For the current generation of gamers, the name Deus Ex may not mean much. For those of us who cut our teeth on PC gaming back at the start of the new millennium, however, it’s quite the opposite. Deus Ex was a sea-change moment in gaming; a turning-point when nothing would be quite the same again and whole new possibilities sprung into existence. The impact of Deus Ex is felt on a wide and varied number of the industry’s many facets today. You may not consciously know it, but if you enjoy games where plot, verisimilitude, character progression and adult themes are at the forefront, you owe an invaluable debt to Deus Ex.
This is not a history lesson, though. If you’re interested in the impact and significance Ion Storm’s seminal first-person perspective sci-fi title had on gaming there’s always Wikipedia. I just checked. Deus Ex’s importance and influence on the numerous genres it inspired (and in some cases, created) is covered quite adequately. Succinctly, no Deus Ex? No Mass Effect. But that’s just the obvious one. Oblivion, Fallout 3, even some of BioWare’s games a full decade later all show signs of the indelible Deus Ex stamp. Hell, name any modern shooter and you’ll find elemental traces of Deus Ex lurking deep in their DNA.
You could argue (and argue well) that Deus Ex is a progenitor of SystemShock, itself in turn going on to influence BioShock, one of this generation’s landmark titles. True, but it was Deus Ex’s designer, Warren Spector, who expanded on what was unquestionably a robust foundation that SystemShock started.
From a story perspective Deus Ex excels, offering up a convoluted, nuanced and immersive universe players could submerge themselves in, the concept that you, the player, could control your own path toward the game’s ultimate conclusion a premise that was starkly alien in gaming over a decade ago. It may be deemed old hat now, but the thought of choosing possibly unique methods to overcome game challenges – devices and scenarios the game’s very own designers didn’t think of when they were making the game – was something novel and enticing back in 2000. Deus Ex contains one of the first instances of “creative solutions” in gaming, players using wall-mounted mines as climbing tools. In conclusion, SystemShock may have cracked open a secret door and gave everyone a glimpse of what the concept of emergent gameplay could offer, but it was Deus Ex that kicked it open and delivered the experience wholeheartedly.
Deus Ex: Invisible War tried to capture lightning for a second time but only achieved moderate success. Fans of the first game lambasted some of its sequel’s design choices, bemoaning a dumbed down skill-tree system and the ‘RPG-liteness’ of the whole affair. Seven years later, and going on what we’ve heard by way of the changes in its follow up, Deus Ex: Human Revolution may very well incite geek-riots when it launches next year.
A prequel to the first game, Human Revolution is set in a time before the influx of bio-nanotechnology. Players take on the role of Adam Jensen, a security specialist who, after suffering mortal injuries during an attack on his employer, undergoes extensive and intrusive body biomechanical augmentations in order to survive. Now set on a self-destructive path, Jensen embarks on a quest to solve a global conspiracy.
Deus Ex zealots are quite possibly apoplectic reading this, frantically scanning this text before chronicling all of our mistakes in the comment section below. The fact is, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has only tenuous links to the first two games. Spector and co. are not involved, and it’s Eidos Montreal who are handling development duties. Much has also been made of the title’s gameplay changes from previous Deus Exs. For a start, the game’s health system is based on the auto-regeneration method found in such games like Call of Duty. This is to prevent people “scrambling around for medi-packs” according to the game’s designers. Purists would argue, however, that such a shift detracts from the game’s realism. One of the charms of the first game was actually the amount of scrounging involved. There’s also some concerns about the balance of action versus role-playing the game will present, with news of a cover system sending some DE idealists descending into what can only be described as a focused, unrelenting rage at such a revelation.
We want Deus Ex: Human Revolution because it is the embodiment of Gibsonian chic, staple tropes of cyberpunk and dystopian themes reminiscent of the famed author’s Sprawl trilogy infused throughout the game’s visuals, setting and mood. Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer than we originally expected for the Human Revolution, however, as news arrived only this morning that publisher Square Enix have decided to delay the release of the game into fiscal year 2012. Don’t worry, accountants are weirdos, and we’re still likely to get it next calendar year; just not in March like we had hoped.
Finally, we rarely repost trailers here, especially not during this series. This one is just too good not to.
Author’s note: TSA’s Top 100 Games of 2011 comprised of over a thousand individual votes cast against hundreds of games. So, it’s safe to say it was a collaborative effort. The task of discussing each of the titles that made the grade in these articles, however, was bestowed upon one person: me (or did I volunteer?). Naturally, I’ve written a lot of text about many games I, personally, have varied levels of interest in. For the record: Deus Ex: Human Revolution is in my personal Top 5 of next year.