When you’re a spy…

This is pretty much all you need to know about how great Deus Ex is... Cyber-glasses on indoors, cyber-gadgetry out, cyber-ass-kicking commences.

So I’ve been burning through Deus Ex with the slow burn of someone who chose the stealth game aspect of DE to enjoy. Also, I’m playing it on the hardest setting, you know, on account of how hardcore I am. I haven’t finished it: the 20 hours of game play that I’ve heard mentioned is surely shite. I can’t tell you the end, because I haven’t got to it yet. However, spoiler-free, I can let you know roughly what the game plays like.

It plays like Cyberpunk should have.

Remember Cyberpunk? I loved Cyberpunk, it was so awesome. We prepped for weeks to get a game going and finally rolled up characters after poring over the rules. I played one session of Cyberpunk one week before I bought Shadowrun and three years before I was done playing Shadowrun. We gave it another shot and found it oddly bland in comparison, other than the complicated rules for building your character a lifelike robotic gun-penis. Say hello to my leetle friend…

The universe of Deus Ex isn’t THAT far removed from ours. 2027? That’s not that far away. I’m not sure what is less likely: that humanity could master cybernetics within the next 16 years or that there’ll be a profitable industry in Detroit within the next 16 years. But anyway, there are still recognizable nations and themes and we’re not all eating moon cheese or anything.

Deus Ex Cons:

– Long loading screens, even when you are just reloading a save in the same area. Given how free some of the game play can be and that you are encouraged to explore and try out new stuff, it would be great to save-experiment-fail-reload, but the long loads kind of discourage that. Which is too bad, because the idea of dropping a vending machine off a balcony onto a guard turns me on and it would be quicker to get a reply from Dan Savage as to whether or not this okay than it is to trial-and-error it in game.

– Stupid boss fights. People complain a lot that a straight shoot-out seems to benefit people who build a shoot-out specced character. That’s probably true, but if you just try and tank around killing everyone, you’re really missing out on a lot of the game, so go ahead, enjoy that 45 seconds of boss fight every 6 hours. The tricks to the boss fights (and there aren’t many) aren’t that hard. The rest of the game rewards clever play and these resolutely do not, these fights mock you for putting points in hacking or speaking or seeing: it’s like being called a Psych-fag at your graduation ceremony, by the Dean of Psychology. (Words hurt, Prof. Carroll, words hurt.)

Deus Ex Not bad, just fine.
– There is no character customization… I mean there is, you pack your guy’s neck with more gadgetry than a South Korean Sharper Image Back to School sale. But you play Adam Jensen, gravelly voiced former-policeman now turned security chief investigator dogsbody, no argument.

Adam Jensen, as it turns out is kind of a good guy. I mean, yeah, he kinda talks like Clint Eastwood and yeah, his teeth -once you’ve seen them – will remind you of Martin Sheen every time he speaks, no lie: but if he isn’t the most effusive of characters, at least his conversations are interesting, genuine and well acted. When exasperated, he conversation choice doesn’t just waver between “Pretty please tell me” and “I’m going to RIP YOUR TIT OFF AND FEED IT TO YOUR MOM”, but veer towards the more realistic, “Why do you have to make this so fucking difficult? Quit being an ass” which seems like a more realistic first choice of argument tack.

– There is no hand to hand melee; Jensen wins every fist fight automatically with a little cutscene. This is fine, these takedowns are the reward for clever sneaking/ambushing, not button mashing melee.

– There isn’t much ammo. At one point you are told that a group of a few dozen bad guys is in location X. Someone gives you 20 bullets and tells you to go take care of it. For reals. This is fine too, this isn’t a shooter-shooter, this is an RPG-Shooter and if you mow guys down with bullets, you’re missing out on the dozens of other entertaining and rewarding ways of eliminating your opponents.

-Supporting cast. There’s the helpful pilot, who you know is one of the good ones because she seems Latina or something. Then there’s the IT guy who sounds like a really peevish Bono… like early 80s Bono if you touched his hair… but he isn’t supposed to be likeable. Your boss sounds at all times like he got in the cybernetics business to build the perfect hackysack foot. And there is another guy who they could just have called Dichard Rawkins and it would have been a better disguised cover. That’s all fine.

Deus Ex Pros

– Player Bias: I fucking love stealth games. Observe, sneak, wait, ambush, hide body, loot body, proceed is sheer joy to me. This game rewards the shit out of that. For eliminating a dude, you get 10 XP. If you just play this as a shooter-shooter, that’s all you get. If you eliminate them in a non-lethal fashion, you get an extra 20 XP. If you do this with a melee takedown, you get another 20 XP. So you get way more XP for the style of play I like, than just Gears of War-ring everyone to death – that XP gets turned into the ability to buy cybernetic upgrades, so this is totally great. And fuck it, after you get all the xp, you can double-tap people in the storeroom where you are piling the bodies. God isn’t watching. God is never watching.

– The non-lethal challenge is pretty cool. As well as being able to punch out opponents you can stun gun them and tranquilize them. All of which will cause less noise and fuss than shooting them. The challenge is to make sure those unconscious bodies don’t get found and added back into the fray.  This rewards planning over winging-it although you’ll still find yourself winging it given the scale of some of the maps.

– Cybernetic gadgets give you awesome abilities that are actually fun to play. Lift vending machines, glide from heights, see through walls, punch through walls, reprogram robots to be your buddies. They aren’t just impressive combat abilities, they open up new and interesting ways to solve problems.

– Atmosphere. There is always a chance that the game will go Metal Gear Solid on me and will finish with a rambling diatribe about the Illuminati delivered by a traitor that I’d trusted that was also a computer, but somehow my ex-girlfriend… this is a Square Enix game after all, so I’m preparing for the worst. But so far the atmosphere has been pretty great. Conspiracy is slowly revealed, plots unfurl, the situation inches towards desperate.

– Maps: I’m not sure why this is seperate from Atmosphere, but it is, a little. The city hub areas all seem lived in, if not driven around… I’m not sure why anyone would ever have a car, given the tangle of streets. Detroit is small, Hengsha is pretty big, I’ve no idea about Montreal or Singapore. That ‘lived in’ effect is pretty cool. Aesthetically, there isn’t much between the architecture and style of DE and any other futuristic game. Shiny offices linked by corridors with anonymous random shipping crates can be found in Mass Effects, Half Lives, Metal Gears Solid, Final Fantasys, but the DE team does a good job of making that corridor seem like one that actually gets used, by people,.. some of them French Canadians who really seem to go in for this kind of shitty dancing…

Justifying the cost of the game in three seconds of play.

You know, thinking about it; if anyone ever made a Stealth game where you have to infiltrate an Insane Clown Posse concert and knock every Juggalo unconscious with the aid of cybernetics or magnets or other shit they can’t understand, I wouldn’t just buy the game, or the game’s deluxe edition, I’d name my firstborn child after it.

You’re welcome, KlowndownKommando Smith.

3 Comments on “When you’re a spy…

  1. “There is always a chance that the game will go Metal Gear Solid on me and will finish with a rambling diatribe about the Illuminati delivered by a traitor that I’d trusted that was also a computer, but somehow my ex-girlfriend…”

    You never played the original, did you?

    And I loved the original, by the way. It’s just that it… uh… came out around the same time as Metal Gear Solid, when those poorly written, sweeping conspiracy plots were still blowing minds.

  2. ““There is always a chance that the game will go Metal Gear Solid on me and will finish with a rambling diatribe about the Illuminati delivered by a traitor that I’d trusted that was also a computer, but somehow my ex-girlfriend…”

    You never played the original, did you?”

    It took a while coming… but let’s say all the usual suspects were in the line-up, but in a different order,.. for a crime I wasn’t suspecting.

    That crime… assisting me torture that metaphor.

    Did you know: One co-founder of Games Workshop is the president of Eidos?

  3. Having finished the game – it has an… unusual final level – I can now say a little bit more to the character of Adam Jensen and I suppose, the writing of the dialogue.

    There are four possible outcomes to the game, each one narrated by Jensen, explaining his decisions and approach. For completion’s sake, I experienced each one. As he is narrating each outcome (each quite different and bolstered by a different argument), I found myself thinking, yeah, that’s right, you’re spot on there Jensen.

    Then I’d play the next outcome and think, no, wait, he makes a good point there, that’s the right one. And so on.

    I suppose it says something of the integrity of the character and the way that he is presented throughout the game, that I think of him as reliable.

    Also, the boss fights become much easier when you have figured out the best way to handle them. I’ll tell you if you ask me.

    Anyway, as I said, I’ve finished this. Anyone who wants to borrow it is welcome to it. You’ll have fun, I think.