The bad guys aim to rule the world by cornering the market on crate production. At least that's what I assume.Eventually all the conspiracy theories are wrapped into one tightly-woven ball of clichéd movie plots, and J.C. Denton is required to fly to Area 51 in a black helicopter while wearing a tinfoil helmet and ripping out the gold fillings in his teeth so the government can't intercept his alpha waves and steal his plans for a cold-fusion device while he sleeps. Well, the conspiracy stuff isn't that bad, but you'll probably think you're watching an episode of "The X-Files" about halfway through the game (and not one of the episodes where Moulder has to hunt down some genetically engineered, fire-spitting, psychic earthworms that have taken over a redneck laundromat).
The gameplay in Deus Ex is really what sets this title apart from the sea of unoriginal FPS clones that currently infest our harddrives like a particularly bad case of salmonella. One of the more hyped elements of this game is that every puzzle can be solved by a "variety of different methods." Unfortunately, these "different methods" seem to be limited to the following:
1) Blowing an item up,
2) Carrying a box and jumping on top of it,
3) Going through an air vent.
You can solve approximately 99% of the puzzles in these games by using one of those three tactics. As a general rule, every building you enter will have an extensive series of air vents, each being large enough to accommodate a large man with 500 pounds of deadly weapons strapped to his back. They will also connect incredibly insecure areas (men's restrooms, break rooms, children's playgrounds) to really top secret places (boss' office, science facility, room with a large nuclear warhead). I'm not sure, but I think that the blueprints of these buildings were designed by double agents who wanted an easy way to infiltrate them undetected. The puzzles are definitely better than 95% of the other FPS games that have ever been released, but I was hoping for something that was a bit more challenging and less obviously linear.
As in RPGs, your character will have a set of skills that he is able to improve by earning experience points (which are awarded by completing certain goals). These skills are quite useful, ranging from computer hacking to shooting exploding objects towards robots. You will also find bonus powerup devices along your journey, which allow you to perform superhuman things such as becoming invisible, running really damn fast, and healing yourself. Although there aren't individual characteristics such as strength, intelligence, and charisma, there isn't much need to employ them in a game like this, so that aspect of RPGs can be easily dismissed. Overall, Deus Ex does an excellent job of importing the best characteristics from a RPG and combining them with the most fun traits of a FPS title. Well, except for one thing: JUMPING PUZZLES. Yes, there's a few jumping puzzles in the game which will really piss you off and make you beg for suicide. I don't think game designers will ever be able to figure out that jumping, in a FPS game, is one of the most obnoxious things in the world (second only to having to climb ladders and getting stuck when trying to get off them).
The visuals, like many RPGs, are excellent and even inspiring at times. Despite that fact that it is based off the Unreal engine, the mapmakers elected to not turn every room and building into some kind of Technicolor disco vomit nightmare, unlike the design team for Hired Guns, which is apparently staffed by The Society to Damage Human Eyesight (editors note: Hired Guns looks awful). You'll walk through exotic locations ranging from New York to Japan, and each area will have a definite artistic and original flare of its own. Despite the inclusion of gigantic air vents and sewer systems into every area, the mapmaking in this game is definitely top notch. Weapons are just as interesting looking as the surrounding scenery, and each gun has a gritty, dirty, mean look to it. Well, every weapon except the stealth pistol, which looks like it should be shooting out a flame to light up cigarettes for homosexual dance instructors.
Player models and skins are fairly varied and different, although the skinwork on the faces is very similar to Daikatana's (which is generally not a good thing). The male faces are blocky and look like the character is critically constipated, despite the fact that animations are usually quite fluid and realistic, with a somewhat convincing lip-synching to their speech. The biggest complaint I had was that the enemies had no pain or damage skins, so it was quite difficult to tell if I had actually hit my target when I was unloading a few hundred rounds into their general direction. The only way to determine if you have successfully injured a guy is if he starts running away from you like he's some kind of insane maniac that needs to get to a restroom ASAP and wash his hands repeatedly in boiling hot water.
Although many of the main characters are voiced well and have great dialogue, you'll find yourself laughing your ass off at some of the minor characters' speeches and conversations. A good game to play is "Guess the Accent", where the player is awarded for successfully determining what accent the NPCs are using to slur their speech. Chances are that you'll never be able to tell, and you'll die futilely attempting to figure it out.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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