Put On a Trench Coat and Fight Some Conspiracies

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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In the year 2052, the golden age of humanity has long since passed. A lethal plague called the Gray Death has ravaged the world, and the only “vaccine” to the disease, known as Ambrosia, is not only tightly controlled by numerous agencies, but does not cure people, only delaying the inevitable. On top of this, terrorist groups all over use the chaos to further their own goals, prompting the formation of UNATCO (United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition) in order to counteract these different organizations. While all this goes on, a global conspiracy works away from the eyes of the public, working towards some unknown goal. Thus sets the board for one of the most highly regarded and influential PC games of all time.

Developed by Ion Storm Austin and released June 17, 2000, Deus Ex is a first-person shooter with RPG elements and a bit of stealth mechanics thrown into the mix, with a very complex and conspiracy-driven plot to boot. The game was unlike most others on the market at the time, becoming a unique experience that has left quite a legacy even today. There is even a running joke that whenever the game is mentioned, people start to reinstall it. That is how much of an impact the original game has had on the industry.

The main character of the game is JC Denton, rookie UNATCO agent and one of the first nano-augmented soldiers. His very first mission involves taking back the Statue of Liberty after terrorists called the National Secessionist Forces (NSF) bombed it and took over the island, where UNATCO HQ is conveniently located. When he stumbles across the conspiracy and makes enemies with a LOT of people, the only people he can trust includes his brother Paul, Alex Jacobson, his intel backup, and helicopter pilot Jock. Later on, he meets other characters that try to fight back against this conspiracy, from Tracer Tong to Morgan Everett, though they themselves have their own goals and ambitious to fulfill, with morally gray implications to all of them.

With a plot like this, not everyone Denton meets are his allies, with friends suddenly becoming enemies and turning on Denton and a select few already establishing themselves as the antagonists. From just the introductory cutscene, Bob Page and Walton Simons show an evil and callous disregard for anyone not themselves, orchestrating many travesties to bring more and more of the world under their control. Other ruthless individuals like Maggie Chow, and the crudely, mechanically augmented UNATCO agents Anna Navarre and Gunther Hermann also prove to be dangerous adversaries for Denton, not to mention the numerous automated defenses that can easily tear up unsuspecting players.

The gameplay plays primarily as a first-person shooter, with an inventory used to hold Denton’s items and to bring them up, ranging from non-lethal and stealthy weapons like batons, tasers, and a mini-crossbow, to lethal and mostly loud firearms that be from silenced pistols to devastating rocket launchers and nano-swords capable of cutting most things. The player has the complete freedom to go about their missions as they see fit, from sneaking past enemies and opening new paths by hacking to going loud and having a firefight with every soldier in the area. In addition to that, Denton has a number of augmentations to choose from and other skills to choose from. That can be anything from enhanced EMP shields, rebreather for poison gas immunity, better strength to lift up heavy objects, and many others to choose and specialize from.

As well as having the freedom to go about the different levels and areas as they wish, the story is in the same regard in that the actions of the player will affect the way characters interact with you and how the plot plays out. For an early 2000s game, this is very impressive and surprising for a game to have this much thought put into it. For example, some characters will berate Denton for sparing enemies, saying that he is far too soft to be a part of UNATCO, but others, like the quartermaster and Paul, will praise JC on his discretion and mercy. While there are some events that still happen despite the actions of the player, a good bit of it can change, leading to unique experiences based on what kind of character the player wants Denton to be like.

The game has been followed by two additional installments, with a third on the way. The sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, came out in December of 2003, taking place a decade or so after the events of the first game. Despite some updates to the formula, the game was not as well-received as its predecessor and, even today, is not regarded as highly as the original game. However, in October of 2011, what may deem a worthy successor was released in the form of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a prequel that takes place in 2027 during the golden age of humanity and augmentations, though the political and moral unrest and conspiracies are still laying around. Here, the player takes control of Adam Jensen, a security officer at Sarif Industries, now augmented with some of the most advanced cybernetics available, in search of the truth behind the attack on the company that left dozens dead. A sequel, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, is slated for an August 2016 release and will follow Jensen once more as he tries to put an end to the conspiracy while the world begins to fall apart around him.

16 years after the release of the original game, the legacy of Deus Ex is still strong, influencing many games and developers with its innovation in both gameplay and story. Despite a silent and long hiatus after Invisible WarHuman Revolution shows that the series is still capable of being an immersive and compelling storyteller, allowing the player to have the freedom to do as they which and make their own unique experience. Adapting is fundamental in this series, something the games have done to last this long in the gaming industry. While the original hasn’t aged that well graphically, the story and the voice acting can still hold up by today’s standards, so it would still be a good idea to buy it on Steam and see for yourself just what this game did for gaming in general.

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