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Saturday Gaming Retrospective - Deus EX

Deus Ex – The PC game that changed so much
By Michael Lafferty

2000 GZ review: “Deus Ex is compelling, great to look at, and a whole lot of fun to play”

Before there was Sam Fisher, there was JC Denton. The nanotech-enhanced agent was sneaking through zones, stealth-killing enemies and generally trying to find his way through a world that had more twists in it than a pretzel.

Deus EX was a 2000 PC release from Ion Storm and EIDOS that was not only a critically acclaimed title, but it also was well received by the game-playing public. It set new benchmarks for gaming and established gameplay elements that have since been embraced by titles in the decade since its release.

The GameZone.com review can be found here.

What were its cultural impact and/or importance?

Several elements, if not introduced, were certainly new to the genre and left lasting impressions. The prolonged tutorial mode introduced elements that came into play as the game progressed, including stealth elements and the use of shadow to hide from probing eyes. These stealth elements would later be taken to another level by the aforementioned Sam Fisher in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, but Denton was moving through shadows two years prior. And then there were the usage of nanotechnology, giving Denton attributes and taking the title beyond the stealth aspects, beyond the first-person shooter aspects and planting it firmly into the realm of a role-playing game – something that EIDOS was renowned for at that time in gaming cycles (with titles like Thief and the Soul Reaver franchise).

But inasmuch as these elements, as well as a truly solid storyline, could pull players through, there was something magical when Denton was prowling around in the dark, picked up a sniper rifle and performed a headshot against an unsuspecting enemy. Hello rag-doll physics.

That was truly a jaw-dropping moment.

What areas of gaming did it advance?

The graphics and audio were good for the day and age, but that is not where the true strength of this game was – the story was incredibly well crafted and topical – even by today’s standards. There was the depth of the character and the role-playing elements that enabled gamers to customize Denton to a point where he almost became a unique character. But the stealth elements and rag-doll physics set the foundations for so many games to follow.

A friend borrowed the game and was so consumed by the twists and turns of the plot, so taken by the physics of the gameworld that he pulled several all-nighters trying to finish the game and have the questions resolved. Quite frankly,volumes are spoken by any game that is so compelling as to keep players up in an effort to finish it.

Does it stand the test of time?

Even 10 years on, the game still is a challenge. Well, it might well be that the controls were a big more convoluted than control schemes of current games, and the graphics were a product of the 800x640 age, pixilated and simply not as tight as the current crop of gaming. So from a purely visual standpoint, Deus EX does not stand up well to today’s games. But when considering the scope of the game, the plot that turned and kept gamers guessing, the way the role-playing elements (in the form of leveling and choosing which attributes to skill up) combined with the various stealth and control elements, Deus EX is still a solid game. Given a graphical update, this is a game that likely deserves a remake. But even if that never happens, this is a game that will long be remembered fondly for the sheer joy of the experience of playing it.

Gw
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