If you’ve never played a Deus Ex game before, you might be wondering what all the fuss surrounding Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which you can read all about here) is about. It’s nothing major, really, just that this game that came along 10 years ago and changed our lives with its sheer depth and perfect blend of action and role-playing elements – plus the fact that it’s still more sophisticated than most games of today… well, that just leads us to have certain expectations.

Deus Ex

In 2000, this relatively unassuming game showed up and proceeded to blow the minds of everyone who played it. To the casual observer, it appeared to be little more than another first-person shooter, which were practically a plague back then, but for those who sat down and played it, it was a gaming experience unlike any other.

The story alone almost sets Deus Ex apart from other games. Set in the not too distant future, Deus Ex is a tale about people trying to transcend the limits of their humanity using all kinds of ethically debatable, cybernetic enhancements called “augmentations”. There are veritable novels full of supporting fluff too, padding out the story and dystopian atmosphere with all kinds of conspiracy theory references involving the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, The Trilateral Commission and so on. Fascinating stuff.

The main thing that sets apart Deus Ex from any other game is the freedom and choice players have. First off, players get to choose how player character JC Denton develops his skills. He can focus on different kinds of weapon skills, lock-picking or hacking skills, medical skills and so on. Working for UNATCO, he’s also got access to the best in performance enhancing augmentations, which grant him all kinds of cool abilities like natural armour, cloaking, regenerating health, the ability to create a remote controlled spy drone, super fast running, and so on. There are also hundreds of different kinds of guns, melee weapons and grenades he can arm himself with – all upgradeable in different ways – and plenty of support items and shops he can make use of.

Now take all this and put it into one of Deus Ex’s massive levels, where there are multiple objectives to complete and hidden sidequests and bonuses to find – all of which can be tackled in any number of different ways according to how the player thinks and how they’ve developed their character and… well, I think you get the picture.

Another great thing about it is you cannot learn every skill or equip every augmentation. You can’t. YOU CAN’T! Don’t even try. There aren’t enough skills points or aug slots in the entire game. What this does is really polarize the way you play and adds a weight to each choice you make that is all but absent from games like, say, Oblivion or Fallout 3, where it’s possible to become good at just about everything.

Deus Ex: Invisible War

While it’s by no means a bad game, Deus Ex 2’s developers dropped the ball in a few places. The biggest fumble has to be in their efforts to streamline the experience, which turned into an exercise in tragic over-simplification. The skill system was yanked out entirely and there seem to be a lot fewer weapons, items and augmentations on offer this time round.

The game is also claustrophobic compared to the original’s huge areas. This can probably be blamed on the fact that DE2 was an early embracer of technology like rigid body physics, rag doll physics, traced shadows and bloomed lighting – which looked fantastic and actually added to the game in some ways, but was impossible to pull off on a large scale at the time.

If you can get over that, though, there’s another expansive, dystopian adventure full of choices to make, factions to join and subquests to lose yourself in. This time, players can create a male or female character (either way going by the unisex name, Alex D) and start out as a trainee in the prestigious Tarsus Academy, which trains augmented security agents. An attack on the academy frees Alex from his/her obligations and sets him/her free in a world where there are any number of lucrative opportunities for someone of their talents.

If I’ve piqued your interest, and hopefully I have, you can track down PC copies of Deus Ex relatively easily for R50 or less, and PC copies of Deus Ex: Invisible War for the same price (run DE2 with Win ’95 compatibility – it works that way, for some reason). A few PS2 versions of Deus Ex 1 have crept in lately, so that’s an option if you’re not a PC gamer. Deus Ex: Invisible War was released on the original Xbox, but as far as I know, it’s not backwards compatible on the Xbox 360, even if you can find a copy.

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