Deus Ex – Day 1

After nearly two months since the last post, I’m back for another game. I should really be having a go at Thief 2 but instead I’m going for Deus Ex since I bought it on Steam ages back and never got around to playing it. This was Warren Spectors first game for Ion Storm which is where the Origin connection comes in. Ion Storm had already released Daikatana at this point which got panned by critics but I never played it myself and probably never will. On the other hand, I heard Deus Ex repeatedly described as the best game ever so I’m expect a lot from this.

Before I start the game I have to manually alter a couple of the config files to get it to run in widescreen. Once done the game runs perfectly. I’m not impressed that this wasn’t added into Steam but it wasn’t too tricky to do myself.

I unintentionally skip the tutorial level and go straight into the game.  I’m going to be playing the cybernetically enhanced government agent JC Denton. I get to spend a few points on training at the start of the game to pick what I want to specialise in.

The game’s intro shows an agent and a high up goverment figure talking about taking over the world. The plot is less than clear at this point but there is a plague ravaging the general population and the government has a cure/treatment called Ambrosia which they control. A terrorist group called the NSF is opposing the government but they don’t have the advantage of cybernetic implants due to their moral stance. They talk about the new agent about to come on-line (presumably me) and potentially retiring the first prototype agent (my brother) and how they will become gods when there plans (whatever they might be) come to fruition.

Knowing little about what is to come, this intro is quite vague but it will no doubt make sense later.

I’m thrown straight into a mission at the start of the game. My brother meets up with me and gives me the story. The NSF have stolen a shipment of Ambrosia but we have managed to trap some of them in the ruins of the statue of liberty (in the future it has had it’s head blown off). To complicate matters they have one of our agents as hostage. I’m to go in and capture the commander. My brother is quite keen on me using non-lethal techniques to carry out the mission although I get the opposite command from HQ a couple of minutes later.

The games interface is simple enough to use and very System Shock 2 like (although perhaps a little clunkier). I have the usual quick access slots for my inventory + a full interface screen with logs, full inventory screens to upgrade my augmentations, etc… It’s simple enough to use.

I’ve got a few options for getting into the statue. I can sneak round the back, carry out a frontal assault or talk to an operative and get the key. I decide to go for stealth. In true thief-like fashion I can listen to conversations between terrorists as I approach. There is a lot of room to move in the level so I can just sneak past most of these guys. Their eyeight isn’t too good and this is very easy.

I find my contact and get the key off him after promising not to kill the NSF commander who is his link to trade with the NSF. I’m getting a lot of these messages not to use violence.

He gives me the key but I don’t need it as I’m going via the back. I find a security bot here but I sneak past again when it moves away from the door.

There is also a security camera and turret guarding the door but using a password I found earlier I can log into a security panel and get the turret to attack my enemies + turn the camera off. There is a surprising amount of detail in the game to be able to do this sort of thing. I can even pan and zoom the cameras.

I use the same technique to free our agent. I have a choice of giving him a gun or keeping it for myself. I give him the gun and he clears out this level for me.

I make my way up the statue using non-lethal tactics as much as I can. I don’t have a blackjack like in thief but I do have an electric prod which I can use on opponents at short range. It only has limited ammo though so the blackjack was better. I also have tranquiliser darts in a crossbow which are very effective but take about 10 seconds to drop an enemy.

The NSF commander surrenders the moment I see him. He makes a convincing case against the government when I interrogate him. He even claims that the plague has been created by them and they are using it to claim even more control for themselves. It’s not clear that I’m on the right side but he may of course be lying. He says they have sent the Ambrosia to be used by the general population.

I let my team know he has been captured and they move in to secure the area. I make my way back to HQ on the edge of the island. All the NSF that I left behind are gone now and our guards are patrolling the areas. This sort of detail is a nice touch in a game this old.

I don’t feel like I know exactly what is going on in the world of Deus Ex at this point and its a slightly confused start to the game. I could of course have read the manual (or played the tutorial) which might have helped. As a newly created agent maybe I’m not supposed to know what is going on.  I’m not clear if I’m a normal person who lived a life before getting cybernetically enhanced or if I’ve been grown in a tank. I expect the latter.

I’ve not covered them here but I felt like I had a lot of options on how to play this level. There were little environmental puzzles which I’ve not talked about with more than one solution. These solutions were pretty trivial on the whole though. I could pick a lock or climb over crates, etc.. The game plays very much like a combination of System Shock 2 and Thief though which can’t be a bad thing. It looks like there is going to be far more dialog in Deus Ex though. Some of the dialog and acting are pretty cheesy. It feels very cartoony rather than real world when they start spouting some of these lines. Graphically the game isn’t great for 2000 either but it is amazing what they’ve done with the Unreal engine to get the RPG elements and SS2 style interface in there so I can happily overlook it.

All in all then, it’s a so-so start for Deus Ex. It’s interesting but I’d rather I’d started on Thief 2 at the moment. I expect I’ll get into it once the plot gets going and I know a bit more about what is going on.

7 thoughts on “Deus Ex – Day 1

  1. I’m really glad I caught you at the start of a game like Deus Ex. As I recall, I had picked it up on discount a year or two after its release (as is my habit with games; I’m frugal and patient).

    I never actually finished it, and I don’t recall why, because I really enjoyed this game. I found the story and the characters very intriguing. Serpent’s Isle is the only other Warren Spector game I’ve played, though I played that after Deus Ex. I enjoyed that story as well. I had always heard great things about Underworld and System Shock. People who’ve finished those games rave about them, just as you did. I’m starting to see a pattern.

    Also, I recall at one time, I had considered buying Thief, but for some reason I didn’t. However, now I’m thinking I would probably like it.

    I can’t remember too much detail about Deus Ex, but I do remember there being a lot of options in terms of augments and skills. Personally, I usually prefer a more stealthy/thoughtful/sniper approach, as opposed to being a brute or running in with guns blazing. There is something very satisfying about taking down the opposition discreetly. Supposedly, you can play Deus Ex a number of different ways.

    As for the intro, I remember the Statue of Liberty mission vividly (maybe because I’m a New Yorker). I’m not sure how much the manual will tell you in terms of backstory (I’ve got it boxed away around here somewhere). I’m not sure how much of it I read before I started, but I think the game creators were intentionally vague about what is going on. I don’t recall a tutorial. I just found my save files on my old harddrive. However, at this point, I can’t remember any story specifics, only a few generalities.

    I look forward to reading your progress. Perhaps it will awaken my memory and I can pick up where I left off without starting over.

  2. I found my Deus Ex manual. Luckily, it was in the very first storage box I opened. The manual is thinner than I expected. 20 pages; each page 14 x 21.5 cm (5.5 x 8.5 in). It’s purely a technical manual (How-to). Back page has the default key mapping.

    However, included is a single, large sheet of paper (43 x 55 cm). One side is made to look like the front page of a newspaper (The Midnight Sun, with the motto “Light on the Darkness”, Volume 7, Issue 25). The other side is made to look like a bulletin board covered with scraps of paper, letters, articles, a list of weapon descriptions, and “The Cast” (which appears to be actual actor credits). This appears to be the extent of the backstory you are given which doesn’t look like much.

    The first article is an op-ed piece about the danger of nano-tech government agents (you and your brother Paul) and how they are different and more dangerous than the standard “mech” (that agent you freed). It’s a scare piece. The way this is described reminds me a lot of the Terminator series. Earlier T models were easier to spot due to their rubber/plastic skin, but they eventually advanced to having living tissue. The article author (Joe Greene) references Frankenstein; it’s pretty clear he’s not happy about what the government is doing. They are making unstoppable, soulless, super soldiers that blend into society.

    Next article: “Secret Govt. Gulag: FEMA to Detain Six Million Americans” Another scare piece, referencing some ominous “plan RX 84”. Very interesting conspiracy theory piece, which isn’t too far off from actual conspiracy theories I’ve heard concerning FEMA. This basically describes how martial law can be declared and citizens lose civil liberties, all without proper oversight.

    Next article: “UN Gets Serious With Frenchies”
    This article suggests that the UN has become an oppressive, centralized world government; any detractors are labeled as “terrorists”. Article mentions UNATCO (very important). One group, “Silhouette” was blamed for the bombing of the Statue of Liberty. A French nationalist in exile, known as Merovech denounces the UN; says Silhouette is a “peaceful organization of dissident intellectuals” and accuses the UN and the US Government of the bombing. At this point, I’m convinced that this is essentially a “conspiracy theory” paper, with a strong libertarian stance.

    Next article: “Chinese Gang War: And You Thought We Had it Tough…”
    It refers to an escalating Triad war between Luminous Path and Red Arrow. However, it points out that while local businesses and citizens are being harmed, the Chinese government apparently won’t step in unless foreign businesses or citizens are affected. Disturbing.

    Next article: “What Is It?: ‘California Dino’ Seen by Dozens”
    Brief photo article about a “dinosaur” or “bear-lizard” being spotted. Photo is so blurry, it could be anything. Something tells me you and your brother aren’t the only prototypes being tested.

    Next: “Gray Death Spreads to Rural Communities”
    There’s a disease that is spreading; 93% fatality rate within first 100 days. Bad news.

    Last article: “Are We Really Secure?”
    Article says a refurbished security bot went crazy and destroyed some planetary exhibits at the Rose Center (American Museum Natural History, NYC). Authorities say it was likely a malfunction and not a break-in. Sounds like a cover up.

    The National Forecast refers to “particulate masses” and a “visibility index of 15%” … sounds like smog has gotten really bad. This is followed by the “Plauge Index” (in %) for 4 major American cities, NYC is highest at 80%.

    Finally, there’s this:
    “Earn millions working at home! F/T & P/T No experience necessary See our ad on page A13 for information that will change your life.”
    Then in very very fine print “Must be 18 or older and willing to undergo minor surgery.”
    Nice touch.

    I almost ignored the TOC:
    Global News
    UN Watch
    Inside the Nation
    Military/Paramilitary Ops
    Sci & Tech
    The Modern Condition

    On back is a letter titled: “Know Your Enemy – NSF” NSF if circled with a hand-written comment “cure, or secondary Infection?”
    Apparently, NSF stands for “National Secessionst Forces” though originally “N” stood for “Northwest” as this group wants to liberate the NW states of Washington, Montana, Oregon, and N. California. It’s a gun-control issue. Apparently they have support from “dissident computer scientists from San Francisco and Seattle” who helped encrypt their network. UNATCO is trying to crack this, with little success. Circled: “The U.N. has declared war on the NSF.” (handwritten response: “only a sovereign nation can declare war against another nation”

    The next piece appears to be a dated history of Area 51 / MJ 12. Most of it from 1947 – 1984 refers to actual history (UFO stuff). Someone did their homework. It’s a nice touch. The last 3 entries dated 2005, 2011, 2017: refer to “Project Echelon”, “Internet 3 hub”, and “Project Aquinas” (likely in reference to the saint).

    There’s a scrap of US $1 bill focused on the Great Seal of the US, specifically the “Eye of Providence”. A Very suggestive symbol.

    I’m not sure what this next picture is, but it could be a profile x-ray of a human neck and lower half of a skull (with brain). I can’t really tell.

    last article titled “Origins of UNATCO” which stands for “UN Anti-Terrorist Coalition”. To sum up, they are the World Police, or probably more accurately, the World Military Police. This article also has words circled along with hand-written comments. All accuse the UN of being a facist origination looking to control all of humanity.

    Put all of this together, the newspaper and articles and you are clearly made to believe that UNATCO is bad; they shouldn’t be trusted.

    Although it doesn’t look like much, they packed a lot of subtle meaning into this backstory piece. They mixed a lot of familiar themes to create the feel of a world on the edge. I do wonder, however, if most of themes are more identifiable with Americans. The newspaper is clearly an American one. While the fear of facism is definitely a global concern, some of these “issues” within this newspaper are very real to me. They are an exaggeration, and yet …

    It’s interesting to note that this game was released in June 2000. A lot has happened in 9.5 years that somehow makes some of these themes discomforting. For that reason, I feel that game would be even more significant. Maybe it’s just my personal perspective.

    • Thanks for this. I clearly need to read this paper before I play any more – I guess it should be on Steam or replacementdocs failing that. It sounds like the sort of backstory I could have done rather than just being thrown into the middle of the story. It’s a problem with downloadable games I guess…

      Seem to have a couple of differing opinions on the game itself here. So far I’m siding with JCC but its early days. This clearly isn’t going to be a bad game though so its got to be well worth playing. I’ve got the sequel lined on Steam also (I picked them up in a weekend offer ages back) and I’m less optimistic about that.

  3. Nice to see you back in your blog. Sadly I don’t think I would follow your Deus Ex playthrough for now. I don’t want any spoilers in this game 🙂

    I got to play it a year ago and I started the New York mission but didn’t finish it.

    I recomend the tutorial, I remember it was more or less like “your training” before the main character had to do any mission.

  4. I liked Deus Ex OK… I generally think it’s overrated. As you noted, I thought Deus Ex tried to do what SS2 and Thief did and ended up being lesser than both games. I would like to replay it at some point.

  5. Yeah, I enjoyed this game. You can actually play the *entire* game without killing a single thing. I did it for kicks and you pretty much end up using the cattle prod and hacking a whole lot.

    My biggest complaint that keeps me from liking it is just how terribly juvenile the dialogue and character models (especially all the women) are… just downright awful.

    What I do love is how there’s so many options to complete any given mission.

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