Perhaps the most striking thing about playing Deus Ex: The Conspiracy a short while ago was how real the story seemed in the wake of September 11th. What was initially a noir-cyberpunk tale about a frightening American future suddenly seemed a lot less fantasy-tinged after watching terrorists attack American landmarks.
Even the inclusion of a plague-like biological agent infecting the citizens of the country, once surely only living in the realm of nightmare and worst case scenario discussions, seemed infinitely more plausible after months of anthrax-filled letters in post offices and the ever-present threat of a smallpox outbreak.
What once was simply a fantasy game with a dark and apocalyptic vision of the future (a future that many of us thought could never happen in our lifetime) suddenly became much more poignant. While we may not have cyborg-enhanced super agents defending the country, many of the games other elements have become all too real.
This newfound poignancy is just one more reason why Deus Ex is such an incredible game. Ever since its release on the PC a few years back, the game has been praised for its open-ended design, one that allows players to choose from a number of options to solve each of the games situations. Since main character JC Denton can be upgraded in any number of different ways, blasting everything in sight was but one option to get through the games numerous areas. If players preferred, they could concentrate on using stealth, or hacking computer systems, or any number of other options.
Because of this, Deus Ex has a tremendous amount of replay value. To truly experience all the different outcomes to situations, one would have to play through the game several times. Factor in the multiple endings, and the games replay value only increases.
Deus Ex also earned critical acclaim for the way it seamlessly blended diverse gaming genres into a cohesive and entertaining whole. At first glance, the game appears to be yet another first-person shooter (FPS). Everything is viewed from JCs perspective and theres lots of running around and shooting. However, the game also incorporates an abundance of gameplay elements from role-playing games (RPGs). The inclusion of quest-styled missions, characters that JC can talk to, and the leveling-up of his systems are all things not normally found in a traditional FPS. Deus Ex often feels like a hybridized gameeven today, its still one of the few games out there thats successfully blended very different genres into a satisfying game experience.
However, not everything about Deus Ex is so wonderful. The PlayStation 2 port, while being serviceable, is far from perfect. The games not aging well graphically, and the PlayStation 2s limited graphical abilities really mar the presentation. Textures are absolutely hideous in a number of places, and the character models are laughably simplistic.
Worse still are the frequent and lengthy loading times. The PlayStation 2s limited memory requires the game to load sections in small chunks, and switching from one area to another causes the game to stop for loading purposes. This is particularly troubling when JC has to cross through several areas in succession to reach somewhere else. Players will spend more time waiting for the section to load than they do traveling through it.
And last but not least are the controls. Anyone whos played a console FPS no doubt realizes these games were designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind. Deus Ex is no exception. Trying to line up the crosshairs on a target in the heat of battle can be a nightmare. The analog sticks are too responsive, meaning the player will often swing wildly, missing the target in the center of the screen by wide margins. While players will eventually get acclimated to the control scheme, it never really becomes intuitive, which means lots of players will find themselves dying as they struggle to line up their target or flail on the wrong button repeatedly.
Despite the flaws, theres no denying that Deus Ex is an excellent game. While the graphics may not have aged well, the gameplay is just as solid and entertaining as it was back when the original PC version was released. Factoring in the relevancy of its terrorists and plague in America plotline and the game transcends the confines of mere entertainment and becomes something morea frightening commentary on our turbulent times.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.