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DEUS EX / Ion Storm / PC
So, Deus Ex is basically a linear FPS. There's a fixed overall storyline, and you follow it through a fixed series of levels. There's no branching, and the order of levels never changes, nor do the level contents significantly. Yet it stands as one of the greatest examples ever of emergent gameplay, not only because of the sheer amount of options you have for accomplishing level objectives, but because the
Devs Thought Of Everything
and both characters and the game environment respond dynamically to nearly every little thing you do.
Of course this would just be a neat technical feat for the PC Gaming Master Race to "ooh" and "aah" over if the game also didn't happen to be a very good FPS with great level design, and also an interesting fusion of RPG level-up mechanics with the genre, and also have an absorbing fleshed-out cyberpunk setting with thick atmosphere, and also have a really boss soundtrack to boot.
Really, the only downside to the game here is the use of the original Unreal Engine, which means murky graphics that are roughly on par with the caliber of Half-Life and System Shock 2. The whole thing is dark (the entire game somehow takes place at night, even though you bop about the world frequently), characters re-use models quite often, and it doesn't even look quite as good as Thief, which was released by a bunch of the same people a year earlier. Oh, and a lot of the voice-acting is of pretty low quality, though this adds unintentional lulz value
and actually ends up making the game more endearing.
Don't let the Matrix-y cover art scare you off. Our main man JC Denton is more of a Joe Friday than Keanu Stoned. It's 50 years in the future and JC (along with his brother Paul) are the first of the "nano-augs", experimental soldiers that get all the nifty abilities and powers that cyborg body modifications give you without having to actually look like a metal freak. Needless to say there's tension between the "bio-augs", the old-school cyborgs who have sacrificed their dating life for things such as super-jumps and guns in their skulls, and the sleek new brothers who threaten to make them obsolete. That will end up being the least of JC's worries, however, as he basically takes on every crazy millenial conspiracy in the book in a bleak future that designer Warren Spector describes as "five minutes from the complete collapse of human civilization."
"Skill points" are doled out when you reach certain areas or accomplish certain goals, in a system very similar to that of System Shock 2. There's not enough in the game to max out all of JC's eleven core abilities, or even to get all of them to the upper tiers, so as with System Shock 2 you are best served by focusing on a particular "build" of a character, either one that specializes in certain types of weapons, or electronic and computer hacking, lockpicking, environmental damage resistance, swimming and et cetera. The game is exceedingly well thought out and with all the potential strategies for approaching problems there's no point at which any "build" will really get irrevocably stuck, though staying focused on certain core skills will make the game decidedly easier at times.
The other RPG element is in biomod upgrades, JC's "more human than human" nano-aug abilities that come in canisters found throughout the game. Each body part basically is slotted for one ability, but there's two - usually both useful - from which you have to choose between. For example, your legs can be fitted with either Silent Movement or Enhanced Jump/Speed, but not both, and once you pick one you are stuck with it. You also upgrade these by finding special upgrade canisters throughout the game, of which there are naturally not enough to max everything out either.
The only way I can see someone disliking this game is if they are a wholly console-bred FPSer who whinges at the mere idea of WASD control, has to have the leetest latest high-res skull explosion effects, and insists on plowing through nearly every level with 15 different types of assault rifle and nearly unlimited ammo. And Deus Ex is so open-ended it's even possible to Rambo John J the whole thing, though it's always like 10x harder than any other option. Anyway, play it broh. This is one of the best games ever made. And Steam constantly puts it on sale for like 3 bucks, at Xmas you can get it together with the sequel for 5.
Deus Ex soundtrack
Edge: The Making of Deus Ex
Deus Ex Wikia
Something really comprehensive
Deus Ex in a nutshell
Post-mortem w/ Harvey Smith and Warren Spector
The British release was a bit different
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