While We Wait: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here
When is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided [official site] coming out? Not that soon. Not soon enough. But while we can't magically give it to you to play now, now, now, we can give you a fun selection of things that will help keep the cravings at bay. From games to books and beyond, here are some recommendations for both getting into the cyberpunk, mechanical and freedom loving mood. Got any others to suggest? Let us know in the comments. For now though, grab your wallet and prepare to enter the future... even if you can probably do without something kinda like Adam Jensen's coat. (Nobody asked for that*.)
Part of the reason that Deus Ex remains so beloved is that there really haven't been that many games to point to and say: There! That! That's the new Deus Ex! But there've been a few, and a few more that at least offer a little of the same spark. Have you played them all?
I'd like to describe EyE, but I'm not sure I have the words. If I do, they're definitely not in English. Still, here's a good starting point. It's very much like Deus Ex in trying to offer you ranges of abilities that let you approach missions as you want. That said, you know how in Deus Ex, you can hack doors? In EyE, doors can hack you. That's just the start of the pain. The translation isn't simply dodgy, but openly hostile to understanding, throwing you into a world full of warring organisations with names like "Secreta Secretorum" where characters have a maybe 1/5 chance of being who they claim, or even existing at all. Occasionally you kill someone and are told "You just killed a soccer player", to add a little pathos. It contains the line "You jus wake up after your death, but careful, you went mad." And later on, things get weird. Still, if you're in the mood for a challenge... and have aspirin...
C'mon, you've played it by now, right? You must have. But if you haven't, it's Deus Ex's love of tools taken to one of the best realised fantasy worlds around, and made all that much more exciting with the help of magic. The two basic paths of stealth and murder soon open up a ton of possibilities, with every major encounter its own little microcosm of possibilities instead of simply a puzzle to solve. The DLC is pretty good too, if you never got around to it.
While it's nothing like Deus Ex in terms of mechanics - turn based combat/RPG versus FPS with RPG elements - Dragonfall is a must-play for cyberpunk fans. I never liked the original campaign, Dead Man's Switch, making this expansion a wonderful surprise. It's essentially the second chapter of Baldur's Gate 2 extended into a whole game. You have a big mission to prepare for, and for that, you need cash. How you raise it is up to you, and your gang of mercenary specialists looking for work in future Berlin. The Director's Cut freed it of the need to buy the original, as well as adding some extra fun stuff around the side.
If anything is Deus Ex 2, ignoring Invisible War, obviously, it's got to be Alpha Protocol. No game has ever, ever devoted itself so intently to your choices, which range from how many people you kill, to which characters you visit first when visiting a new city. It's a fractal web of consequences and responsiveness that truly puts every other game out there to shame... making it all the more unfortunate that its own crap gunplay and mini-games routinely spoil the party. Still! If you can endure those, and a few truly terrible opening hours, what awaits is simply unforgettable. I just wish I could remember the main character's name. What was it again?
Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines
Again, if you're reading RPS, you're required by law to have played this at least once. If not, it's okay. Here's one last chance to sink your fangs into its deeply shaky yet wonderfully charismatic FPS/RPG hybrid. Installing a fan patch is pretty much essential, but there are several to choose from and a couple of big ones on the way - see Alice's piece on two of the most exciting here. Sadly, CCP shut down a remake, and with the cancellation of the World of Darkness MMO, there's no sign of anything else like it on the horizon. Boo. Boo. Boo...
I remember being really excited when I read Richard Morgan's original cyberpunk novel and realised there were more. Going out and reading a couple of the others... not so much. Luckily, going back and re-reading this first tale of evil corporations, conspiracies and body-swapping, it more than held up. It's a great mix of hard-boiled mystery and future dystopia that really finds some fun ways to play with ideas of self and survival in a world where death is largely a choice.
Of course. It's not simply one of the defining cyberpunk novels, it's the one that more than anything else struck a chord with gamers - its Metaverse concept being brought up time and time again with virtual worlds like Second Life and Playstation Home and There, until most of the world realised that such things were better imagined than experienced. (But hey, maybe with virtual reality? Ahem.) It helps that it's got its tongue firmly in its cheek, often as much parodying cyberpunk as defining it. Like most of the classics, a bit dated now. Still, very readable.
The original Deus Ex and its sequel, Deus Ex: Sorry About This, never really saw any interesting spin-offs. Human Revolution was better timed to cash in, but again, we didn't see much. There was a very short comic book run, but otherwise only a single novel. Unlike many franchises though, it was at least a side-story rather than just a retelling of the plot, largely focused on the Tyrants - the bosses. Author James Swallow also wrote a shorter story though, originally for the Director's Cut but now free to all, which focuses on Jensen's pilot, Faridah. Read that one here.
The other must-read cyberpunk primer, and pretty much the Bible for the genre, only better because it's not full of boring bits like Proverbs. Its first line alone is one of the greatest openers ever, albeit a little dated now - "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." Not a whole lot more needs to be said, though there was a very obscure and very weird adventure game version of it back in the dark ages featuring such memorable weirdness as a church devoted to Pong, selling organs for a little cash, and the least fair justice system this side of Phoenix Wright.
Mods, fanworks, TV shows and movies on page two.
Mods and Fanworks
Tragically, neither Invisible War nor Human Revolution offered much for modern modders to grip onto. Human Revolution has a few basic difficulty rebalances and the option to remove the iconic gold tint to everything, but that's about it. Invisible War doesn't even really have that. On the plus side, that's given modders plenty of incentive to keep working on creaky old Deus Ex Original...
Hands down one of the biggest and most impressive conversions, turning Deus Ex into a surprisingly deep and involving tale of warring internet communities at the turn of the millennium. Some forced humour and trying-too-hard weirdness aside, it's immediately obvious that it's been made by fans who know every last pixel of the game and know exactly where to both stroke it fondly and stick the occasional knife into its belly.
Another major total conversion for the original game, set in an alternate continuity of even more dark conspiracies and very dodgy voice acting. But! It's also a good 10+ hours more Deus Ex. If you're interested in more, also check out Redsun 2020 and Zodiac.
This is cheating just a little bit, because Revision 1.0 isn't actually out yet. It's coming very soon though, offering 'a complete reimagining of the world of Deus Ex'. In short, where things were once empty boxes and decorations designed for 1999 computers to handle, now... well, there's more stuff. It's not a Black Mesa Source type affair, still using the original Unreal engine, but is looking distinctly better. Look forward to grabbing a copy.
That stands for "Give Me Deus Ex", and it's an overhaul mod designed to make the original campaign just feel more satisfying and realistic. No longer for instance will friendly NPCs be quite so blasé about you wandering up with a crate of explosives, while both murderous and non-lethal players get some more options like rubber bullets and taser darts. JC Denton meanwhile gets some new abilities like mantling and better taking cover, and more scope to use his stealth implants without the AI throwing a crazy party at the slightest disturbance.
Out of interest, has anyone ever seen a character use one of those cigar-chopping things in a movie without immediately moving onto its secondary use as a finger/willy chopper? This fan-film, two years in the making, certainly doesn't change things. Just a touch, ahem, fetishistic from start to finish, but with some fantastic effects and style, it's well worth your twelve minutes.
Let's be honest, most cyberpunk and similar genre movies have... ah... not aged well at all. For every Blade Runner, there's at least ten Johnny Mnemonics and Highlander 2: The Quickenings. But, if you'd like to enjoy the future more passively, here's a selection of good places to start.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Yes, I'm suggesting the TV series rather than the movie. The movie is overrated, depressing and dull, while this has the advantage of a sense of humour and life to it. I'm aware that this is not a universal opinion, but as today's List Compiler In Chief, what I say goes. So, in a nutshell, nyah. The show's older than it feels it should be now, but still a fun cyberpunk future to enjoy. And if you do, there's a lot of it to work through. For both reasons, hurrah!
Okay. A slightly odd pick perhaps, since there's not a whole lot of cyberpunk or inappropriate sunglass wearing at any point in it. However, it seems fitting. The Deus Ex series is ultimately more of a story about technology and its use than conspiracies and the Illuminati and whatever, and that's exactly what Brooker's modern Twilight Zone focuses on. It's Twitter and Facebook instead of mechanical limbs and nanomachines, but that's a question of scale rather than subject. It also has a focus on the personal implications that's often lost with 'bigger' stories that concern themselves with entire civilisations, acting as a good reminder of what typically really matters.
Meanwhile, back in the world of snooty-men... While it's obviously about the comic book character, the Dredd here may as well be playing a long Deus Ex mission. His bag of tools, the alternate potential paths, the weapons for every situations - it's as if someone filmed someone playing a game. Surprisingly though, it's also a really good film that does sometimes suffer from inevitable The Raid comparisons, but deserved far better than to be sacrificed on the altar of pointless 3D gimmickry when it hit cinemas. Check it out if you missed it, but don't expect a sequel.
Clones and conspiracies? Combine them with some really good acting from its leading lady and you've got a show I managed to miss for ages, but is well worth checking out. The first series at least is available on Netflix and so probably other services as well. Again, modern day rather than Deus Ex's future, but exploring some familiar ground from an interestingly different perspective.
Well, Syfy had to get a turn at some point, I suppose. I've only seen a few episodes of Continuum, but asking around, quite a few people recommended it as one of the best shows for Deus Ex fans. It's about a cop from the future accidentally sent back in time thanks to, using the technical term, 'shit happening'. Cue a desperate quest to protect the future from a group of terrorists sent back at the same time, hoping it's still there when she finally discovers a way to return. It made it three full seasons before being axed, with a shorter fourth-series wrap-up en route.