The first installment in the Deus Ex series, released in mid 2000 is a role-playing shooter set on earth in a sci-fi future that suffers from a deadly plague. You play as J.C. Denton, with a selection of various skills, a technologically augmented human-robot. The game begins with you working for UNATCO, hunting down terrorists and retrieving the antidote for the plague. As you progress, you begin to reconsider your association with UNATCO, whether you are unknowingly fighting for the virus.
The core gameplay is probably one of my favourite elements of the game. Even though this is not an open-world game (meaning that there is a large world with few boundaries other than the world size), and that you are practically meant to follow a specific storyline, how you play that storyline is under your control. That is the fun of the game, you can play it however you may like! You can sneak around with a tranquilizer crossbow and stun your enemies to silently collapse, use a sniper and a rifle to take enemies down from distances, use shotguns, flamethrowers or heavy artillery for close quarters, simply utilise melee or throwable objects, the possibilities are countless. Your actions are also attributed to your skills, which can be upgraded as you go along. However, you have to make good choices on your traits, as you do not have unlimited points, so you would upgrade certain skills that are more important for you, such as electronics for hacking computers and systems, or pistols for, well, pistols. What’s more is that you have these augmentation canisters that you use to select a specific area, such as strength or speed, and “augment” them. This is also important considering your playstyle, as some augmentations would help you to achieve certain tasks.
Nevertheless, there are multiple ways to approach your adventure. Most areas feature many pathways to get to the same area, each with their own obstacles, experiences, and items to collect. Most fascinating of all, these might also change how the story continues. The general story remains the same but some aspects may be different according to what and how you did things. For example, if you went along and killed all enemies in sight, afterwards characters will react differently about what you did, some not liking what you did or some supporting you, and same if you did not kill anyone. Dialogue does not only change, but certain main characters or some areas of the story could be affected too. Without spoiling too much, some actions can affect main characters to die or stay alive, and the ending of the game has three different outcomes which all depend on what you decide to do. That is what I like about this game, you can do what you want. Along with the main story there could be a few side-tasks here and there that are not huge but could give you more points or items but specifically more knowledge. That is what you get for exploring, you can get clues to get certain passcodes right or find a secret pathway. However, there are two sets of goals, a primary and a secondary set of goals to complete in an area. The primary goal, of course, is what you have to complete in order to progress, but the secondary goals are there to help you out with the primary goal, but also to generally to let the story get more detailed and to increase the gameplay.
The stealth mechanics in this game is also a very key feature, which is of course dependent on your playstyle. If you run through levels like crazy and obliterate your enemies there is no point of trying to stay sneaky. However, in order to stop from getting ambushed by enemies, you would need to avoid getting spotted by cameras, robots, or other people. This is very important to keep in mind when you have weak weaponry as you would not want to be seen by someone, who would then trigger the alarm. By staying sneaky you can gain better positions for attack or simply avoid getting destroyed by multiple enemies.
Astoundingly, this game was published in mid 2000, so to see this sort of complex gameplay this early on is amazing, especially in a FPS, as most other games at that time with open choices like this are rpgs, such as the elder scrolls games. Like I said, this game can be approached in numerous ways, it can be for anyone. If you are a speedrunner and want to fly through levels at high speeds and work for ages to save milliseconds of time, go ahead! You can play the game at hardest difficulty, or take it easy and relax. You can explore all the levels, pathways, and secrets of the world, read literally everything that you find (newspapers and bulletins are everywhere) and talk to every character. Or, you can just play the game and let it flow out in front of you as you go along.
The gameplay of this game is really astonishing, as it’s detail and extent lets you play the game many times, because you can play the game in a completely different way, approach levels differently, and even learn new things you never knew about before, because there’s so much that this game offers.
Out of all of the games that I have played, the first Deus ex’s OST (original soundtrack) stuck with me the most. It was able to fully capture the situation you were in, as well as your location, and the quality of the pieces were outstanding. Now, yes, you can argue that the soundtracks in many other games around that time period also were amazing in terms of their catchy, thrilling, and memorable songs, I personally agree that Deus ex stands out in this case.
The majority of the titles have a subtle, calm and ambient beginning until it suddenly blasts off and becomes energetic, exciting, and tense. The reason that it is tense is not because it sounds frightening or stressful, but rather because this sudden energy was used as a feature in the games stealth mechanics. So if you were spotted by any enemy or detected by a camera, the calm part of the song would instantly change to the dynamic part, tensing up the situation.
I still sometimes listen to the soundtrack, and even after not playing it for almost a year, many of the OST’s titles still remind me of where I was while that song played. In my opinion it is probably my favourite soundtrack out of many old games, it sets the atmosphere and action really well compared to other games that just have a few songs playing here and there.