Instead, let's talk about Deus Ex. Developed by the bitchmakers at Ion Storm in 2000 and headed by Epic Mickey's own Warren Spector (he also made some other games that weren't mediocre 3D platformers that would have felt right at home on the N64. You know, ones that I think are pretty good), Deus Ex is a game that can only be described as “Ambitious”. And, unlike plenty of other games that are ambitious, this one actually pulls off most of what it sets to accomplish without sucking in the process (coughAlphaProtocolcough). Certain aspects have aged worse than others, but it's less the individual aspects and more how those aspects interact that matters. To use a token cliché phrase, Deus Ex is more than the sum of its parts.
That's mostly because most of those parts aren't great, nor were they great in 2000 if some of the reviews are any indication. You've already heard me bitch about what I think of the shooting. Let me both re-emphasize and rephrase those statements: The combat part of Deus Ex is the worst part, especially in the beginning. We've already had this discussion about dice rolls. I think they suck. Thankfully, by the end of the game this problem is somewhat negated, as anyone with a brain has mastered rifles by then, and if you've been modding your assault rifle for accuracy and such, it will always hit. Sniper Rifles are a similar case, in that you can hit someone from halfway across the map in the head for a one hit kill. Melee combat is similarly aided by the introduction of the Dragon Tooth Sword, which is pretty much the single best weapon in the game. Because you get it only about halfway through and it kills most enemies in one hit. The rest, it kills in two or three hits. At that point, you just need to remember to activate your augmentation that makes you take significantly less damage from bullets. Because you maxed that out too, right?
Not to be flippant or anything, but there is clearly a right way to spec your JC Denton in Deus Ex. The RPG elements of this game are in a weird limbo of being too overbearing in some aspects yet underwhelming in others. I have to give them credit though; experience points are only issued when you go places, including hidden or alternate paths. Pistol Ammo is clearly the most prevalent type of ammo in the game, but there are exactly 4 weapons that use the pistol skill, none of which will help you outside of the early game: A pistol, a silenced pistol, a mini-crossbow that shoots tranquilizer darts and a plasma pistol that has one shot before being discarded. Any of these sound appealing? I thought so. Inversely, heavy weapons are crazy powerful, but they take up so much space in your inventory and ammo isn't exactly common. Melee weapons are the Dragon Tooth Sword and grenades are effective enough anyways without putting any points Thus, Rifles.
Thankfully, there is motivation enough to put points into non-combat skills, though once again there are clearly correct choices and incorrect choices. Why would you ever put points into environmental training or swimming? With the almost retarded amount of locks, keypads, and hackable computers in this game, those skills take precedence. Hacking and lockpicking aren't especially exciting in and of themselves like modern games have gone out of their way to do. You just equip the lockpick/multitool and click, but since so many good items that are behind locks, you do so. Hacking might be even more important. You can shut down turrets and cameras, and open doors and such without having to search the level for a login and password. What's not to understand? And then there are the augmentations. Put points into bullet resistance. Now put points into regeneration. Now put points in the power that makes all the other powers drain less power. There are some other ones that are vaguely useful, like being able to run super fast/silently, but when it gets down to it most of the augs are super circumstantial (yet practically required unless you want to die).
Sometimes, Deus Ex even wants to be a stealth game. It's not a very good one (see Spector's previous game Thief for evidence of what a good stealth game from that era is) but stealth is, once again, practically necessary in some circumstances and desirable in others. You could theoretically play the entire game stealthily, but it's the same way you could also theoretically play Baldur's Gate without any magic users, more trouble than it's worth. The reason is because there is no real indication of how hidden or stealthed you are, unlike the vision cones in Metal Gear Solid or the light gem in Thief (or the part where it says HIDDEN in either of the bethesda Fallouts). Thus, before you get to a point where enemies are easily vanquished, being discovered is a bad thing. Trial and error, frustration, etc. so on and so forth.
The story of Deus Ex is kind of dumb. Enjoyably dumb, but dumb nonetheless. Maybe The Da Vinci Code wasn't proof enough, but the overuse of conspiracy theories and secret societies to drive the plot is one that occasionally just reeks of laziness or unoriginality. Eh. At least the game gets the mood and atmosphere of a fairly grim future distopia in order. None of the characters are especially interesting either, being exactly what is shown to the player on the surface and without much explanation for their motivations. I feel like here is where I should talk about the voice acting, which ranges from competent to hilariously bad. JC Denton's unfeeling monotone is definitely the latter, as is the entire Hong Kong portion of the game. Borderline racist, I tell ya.
Then why, if the game has a fairly dumb story, bad combat, middling RPG elements, and not amazing stealth do I still like it? Well, if that cliché phrase wasn't enough to cement it in your heads, it's the way all these elements interact, within the context of the levels themselves. The true ambition in Deus Ex lies with the way there are multiple solutions for every single scenario and the way that most of them are equally viable. Don't want to go hunting for a key? Unlock the door with a lockpick or multitool. Want to avoid these guys? Sure. There's probably a vent or something you can crawl through. It's hard to express this in written form very well, but this is why Deus Ex works and isn't a shitty aged Action RPG that weird people on the internet like. It's like what Alpha Protocol was trying to do, but it actually does it. It's also apparently why Invisible War is the spawn of satan itself (which reminds me: now I have to play that game. You know, because I hate myself). Needless to say, people who've played the game know what I'm talking about. And that's really all that matters. You plebians out there who haven't played Deus Ex should do so. And then we can we can all be super disappointed by Human Revolution (Which is now on my radar). Huzzah! And now I can play Planescape. Or something. The end.