Deus Ex

J.C. Denton, badass

   It's the near future, and it stinks. Deadly new viruses have wiped out most of the world's population. Terrorists, drugs, and fear control the streets. And every conspiracy you can imagine is probably true. You are J.C. Denton, fresh recruit for UNATCO, the United Nations Anti-Terrorist COalition. Your headquarters are the bombed out remains of New York City's Liberty Island. Your body has been enhanced with the latest nanotechnology; your equipment is state-of-the-art. Somebody's got to protect this cesspool of a world, and that person is you.

   The game is Deus Ex, and it is the brainchild of developer Warren Spector and development house ION Storm Austin. Spector is the mind behind Ultima Underworld and System Shock, two of the PC's most creative and groundbreaking RPGs. Deus Ex was his attempt to take his unique formula to the next level, and, by most accounts, he succeeded. The game was released to critical acclaim on PC last year; now, after a canceled Dreamcast version, console gamers will finally get to see what all the fuss is about when Deus Ex is released for PlayStation 2 this winter.

Even the parks are ominous

   At every step, the designers have struggled to create a realistic, believable, and interesting world. The environments are a cross between Blade Runner, Akira, and X-Files; wasted cityscapes and amazing technology meet conspiracies of all sizes: small, large, and unfathomable. Locations include the aforementioned Liberty Island, New York City's Battery Park, Hong Kong, Paris, and Area 51. Whenever possible, the level designs are based on actual photographs and location scouting. The entire game is set at night, giving a suitably ominous mood to the proceedings.

   Every aspect of the game will offer multiple solutions, allowing for extreme character differentiation and a personalized gameplay experience. Spector provides the example of retrieving an item from a safe. One character could hack into a computer and get the combination. A second could pick off a guard and steal his key. A third could open the safe with controlled demolitions that leave the contents intact. The game isn't picky about how you complete tasks, as long as you complete them. No matter what your character's skill set, the puzzles will have a solution; you will never be "screwed" because you lack a particular skill.

  Skill Set
Your character has a wide skill set ;> (PC version)

   Skills in the game include computers, electronics, environmental training, lockpicking, medicine, swimming, demolitions, heavy weapons, low-technology weapons, pistol, and rifle. Each skill has four levels of knowledge: untrained, trained, advanced, and master. Skills are upgraded by assigning earned experience points. There won't be enough points to master every skill; in fact, there will only be enough to earn "master" or "advanced" status in a single skill, with enough left over for "trained" in several categories. Players can use any skill regardless of their expertise; but the effectiveness, of course, will vary.

   Gamers will augment their character's skills with cybernetic upgrades and nanotechnology. Throughout the game, you will acquire upgrade canisters that contain two mutually exclusive abilities; the player must choose which ability they believe will be more useful. The player can obtain either night vision OR a zoom lens; the ability to move silently at any speed OR to run faster and jump higher.

   What you say to NPCs is as important to the game's direction as the skills you choose. Characters remember what you say to them; past actions determine future possibilities and responses. "The whole game at its core level is about choice and consequence," says Spector. "There won't be any response that won't have some kind of affect on the game world."

   Despite the gameplay freedom, Deus Ex gives gamers a linear narrative filled with conspiracies and twists. You can talk with NPCs via branching dialogue trees, as well as watch preset cutscenes that unfold important story elements. All dialogue in the game uses full voice-overs.

Deus Ex
Denton models his new model.

   The PlayStation 2 conversion of the game will maintain the same story and gameplay as last year's PC version, but the technology behind them has been given a substantial upgrade. The somewhat blocky characters of the original have been replaced with new, higher-quality models, and ION is implementing a skeletal animation system for more realistic motion. The world of the game has been redone as well, with improved textures and an increased polygon count. Add in enhanced lighting and particle effects, and resampled sound, and you should have a game that's able to stand up the current crop of PS2 titles.

   But the bigger hurdle may be adapting Deus Ex's complex control scheme to the PS2's DualShock2. The original employed the tried and true keyboard and mouse, and the game's wide variety of actions and complicated menus ensured they were put to good use. Eidos, however, assures that the control is being completely redone for the console port and the interface has been simplified and streamlined. An auto aiming feature has even been added to make combat less unwieldy.

   PC-to-console success stories are few and far between, but with its creative setting and fantastic gameplay freedom, Deus Ex may be the game to break the mold. At the very least, it should provide a much needed shot-in-the-arm for an often stagnant genre on consoles. But with the PlayStation 2 still awaiting its first wave of quality RPGs from Japan, Deus Ex may provide an unexpected rescue for genre fans when its released this November.

Preview by Andrew Vestal and Zak McClendon, GIA.
Deus Ex
Developer ION Storm
Publisher Eidos
Genre Action RPG
Medium DVD-ROM
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  11.01
Deus Ex makes the jump to PS2
11 PS2 screenshots
Character renders / sketches