who think we can spend all year designing an engine and leaving it at that! Last years games project team had that exact same problem, thats fine if you want to be a programmer (which most of them did end up going onto) there game was a 3d side scroller and it had a level editor, was all written in C++ From scratch…but they didn’t even have a model for the main character or the platforms by the end of it!

      Its all about making a finished game which is fun, thats the objective, and if i can prove competent at that on a small scale, one would imagine things should go a bit more my favor. Because thats the thing with the games industry its an oxymoron, you need experience to get a job…cant get a job without experience. Which is fair enough too and i understand the challenges of what i want to do. Im quite the realist too, ill probably only get as far as developing Barbies super dream house 2 on the DS or something but hey im gonna give it my all. Your not being harsh at all i know the reality of it.

  15. fuggles says:

    This game made me read G.K Chesterton’s The Man who was Thursday. Not enough games lure me into fine literature.

    Iron and Copper! Bloodshot!

    RPS verdict on Boiling point or Anachronox please!

    • tomwaitsfornoman says:

      @fuggles: Same thing happened with me. it was fun going back and catching all the references in subsequent play-throughs. I really want to read Jacob’s Ladder.

  16. Meat Circus says:

    System Shock 2 was better than Deus Ex.

  17. Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

    To me, hand crafting levels to accomodate so many possibilities seems mildly lunatic now.

    Perhaps the last ten years has been spent trying to get procedurally made worlds up and running, where infinite possibilities are possible because everything functions under a consistent set of physical rules and systems? That seems a more likely way to get these ‘immersive sims’ moving forwards again, rather than having someone code in a unique scripted response to every possibility.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      AndrewC: Well, half of what DX works on is based on simulation principles. That’s the interesting thing about DX – and where it differs from any game in the Looking Glass tradition. Half the team are clearly trad-RPG-esque people who believe in hard-coding all the options as if they were making Fallout. The other half of the team are clearly simulation people, who are into making flexible tools.

      KG

    • Premium User Badge yhancik says:

      I think this is (a bit) the direction of Introversion’s Subversion – except it’s not a FPS / probably nor a RPG.

      http://bit.ly/cLl7uh

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      I’ll take the side of ‘sim’ please! The idea of a sweaty coder looking over my shoulder during every decision creeps me out slightly, and removes my sense of agency.

      I mean, i suppose hard coding increases the level of old fashioned authorial expression the coder has in saying ‘what the world is like’ but still I UUGGHGHH BLLEUURRGGH GO AWAY SWEATY CODER AND LEAVE TO MY BOX STACKING

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The simulation element works really well for the game mechanics, e.g. approaches to an objective, methods for completing said objective, but you really need the “sweaty coder” as you put it (I feel like a lot of these offices are probably air conditioned) to work in any sort of plot related choice. You can’t have Paul admonish you for killing too many people unless someone sits down and goes “ok, have Paul say this if you kill too many people.”

      Basically, that’s why Deus Ex was so great. It had all sorts of simulation mechanics, the kind you saw in the System Shocks and the Thiefs, but it also had you interacting in a plot with characters, and by having all sorts of reactions and consequences there too it managed to keep the sense of freedom throughout the entire game, and not just limited to one aspect or another.

  18. Yargh says:

    is it strange that all this talk of a game trying to do everything only makes me think of Dwarf Fortress?

    • user@example.com says:

      These are a pair of obsidian sunglasses. On them is a logo of a policeman and men. The policeman is oppressing the men. The man is laughing. The men are cringing in fear. They menace with spikes of chrome.

    • Wilson says:

      @user@example.com – Very funny. DF references are always humorous!

    • user@example.com says:

      Have you heard about the cake?

    • Premium User Badge tikey says:

      Everybody knows that the cake is the word.

  19. Casimir's Blake says:

    RPS must do System Shock now, it’s far more deserving of a retrospective than any game in history this clunky, over-rated mess of a game. Boxy, uninteresting level design, stodgy user interfaces, broken stealth and inaccurate mouse aim do not a good game make.

    • Premium User Badge Ging says:

      You’re right, they don’t make a good game individually but when piled up with the rest of the elements that make up the game as a whole they’re not all that much an issue (or weren’t, 10 years ago).

    • Wilson says:

      @Casimir’s Blake – I find it odd that you cite stodgy user interfaces, since System Shock was pretty bad for that too. Are you thinking of one System Shock in particular, out of interest? I’ve completed 2, but didn’t get very far with the first one.

      I would also contest uninteresting level design (it fitted the world, and plenty of the places you went were interesting, like Hong Kong and the underwater laboratory) and question what you mean by inaccurate mouse aim. Do you mean the inaccuracy without any skill in a weapon, or clunky mouse look or something? I can’t understand why not having perfect aim in a FPS is so irritating for some people, it doesn’t bother me – I’m not saying all those people are wrong, I’d just like to understand their point of view. I’ll admit I never really went for ‘proper’ stealth, but the half stealth half charging with a stun baton approach I took didn’t strike me as unfun to play.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      @Wilson Please try System Shock again with this mouselook mod, and you may feel differently. With or without the mod, it still makes Deus Ex look – as I said – clunky and slightly broken gameplay.

  20. Steve K Peacock says:

    What a shame.

  21. Sunjammer says:

    Deus Ex is incredibly old feeling. Not as old feeling as its sequel, interestingly, but I found it too hard to return to. It’s ugly, drawn out, hard to emote with, and mechanically clunky. The first level is still boring as shit to me. It was a drag to get through then, it’s still a drag today.

    You talk a lot about how Deus Ex offered “choice”, as though it did so in a spectacularly dynamic and exciting way. It’s no more dynamic and exciting than a branching text adventure. I absolutely had fun exploring the different paths, but the paths were in a world that was quite dull in its naturalism. The plot and where it took you conceptually was much more interesting than the actual sights and experiences. You were still sitting in the dark waiting for your reticle to shrink by the end of the game, shooting dull guns at enemies who had sticks up their bums, or awkwardly trying to sneak by them with one of the worst stealth implementations in memory. It was that bad.

    I simply don’t buy that DX offered “more choice” than a game like Thief (which you called out yourselves), which felt (and still feel) like a near-constant stream of choices, all of which were mechanically sound. DX was much more macro than you are admitting.

    I was heavily into DX in its time, and I replayed it several times, then, but I can return to Thief any day of the year and still be amazed at its gameplay, art direction, story and sound design, while returning to DX just reminds me of how far we’ve come since then. Any idea that it’s “timeless” and stands up today is, in my opinion, absolutely bananas.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Agreed, simply agreed. But Thief and System Shock (both).

    • disperse says:

      @Sunjammer

      Don’t look at the “choices” offered by the game as sneak through the vent / hack the computer terminal to open the door. Obviously, these are simply branching linear choices. Deus Ex provides the player with tools and an environment to use them in and even the designers couldn’t anticipate every way the player would choose to use them. This is called emergent gameplay.

    • Premium User Badge Vandelay says:

      I agree with you. I enjoyed the game enough when I originally played it (it was a budget copy I burrowed from a mate, can’t remember what year exactly,) but didn’t really get the hype for it. Even then, the gameplay felt very clunky and unrefined. Ravings of Deus Ex being the greatest game of all time just never rang true for me during my play through. It was good, but I was always a bigger fan of the much tighter and highly polished Half Life.

      I was probably a bit young to really appreciate the plot at the time and so my memories of it are more like the gaming equivalent of a Dan Brown novel, attempting to cram in multiple conspiracy theories and a smattering of philosophy to look smart. The monotonous voice acting and stilted animations didn’t help in crafting characters you would actually care about either.

      I imagine I would be able to appreciate it more now, but wouldn’t be able to get past the clunky gameplay. This proved to be true when I bought the game from Steam about a year ago. I was enjoying it enough, but my dislike for the combat system became too much when I realised the sniper rifle could be used flawlessly without the scope. Just place cursor over the head of someone, wait for crosshair to narrow and fire. Compare that to using a scope with a few points in the appropriate skill and you are still swinging the rifle around like you are on a bucking bronco. I don’t think I even managed to reach Paul getting attacked in his apartment.

      Having said that, Deus Ex did a lot right and its ability to create multiple paths to completion should be imitated more. The way the world really reacts to your actions is almost absent from the majority of games, bar the odd nod in a few games. The fact that it is still being lauded for this ten years on shows that no one has come along and been able to successfully replace it in those regards.

    • Mojo says:

      The whole “Deus Ex is great because of the choices” idea never did it for me. Sure, there are half a dozen long-term choices you can make in the game. But that’s it. You can also choose whether to shoot or hack your way in. But that’s not “meaningful” or deep.

      What Deus Ex does, however, is give you, as someone from the gang just put it so eloquently, “a toolbox to play with.” The tools might not be very high tech, particularly polished or beautiful. But they’re there. And it’s a full set.

      It’s true that today’s games try to do fewer things perfect. And that’s just not the same as letting you do everything with a certain risk of something unexpected happening. That’s the reason I don’t think DX3 will work. They’re trying to pick a handful of “core elements” and do them “perfectly”. And that’s just not what DX is all about. See Deus Ex: Invisible War. It has “perfectly” balanced game mechanics! But it’s just not Deus Ex.

    • Sunjammer says:

      In what way was DX emergent? I’d like some concrete examples. IMHO DX became emergent largely because of its jankiness, not by its design. Someone cited throwing a bunch of boxes off a building to “break the fall” and avoid a few stories worth of shootybang. That to me doesn’t sound emergent, that sounds like breaking the game. There’s a very real difference. You can break sequence in Super Metroid but that doesn’t make the game emergent in any way shape or form.

    • YogSo says:

      @Sunjammer:

      Let me explain the difference with an example: In a ‘corridor’ shooter (i.e. Quake) if you find a bug that allows you to ‘noclip’ through some wall and circumvent part of the level (avoiding a lot of fights at the same time) and go directly to the end button, you are “breaking the game”. Now imagine that it’s not a bug per se but a limitation of the engine, something Carmack didn’t or couldn’t foresee when he was coding it, and this unexpected factor allows you to skip a portion of the level in the same way described above. That is still not “emergent gameplay”, because the ‘real’ objective of a Quake level is not to activate the end lever (or button, or platform, or whatever) but to have fun killing lots of monsters as you navigate the corridors. If you skip the fights, you are skipping the gameplay, the only reason to play Quake.

      On the other hand, in the Deus Ex example you are citing above (throwing a bunch of boxes off a building to “break the fall” and avoid a few stories worth of shootybang) the objective never was “After sending Paul’s signal you have to kill all these troopers before you are allowed to exit the building” but “After sending Paul’s signal, escape from the building”. And it’s up to you how to do so. It’s true that the designers’ intended way is that you navigate the three floors of the warehouse (fighting or avoiding the alerted troopers) and use one of the exit doors: if you just try to jump from the rooftop you will die, because you will take too much damage from such a long fall, just like in real life. BUT, just like in real life, if you find a way to cushion the impact, you may survive the fall. Deus Ex physics were maybe nothing compared to the Havoks or PhysX or whatnot of today, but they were real (‘realistic’ may be a better word) enough to accomodate precisely that scenario. That is not “breaking the game”, because you are not using bugs or skipping objectives. You are, indeed, creatively using the tools you have at your disposal to find an unforeseen solution to the current problem. In other words, you are engaging in “emergent gameplay”.

    • Sunjammer says:

      I don’t buy it. The definition of emergent behavior, as I’ve come to know it anyway, is complex unforeseen interactions that can occur when the number of variables is high enough. In this case, the number of variables is something like.. 1. Simply changing the height of the floor you’re jumping down to to minimize fall damage doesn’t fall into that paradigm; Circumventing the designer’s intent to achieve your goal quicker is pretty much the definition of a sequence break.

      I want to stress that I actually enjoyed DX a ton in its day, and did do my best to “play the system” at the time. There were lots of fun easter egg type discoveries and moments of joy seeing what you tried come out good, but compared to a game like Red Faction Guerilla or (i know) even Bioshock, the perceived “emergence” of DX is extremely meagre.

  22. groovychainsaw says:

    I always though, above the plot, above the RPG/FPS stuff, it was the freedom that was so liberating. Few games have done as much. Every level presented at least one scenario that asked ‘ here’s a building, you have to get in, how are you going to do it this time?’. And you could try anything within the scope of your tools. Maybe they were very well defined tools, with clear limitation. But at the time, the freedom was unprecendented. Games should never have been corridor shooters ever again. Deus Ex showed you didn’t need them. But not everyone was as smart as the developers of Deus Ex, which brings us full circle to today, and Deus Ex 3. Are they smart enough. Are they going to let people really decide how they want to complete the next section/area?

  23. Purple0limar says:

    What do you mean, having your legs shot off and not being able to reach a medkit? I don’t remember that.

    • disperse says:

      @Purple0limar

      There is location based damage in Deus Ex. If you received enough damage to your legs they would be shot off forcing you to drag yourself along the floor (forced crouch + move penalty). I don’t remember specifically what would happen if you took arm or head damage. Anyone else recall?

    • Kast says:

      It didn’t necessarily happen in your play through. That was an example of an emergent experience, not some scripted sequence.

    • jarvoll says:

      If you lost your head you died, if you lost your arms your reticle exploded out to its widest extent and would never tighten. Such is as I remember, anyway – I could be wrong.

    • disperse says:

      @jarvoll

      With no arms could you no longer use your strength aug to pick up boxes and drop / hurl them at UNATCO soldiers? That was always my favorite thing to do…

    • Purple0limar says:

      Well, yes, I remember the location-based damage and wasting all those medkit points on this or that body part. Jim, though, seemed to be referring to a specific incident.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That can happen on a couple of different levels where medkits are placed on desks.

  24. Sunjammer says:

    Deus Ex is like Doom where you are given the choice of color key to open the door with.

  25. EBass says:

    Bollocks Sunjammer, I replayed DX for the first time in about four years a few weeks ago and its not just as good as I remembered, its better. The whole game is a frikkin masterpiece.

  26. Alaric says:

    I’m pretty much in your age group (turned 29 yesterday) and I’d say Deus Ex is one of the most important (and also one of the best) games I ever played. It didn’t make me more wary of the government, as I was always pretty cynical naturally. It didn’t make me believe in conspiracy theories. It did, however, introduce me to cyberpunk and to non-fantasy RPGs. Ugly even back then, but I still loved it despite being something of a graphics whore.

    Or maybe… we are just being nostalgic, since nostalgia is a longing for a time, disguised as longing for a place or an object.

  27. Pzykozis says:

    Having only first played Deus Ex a week or so ago I missed it when it would have been new and pristine and a shining beacon of gaming loveliness.

    Having said that though, It’s still one of the best games I’ve ever played, sure the aiming’s wonky, the AI runs around wildly if you position yourself at corners and there’s a whole multitude of general clunkiness, but it still just created joy.

    It doesn’t feel old to me, at it’s core the story and the ideas are fresh and exciting even 10 years on. IW on the other hand…

  28. misterk says:

    Man, every time Deus Ex, Thief and System Shock come up here I feel bad. I just couldn’t get into any of them (although system shock utterly passed me by). I think I found Deus Ex too clunky at the time to appreciate it, thief I hated the stealth, and was not even aware of system shock. And planescape tourment as well. All these games that are milestones that I have not played.

    Could we have a civ 2 verdict? Basically a verdict based around games I personally played to death back in the day?

  29. Total Choad says:

    Why doesn’t RPS throw down on a System Shock 2 reminiscing session? I can’t spell. Superior game to Deus Ex if i do say so myself, and a game that has a direct genetic relation to one of the best FPS’s in recent memory.

  30. Gassalasca says:

    “Kieron: The first level is fascinating. At the time, it was viewed as a problem, as in, something which turned a lot of people off. Looked at today, and it’s a fucking masterpiece.”

    Could you elaborate on this, Kieron?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      People were down on it at the time. It was a bit too much for people, I think. Now, with a decade of experience beneath our belt, it’s just this gargantuan, enormous, free-wheeling space.

      KG

    • Taillefer says:

      I loved it, personally. Played through it a few times before progressing, trying out different things each time. I think it helped coming from Thief; it felt like they had the secret in training just for me.

    • disperse says:

      Spoiler?

      I played through the first level normally, killing the NSF agents happily, until I realized that the NSF were the good guys. Then I had to restart the game and replay the first level using only the prod and tranq darts.

    • James T says:

      I played DX through three times in a row; I kept coming straight back because I remembered how good the first level was.

  31. Skinlo says:

    Was too young the first time, got bored in the first level when I tried last year. Maybe no for me.

  32. Havok9120 says:

    Its true that it would have been nice to have the option to remain with UNATCO longer, though I believe it would have cost us in something on the storyline. They were right to point out the expense of making such a game as DX and making TWO storylines of such length and quality would have been pretty tough.

    Also, the part about not having good evidence at the time….Paul sends you to the HQ and says that if you go to the basement you will find all the evidence you need. And you do. Also, some of the troopers are having some pretty suspicious conversations. (“Ax this fine?” “Yeah, the whole directory.”)

    • CMaster says:

      The “evidence” Paul sends you to find is a datapad of Lebedev saying “UNATCO is bad”. He claims to have uncovered this, that and the other, but all you find is a datacube of him telling Paul he has this evidence, nothing that actually convinces you.
      Yes, the choice of how to solve problems in Deus Ex led to a lot of people wanting more control over the storyline. Yes, I can see why that didn’t happen. The problem is that the particular chunk of the story there didn’t work. You were being sent to Hong Kong anyway – so mostly assets could be reused and you could find convincing evidence during your first mission there. Or they could just have made the UNATCO being controlled by the bad guys more convincing in the first place.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Bah, reply broke again. That post was to somebody. Anywho, the people saying that aiming was broke, invest XP in the proper skills. By the end of the game you’ll be playing Half Life if you “master” the guns you’re using. For those saying stealth is broke its light based, stay in shadows and crouched. Sure its hugely unrealistic but its very easy to go undetected most of the time. The ones lamenting that the choice was lackluster….I can only assume that you must be thinking of macro choice. The ability to massively change how the game plays out (though the endings are different, the path you take to them is largely the same) is not the same as real choice.

      You make choices about who to kill and when. How to kill them. How to do a level. Sure that sounds lame if you’re thinking of a corridor shooter level, but DX’s levels had oodles of ways to get around and complete them. What’s more, the game will usually roll with whatever you throw at it and even comment on it. Exploration and experimentation had actual effects on the gameplay and dialogue. And any shooter that you can complete without firing a single shot is pretty impressive in my books regardless of the choices you can make along the way.

      But the thing that convinced me of DX’s greatness and solidified it over and over again when I replayed it is that it is fun. Incredibly, gorgeously FUN. What does the rest matter? Even if you want to argue its a Doom clone with a story why is that bad if the gun play is good (and it is once you figure out how it works, a process completed if 30 seconds if you have any functioning logic sites in your brain) and the story fantastic? We’re here for entertainment and while I agree that DX is a true masterwork the fun is what matters to me.

    • James T says:

      “For those saying stealth is broke its light based, stay in shadows and crouched. Sure its hugely unrealistic but its very easy to go undetected most of the time.”

      I agree with the rest of what you’re saying, but the stealth is line-of-sight based; you’ve gotta keep far away or behind cover. I would’ve liked some shadow elements (I believe there’s a mod which adds Thief-style shadow-based stealth; don’t know if it’s any good, but with the levels not being designed for it, I think it’d be a bit of a nerf most of the time), but on the other hand, purely cover-based stealth in the DX mould can be pleasingly authentic, in contrast to Thief or Splinter Cell’s system of “I’m wearing black and standing between you and this brightly illuminated window, but I’m in shadow, so you can’t see me”. I don’t really mind those game’s disregard of contrast all that much, but I think DX’s harsher style is equally legitimate (and satisfying to succeed with).

  33. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    “He noted that… well, Deus Ex is Doom… if you could talk to the monsters. And it *is* something. Deus Ex is the game which proved that Edge 7/10 review right, basically.”

    I dont get this line. Edge gave the game 7/10, and they are agreeing thats what it deserved?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Doom got 7/10 with the famous line “If only you could talk to the monsters… now that would be something”.

      KG

    • Mojo says:

      Edge is just a giant troll. Always has been. My favorite example is how they gave fucking Halo 3 the “Innovation award” in 2007. They like attention, saying the opposite of the mainstream… not always caring about whether doing that makes any logical sense.

    • Tim Ward says:

      Seriously? Halo 3? That’s hilarious.

  34. Havok9120 says:

    To heck with the reply system, I hates it.

    @CMaster Yes, but there are in fact two datapads. One is a memo and the other is a record of bribes. Also did the head of FEMA executing the captives, your being ordered to execute an unarmed prisoner, and the dozen or so emails (which Paul tells you to try and read) that you have access to that say UNATCO is doing Bad Things, also not convince you? The side conversations you can listen in on? There is a lot of evidence there to be found if you look for it. I can agree that assuming the player will explore and read what is available to him may be a bad design choice but to say that there is not sufficient evidence , especially combined with your brother’s word, to defect is just wrong.

    And if you’re going to argue that the evidence should be an obvious neon sign saying “WE’RE EVIL” then you’re playing the wrong game. That wouldn’t make sense in the story or the world and so it isn’t done that way. Believability is one of the beauties of the game. The point of the situation was to try and force you to investigate on your own and to emphasize that JC trusts and respects his brother. Having once done that section of the game totally bare bones however, I understand what you’re saying. If you don’t read the emails, don’t eavesdrop, don’t explore, and don’t listen to all of the dialogue (Paul and Lebedev both have A LOT of optional lines) then you probably wouldn’t have sufficient evidence in your own mind. Of course, if you aren’t going to do any of that, why AREN’T you just playing Doom?

  35. ellep says:

    “I do kinda half wonder whether when the kids who were 18 in 2000 get to positions of power – which should be in the next 10 years – we’ll be seeing stuff.”

    I tried, guys, I tried so hard. But maths… the god-damned maths…

  36. Tim James says:

    “give a shooter a sandbox and an inventory” …and put it in the most compelling near-reality world since Deus Ex.

  37. Bassism says:

    I grew up playing a russian cd of computer games I got on a disk from my cousin. Among those are a few games that really made an impression on me. The Ultima series, including Underworlds, and System Shock, Fallout, Sim City, and a myriad of games all in different genres.

    When I got to Deus Ex, it overshadowed everything that had come before. As said in the article, it felt like the natural progression of what gaming could be. All my favourite games had given me a world to play in. DX gave me a world to play -in-, in first person, while still maintaining what feels like an infinite amount of choice.
    As so many have said, it’s that choice that makes the game so special. I barely remember the plot any more. Something blah-blah, chemicals, illuminati. And even at the time, the mechanics seemed clunky and unremarkable.
    But there are so many wonderful moments that I can remember and recite to you, and that’s what puts the game in my top 3.

    Take something like Thief, which is a lovely game. Far better art direction, and a perfectly implemented stealth gameplay mechanic. In all objective ways, Thief is a much better game. But in Thief you play a thief, who needs to climb into houses, club guards, and take stuff, while sneaking around. In DX you play a mechanically augmented agent who has to figure out wtf is going on in whatever way you deem fit.

    I’ve not played anything since DX that accomplished what it did, nor even really tried. The Underworld and Shock games are certainly in the same mould, as they should be. DX was just the latest iteration of that formula. The sad thing is that all stopped after Deus Ex.

  38. Bassism says:

    Incidentally, thinking about the Thief games, the early game is always my favourite. Whenever I replay them I start to get bored once the shit starts hitting the fan. I’m especially fond of the town hub in Thief 2. It gives me the same sort of feeling of having a world and wandering through.

    It says more about me and my tastes than the games themselves. But that is what is missing for me in comparing Thief to DX.

  39. fuggles says:

    On a complete tangent, Terra Nova was my favourite Looking glass game and that never set the world on fire either

    • Grunt says:

      From what I’ve seen of it, Terra Nova’s a cracking little game. Really good fun and surprisingly good-looking even now thanks to it’s voxel landscape technology. To date it’s the only game on my wish-list from that era that I still haven’t got hold of or actually played beyond the demo. I’d sell my entire family to have it suddenly appear on GoG…

      Ah, Looking Glass. How many times have I toasted your memory. (sigh)

  40. Zwebbie says:

    To its credit, I’d like to mention, Deus Ex doesn’t even throw the decisions in your face. Current games that claim to be big on choices generally have them in dialogue, where you press one of two buttons; Deus Ex had its choices in the game itself, and it didn’t always explain them to you.
    The game tells you to meet Filben in the beginning, but you can skip him completely. You can kill the terrorist leader, even though it’s repeatedly mentioned that keeping him alive is a primary goal. You can, afterwards, kill a UNATCO trooper to get an early assault rifle, and Manderley will respond to that. No two factions arguing over what you should do, you lay out the options. The third option to the dilemma in Lebedev’s jet is never mentioned by any character; that the game conditions you to be creative enough to come up with it is its greatest strength.

    That’s also where I thought DXIW failed spectacularly, because all options are given through infolink by various conflicting factions. The player now makes decisions, sure, but doesn’t come up with them anymore.

    It was only this year that I found out you could get into Castle Clinton by stacking boxes and climbing over the walls. It’s not a particularly useful way of entering either, but I felt damn clever for coming up with it!

    • Bassism says:

      100% this.

    • Ian says:

      This is something that bugged me purely because of the options I never thought of.

      I was genuinely horrified when somebody pointed out to me ages after I’d first played it that you could stop and help Paul. It just hadn’t occurred to me. I’d only played games where you did what the NPCs told you.

    • Kester says:

      Yes, this. Not presenting the decisions to the player on a plate gives you an incredible sense of agency when you do think of something.

      It’s not just that the decisions aren’t made obvious either; they’re often made under pressure. You don’t have long to question Lebedev in that jet before Anna is just going to shoot him, then he’s dead and you’re getting written up to the boss. Those agents are going to bust into Paul’s door in ten seconds time, and that’s exactly how long you have to decide whether you’re going to respect his wishes and save yourself or put everything on the line and try to save your brother, not knowing if it’s even possible. There is something special about coming up with an idea in the heat of the moment that makes you think “Me, I did that!” that isn’t really there if you’re given all the time in the world. (Your ‘Save Kaiden’/'Save Ashley’ in Mass Effect, for example)

  41. Bret says:

    Number 1?

    That’s terror.

  42. Mhh says:

    Paul Denton cancels plot: interrupted by killswitch.
    Paul Denton has been struck down.

  43. Ian says:

    I still remember crawling around under the mansion thing in the dark. I hadn’t built for combat and every head-on attack was nearly killing me and it was dark under there and I was already on edge expecting something nasty to come and eat/kill/punch me, and all of a sudden through comes the one of the AI:

    “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?”

    Nearly cacked my pants I did.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Observe your motivations for breaking the arbitrary laws of the current
      government. Do not miss your chance to be one of us and create the new world
      order.

  44. LionsPhil says:

    Good Lord, some of these comments are depressing.

    HURR DURR I CAN HATE ON ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT COMPUTER GAMES IN HISTORY HERP DOESN’T HAVE PIXEL SHADERS DERP LOOK AT ME I’M EDGY

  45. Fenchurch says:

    Soon there will be Old Men, running the world!

  46. Reverend Speed says:

    Gah. Played it when it came out. Underwhelmed. Mass of incomplete mechanics bonded to a rubbish story with all sense of consequence castrated at the conclusion. Eloquent?

    My.

    Arse.

    BUT. You have to give it credit for always allowing you to open any door in at least three ways. No sarcasm, that’s pure bloody genius.

    It’s not that I didn’t applaud it for it’s lofty ambitions. But I think I was waiting for something approaching the criminally bugged Vampire: Bloodlines to arrive before I applauded the FPSRPG. Good story? Yes. Eloquent? Oh my. Consequences. Ah-ha-ha-ha yes.

    Deus Ex. As good as a poor implementation of the titular trope. MUST. TRY. HARDER.

  47. Mr Lizard says:

    First FPS I ever played. All the others were crap.

  48. CyberBrent says:

    Bravery is not a function of firepower.

  49. Pew says:

    I don’t think I can even think of why Deus Ex is my all time favorite game in my memory (which is where it belongs for now). Was it the story that amazed my then 18 year old just-out-of-school self? Or the intro level which annoyed and amazed the hell out of me, meaning I didn’t even really play it till I was 19? Or maybe that just today I found out that Soldier of Fortune only came out in the same year, while it feels like it had come out at least 4 years before that? Which I still don’t believe – surely I wasn’t that silly to have played the SoF demo over and over, going “oh yessss!” over shooting Quake 2 styled arms and legs off with a shotgun, at age 18?

    I think the fact that it still boggles the mind as to why exactly we love it so much in particular, already proves its importance in gaming history. Then again, if being in your formative years when playing this game in 2000 is like being a hippie in the 60′s, playing the same shooter in a different skin 10 tmes a year probably makes me an 80′s establishment asshole. And in 10 years? Woe my life. Kids. Lawn. Get off it.

  50. Will Tomas says:

    This Half-Life 1 and Shogun: Total War I played when I was about 14, around the same time. I think those 3 games pretty much defined what I want gaming to be about for me.