September 2nd, 2011

Top 10 Games of the Last Decade: #4 Deus Ex


James Hayward, our English nerd returns with another installment of his highly popular Top 10 Games of the Last Decade.

#4 Deus Ex

“Somehow the notion of unalienable liberty got lost. It’s really become a question of what liberties will the state assign to individuals or rather, what liberties we will have the strength to cling to.” Paul Denton – UNATCO

Deus Ex is set in a dystopian vision of the future where the population of the entire planet is threatened by a lethal pandemic known as the “Gray Death”. As JC Denton, you play the role of a nano-technologically augmented agent for the global organization, UNATCO who have assumed control of the distribution of “Ambrosia” (the only known cure for the virus).

The game begins with an attack by a terrorist group upon UNATCO’s ambrosia supply by the National Secessionist Forces (NSF). You are tasked with capturing the leader of this group and to recover the stolen vaccine. And so, with these twin objectives, you are turned loose into the world of Deus Ex with the freedom to play the game in any way you like. Will you favour stealth? Will you approach obstacles with force or choose to computer hack your way through? Will you choose to knock out or kill those who oppose you?

That Deus Ex, a game released back in 2000, gave you these kinds of options was impressive. That it responded to your behaviour, moving the plot forward in seemingly divergent ways based upon your choices was more than just impressive; at the time it was revolutionary. When combined with an intricate plot, largely derived from actual world conspiracy theories of the late 1990s, the resulting experience was immersive to an extent that was unprecedented in video games.

One of the other stand-out memories for me from playing this game was just how much background material the game gives you the option to read. Deus Ex is *filled* with terminals, notes, newspapers and books. Some of these serve the purpose of providing game information, such as a key code or a password, but others have the less direct (but brilliantly delivered) purpose of providing reflective or ironic literary references. Detailed information can be read on real world projects and institutions, such as the controversial ECHELON network or the Bilderberg Group. Both the literary and contemporary references really add to the atmosphere and often work on a Dan Brown kind of level where ‘accepted’ history is interspersed cleverly with the fiction of the game.

In some ways, I feel that the continuing near-universal exaltation of Deus Ex is also, in part, due to the fact that the issues raised by the plot in the game remain relevant, especially as we begin to enter the era of the digital world in which the game was imagined. We live in a world where trans-global corporations have intertwined themselves with national governments. The specter of terrorism and our fear of it have lead to the creation of new laws to be passed in the name of making us safer that also, in the long term; will lead to more governmental power over us.

All in all, the truth about Deus Ex is that it is a great game that requires patience to learn, perseverance to succeed at and, above all, a willingness to invest time (a lot of time) to complete. If you are willing to give it the kind of investment it needs to get going, then you’ll likely find that before long, you’re hooked!

The long awaited prequel to Deus Ex has just been released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. A review, here on COTN, is coming soon!

James Hayward

All content © 2009-2010 by Chronicles of the Nerds



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