Once upon a time, there was a fair young maiden by the name of System Shock 2. She was not the prettiest of things but she had an atmosphere around her that made men weep with joy. There was also a man by the name of Soldier of Fortune. He too, was not as pretty as many of the other people around, but he sure as hell was much more graphic and realistic about the way he maimed people. The two met, shared drinks, got drunk and never remembered a damn thing but the bastard child born out of this illicit liaison goes by the name of Deus Ex...
Deus Ex (pronounced Dayh-us Ex) is a First Person Perspective Shooter (FPS) video game for the PC and probably (at time of writing) to be released on at least one more format (most likely Dreamcast). Created by developers Ion Storm, it claims to need the following minimum requirements to run:
- Pentium II 300 processor
- 64 megs of RAM
- 180 megabytes of drivespace
- 3D Accelerator (preferably a Voodoo chipset or OpenGL native)
Don't pay much heed to the minimum specs; it will run on a P133 with 48 megs of RAM and a Voodoo3... not very well, but it will run.
As the introduction goes someway to explaining, Deus Ex looks very much like Soldier of Fortune, from the map design to the NPCs (Non-Player-Characters: people who aren't you). However, unlike Soldier of Fortune, and several other FPS's, Deus Ex isn't made using the almost legendary (depending on how geeky you are) Quake II engine. Instead, they used the newer and more versatile Unreal engine. By doing this, the game's designers do not have to spend ages writing an entirely new graphics engine and therefore save valuable time in making the game better in other areas. However, Ion Storm have not coded as graphic a damage system into Deus Ex. Rest assured, a head shot will kill, but it won't blow the head open, leaving only a bloody stump and bones and so on, as the victim falls to the ground. In terms of feel, however, it is much more akin to System Shock 2. This is because of the fact that in both games you play cybernetically enhanced humans, and mostly because they operate an almost identical inventory system.
Shock 2 had the several-year old Thief engine, making the game, however good, look slightly pants. Deus Ex, however, is for the people who never really got round to buying Shock 2 or didn't buy it due to the rather poor graphics engine. Deus Ex also nods its hat to Shock 2 by having a similar system of hacking computers and the like.
The plot of Deus Ex, is set in a Robocop-esque, 'day after tomorrow' future, where society is almost on the verge of collapse. This is due to a virus known as the 'Grey Death' of which the cure, Ambrosia, is in very short supply. People who can afford the cure are either very rich, powerful or both. This is causing the common man to revolt and take matters into his own hands. You play a member of a special branch of the Police force, who allow themselves to be cybernetically enhanced. You are the second off a new line of enhanced humans who are indistinguishable from the rest of society. Think about the Replicants in Blade Runner and you're there.
You play in over 14 missions, where your actions can affect the outcome of following missions. This is done by the way in which you can complete the mission you are on. You could be a sniper, silently taking out faceless people from half a mile away, or you could charge in, like Arnold Schwarzeneger, guns-a-blazing. But that is just putting it simply; there are hundreds of ways in which you could complete the mission. You could hack systems to make enemy guns attack the bad guys or just disable them altogether and the choice on how you approach the mission is entirely yours. This kind of free thinking system is very rare in FPS and therefore is very refreshing to see. Want to be bad? Be bad. Want to be a ninja? Be one; the game lets you be who you want to be.
To help you accomplish this even further, Deus Ex also has an upgrade system, allowing you to make yourself even better at your chosen ability. Take aiming for example; upgrading from 'untrained' to 'expert' changes your sniping skills from 'not bad', to 'excellent'. It cancels out unwanted movement like breathing and shaky hands, allowing you to take out targets quicker and faster than you could if you were not skilled.
Shock decided to make Half-Life a godfather.
Influences from Half-Life (the daddy of them all) are visible, especially in the superb set pieces that abound in Deus Ex. Which game actually looks better is a matter of opinion, although given all the tweaking Ion Storm has done, and the two year gap in technology in between the creation of each game, probably means that Deus Ex just nabs it.
Overall, Deus Ex is the biggest leap forward in the FPS genre there has been since Half-Life blew us all away. The king is dead? Difficult to say...