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    dkirschner's Deus Ex (PC)

    [August 17, 2012 09:12:21 PM]
    I wrote a full entry for this last night but foolishly was careless typing it in the browser window and due to a browser hang-up accidentally clicked away without copying it to clipboard first. :-( Time to recreate...

    Geez, I dunno about the original Deus Ex. I am sure this game would have been AWESOME to play when it came out, but that was then and this is now. I distinctly remember this CD-ROM in the general vicinity of my family computer circa 2000. My brother played it, but I never did. I clearly understand now why Deus Ex is consistently atop these 'best games of all time' lists, but I think, like with most older things, you would have had to have been playing it back then to put it on the list at all. With Human Revolution sitting installed and ready, I think I'll skip on ahead to the modern version. I intended to play Deus Ex for homage and continuity and all that, but I think I got the gist!

    Deus Ex immediately struck me with its innovation. Even today, games in similar genres don't do or fail to do well what Deus Ex does. I'm thinking of the excellent skill system, the fully voiced dialogue, the multiple ways to complete missions, the multiple pathways weaving through each level, the fact that your actions (completion or failure of secondary missions, sequence of talking to people and doing things, pathway through the level) have consequences, and the fun electronics/hacking/lockpicking. NPCs will say different things to you, your end-of-mission report is different and your boss and co-workers actually comment on what you did or didn't do with opinions, and you get more or less skill points as a reward. One time I completed a level with nothing short of a shooting spree, and as a result, when it was time to restock at the armory before the next mission, the specialist there called me trigger happy and gave me multitools instead of ammunition and suggested I try to kill a few less people. Like, so many of today's games fail to have appropriate NPC responses to your actions. They're generic, or there's not even the possibility of multiple outcomes. Deus Ex wasn't the first stealth/shooter game out there or the first with multiple paths and voiced dialogue, but I see its influence in many modern games. It reminds me of Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell games, Bioshock, other games that focus on this computer hacking/electronics/lockpicking, even fantasy versions like Elder Scrolls games. And the music, wow, can you say Mass Effect?

    So, many aspects of the game do hold up today,and even shine, but some are hilariously dated. The AI, for example, is like watching a movie that's so bad it's good. Sometimes when you shoot an enemy one time, he turns and runs (in a straight line). Enemies will run behind cover, then move to the center of the room and stand still. Enemies will run around you in circles not firing. Enemies have no communication skills. If you shoot an enemy in a room full of enemies, there is no guarantee the others will notice. If you walk up to an enemy, there is no guarantee he will notice. I can't tell you how many times I casually strolled up to a guard and shot him point blank...from the front. Enemies have terrible short-term memory. If you open fire, kill a few, blow up a box of TNT, and then go around the corner, the remaining enemies will forget all that within a few seconds. Out of sight out of mind.

    Even though the enemies aren't challenging, the other option is: the stealth approach. Computers/electronics/lockpicking are skills you can invest points in. These seem very important because levels are littered with traps like laser grids, sentry robots and turret guns. If you can hack and stuff, you can turn off security, or even turn it against enemies. But this stuff is heavy throughout the levels. You can shoot up all the guards, but you sometimes face an insane corridor with a security camera, then two turret guns, then a laser grid armed with explosives, then another camera...and at the end, a locked door. Shit, no lockpicks! It's handy to always have some picks and multitools. The other challenging bit is navigation. There is no map in the modern standard sense. Some levels you get a static low-res map of the area, but your position isn't on it, there's rarely any point of interest marked, and you can't interact with the map at all besides open/close. After a while though, I came to enjoy the lack of a map because exploring is both fun and rewarding in Deus Ex. You get skill points for discovering new places, completing secondary objectives, and talking to some people. There are so many optional and hidden places/things in each level, and it's usually something interesting that you find, whether it's an ammo cache or a hobo shanty town or a secret meeting that nets a secondary objective if you spy on it. And for not having a map, the NPCs are very good about telling you where to go. They say 'find the warehouse a few blocks south of here' or 'my friend is in trouble in an alleyway northwest of the bar.'

    Like I said, to get into a lot of these places, and to find other secrets and cool passage ways to help you navigate, you're going to need lockpicks and multitools. You'll also need an array of weaponry, healing, and other random types of items. Unfortunately the inventory is pretty small. I filled it up within an hour. There is money in the game, and I assumed that I was losing it by throwing away items due to space, but I never found anywhere to sell items, so maybe I was wrong. It seems money is only good for buying the odd bit of supplies or bribing NPCs for information. But like the map, after a while I didn't mind. I began keeping only that which I needed, which meant basically not trying to carry 5 guns. Ammo doesn't take up space, which is awesome. But when you loot enemies, it autoloots everything, so I was constantly having to get rid of the constant supply of knives and cigarettes and other crap they carry around.

    Since there is so much inventory management, the game uses hotkeys for deleting and using items, and for many other menu functions. BUT, the hotkeys didn't work! That was annoying for sure. I think it's a Steam issue since it's an older game brought back to life. Sometimes original controls have problems. Another really annoying example is that F12 toggles your flashlight. F12 is also the Steam hotkey for screenshots. Deus Ex is a really dark game, so I constantly toggled the flashlight, which means Steam was constantly taking screenshots. I went into Deus Ex's options to change the flashlight hotkey, but I couldn't. According to the controls F12 doesn't do anything, and there was no option even for the flashlight. It's like it was hardwired to be F12, yet F12 supposedly was nothing.

    And like I said, Deus Ex is inexplicably dark. The whole game takes place at night, so it's understandable that it is dark, but not DARK. I noticed some bad eye strain, and last night I even started getting nauseous, so I started taking pretty frequent breaks. I'd never played it for more than like an hour in a session until last night so it never got too bad. That's actually part of the reason I'm going to skip ahead to Human Revolution. I turned up the brightness rom 60-70, but that just washed it out and it looked terrible. Besides the darkness, the visuals are okay. Obviously they're really dated and look like crap relative to today's games, but it's fine. There's good use of camera angles and zoom during the dialogue scenes. They had lip synching and everything. Again, teenage David in 2000 would have been amazed by all this.

    The last issue is the lack of autosave. I replayed big chunks of the first 2 levels due to lack of autosave. I'd wager I spent about 25% extra time on Deus Ex replaying bits because I'd die without saving. The game says it autosaves though. Whenever you move to a new area, it says 'loading' (the area) then 'saving' (presumably, my game). But that is false! I don't know if it's saving something else, or if there is supposed to be an autosave feature and it's another Steam issue, or something else. But yeah, that cost me a lot of time. Once I realized that it wasn't going to ever save for me, and I died enough to get annoyed that it was telling me it was saving and then not saving, and once I conditioned myself to quicksave before doing something dangerous, I got over the problem. But that's one of those things. Practically all games autosave these days and we take it for granted. On the bright side though, all those early instances of replaying levels showed me how flexible my choices were in how to go about completing missions because I got to try lots of different approaches in the first couple levels. I developed an early appreciation Deus Ex in this way.

    That's about it. Definitely a cool game, and I hope that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is everything I like about Deus Ex and modernized with some new innovations for me to marvel at. Definitely worth spending some time with the original to get a feel for the series.
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    dkirschner's Deus Ex (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Something better came along

    GameLog started on: Monday 13 August, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Friday 17 August, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Old graphics, fun enough so far. Surprising number of choices even by today's standards. ------- Really good game, AI is fun to toy with, way too dark though which is making my head hurt.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See dkirschner's page

    See info on Deus Ex

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