I was at a friend's wedding recently and found myself chatting to a folk singer. After a while the conversation got around to what I do for a living...
"What a fantastic job!" exclaimed the tree-hugging folkie. squirming uncomfortably in his hemp tunic. "Are you reviewing anything now?" "Not really," I replied. "But I am writing a sort of retro article about an old PC game." "Which game?" he asked.
"Um. well. I doubt you've heard of it," I stammered, realising my shameful nerdish tendencies were about to be exposed. "It’s kind of cultish. It's called Deus Ex." "Bloody hell!" whooped the hairy straw-stomper. "That’s the best game I’ve ever played!"
It transpired that this musician, who torments hay bales with his pitchfork of sound every weekend, was prone to unleashing a similar wave of destruction on secret government agency Majestic 12. It was only then that it dawned on me: Deus Ex is a game with true universal appeal. Here is someone with no interest in cyberpunk, bionic augmentations and conspiracy theories and rarely plays video games, and yet as far as he's concerned Deus Ex is the best game ever.
The Future Is Here
"I’ve had plenty of non-gamers tell me Deus Ex introduced them to what games can do." agrees Warren Spector. Deus Ex creator. "To put it simply, the fact that you can play through the game in a bunch of different ways, solving problems violently, non-violently or bypassing them completely, is a big part of OX’S appeal. The fact that you feel like you're doing something more significant than ’Saving The World From Alien Invasion’ or something equally goofy, sets it apart." Whether the game’s actual plot of 'Saving the World From a Deadly Man-made Virus' is significantly different is a matter for further debate. What isn’t open to argument though is the fact that Deus Ex is indeed a class apart.
As an RPG, its ability to appeal to both novice and hardcore gamers is unique Aside from the deeply immersive and brilliantly scripted non-linear game design, it’s the sheer stylishness of Deus Ex - from JC Denton, the U NAT CO agent out to uncover the truth, to the Gibson-esque sci-fi setting - that really makes such a compelling alternative to your usual slew of fantasy RPGs.
Vision Of Beauty
Jay Lee is a man who admits to being DX’s lead artist. "I did a little bit of everything," he says, modestly. "Jay’s selling himself short," retorts Warren. "He spent hours talking with me about the overall look of the game and then turned to our concept guys to sketch a horrifyingly vague vision. He created and managed the schedule for the entire art team. On top of all that, he proved himself to be one of - if not the - most versatile artist on the project. He did object creation, figure modelling, texturing, animation -1 bet he literally touched every piece of art before it went in the game'"
With dozens of characters and locations, as well as hundreds of usable objects ranging from plasma weapons to pinball tables. Deus Ex remains one of the most interactive games around. Admittedly, an impromptu game of basketball in a junkie-infested concrete courtyard has no real beanng on the outcome of the mission, but it does offer the player a sporting diversion and a smug reminder of the game's exceptional realism.
"All I wanted to do was create a believable world," recalls Warren. "One based on the real world, as we live in it. as it might be in 10 or 15 years. Where the idea really came alive though, was when we layered in all the conspiracy stuff. The world of Deus Ex, though clearly inspired by William Gibson in part, actually owes more to The X-Files."
When it comes to games, OX’S influences are varied. Underworld, System Shock, the Ultima games, Half-Life and old console RPG Suikoden are just some of the titles Warren and the team 'discussed’ during development. Curiously though, the PC’s other cyberpunk thriller Syndicate never even entered the conversation. Although everyone at ION Storm had played Bullfrog's classic, the feeling was that DX was just too different in both design and gameplay to benefit from any of Syndicate's features. "I’ll tell you what really got Deus Ex going though," beams Spector. "Thief. I love Thief. It's one of my favourite games, but I was hugely frustrated by the team’s decision to force players to sneak. I just kept thinking, 'What if I’m not good enough to sneak? What if I want to fight my way past obstacles?' You have to be a better game player than I am to succeed at that. I had to make a game that gave players more freedom to choose their own play style. Deus Ex was the game that resulted from that nagging frustration."
Warren’s ambitious vision meant production was not always plain sailing. Ensuring that the numerous twisting routes through the game made sense proved distinctly tricky for the team.
"Luckily," reveals Warren, "we had lead writer Sheldon Pacotti, who worked with the design team to ensure that the player-driven experience made sense. Without him we would have been in a world of trouble."
Playing through the game, you can spot the areas that must have caused angst. At the start of the Hong Kong mission, when you’re in a hangar at the top of the Versalife skyscraper, you get the chance to kill a room full of soldiers in a number of inventive ways. You can pop them off with a sniper rifle from an air duct; you can plant mines around the doorway and then lure them out; or, alternatively, and most cunning of all, you can blow up some gas canisters in the ventilation shafts and watch as the noxious cloud seeps into the room through the air conditioning and asphyxiates them all. There are many more ways besides, and from a gameplay perspective it's great. But from a design point of view? You guessed it - it’s a nightmare.
"There’s this point you get to where you have a playable game that’s not a lot of fun to play and breaks in a hundred ways," groans Warren. "Those are the moments when you just bang your head against your desk and moan, 'Why do we always have to do things the hard way?’"
Throughout development, the team had a ceaseless series of changes and redesigns to contend with as well. "Our original implementation of skills and augmentations, which I thought would be great fun, ended up being lifeless and leaden," laments Warren. "So, Harvey Smith (lead designer) did a quick and terrific redesign."
The non-linear construct meant every team member had their own thoughts on what should be in the game, and that in turn led to frosty working conditions. At one stage the designers wouldn’t talk to the programmers, the programmers wouldn't talk to the artists, and Warren wouldn’t talk to anyone.
"I tried to force the designers to implement a story they ultimately convinced me could not be told using our existing tools," recalls Warren. "Also, I wanted simple, mostly non-interactive conversations with simple, binary choices for really big moments, but the team convinced me that more traditional PC RPG-style conversations would be more appropriate. There were hundreds of things like that."
Somehow it’s difficult to imagine DX having the same resonance had it contained the thrilling-sounding binary-based choice system.
A Welcome Change
When DX was finally released in 2000, it was virtually unrecognisable from the game that was originally conceived. And yet Warren believes that the most important gameplay elements were still intact in the finished game.
"I wanted DX to be a game about character development." he enthuses, "where each player’s character choices resulted in unique gameplay experiences. I wanted each player to tell his or her own story, in the context of a plot we created, in a world that seemed like our own. The fact that the skill and augmentation systems didn't work the way I originally thought they would, or that you don't get to build a base of operations in the game, that’s trivial."
Upon its release, the team were unsure what to make of their creation. "After we finished." says Jay. "I was a little uncertain but very hopeful at the same time. There was definitely that feeling of, 'Hey, we just might have a hit here.’ But when you work on a project for that period of time, you're just not sure if you’re being biased one way or the other."
Warren too was nervous: "I remember talking to the team when we were done, saying. 'If people compare our combat to Half-Life, our stealth model to Thief or our RPG elements to the BioWare games, we're sunk: if people get the fact that they can decide what kind of game they want to play, we’ll rule the world...’"
Needless to say, people got it - they got it m a big way. For some it’s a straight toss-up between DX and GTA3 for the honour of the greatest game ever made. And yet strangely for such a phenomenally successful title there have been few direct clones.
One possible reason for this is that most developers simply aren’t prepared to bust a gut in the way that ION Storm did. These days the risks are higher than ever before. One late game coming in over budget can spell curtains for a rising studio.
Warren agrees: "Most developers are too smart to try to tackle the stupidly difficult problems posed by simulation-driven gameplay and player-driven experience. In the end, it's easier, and in some ways more compelling for game developers to author player experience, the way movie-makers or novelists control their users' experience. It's certainly easier to craft powerful emotional moments in more traditional, linear story games."
Bells And Whistles
For an actual cyberpunk adventure in the same mould as DX we'll probably have to wait for none other than the sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War. And after that? Will the DX series still be around in ten years time?
"If the Deus Ex series is still going in ten years from now I hope to heck I'm not associated with it!" laughs Warren. "I love that world but I don't want to keep mining the same ideas in the same game world forever. I think we'll keep building on the DX gameplay concepts - introducing more compelling human characters through better non-combat Al and more facial and body language-driven emotion as well as even cooler, more freeform stories.
"Certainly we want to reach an ever-larger audience," continues Warren, "with more accessible gameplay. Heck, there are a million problems to tackle before gaming matures as a medium. I just want to be a part of helping it grow up."
And do you know what. Warren? We want you to be a part of it too. In fact, right now at a folk music festival in deepest Dorset there's a man wearing bells on his ankles who can think of nothing he'd like more. Now that's a wider audience.
The Future Of Fps
Where To Next For Open-Ended First-Person Conspiracy-Based Role-Playing Shooters?
Of all the gaming genres, the first-person RPG/adventure is the one closest to all-out revolution. Put simply, there is no way the first-person shooter can prosper without gameplay becoming more sophisticated. What’s fascinating though is the way that ION Storm seems to be one of the few companies to recognise this, or at least make significant steps forward - Deus Ex: Invisible War and Thief III are among the most promising examples currently in development, and will no doubt pave the way for others.
Otherwise, it’s Troika’s forthcoming Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines that shows the most potential for progressing the genre. Indeed, we’ve said before that this freeform RPG-shooter has every chance of being Deus Ex with fangs. Oh, and then there’s Half-Life 2, which looks like it could be OK too...
Download Deus Ex
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
With the tweaking of Daikatana at a critical stage, it's a wonder that Ion Storm have time to do anything else. Still, somehow they've found that time and Deus Ex is the result.
Set 50 years in the future and ten minutes before the apocalypse, this incredible-looking, first-person RPG is shaping up into one of the most exciting prospects of the year. You assume the role of a secret agent who becomes embroiled in and Files type conspiracy. The plot includes such delights as secret government organisations, deadly plagues and the quest for an antidote known only as 'Ambrosia'.
A major slice of the gameplay centres on 'nanotech' enhancements and a plethora of hi-tech tools allowing you to warp around the planet at your will. Deus Ex sounds like the closest thing yet to System Shock 2. Here's hoping.
A few issues back Charlie and Steve wrote a feature about realism in computer games. What they essentially said was that reality, rather than fantasy, should play a much more widespread role in our everyday computer-gaming lives.
They said that with the advancement of 3D acceleration, our gaming environments should begin to echo our everyday surroundings and that this association with well-known motifs would bring a sense of familiarity and bonding unseen outside a Saving Private Ryan screening for the over-85s.
In short: that realism was the key to creating a truly immersive gaming experience. And not only did they say that, but they also went as far as citing Ion Storm's forthcoming RPG, Deus Ex, as the game most likely to prove their point - that real is better than, uh, Unreal. Lead game designer and co-director of Ion Storm Warren Spector is the man behind Deus Ex and, from what we know about him already, he is someone who is obsessed with the issue of realism, story-telling, technology advancement and gameplay design. His past works include Ultima Underworld, one and two (both astoundingly far-ahead of anything else at the time), System Shock (ditto), Wings Of Glory, several games in the Ultima series, and Thief: The Dark Project (which he left half way through to join Ion Storm).
To some extent, pretty much every one of these games has pushed the boundaries of acceptable gaming realism to its limit. So, when the chance came to meet up with the guy and look at Deus Ex, we at PC ZONE seized on it with gusto.
In the safety of a darkened room somewhere in the darkest depths of London, Warren Spector starts Deus Ex for us. He speaks quickly, passionately emphasising his words and shuffling his feet in excitement while the game loads. In short: he's really into it, and it shows. "First off I'm going to summon a sniper rifle to show you something..." he begins. "OK, you'll notice that the cross hairs get smaller as you aim on the target. That's a much more accurate - oh damn" We wonder what happened.
"I did not want to do that. Shitl Sorry. I accidentally fired the gun trying to show you what I wanted to show you. Damn." Warren seems a little trigger happy - not what we expected. He re-loads the level, pointing out that Deiis Ex starts off in New York (on Liberty Island to be precise) passing through Hong Kong, Paris and various other exotic locations that are, at present, top secret.
"The two things we're working on right now," he says as the keyboard clatters, "are game balancing and communicating game goals. This game is huge - I mean it's, like, really large, and the story is very convoluted, so we're working with our testers to make the game flow. AI problems are easily tweakable, but where we do have a problem is when a player comes to a point in the game and says, 'I don't know what to do next -1 do not know where I'm supposed to be going.' We're working really hard fine-tuning the detection range, combat difficulty, conversations, clues - and everything else - to keep play flowing."
Give Us A Clue
So what sort of clues are we likely to find in Deus Ex? "We have so many ways of communicating with the player. Obviously, conversation plays a huge part in Deus Ex. We have over 150,000 lines of dialogue, which is... a lot. We have over 400 lines of dialogue devoted to context sensitive situations, so the player will know whether he's been noticed or not.
We have a device called the Info Link, which I'm going to show you in a minute. Your boss can get in touch with you anytime - he's seeing through your eyes. We have emails, newspapers, books, public bulletins, computer terminals, data cubes, which are a bit like floppy disks... lots of ways of communicating with the player."
But with all that information wouldn't there be a danger of the player missing something?
"No. Mmm... I guess it is possible to drunk-walk through the game. 1 hope it doesn't come to that, but even if you kill everybody - which is, like... stupid - or if you decide that you don't wanna look at any computers or any of that stuff, then you can, because all of the information is presented redundantly. There is literally never a case where there's only one way of finding something. We give you multiple opportunities to entice you away from blindly shooting your way through the game."
Back to the experiment with the sniper rifle and we're confronted by shaky cross hairs aimed at a man's head.
"This is a graphic example of how our skills work," Warren explains. "At the moment I'm completely unskilled with the rifle. I'm not touching the keyboard or the mouse, but look how it shakes. What do you think the odds are of hitting that guy?" Warren asks us. We tell him that practice makes perfect.
"It's not a question of practice! It's a case of accomplishing game goals. You solve a puzzle and you get given skill points, which you allocate to certain skill areas. Now watch..." He tries to enter a cheat using the keyboard. "Oh shit. That didn't work... Oh, it did. Right, now I am a master rifleman," he gestures down to some numbers at the bottom of the screen. "I think I have a better chance of hitting him now." The cross hairs remain almost motionless, and aiming looks much easier. Curious, we ask how long it will take to progress from Bill Werbnyuk (Canadian snooker player who drank ten pints of beer to steady his snooker arm - Ed) to Steve Davis Csteady as a rock - Ed).
"It depends on how you spend your skill points. You can generalise your skills and try to be pretty good at everything, or you can say, 'I wanna be very, very good at one thing.' If you choose to specialise in one discipline then that's fine with me - I really don't care how players accomplish goals to get through the game."
We asked Warren if it was possible to make it through the game without filling everyone full of bullets?
"Yes and no. I almost hate to admit this because it's a failure. Next game we'll solve this problem -I couldn't figure out how to do it this time... There are certain characters who will be invulnerable - unkillable - up to a certain point. After that we say, 'Go ahead if you want - kill them.'
"The bottom line is that Deus Ex is a heavily story-oriented game. I really wanna tell a cool story and if a critical character dies in mission two, they're not going to be there to communicate critical information for mission six, and the game falls apart. I'm going to solve that problem soon. I don't know how to do it yet..." We suggest the arrival of their next of kin to impart that information, but it goes down like a lead balloon and we move on.
Warren, still targeting his unwitting victim inside the now rock-steady cross hair, hits the left mouse button taking the poor guy's head off in the process. At last, we're getting somewhere. "A headshot kills," he says.
"But when doesn't it these days, games or real life?" says someone cynically from behind him.
He continues, "Without the skill I would have had no chance to do that - not at that distance. But that's the way the whole game is set to work, right? You decide what you want to be good at. If I decided that I wanted to be the best rifle shot in the world I'd concentrate on that, on weapon modifications to reduce recoil, give you a laser sight, or increase your clip capacity. In this game you'll even be able to personalise your guns."
Was he going to include weapon degradation, like in System Shock 2? "No, no, no. I loved System Shock 2, but weapon degradation is a bad idea." It didn't ruin the game, we say. But Warren's not convinced. "I just think it frustrates players. The idea is to let players make a plan and execute it. Having your weapons degrade just makes it harder to have fun."
"Let's try this..." Warren types something and an object falls in front of him. A keystroke later and we're looking at what we presume to be the inventory. "See, look -I don't even have enough room in my inventory to pick it up!" He drops his existing weapon and picks up the new one. It's a huge flamethrower, which he uses to torch a few hapless guys in the vicinity.
"OK," he continues, "you'll notice that if you're carrying around heavy weapons you're not carrying around other stuff." He's right, the inventory is filled with the flamethrower. "The whole game is about making tough choices... about who you are in the world. You'll also notice how much slower I'm moving now, because of the weight of the weapon? If you wanna be the guy with the BFG, you're not gonna be rocket-jumping in this game, pal..."
Ah, but does the flamethrower get lighter as the fuel runs out? "Boy!" he laughs, "you really are a bunch of realism freaks!" And as the laughs die down we're being shown something new.
"Lemme show you some other stuff..." Warren's feet are shuffling again. "I wanna show you this one character. This is a prison breakout mission. You start off in a cell and there's this one character that's been dogging you from the first mission. She's been taunting you and hating you and really giving you a hard time - she's called Anna Navarre."
He messes with a panel and escapes from the cell. 'Tm out. And I'm crouching, I don't make a noise when I'm crouched." He slides up behind Anna, who's at the end of the room, and 'cattle-prods' her with some kind of incapacitator. "Thank you!" chirps Warren having delt her 2,000 volts.
She drops to the floor like a sack of spuds and Warren turns his attention to something else in the room. 'That there is a camera, and that there is a turret," he points out. "If that camera spots me it's going to set off an alarm and all hell is going to break loose. There are a number of ways I can approach this situation. If I had grenades I could destroy it and then it won't activate an alarm or that turret. Since I don't have any grenades I'm gonna use this device..." He equips an item that looks like a TV remote control. "This is a Multi Tool," he demonstrates, "I can use it to bypass electronic devices, including cameras..."
Warren activates the device which, depending on your skill level, allows rudimentary hacking of various electronic devices. He quickly bypasses the camera. "It took a while to do that and I used a fair amount of my Multi Tool capacity. Now let me show you some other things, only this time with advanced skills..."
Warren's eye-opening demonstration continues for some time, and it soon becomes apparent that Deus Ex is shaping up to be (dare we say it?) something of a classic (especially in this day and age, when PC Classics are few and far between). And, after having seen some more very cool, ultra realistic, role-playing unfold in front of our eyes, we can only conclude that there's no way in the world the developers can f**k it up.
But hold on, then we realise this is Ion Storm we're dealing with - anything could happen. Well, despite Ion Storm's much documented trials and tribulations recently, we are happy to report that development of Deus Ex has been relatively smooth and trouble free (Touch wood - Ed) and an almost finished version is now in the hands of play-testers. Amazing eh? So, all going well you can expect an exclusive review in the not too distant future.
The last time we saw Deus Ex we had Warren Spector, the game's designer demonstrating it for us. Warren's involvement in some of our all-time favourite computer games, namely the Ultima Underworld series, had us in a state of anticipation, the likes of which we hadn't experienced outside a second visit to the clap clinic. But, from what we can remember of that morning, the game looked great and seemed like a hell of a lot of fun to play. We say 'looked' and 'seemed' because at that point in time Warren wouldn't let us near the controls. Oh no. He would constantly say "I'll show you this", or "let me show you that". He wouldn't let us anywhere near the keyboard. But we didn't hold it against him.
In fact, nobody in the room held it against him because we were witnessing the birth of a red-hot classic, and didn't need to be at the controls to work that out.
Now, with Deus Ex having slipped to August, Warren and his chums have seen fit to lend PC an almost finished beta of the game - to test for ourselves, until Eidos finish recording all the European voices and the game is finally shipped.
How S It Shaping Up?
Where do we start? From the outset, when the game boots up to a rousing James Bond-style theme tune, it feels as if you're about to take part in something dramatic and special. The story of a modern-day 'super spy' on the trail of a highly-organised terrorist organisation, Deus Ex mixes first-person shooting action with cyberpunk-style role-playing in a contemporary setting, so you are immediately thrust into a fairly familiar environment (the game starts off in New York), with a fairly familiar set of controls. After an initial briefing, and the supply of the game's lower-end weaponry, you're then sent out to neutralise a group of highly-organised terrorists who have taken over the Statue of Liberty.
Once you're on your own, creeping around the darkly-lit gardens surrounding the statue, you quickly begin to realise that Deus Ex is not all shooting. No, far from it. As a high-tech cop, you have a number of useful built-in devices at your disposal.
These devices, called Augmentations, are upgraded and added to as you complete objectives in the various missions. On top of this, there are 11 different skills to expand and improve upon, from Computers (for hacking and stuff) to Environmental Training (resistance to hazardous environments), and everything in between. Basically, you start off as a weedy shadow of a supercop, and by the end of the first couple of missions you become a lean, mean killing machine - very much like something out of Terminator.
Which is just as well, as even on the easiest setting, Deus Ex is something of a challenge. If, like us, you storm terrorist territory on the first few goes without a thought for your own safety, you won't last two minutes. The guards patrolling the area will not only open fire if they see or hear you, but they will also run for the nearest alarm and alert their cohorts who will promptly return and kick your head in if you do not dispatch them first. Staying low is a priority. There are not only guards, but robots, gun emplacements and surveillance cameras to deal with too. So, from the word 'go' you've pretty much got what seems like the whole world up against you - and it's scary.
The learning process in Deus Ex is one of initial trial and error. Stepping out from the shadows to a lit area in front of a terrorist will almost certainly award you with a bullet in the head, no matter how far away they are. If they see you, that's it - all hell breaks loose. Stay in the shadows, however, and crawling instead of running will allow you relative invisibility. And if a terrorist's back is turned and you creep up behind them, they'll not know what hit them when you finally find the nerve to slit their throats.
It's a messy business, but essential if you are to get anywhere near your objectives. That said, you don't have to kill people to get on in Deus Ex - in fact, in some places you actually get told off for using unnecessary force.
A handy 'electro prod' does a good job of incapacitating the enemy without actually killing them, and you can carry and hide bodies h la Thief to avoid further detection. But, in our opinion, the sniper rifle is a much safer bet because you can use it at arm's length and hide until the alarms are turned off. Call us cowards if you like, but caution never hurts. There are also tons and tons of other cool weapons, devices and gadgets to find and use, all of which become available as and when you need them.
Pick Us A Winner
Picking locks and bypassing electronic devices are some of Deus Ex's other cool gameplay features. Lock-picks and MultiTools are used for these purposes respectively. Multi Tools can even stretch to disabling surveillance cameras and opening electronic locks, but are in short supply so must be used wisely. And they're not the only thing in short supply either. Deus Ex isn't Quake. There aren't floating, revolving boxes lying around waiting to be picked up on every comer. Every bullet counts, and running out of ammunition in the gravest of situations will no doubt feature heavily in your first few hours of play, like it did ours. But these furious, desperate occasions - when you alert the whole level to your presence by accidentally disturbing some pigeons, or by using the shotgun by mistake -are immense fun and can be quite an adrenaline rush.
The terrorist AI in these combat situations is already turning out to be quite exceptional, so God knows what it will be like in the final game. Throw a grenade into the middle of a group and they scream, before scattering in every direction to avoid the blast. Enemy groups also work together, catching you in a deadly crossfire if they can, while one runs off to raise the alarm and bring more troops in. Injured felons, if they know they're beat, will run away from you. But, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way of cuffing them, which would have been nice. Is it too late to include it guys? Still, we can't have it all.
Or Can We?
Well, yes we can have it all. From what we've played of Deus Ex so far, we reckon we're gonna get pretty much everything we ever wanted in an action role-playing adventure of this sort, and much, much more. With Deus Ex, the game's designers have essentially combined the instant hook of a First-person shoot 'em up with the complex story of an adventure game, the depth of character of a role-playing game, the atmosphere of something like Thief and the ease-of-use and sophistication of System Shock 2. If the truth be told, Deus Ex does play startlingly similarly to the above mentioned Looking's Glass classics in some places, and Ion Storm Austin will curse us for mentioning it - but sod it, it's true. And it's not exactly a bad thing either, as both Thief and System Shock 2 are bona fide benchmarks in their own right, so anything remotely similar is fine by us.
On balance Deus Ex is going to be to PC gaming what GoldenEye was to the N64 - and a whole lot more. After playing this nearly-finished preview version to death and beyond, we're itching, nay having kittens, in anticipation of the finished article. So fingers crossed for the full review in the next issue.
Phew, where to start? Having spent pretty much every spare hour playing DeusEx this week, taking notes as we went, it came to our attention that we'd compiled and collected so many thoughts and feelings about the game that we'd run out of paper in our notepads... We played and played, and wrote and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote! What we're trying to say at such an earty point in this review is: Deus Ex just has loads in it.
So we'd better get on with it, otherwise we're rapidly gonna runout of space here...
Best Bits From Other Games
Deus Ex, as those who've been following its progress with interest will already know, is a deep, complex and involving game, mixing hardcore role-playing elements with full-on first-person action and talkie, adventure-y bits. In fact, it's an amazing amalgam of various gaming genres brought together in a superbly wholesome way. If, after perusing the screenshots here, you can't already picture how Deus Ex plays, imagine something of a cross between System Shock 2, Thiel, GoldenEye (classic N64 shoot 'em up based on the Bond movie of the same name -Ed), Half-Life, Soldier Of Fortune, Kingpin and SiN. And, erm, Unreal Tournament. So that's a lot of games all rolled into one, then. A lot of great games, for that matter... But what the creators of done so well is collect and refine all of the best bits from all the above mentioned games and make them work extremely well together in their game. And we do mean extremely well together.
Better Than The Movies?
From our point of view, the most important feature in a game of this sort is the story. The game might have the best graphics, best engine and best interface ever, but you aren't going to give much of a toss if the story doesn't appeal to you. Nothing you don't already know, but you're still probably wondering what we're getting at here...
The tale of a cyber-enhanced secret agent on the trail of death dealing terrorists, Deus fir plays out one of the most fulfilling and interesting storylines ever created in a computer game. Although there are obvious parallels to be drawn from films such as RoboCop and The Matrix,
Deus Ex actually manages to cobble together a rollercoaster of a plotline that equals those in both of the aforementioned movies. A bold claim to make, but one based on rigorous playtesting and re-playtesting, and one that we think is right, too.
Deus EX opens with a tantalisingly vague intro sequence. You're shown characters, unknown to you until later in the game, engaging in techno-babble conversations about a killer plague called the 'Grey Death', and about some cure called Ambrosia being in short supply. No matter how hard you concentrate when you first watch this exquisitely scripted 'inengine' cut-scene, most of it is guaranteed to go over your head. But that doesn't matter, because what the designers are actually doing is planting seeds in your subconscious, ready to be germinated as the chapters of the story unfold.
Not before long, it transpires that, for the duration of Deus Ex, you are to assume the role of Mr JC Denton - a state-of-the-art, straight-from-the-smelting-plant government agent with the ability to enhance himself with cyber implants, skill enhancements and a huge array of fancy weapons and gadgets. The first level being his first proper 'live' mission ever, JC finds himself being monitored by the government top brass from the outset. But, considering he cost a cool $50 billion to build in the first place, you'd expect that.
Once all the cut sequence chatter dies down (and the black 'sim-u-lo' widescreen bars disappear from the screen) you find yourself on your own in one tiny corner of a huge 3D representation of New York City's famous Liberty Island. Down the docks, to be precise. It is here that Deus Ex's superb cast of characters begin to introduce themselves. First up, JC Denton's brother - your brother - who provides you with weapons, intelligence, and advice to be cautious, is a gruff bloke with a neat goatee beard and the same attire as you. You also - JC Denton - sound a bit like Bruce Willis on Quaaludes. but the chatter between the characters is actually triple-A stuff, remaining gritty, sharp and adaptive the whole way through the game.
A voice in your head, or rather, a government operative transmitting instructions directly into your modified brain, also makes his entrance at this early point in Deus Ex. Alex Jacobson, a young kid, barely out of high school, is his name, and as the story meanders along, his comments and suggestions adapt to your style of play. In the real world we'd probably call that cheating, but, in Deus Ex. a voice in your head barking warnings and tips at you is clearly nothing more than 'professional advantage'. And when head shots count, as they do in this game, you need all the help you can get.
As the concept of Deus Ex slowly permeates your brain, the cast of characters slowly reveal themselves, and the plot finally begins to make some sense, you'll find yourself completely embroiled by JC Denton's exploits. Until you reach the point where you actually begin to think you're him. No - really. Deus Ex is that involving. During a particularly tense scene you may find yourself gritting your teeth as a robot death machine howls "scanning area!" at the top of its voice only feet away from the shadows where you're hiding. Or you'll feel the dull thud of a sniper's bullet as you nonchalantly stroll into an open area. In tact, the whole feel of the game is pretty much spot on. Creeping around (little finger outstretched, pushing down the 'crouch' key...), and evading patrolling guards is, in itself, immensely satisfying.
Ingrained In Your Brain
At first it's tough. Even on the easiest of the four skills settings. When you first start the game, dashing around like a madman, trying to play Quake, it doesn't take long to realise that the sound of your footsteps alone can give you away to the enemy. And that includes at a distance, or from behind a door. Untimely death abounds if you stomp your way around the place, so the instinctive reaction to change from walking or running to a silent crawl becomes ingrained in your brain trom an early stage. It's a great feeling - sneaking past guards who are seen picking their noses or scratching their arses, unaware there's a highly-trained killer kneeling beside them...
Getting into the process of hiding, scuttling from cover to cover and silently dispatching sentries and guards is a slow process initially, but there are certain things to consider while you're at it. Firstly, sentries and guards follow set patrols. They may pause for a while, sometimes even conversing with I other sentries (and moaning about "not seeing any action"), and will also investigate if they hear something, but generally it is possible to work out their routes. Secondly, you should always watch where you're going. Startling a flock of pigeons by inadvertently walking close to them can alert nearby guards. As can wandering into a limpet mine. Or staggering in front of a surveillance camera. Searching around - preparing tor an attack before going in - is essential. Thirdly, that a silent takedown (with an electro prod, or razor-sharp knife) is often better than shooting everyone in sight. For two reasons: it saves you ammo (in short supply on harder difficulty settings), and also alerts less people to your presence in the area. If you stick to these hard I and fast rules, combat in Deus Ex quickly becomes very compelling.
Although Deus Ex utilises the famed Unreal engine to bring this exquisite combat system to us, the weapons in Deus Ex aren't very Unreal-like in look or feel.
Of course there's a sniper rifle, and this one can be modified and upgraded to startling effect. Recoil, clip capacity, range, base damage, reload time and ammo type are all changeable. Plus a silencer can be added for even better effect.
On top of skill as a marksman can also be honed to perfection by spending skill points on the discipline, thus steadying your snooker arm as you aim at a faraway target. Which helps immensely. And you can apply that to pretty much every other weapon in the game, apart from the crazy specialist ones such as the Plasma Gun and the GEP (Guided Explosive Projectile) Gun.
There are two types of shotgun (one rapid-firing), numerous pistols and a whole host of grenades to play around with, and that's without even mentioning the swords... Yes, despite coming from the same development house (Ion Storm), Deus Ex manages to beat Daikatana at it's own game by bringing ludicrous swords into the equation. The end result is totally hilarious, but still in keeping with the spirit of the game.
For the first few missions things go the way you'd expect them to. You meet your partner, an aggressive female cyber-babe called Anna Navarre; your boss - a moustachioed desk jockey with a penchant for red ties; an alcoholic helicopter pilot who ferries you about the place; plus many, many other freaks, hookers, pimps, killers and junkies, all in the course of your duties. Conversations are both natural and logical, with every eventuality seemingly covered. Some conversations give you multiple choice replies, allowing not only the interrogation of suspect characters, but also the chance to model your own personality in light of your gaming style. Be aggressive and trigger happy and the other characters in the game react to that (some even try to reduce your ammunition supply if you're popping too many people!); be diplomatic and cautious and you'll easily gain the respect of the game's key characters.
At one key point in the game you are ordered to kill a suspect terrorist (see box entitled To Kill Or Not To Kill). Whether you kill him or not is down to your own better judgement, but you don't get a great deal of time to make the decision and the game suddenly turns on its head once it's been made. At this point in the review we do find it a little difficult to continue without giving too much of the story away, as what transpires is not only surprisingly original, but also incredibly well structured.
Despite the abundance of futuristic gadgetry (not to mention acronym-heavy in-character banter), Deus Ex always manages to feel contemporary and modern rather than outlandish and crass, as many other sci-fi games tend to appear. There are no floating vehicles; no big shoulder pads; no camp robots; and no daft monsters (well, not that daft anyway). And certainly no silly spells, which-again-is refreshing for an RPG.
We've been banging on about realism in games for ages now, and finally we're actually getting some. On the hardest difficulty setting, 'Realistic', we really are talking realistic. Two or three bullet hits will kill you. The enemy's senses are also much more acute, and their aim truer too, and - to be honest - you'd have a hard time getting past the first few levels if you started out on this setting.
One of the main factors in Deus Ex's success is the environment modelling. Each level is not only huge but also crammed with a glorious amount of detail. Almost every tree-form object in the game can be picked up and moved around - boxes, chairs, cups, dustbins... even dead bodies. And if what you're trying to lift is too heavy, a 'strength' Augmentation upgrade will remedy the problem. Large metal boxes, all of which are initially immobile due to their weight, come into play when this happens, opening up previously out-of-reach areas and giving access to hidden power-ups and secret little nooks and crannies.
Hiding the bodies of your victims has a significant effect on the gameplay too. If you pop a guard and leave the body where it falls you run the risk of another guard stumbling across it and setting off the alarms. So it makes sense to sneak in and clean up afterwards - covering your tracks as it were. It must be said that we did encounter a slight problem with this aspect of the game, in that if your inventory is full and the body you're trying to lift is carrying something, the game won't let you do it. If it's crucial to move the body you have to first make room in your inventory, then loot whatever the cadaver is carrying, before being allowed to lift it. This 'bug' doesn't have a significant affect on the game itself, but is slightly annoying and will hopefully be remedied in the first patch available.
The amazing 'real-world' physics engine (courtesy of Epic and Unreal don't forget) and the abundance of moveable objects combine to provide the most tactile 3D gaming environment ever seen in a computer game (at this point in time), and the possibilities for sick, twisted hi-jinx are endless. For example, ever wanted to throw a dustbin out of a window? Or launch a TV off a hotel balcony on the tenth floor? Or chuck a dead body off the top of a skyscraper? This game allows you to do such things (and, in the case of our latter example, we saw tiny figures run towards the mashed body to investigate! Amazing...) And not only that, but there are also numerous pool tables, basketball courts and dart boards to be found in Deus Ex too. all of which - gasp!- work, providing a slight distraction from the blood, sweat and tears of the main plotline if needed.
Dark And Serious
In terms of atmosphere, Deus Ex remains dark and serious throughout. There are humorous interludes and quiet bits, but generally the game exudes a gritty, tough exterior. This is reflected in the music (predominantly a collection of trip hop and ambient techno tunes), the weather atmospherics, and the brilliant sound effects - all of which combine to make, as we keep saying, an unbelievably realistic stage on which to act out your killer cop fantasies.
So, finally, Ion Storm delivers a game worth shouting about. The developers may still be smarting at the reception Daikatana received from the general public, but they should now put the whole sorry episode behind them and focus on this game. A game that, in our opinion, has just leapfrogged System Shock 2 as the current benchmark in the role-playing genre. "Why is that?" you might ask. To which we'd reply: non-player characters. In System Shock 2 (the previous benchmark RPG) you were out on your own - in this there's a proper cast of characters and their interaction is a joy to behold. System Shock 2 is slightly scarier, but Deus fxis bigger, harder and more satisfying to beat. It's a cracking game - a real blood, guts and bullets comic book story with depth, flexibility and staying power. Deus Ex presents not only physical and mental problems for you to solve, but also numerous moral dilemmas to overcome. It is a giant of a game and another step forward for the role-playing genre. Don't hesitate to buy it when you see the box in your local computer shop - you will not be disappointed.
Player's Guide: Part One
DeusEx certainly is a joy to play if you're partial to a bit of thinking with your gun. Yes, thinking. The brilliant role-playing, adventure, shooter-type gameplay in this game not only requires nerves of steel, but it also thrusts upon you concepts such as: moral Judgement, and 'oh shit, this gun's so heavy I can hardly move, better rethink', so it's not all running around with shotguns and ammo. It's tough. So let's go straight to the chase. How to beat Deus Ex in two easy instalments. Here goes the first part...
The Very Start
Spend starter skill points wisely. Upgrade rifle, computers and electronics to 'trained'. When it comes to using skill points, it's always better to save your game before making any decisions.
Mission: Rescue Gunther Hermann and capture terrorist leader
Your first mission to rid the Statue of Liberty of terrorists is a piece of cake compared to later missions. You'd be wise taking the Sniper Rifle at the start. A GEP (Guided Explosive Projectile) gun is a good alternative, but it's noisy.
Sneak your way around to the back of the Statue (take out guards with Electric Prod, knife and rifle, and hide their bodies in the shadows near the shorting generator bunker and then climb up the containers. That way you'll avoid most of the guards.
At this point, you can either head downstairs to rescue your trapped colleague, or continue upwards toward the terrorist leader. Our advice is go downstairs first, deactivate all the security consoles, clean out the cash machine and secure the area. Next, sneak up the stairs until you reach a square section of the tower with a door in each wall.
But be careful entering. There are gas grenades on the walls, defuse them if you can. Then go up the stairs quietly, kill the guards, confront the leader and take the Augmentation upgrade canister.
Mission: Report to Manderley for next mission
During this early part of the game you'll frequently return to base for ammo/health/bio top-ups. Grab every piece of ammo/kit you can, then talk to Manderley and get your next mission. But before leaving, don't forget to use the Augmentation upgrade canister on a Med Bot. Our advice is to go for the Muscle option.
Mission: Locate Ambrosia and rescue hostages
Sneak into Castle Clinton either via the back window, or give the kid a candy bar and get the code for the secret entrance behind the soda machine. Infiltrate the secret NSF bunker and kill the terrorists. Find the barrel of Ambrosia by the bay doors, but watch out for the terrorist with the flame-thrower. Before you leave, break into the office and get the second Augmentation canister from the safe - a guard has the safe key. You can also disable cameras and turrets if necessary. Talk to Anna and be nice because she'll give you two EMP grenades, then go to the subway entrance and either disable the laser trips with EMP grenades, or sneak in through the ventilation shafts and kill the enemy from within. But be very careful not to set off any of the explosive containers littered about the place.
Mission: Find and destroy NSF generator
Once you've explored Paul's apartment and all the shooting's died down, search NSF for dead bodies until you find the key for Osgood's. Go there and unlock the door to access the ladder leading to the rooftops. Avoiding the booby traps, scale the top of building and carefully snipe all the terrorist guards patrolling the area. Loot every body for ammo before entering the NSF base. Take the ladder to the top of the base, which should now be clear of guards if you did your sniping earlier, then silently creep downstairs without tripping the laser, or alerting the guards. The generator is at the bottom of the base - destroy it by shooting the explosive barrels nearby. There's a heavily-defended Aug upgrade canister in an office in the basement. The code's 9923, if you can make it there.
Mission: Report to Manderiey then report to Sam Carter
Recuperate and report, then go install the new Augs you found. Our advice is go for Run Silent and Environmental Resistance.
Mission: Locate NSF airfield
Head to the subway. Notice keypad in phone booth? The code is in a locked box in shanty town, or can be obtained by talking to Harley Filben (informant) and Curley (tramp in shanty town).
Brooklyn Bridge Station
Mission: Restore water supply for mole people
There's a keypad underneath the sinks in the Ladies' bogs. A guy called Charlie Finn has the code, but he wants you to restore the water supply before he'll give it to you. To do this, you need at least one LAM to clear the fallen beams from the room at the end of the station. Lenny the junkie has a LAM and will exchange it for drugs. El Ray, the boss of a gang upstairs, also has one, but expects you to kill the drug dealer downstairs to earn it. Once you've got one, blow the place sky-high, and turn the valves back on. Charlie Finn will then reveal the code, which is 5482.
Mission: Unlock the Gents
These tunnels are crawling with NSF, so should be traversed carefully. Also, the civilians wandering around will bolt if they see you with a weapon drawn, so stay hidden to avoid starting a free for all. As you enter the level, head right and kill the NSF. In one of the three rooms, there are two cardboard boxes - destroy them to uncover a hidden 'key' brick in the wall/floor. Press it to open a secret room. Inside, there's the key and a flame-thrower - and a terrorist who surrenders. Now go to the other end of the tunnel and unlock the Gents' bog door. Continue down forked corridor, bypass trip wires or steam jets and take out the lone guard. Avoiding the camera and the four turrets, get the key from him and unlock the door.
Next, if you jump the bridge: don't hesitate for a second because it collapses. If you fall into the water, you can escape via a submerged tunnel in the bottom left of the pool. Two security robots block your way next, but they can easily be avoided by sneaking through a hole in the wall.
Mission: Locate three barrels of Ambrosia
Knock out the camera immediately above you. The first barrel of Ambrosia is right in front of you. Take out the guards, but be quiet and hide the bodies. The NSF guard in the toilet has a key to the Helibase security room (located on the top left balcony), where you can disable cameras and turrets and plunder a secret armoury switch behind the plant pot.
There are more than seven heavily-armed terrorists (one with a flame-thrower) guarding the helicopter pad. The best way of despatching them is with a carefully-placed LAM trap, or by shooting the explosive barrels. Also, there's a sniper on a gantry who should be taken out as soon as possible. If you haven't disabled the camera/turret at the end of the exit corridor, blow it up from a distance with the Light Anti-Tank Weapon. Then it'll be safe to access the lift to the airfield (note for swimmers: in the comer of the Helibase there's a manhole leading to a watery alternative route).
Mission: Assassinate Juan Ivanovich Lebedev and locate remaining Ambrosia
Avoiding detection by the patrolling robots, sneak round the side of the main hangar and over to the Boathouse. There are numerous guards on patrol near the gate to the south, so be extremely careful. Look for a metal container with ladders and climb up. Take great care to remain out of sight of robots and snipe the last guard by the Boathouse. With that done, destroy the robots by shooting the explosive barrels when they're near them. Now it should be easy to enter the Boathouse where, after killing the guard, you will find the East Gate Key and the second barrel of Ambrosia.
Next, head to the barracks. Take out the two guards and get the hangar code from the footlocker in the dormitory.
Mission: Assassinate Juan Ivanovich Lebedev and locate remaining Ambrosia
Meet Paul and hear what he has to say. Scour hangar for goodies, but don't shoot anyone - unless, of course, you really want to. Then enter the aircraft.
Mission: Assassinate Juan Ivanovich Lebedev then locate remaining Ambrosia
Go upstairs and get the key to the back of the plane. Then go downstairs and locate the third barrel of Ambrosia and another Augmentation canister - (code: 9905). Next, go back upstairs, unlock the door and speak to Lebedev. Now you've got several choices: you can either kill him as you were originally instructed, walk away and let Anna kill him, or kill Anna. Keeping Lebedev alive has no real consequence in the game. Once this is done, return to the helipad.
Mission: Report to Manderley
Again, don't forget to upgrade any Augs you have. Our advice is to go for Ballistic Protection over EMP field, if you have it.
Mission: Meet Paul at his apartment: send signal from NSF base
Go to Paul's apartment and talk to him. Before leaving, stick a LAM on the wall by the door if you have one, then head to the NSF base down the road tunnel. Go to the room on the third floor with the Med Bot in it. Activate the venting and enter the adjacent room. You have to access the security console to open the trap door to the basement. Once in the basement, avoid the red beams and drop the small metal crates on the pressure pads to disable turrets, then pick through doors until you reach a cabinet with loads of goodies in it. On top of the cabinet is a datacube with satellite dish control instructions. Inside the cabinet is a datacube with proof of the conspiracy, which you'll also need. Work your way through the traps until you reach a door leading outside. Next, you've got to transmit a signal from the top of the NSF base, but before you do that go and round up every scrap of ammo and health you can find. When you're ready, access the first computer at the top of the base (MCOLLINS/R EVOLUTION) and then the second (NAPOLEON/R EVOLUTION), and transmit the signal. UNATCO now become the enemy, so you'll have to fight your way through 15 heavily-armed soldiers to get back to Paul's apartment. Once there, speak to Paul.
You'll then hear a warning that the apartment Is about to be raided. You can either run or fight, but running is advised. If you planted a LAM by the hotel door earlier, it should kill or damage most of the people who enter. Finish the rest off with another LAM, or with bullets to the head.
The subway is heavily guarded by soldiers and bots. The best thing to do is run to the door, enter the code (6282) and run down into the station (the guards don't follow). Use your Ballistic Protection Aug if you have one.
When you get to Battery Park you'll have to fight or avoid Anna Navarre, if she's still alive, then Gunther Hermann will be waiting for you. You can resist or surrender here, but fighting is futile because Hermann is invincible.
Talk to Anna, if she's still alive, then wait for Daedelus to open the door. Sneak out and grab knife off filing cabinets. Kill the first guard, take his gun and disable camera. Then kill second guard and take assault gun. Turn right into robot maintenance. Head upstairs on left and through corridor in front of you, kill four guards and take weapons. Go up to Maintenance Control, reverse bot AI (security panel on wall) and get Armoury access code from datacube on furthest desk. Go downstairs and through the corridor to the armoury. Avoiding bots (walk closely behind them), enter armoury (code: 2971) and kill guard. Disable camera (either go upstairs and access security panel on wall, or get LAW and bomb it), then steal the weapons.
There are three guards and two dogs patrolling the command centre. Either sneak in via the tunnel or storm through the main entrance. Access the security panel to deactivate all the cameras, head into Laboratory area. Pass Nanotech lab and go straight down to Medical area. Kill guard and woman, because she sets off the alarm, then take stairs to the right (stairs to left guarded by two soldiers). But whatever you do, don't be tempted to press the button on the wall - it only opens the containment cage and lets the canine-like Karkian out. Enter Med Lab and see Paul's body, or Paul, if he's still alive. You will then be given the facility exit code by Daedelus. Now head into the Nanotech lab, kill the soldiers and the Man In Black, and access the computer (code: psherman/raven) in order to get hold of Aug upgrade canister (Aggressive Defence System or Spy Drone). Then immediately exit the facility via the door by the command centre (code: 1125).
Mission: Escape to helicopter
This is where things really get complicated. Talk to Jamie Reyes (he'll give you another Aug upgrade canister - install all Augs using Med Bot), then Sam Carter, then Alex Jacobson. If Anna Navarre's dead, Alex will give you the key to exit UNATCO. And if she isn't, you'll have to kill her and report back to him. To do this, you have to either access her computer (anavarre/scryspc) and Manderley's (jmanderley/knight_killer) to get her 'killswitch', or fight her by the exit door (tip: lay a LAM at the bottom of the stairs and get her to follow you down). Evade the rest of the guards and go outside to the helicopter.
Mj12 Helibase: Hong Kong
Mission: Deactivate the weapons lock on the helicopter
Kill most MJ12 troops by releasing gas in under-floor tunnels (gas release code: 99871). Enter barracks via vent or down steps and kill the troops that are left (no small amount, so be very careful). The key to Flight Deck 1 is in the third locker from the left. Access security panel in Flight Deck 2 to deactivate cameras/turrets (tip: switch turrets to kill MJ12 troops above ground). Now go to Flight Deck 1 and hit the Weapons Lockdown button. Return to the helicopter and destroy two bots that emerge, then go through 'Lockdown' door to elevator - a tip: use multitool on panel to avoid electrocution) and go on to the Wan Chi Market in Hong Kong - which is where we'll be continuing next issue. So stay tuned.
What we said
"A game that has just leapfrogged System Shock 2 as the current benchmark in the role-playing genre."
What you said
- "What an unbelievable game. I've been looking forward to it for ages and was over the moon when I finally got hold of a copy. Combine some of the best elements from Half-Life, System Shock 2 and Thief, and what do you get? Deus Ex. I'm only part way through it at the moment, but it's already one of my favourite games. Deus Ert Actually, more like better than sex."
- "Right then, where to start? The phrase better than Half-Life is one I have never had to use until now. Deus Ex is not only better than Half-Life, but one of the best games I can ever remember playing. Right from the beginning, it sucks you in and doesn't let you go. Each level is hugely atmospheric and the storyline is thoroughly engrossing. Deus Ex also has some truly unique features, such as allowing you to upgrade your weapons and abilities. Deus Ex is original, interesting and brilliant to play as well as ultra realistic. What more could anyone want from a game?"
Player's Guide: Part Two
Completing the immense Deus Ex is a task not to be taken lightly. For starters the game has three completely different endings, and the longer Deus Ex goes on, the better the game gets -so you may start wishing that it never ends! Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end at some point, and the second instalment of this player's guide will facilitate that Just try and get over it once you've completed it
Wan Chi Market, Hong Kong
Mission: Find Tracer Tong
Jock instructs you to find the mysterious Tracer Tong. First, go talk to Gordon Quick - the leader of the Luminous Path Triad. He's East of the market, next door to the temple on the way to Canal Road. He asks you to retrieve the 'Dragon's Tooth' sword from Triad rivals Red Arrows, and to prove that a lady called Maggie Chow is causing war between them. Maggie Chow lives on Tonnochi Road. To get there go left at the entrance to the Lucky Money club (you'll see a sign), then cross the canal, past the two Chinese guards, down the stairs, LOADING, past the schoolgirl and to The Queen's Tower Hotel. Take the Penthouse elevator. Here you'll be greeted by a maid who will accompany you to Maggie Chow. After the conversation has ended go upstairs and search the rooms. If the maid threatens to call the police, stun her with the cattle prod. Find the entrance to Maggie's secret office and work out her computer login ID (read the books and the datacubes), and then access the security terminal to confirm her MJ12 allegiance.
You can kill Maggie Chow now if you want to, then go back down the elevator and bypass the door to the maintenance elevator. Go up and pick the door by the elevator Kill the first MJ12 guard quietly, then dodge tripwires (use LMP grenades if you've got any). Enter security area and kill four guards (watch out for the guard with the Plasma Gun). Access computer terminal as Maggie Chow and open the case to the sword. Now head back to the market place, and to the Lucky Money club (down stairs to Wan Chi Underground Market). Pay the girls to get in and go to the upstairs bar. Go through corridor and down stairs, through meeting room and over small bridge to Max Chen.
MJ12 troops then raid the club. Fight them off and return to Gordon Quick of the Luminous Path. He'll give you the code to get into their base. Enter and go up stairs and into the door opposite entrance. Go down stairs, left through the wooden door and down to the big hall. Use same code as entrance on keypad by leftmost table.
Then go meet Tracer Tong and he'll cure your killswitch. In return he requires you to infiltrate Versalife and retrieve the Dragon's Tooth ROM encoding. Before leaving get the key to Jock's apartment and ransack it (found up lift, opposite Queen's Tower Hotel).
Mission: Retrieve Dragon's Tooth ROM encoding
The entrance to the Versalife building is by the entrance to Wan Chi Underground Market. Enter using code 06288, then proceed to third floor. Talk to Mr Hundley (black suit), then continue on and talk to Nervous Employee. You then have three choices: a) kill Hundley; b) bribe him (steep at 2000 credits); or c) forge a fake ID (login any computer as: allshifts/dataentry). If you kill Hundley, make sure you do it out of view of cameras/people. Once you have the code, proceed to the door (opposite Nervous Worker) and into the MJ12 Research Facility.
You need to access a computer to download the ROM encoding. To do this you've got two choices: either hack it, or acquire its ID and password. The former is the easiest of the two. A 'master' password can be found on a datacube locked in a cabinet in the conference room (turn right by hand/globe statue, then right again). If you attempt to unlock the cabinet, however, you will be attacked by MJ12 troops (watch out for the guy with the flamethrower!). It's probably best to kill them all before attempting anything dodgy, but it's worth picking the cabinet because it also contains Aug upgrades. If you prefer a quieter approach, leave the cabinet well alone. Head into the toilets next to the conference room and locate the entrance to the ducting system. Crawl along until you reach a ladder (killing the stray Greasel in the process). Climb down until you see a ledge opposite (you'll see blue and red walls), then crouch/drop onto ledge and through the tunnel. Keep going until you come to a closed grate leading down onto a grey disc.
Drop down and snipe the patrolling guard (if the alarm goes off, duck and wait until it stops). Drop down and access/hack the computer. Be careful here - once you go down the lift the alarm goes off and you are suddenly attacked from all sides. Don't panic. Out of the lift turn immediately left or right and go up the ramps until you reach the top. Locate the brightly-lit twin corridor and hit the switch - this will open a ramp to the entrance chamber. Kill the MJ12 Commando (watch out for the GEP gun guard) and make a quick exit to the lift. Once you're back in Versalife the alarms go off. Run down the stairs, kill or avoid five more guards and get out as fast as you can.
Versalife Level 2
Mission: Access Level 2 And Locate Info About Grey Death
Thankfully, there's a back entrance to level 2, and it's down the Canal Road Tunnel (East of temple). Behind crashed cop van, open door with code 66566. Pick grate and drop down pipe. You'll drop into water. Make your way up pipes and out to corridor. Locate grate leading up to corridor with comer mirror. Kill MJ12 Commando and destroy bot, then hack security terminal and disable cameras, but keep door closed. Go down ramp and snipe MJ12 Commando and scientist quickly and quietly. It the alarm goes off two Bots attack. Either destroy them or dash to the room to the right of the computer and deactivate them via the red button. Before accessing the computer, hack or break into the security panel in the same room (mj12/security).
It says 'Open Nanotech Containment Pods' and 'Raise Cascade Shutdown Console', But don't hit them just yet. First click 'Security' and disable all cameras. Then click them. Next hack/access computer and download virus info. Climb down into the Universal Constructor chamber and pilfer the Aug upgrade canisters. Then climb down to the next level. Install your Augs on handy Medical bot. If Maggie Chow is alive you get to fight her here. Then, use the code 525 on the console.
Boom! Kill the two spider bots (use Sabot shells or explosives -bullets are useless), then drop down into the pit. Drop through hole (not into green gunk!) and climb above the poison gas. Then jump over to the water pipe and dive in. Keep swimming until you reach an air pocket, then ready a sword or similar to kill the swimming Karkian up ahead (guns don't work underwater). Keep swimming until you reach the canal, then go back to Tong and install your new Augs (our tip: Environmental Resistance is handy, but you've got a lot of swimming ahead, so go for the Aqualung).
New York: Hells Kitchen
Mission: Make Contact With The Illuminati
Go meet Harley Filbin in the Underground Bar, and speak to the sailor at the bar, then go meet Stanton Dowd at Osgood & Son. After speaking to him you'll be attacked by approximately 10 MJ12 troops, so be prepared (note: 20mm HE ammo is useful if you've got any). Go see smuggler and ask about explosives. They cost 2500, which you'll need if you want to buy them. Smuggler also has some Camothermic Armour upstairs hidden behind the mirror. When you're done, head to the top of the hotel and get in the helicopter.
Brooklyn Naval Base
Mission: Enter PCS Wad Cloud
Enter through grate and kill three guards (they all have keys to main gate). Enter the base either through gate, tunnels or over barracks roof. Gate is probably wisest. Snipe guards and enter door by two containers. Look for security terminal by two soda machines. Hack and disable cameras. Carefully take out rest of the guards. If you scare an engineer, kill him because he'll set off the alarms. You need to get to the tall structure (a crane) to the North West, but it's guarded by two large bots.
Either destroy them using LAMs or by luring them near explosive barrels. Kill other guards, turn the valve, sneak into the lift at the base of the crane, then go up and press button to lower arm. Cross carefully and smash the vent on the roof. Next you'll come to a fan patrolled by three spider bots. Chuck a Scramble grenade if you have one, then they'll kill each other. Otherwise sabot shells should despatch them. There are two more spider bots behind the door, so leave them. Crawl through the grille and into the next area and open grille to ship. You can't cross yet, so take ladder down to Crane Control lift. Go up and press button. Go back up to grille and cross on girder, quietly.
Pcs Wall Cloud Upper Deck
Mission: Access Lower Deck
Carefully despatch sailors and guards and secure area. There's an Aug upgrade canister (locked in a safe) and a vial of Ambrosia in the Chem Lab.
Key to lower deck is in Captain's Quarters, but they're locked. Enter Sick Bay and crawl through vent into Electronics Lab. Get Ops code from datacube (83353), then go upstairs to Command Center (avoiding more guards). Get code from datacube, then enter Captain's room and get key (bedside cabinet) and armoury code (under bed). Raid armoury before heading below deck.
Pcs Wall Cloud Lower Deck
Mission: Blow 5 x Tri-Welds
Go downstairs and turn left. Drop down and enter boiler room. Destroy first boiler tri-weld with LAM. The second is hidden by a reservoir wall, but can be blown by simply chucking a LAM over it. Go back to door watched by cameras, kill two guards and sneak through. Turn left towards Electrical, kill guards then talk to engineer. Avoiding arcing electricity, take out spider bot and bypass panel. Open nearby floor hatch and go down. If you can't bypass blue trip be prepared to fight another spider bot that comes out of cubby hole nearby. Bypass final panel to kill electricity. Then head up and blow (third) tri-weld seam. Next, go to door of Bilge room. Kill patrolling guards and hack nearby security panel. Disable cameras and open locked door. Enter, kill remaining guards and destroy (fourth) tri-weld.
Go to computer in corner of room. Hit Bilge Power button, then access computer using KZhao/Captain. Reverse flow. Go upstairs and through door. Kill guard and hack security panel by fan. Continue to next room and hack panel to your immediate right. Cross cage and hack next security panel. Change turret control to 'Attacking Enemies' (they'll kill guards for you). Kill next two guards and go down hatch in floor. Locate final tri-weld seam and destroy it. Exit to upper decks, then out, then over the side and into the water. Climb out and enter door to West of dock. Climb up ladder. If you came in this way the coast will be clear, if not: prepare to fight a bunch of spider bots. Meet Jock on roof.
Lower East Side Cemetery
Mission: Meet Stanton Dowd
Press button. Gate Keeper lets you in. This man is actually a doubleagent, and has a helicopter-incapacitating EMP device hidden behind a bookshelf in the gate house. If you kill him now, and chuck a LAM into the gatehouse you'll save yourself a battle later. Enter crypt, talk to Dowd and give him Ambrosia vial (if you picked it up earlier). If you haven't killed the Gate Keeper yet, you'll have to fight four MJ12 troops and destroy the device in the gate house. More troops will arrive once this is done, so run to the chopper as fast as you can!
Mission: Locate Catacombs
Go down lift (code 4003), then up steps and talk to Odd Woman. Go down to bottom of spiral staircase and open door to radiation (0001). Use Environmental Resistance Aug or Hazmat Suit and run through quickly. Kill four Greasels in sewers. Head back to Odd Woman for tip about rockets, or continue on. Open grate and carefully sneak topside and behind crates. Quietly snipe 3 x MJ12 Commandos and hide bodies. If you're spotted and can't fight, run into the subway - they won't follow you in.
Inside subway speak to Arms Dealer, then enter mall area. Destroy bot and take out three soldiers. Return to Arms Dealer for discount. There are rockets hidden in a storeroom underneath the building immediately right of the subway exit. To get them pick front door, go up stairs (right from entrance), hack the security panel, disable turret and open door. Then go down and have them over. Next, go behind the building to the East and smash boards over window. Enter and descend to the catacombs.
Mission: Make Contact With Silhouette
Be careful down here, there are mines attached to some walls and MJ12 troops/commandos patrolling the area. Look for a brick with a lockpick on it. Press brick to enter Silhouette bunker. Find and talk to the leader, Chad.
He asks you to rescue hostages, and gives you key to next area. Unlock blast door and continue on. Eliminate commando and continue until you reach ramp leading down. Kill two guards and continue until you reach red tripwires. The hostages have to come through this way if you free them, so try and disable everything quietly first. Then back up and locate hidden passage behind crucifix. Crawl along until you see MJ12 troops. Kill four commandos, three troops and one WIB. Search bodies for Catacombs Sewer Entry key, then free hostages. Hopefully you cleared the way earlier and they will return to the Silhouette bunker safely. Talk to Chad then go to the sewer door, which is North, then West of Silhouette. Keep going until you reach some ladders.
Mission: Find Nicolette DuClare
The Paris streets are crawling with MJ12 troops, and coppers, so be extra careful. The cops won't attack unless either you attack them, or they see you with a gun drawn. Exit the drain and hide yourself. Make your way to the Cafe and talk to Jamie Reyes to get Gunther's 'killswitch', then the man at the table next to you (he'll give you security ID to disable bots, if you want to go that far). Go to front of La Porte L'Enfer. To enter, either buy a key from Louis, or pick through the grille and steal it. Inside find the young woman sat on her own and ask about Nicolette DuClare. She'll tell you to meet her at the back of the club. Unless you want to clear the entire area of MJ12 (possible, but not easy), or take on any of the other secondary tasks, take the copter to the Chateau now.
Mission: Find Beth DuClare's Computer
Smash the boards over the back door and enter. Find the kitchen. Get inside dumb waiter (food lift) and go up to Beth's room. Get basement key from behind painting. Go down into basement and find secret passage via candelabra. Break fallen girders and find security terminal in small room by two crates - hack and open door. Continue until you reach computer. Login (bduclare/nico_angel) and transmit message to Morgan Everett. Take the last Aug upgrade canister and head back, and out, to the maze entrance. Kill two MJ12 commandos and enter crypt.
Mission: Access MJ12 Computer Network
Exit sewers and climb onto large box. Smash window and crawl through Upstairs you ii find the Gate Keeper's key - go back out and use it on the gate. Kill MJ12 commando. Continue until you reach overhead biidge. There's a huge bot patrolling nearby, plus a camera opposite a green door. If you snipe a soldier on the bridge (there are three), then hide, you should get them to open the green door for you. You'll then be able to go in and finish the others off.
Evade or destroy the bot, and the patrolling commando and soldier, and pass the Metro station entrance (to your left). Kill next commando. Up ahead is the Cathedral, but it is heavily defended by troops and bots, so be careful at all times. Learn MJ12 patrol routes and sneak around to the right until you reach a trellis by some crates. Climb it. then climb pillar. Smash skylight and drop into library.
Find Main Gate key. Exit left, kill sniper and go up. Kill another sniper, cross bridge and kill two more snipers. Go down and through the first exit from the stairwell, down two more flights, past blast door, up, left (there's another blast door with a camera and a guard to the right here, but leave for now), up again -until you come to two wooden doors. The right door is unlocked. Take it, then kill Woman In Black. View datacube, hack security panel (disable lone camera) and rob everything. Go back down three flights of stairs to the gold vault. Enter 1942 and disable first panel. The next bit is easier than it looks. Simply run through the room and duck, out of view, in the middle - until the cameras settle down. Crawl to back of vault and hack panel.
Leave vault and go back to other blast door. Disable/avoid camera and open door with 0022. Go down and confront Gunther Hermann. You'll have to fight him if you didn't talk to Jamie Reyes in Champs Elysees. Access computer and establish system uplink.
Go back the way you came -to the library (over bridge), all the way down to the main church doors (killing the commando in process). You should have the key, so unlock them. Cross the yard without being spotted by bots, then continue all the way to the Metro station. Enter, then track down Everett's agent and agree to be blindfolded.
Morgan Everett's House
Mission: Meet Morgan Everett
Make your way through the house until you find Everett. Listen to what he says, then find Alex, if you already haven't done so. Install your last Aug if you haven't already done so (our tip: Aggressive Defence System). Go back up to bedroom near where you started. Slide mirror in ensuite bathroom, pick, then get code from datacube by Lucius DeBeers. Head to the blast door adjacent to Alex Jacobson - use code and talk to Morpheus. Exit to the helipad. Before setting off, talk to the mechanic. Yes -he's a plant. Kill him, before setting off.
Mission: Destroy Bots And Restore Power
Go down stairs and disable/avoid camera. Kill two guards and find lift. Kill three guards on second floor, and four guards and MIB on first floor. Hack security panel and go through next room and through doors until red tripwire. Disable it, kill two guards (one has flamethrower) and talk to Researcher to get Command security code.
Next, go through sliding door and kill two commandos. Then, destroy four bots by any means possible. Duck and cover wherever possible. Use 20mm HE ammo, GEP gun, or LAW rockets. Then speak to scientist in Comm building. Find hatch leading to tunnels (back of Comm building). Go down, deactivate security and into Hazard area. Stop! Don't press door button, or take unlocked grate, take maintenance gate - it's much safer. Cross pipes and shoot spiders. Go down stairs, disable blue trip and find lift controls. Press button three. Go back upstairs, cross lift and get Control Center key. Climb ladder, exit onto level one. Take lift to level two and unlock Control Center. Down stairs to right you'll find Gary Savage. Bypass two panels to stop arcing electricity, then activate computer uplink. Meet Tong and Jock outside the base and down the hill.
Abandoned Gas Station
Mission: Rescue Gary Savage's Daughter Tiffany
Talk to Bum and get Sewer key. Crawl through drain and up to station. Be extremely quiet. If you are spotted the hostage is killed. Kill first guard and hide body. Sneak into station and locate hatch in air vents. Quietly gain access and make way onto roof. Silently jump across onto next building. Ready yourself to take on MJf 2 troops and MIB. They will immediately attempt to kill the hostage, so quick, decisive action is necessary. Kill four remaining enemies then return to copter.
New West Coast Sub Base
Mission: Steal A Mini Sub
Avoid bots/troops and make your way to small hut. Pick lock, then get two keys inside. Either unlock door and enter base, or jump into water without being seen by snipers. Swim towards light from structure. Kill two divers. Climb ladder and kill guard. Inside base find scientist with map and computer logon info. Then secure area. Go back to pool room where you first entered and open door and kill soldier. Cross platform, enter and kill one guard. Take lift down to URV bay. Hide behind crate and access security panel. Turn off cams and make turrets kill your enemies. Talk to woman scientist and kill two more MJ12. Access security panel (tech/sharkman) and open URV bay door. Upstairs; kill troop and find sub.
Oceanlab Sub Base
Mission: Locate UC schematic
Locate security panel in first room and disable cameras. Go up to top flight of stairs. Open door and hack security panel without getting shot by turret. Enter and go left. Block rogue turret with metal crate. Enter Greasel lab, kill two of them, then go down ladder into water. Continue through, killing Greasels and locate datacube with door access code. Use it to enter drilling area. Kill two Greasels and one (big) Karkian (use electrified track).Get Crew Module key from side office, then go through until you find a lift. Go down (past LOADING) and bypass blue trips. There's a huge spider bot patrolling here. Either avoid the spider (it's pretty dumb) or destroy it from a distance. Take lift up. Avoiding rogue turrets, hack panel to raise bridge. Cross bridge and use compute141r. Exit the way you came. Fight Walton Simons in drill room, then two Karkian (use electric track). Keep going, through water (kill diver), keep going - all the way to roof of Command Center.
New West Coast - Missile Silo
Mission: Stop Nuclear Missile
Kill sniper on tower. Kill (four) dogs. Enter hut, kill two guards and get Front Gate key. Enter compound and, avoiding guards/bots, smash window and enter hut with maintenance bot. Climb down grate and go down metal stairs into silo. 8456 on two doors. Same into Launch Command. Bypass red trips. Fight MJ12 commando and four MIBs, then abort launch. Access computer, reprogram missile, then disable security. Head into silo and fight two commandos and two MIBs. Take lift to five. Kill saboteur. Take lift to one, kill MIB and exit.
Kill sniper on tower. Avoid/destroy two bots and sneak up to hangar. Take out two commandos and one MIB, then find soldier hiding inside room with fallen girder.
Get security code from him, then go over to Command 24 building. Enter and get Tower key. Go up tower, carefully deactivating LAM traps, and access security panel to open blast door.
Inside bunker hack first panel and destroy two more bots. Turn right and find unlocked door, and ladder to upper level. Shoot spider bot, go down into locked room and restore elevator power. Go back to, and down, elevator.
Bypass first camera and avoid unleashing spider bots with blue trips, then avoid exploding generator further on. Talk to Morgan Everett at holo booth, then continue straight on. Kill two commandos and three snipers. Find Recreation door and use 8946. Kill troops and WIB, then disable security. Find Barracks door and use 8946 again. Use 0169 on cabinet to get key to Level 3. Access Level 3 and locate lift. Soldiers and MIBs come up on lift, so ready yourself before hitting button. Go down (past LOADING) and talk to Tong.
There's a guard with a GEP gun walking the gantry in Terminal C13, plus a sniper, two Karkian and a Greasel. Kill all. then swim into filtration rods.
Kill two Greasels and find datacube with Reactor Lab code, and Stairwell key. Go to bottom, kill two spiders and access Reactor Lab. Kill two greys and go down into mist. Locate datacube near dead engineer. Go back and access stairwell. Kill guards and MIBs, then enter Aquinas Hub (1038). Down ladder, kill two greys, LEFT, kill commando and take lift up to Helios. You'll be attacked by MIBs and commandos on your way out, but bots will arrive to help you.
Go back to the ladder you came down on. Take the stairs down. Use 4225 to access the Explosives Locker and chuck TNT crates onto spider bot below. Watch for Greasel at bottom, then head into Sector 4. After talking to Gary Savage and Bob Page you must decide how to end the game. Note: each floor in Sector 4 has a Universal Constructor that continually recreates monsters that you kill. The only way to stop them is to bypass the door panels nearby, turn the emergency switches (difficult if a Karkian is attacking), then kill all the monsters. Don't forget to activate security bots to help with the killing.
Merge With Helios AI
Mission: Deactivate Uplink Locks
Turn right at Bob Page and climb up small ladder. Open hatch and take long ladder down. You'll find a datacube with Aquinas Substation code. Access Substation door and avoid blast from explosion. Bypass panel to stop arcing electricity. Hack security panel (open door) and take lift up. Activate two buttons and access computer. Go back to top of Aquinas Hub in Sector 3.
New Dark Age
Mission: Reverse Coolant And Destruct Reactors
Get Coolant Control code from cubby hole on first floor (near radiation barrel-on shelf). Head NW end Sector 4. Enter and kill commando and (four) soldiers. Press 'Flush System' button, then head back to Sector 3. Enter Radiation Lab and locate two buttons on fusion reactors (inside green mist). Then, push three buttons in control room. Kill mechanic if he tries to stop you.
Mission: Bring Down Four Blue Fusion Reactors
There's one reactor on the top floor, one on the ground floor, and two on the first floor (one in a high radiation area). Use the code 7243 to deactivate them. When last one is done bots will attack, so be extremely careful at this point. Then head to the top floor and hit Infusion Control button.
What we thought
"It is a giant of a game and another step forward for the role-playing genre. Don't hesitate to buy it when you see the box in your local computer shop - you will not be disappointed."
What you said
- After reading your benchmark review of Deus Ex, I raced to the shops and bought a copy. Now don't get me wrong, it is a good game but 94 per cent is a bit steep. I have never had the pleasure of playing System Shock 2, but judging by your review I guess it's great. So since Deus Ex is apparently better, I grabbed a copy. Firstly, the bodies of the NSF terrorists have almost no hit areas like in Soldier Of Fortune, and some head shots don't always kill. The character you control loses his limbs, but the NSF keep going until they die. The close-up graphics are poor, your partner Anna is so instantly dislikeable that you just want to kill her. Trust me, Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption is by far the better game. I think 80 per cent would have been a more realistic score.
- Your review was spot on. After playing your demo, I went down to HMV to buy Deus Ex. This is surely one of the most involving and realistic games I've ever played, and I think it's even better than Half-Life. The way the guards stop what they're doing if they hear you is amazing. For once we have a game that is not strictly linear, and the character interaction is first class. It's surely going to be the game of the year.
- After reading your review of Deus Ex, I went out and bought it. But, unfortunately, I was really disappointed with it. After playing for about ten hours, I didn't have a clue what was going on and became really bored. I was expecting action and fun, but instead I spent my time just sneaking up behind enemies and attempting to knife them or take them down with the baton. Although the idea of the game is excellent, far too much thinking is involved. By comparing it to GoldenEye and Half-Life, you've insulted not only gamers worldwide, but also the creators of these games. I also think that 94 per cent was far too generous a score. I was not overly surprised that I didn't like this game, as it requires a great deal of thought, planning and patience, but it was these factors which ruined my experience of it. My advice to anyone considering buying Deus Ex is to think again.
- After playing the demo and reading your excellent review of Deus Ex, I went out and bought a copy. I wasn't disappointed. The atmosphere is amazing and the depth of the plot is really something. I think the graphics are excellent, too. However, I thought the A! was one problem with this otherwise excellent game. I found the enemies to be incredibly moronic at certain stages, for example, if the enemy became aware of my presence I could just wait for them to calm down by hiding for a minute, and they'd just forget I ever existed. This is a bit poor when you consider how excellent the rest of the game is, and I think Ion Storm could have worked a bit harder on that aspect. Aside from the AI though, it's still exciting - the atmosphere is tense and the missions are always rewarding.
We've been completely swamped by your comments on Deus Ex this month. And apart from a few disconcerted gripes, your opinions have generally been pretty positive Guy, you seem to have missed the point of the game entirely. Deus Ex was never supposed to be just a FPS, and the action is based more around realism than frantic fragging. That's why so much thought is involved, so that you can't always just wade straight in and start shooting all over the place Deus Ex is a deep and engrossing game that can be played in many different ways. When we made comparisons to GoldenEye and Half-Life, we meant it bares similarities to these games, not that it's just like them. You may recall we also said that Deus Ex has similarities to System Shock 2 and Thief, games that are very different to the two titles you mentioned.
Yes, Deus Ex. The greatest step the PC has ever made towards total immersion in plot, character and interactivity. A game that truly made you feel like star of the show - the fulcrum in a global conspiracy upon whom everything hinged. It was a page-turning interactive thriller, fulfilling every action-hero daydream present in the big book of male insecurities. Hacking into mainframes without being detected, becoming a one-man killing machine as well as a creature of shadows and stealth, and turning on your cruel masters in support of the little man. Who wouldn't want to be the hero?
Deus Ex's plot was always in flux - it delighted in putting you on the spot. Do you put the bloody icing on the cake of your defection by filling Manderley with bullets, or do you walk out the bigger man? Do you protect your brother in his seedy hotel room as Men In Black start banging on the door, or do you start running? In your Half-Lifes and Dooms, the bottom line was that you were playing a game. In Deus Ex, on the other hand, you were breathing a narrative that felt as if both it, and you, truly mattered.
There was some pure trickery too, points at which the game would pull the cybernetic rug from beneath you. Who can forget being shot like a dog on the street before waking up in the evil Majestic 12 base -and slowly realising you were beneath the familiar halls of UNATCO?
All this is nothing compared to the freedom Deus Ex forced on you: to use your own brain, think outside the box. Stranded on top of a building with next to no ammo and an enemy to one and all? Why not attempt to cushion your fall with cardboard boxes, jump down four stories, break your legs and crawl away at a painfully slow pace?
With its role-playing depth, its feeling of character ownership and countless ways to approach offing your foes, the fact we were never given a worthwhile sequel is among the greatest of gaming crimes. For sheer immersion, for so brilliantly disguising linearity, for convincing us that we were the centre of our own little universe and for giving us orange when we wanted lemon-lime, it's number one. We wear our sunglasses at night, and probably always will.
It's Possibly the best game ever made, and it's out for a fiver - what more could you need to know? Even if you never intend to play it you should have it on your shelf, like an unread Complete Works Of Shakespeare.
Deus Ex is a first-person hybrid that gives you free reign in developing your character, and lets you complete missions any way you want to. It's an RPG. It's a shooter. It's a stealth game. You can build up your computer skills and hack your way into buildings. You can improve your sniping skills and finish off enemies from afar. You can become a heavy weapons expert and wade in with flamethrowers and rocket launchers.
But what really makes it special is the way it presents a fully realised world, crammed with detail, and lets you loose to do what you want in it. There are set mission objectives (taking place in futuristic versions of locations such as Hong Kong, Paris and New York) but it feels like you have complete freedom on how to do accomplish them. Killing certain characters changes the course of the story, but it never means you're lumped with a Game Over for doing something the programmers didn't want you to do. If only all games were like this.
Trying to escape from Hell's Kitchen Death, apparently, isn't always the end. Especially on your final visit to Hell's Kitchen in the original Deus Ex. After an exhilarating flight-or-fight decision made in your brother's apartment while men in black bark orders through the door, you make a sprint for the subway with only the lucky avoiding getting mown down like a dog in the street. Even if you do make it to the train, you get surrounded by officials commanded by Gunther Hermann and are given a final option whether to turn yourself in or die fighting.
Should you decide to be shot into pile of leather and augmentations however, in the most prominent 'WTF?' moment in PC gaming history, your fingers never actually have to hit the quick-load key. You wake up unexpectedly in an enemy cell. You escape, revived and restored, and work your way up through the subterranean levels of the strange base you've woken up in. Only to realise that this is UNATCO's HQ. The area you began the game in, and the area that you know better than any other. Then, if you so choose, you get to run riot.
This is pure gameplay genius and a seminal point in the craft of PC gaming - and even better than the bit where you get told off for going into the women's toilets. Four years on and Deus Ex still hasn't been bettered, and won't be for a few years yet.
- "I had high hopes that Deus Ex would be a brilliant game. As soon as your mag came through my door. I read the review, and slapped the demo on my brand spanking new PC. Me and my mates think it's even better than Half-Life. Considering I'm new to the RPG genre, I thought it rocked bells and was more satisfying than GoldenEye. If developers continue making games like this, a social life is not worth living."
- "I am a casual player of casual games and have recently enjoyed the fantastic System Shock 2.I opened today to find a RPG game reviewed called Dues Ex (sic). Now saying a game is better than System Shock 2 isn't something to say lightly, so I thought this new game must be something special. I went on the training mission first to see that I couldn't read the small text such as datapads and speech script. When I got round to playing the game I found the graphics appalling and my bro ' helper a little hostile. When I tried to shoot him in the back for taking up so much of my time he shot me!!!! True it may be just self defence, and true maybe I'm total crap at playing it, but I can dig System Shock 2. What was Paul Mallinson thinking when he gave Deus Ex 94 per cent. I'd have given it 52 per cent for effort. I uninstalled it directly after playing it and I don't have a German PC so don't pull that one on me. I'd like to know, are there any sane people who don't like this game out there?"
My brief from zone was short and to the point: "Find out about Deus Ex or don't bother coming back." And so it was that your correspondent met with the game's designer, Warren Spector, in the demo room-cum-cinema of Ion Storm's swanky office high atop the second-tallest building in Dallas. Fortunately, Spector can "talk for days", as he readily admits, and he then proceeds to demonstrate: "The critical thing to remember, the one message that I have to get out there, is that Deus Ex - is a role-playing game. It's a first-person perspective role- playing game. Since Underworld I and Underworld 2 and System Shock and Cybermage and Shadowcaster, every time I do a game everybody looks at it and says it looks like Doom or it looks like Quake or it looks like Wolfenstein, so it must be a shooter. Even now sometimes people look at Deus Ex as it currently exists and they see a shooter. It's not a shooter."
Trust No One
So it's not a shooter. What is it then? Well, originally it started as an idea called Troubleshooter, whereby you played the part of an anti-terrorist agent, rescuing hostages, preventing hijacks, and generally recreating Hollywood action movie cliches.
However, the story changed due to a number of factors, as Warren explains: "My wife got totally hooked on The X-Files. There's all this weird millennial stuff going on. I don't know what it's like in Europe, but over here people are getting really scary crazy and believing all sorts of amazing stuff. Millennial fever is taking hold of the world, and there are more and more people who think the world is gonna end in 200 and something days, and there are plenty of people who think aliens are gonna land and that armageddon is around the comer. It's just bizarre to me. I love it.
"So I started thinking what if we take like a James Bond, a guy who really believes in good and evil, black and white, right and wrong, and we throw him into an X-Files world."
Hang On To Your Ego
In the course of the game, each player is forced to select different skills, such as weaponry, swimming, and lockpicking, enabling problems to be solved in entirely different ways depending on your character. As Warren says, "What we're after is recreating a unique alter ego. Everything in the game is designed to differentiate character."
As a glance at the accompanying screenshots suggests, all the action takes place at night - a deliberate ploy: "You will never see the sun in this game. I'm inspired by German expressionist films and all sorts of stuff, and I think it looks great. I just think it's cool. Think about how many times you see Mulder and Scully walking around in the daytime. It's an artistic choice. It seems to fit the dark conspiracy feel, bright shafts of light punctuating the darkness."