Game: Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
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With Gunther being so helpful now, I almost feel bad about what I have to do later…
Release Date (Windows): June 26th, 2000
Release Date (Mac OS): July 13th, 2000
CrossOver Profile: Read Here
WineHQ AppDB entry: Read Here
IMG Review: Read Here
MacBook (Mid-2007/Late-2006; GMA 950, 10.6.8, CX 11.03)
"I spill my drink!..."
Deus Ex: There, I said it. There are many unique and special games that now make GOG their home, but of those there is only one game which really occupies a special place in my heart: Deus Ex. To use some tortured metaphors, if Sacrifice could be likened to a movie like Repo! The Genetic Opera or The Rocky Horror Picture Show - a cult-classic game with a fanatical following, characterized by a truly unique style - then Deus Ex would be Psycho. Every cinema buff remembers that scene in the shower with Vivian Leigh and those chilling, screeching sounds of horror. Every video game buff remembers Liberty Island, Paul Denton's offer, their first fight with an NSF soldier, and the realization that everything they knew about an FPS had completely changed. I think it would be fair to say that everyone who was interested in video games around the late 90's was exposed to Deus Ex in one form or another, and anyone too young to remember JC Denton's chiseled face has probably heard of disgruntled old men in forums and YouTube comment threads grumbling out words like "It's not as good as Deus Ex..." or, "So, they just ripped off Deus Ex again, huh?"
"You'd better get your head screwed straight."
The development story behind Deus Ex is a well-tread tale, so it's not worth repeating in-depth here, but for the uninitiated, it sounds like a fable ripped right out of Aesop's book: the proud, boasting showman in John Romero, promising the moon and the stars to a raptured audience, and Warren Spector, the humble, shoulder-to-the-wheel workman in the background. Romero had an almost Peter Molyneux-esque vision to create the greatest FPS of all time, and ended up being the poster boy for one of the gaming industry's greatest public failures. Spector and his team in Austin steered well clear of the hype and controversy surrounding Romero and Ion Storm Dallas, and with fellow System Shock designer Harvey Smith ended up creating a game achieving that which Daikatana could not. I think however, that the really fascinating aspect of Deus Ex wasn't just in its past, or in how it changed gaming when it was released. It was in how the game appeared in the light of global events in the brief few years that followed its release. When looking at September 11, 2001, and all of the social, economic, and political change that ensued, one can't help but feel that Deus Ex seems almost socially prophetic in its creepy prescience. Shortly after the September 11th attacks, I clearly remember a message stating that MacDeusEx was to close down, as a response to an event that seemed to defy any traditional coping mechanisms. Deux Ex's portrayal of the future of war continues even now, with games continuing to address the consequences of rise of drones and advanced machines in warfare. Meanwhile, the spectre of terrorism is still seen everywhere, and in everyone.
While Deus Ex may not have been the first FPS to be highly plot-driven, or extensively incorporate role-playing elements, it certainly did popularize these elements in a way that no other game really had before. Other games which followed, like No One Lives Forever 2, would further push this trend. Role-playing elements, like level and skill progression are now seen across a wide field of gaming, with MMOs and multiplayer online shooters incorporating elements like skill trees and experience-building systems. The use of player choice and consequence, a critical element that was central to DX's gameplay, have been further developed in games like Mass Effect, with the Mass Effect games even taking this further by including clear failure states as part of the game experience. Sandbox gameplay, where players are given the tools to approach in-game problems from a variety of different methods, is something we've seen in some of the biggest and most popular games out there. One of DX's clear strengths was the fact that it gave players a surprisingly high degree of latitude in how situations could be resolved; a room full of guards could be cut down with a modded shotgun, blown to pieces with a well-placed grenade, or given a good stiff dose of tear gas. Not enough options? How about hacking into a nearby terminal to take control of a gun turret to tear them to shreds, after you lure them out with the sound of a random item dropped on the floor? You could open up the nearby pen holding some genetically engineered monsters to cause some havoc. You could open a poison gas valve in an engineering room to flood opposing guards with noxious fumes, or shoot an explosive barrel to set it off with a silenced pistol. Or, you could go into a ventilation duct and sneak right past them. We've seen bits and pieces of these game play elements in countless third-person and first-person RPGs and shooters over the past decade since the release of DX, and in an interesting example of emergent gameplay, these elements have led to new ways of playing and experiencing games, like the famed pacifist runs for Deus Ex and its recent prequel, Human Revolution. We've also seen countless attempts to replicate and recreate this level of freedom, and sadly, they've not quite been as successful or as engaging as we'd have liked.