Everyone wears leather in the future; Sucks to be a future cow.
Released in June of 2000, Deus Ex tells the story of J.C. Denton, a special police operative in a future United States that has been wracked with terrorism. After embarking on a mission to neutralize a terrorist group, Denton discovers that not everything is as it seems and, after learning that his own government may actually be to blame, he soon finds himself an wanted outcast placed in the middle of a colossal conspiracy.
While Deus Ex could be considered a forebear of the style of first-person-shooter RPG that was later implemented to great effect in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3, Deux Ex still ranks in my mind as the best use of the FPSRPG system, the most brilliant implementation of which lies in its open-ended gameplay structure.
The game is built around a point-buy skill and trait based system, wherein, as Denton "levels", he can put more points into certain abilities, granting him further proficiency in them, while at the same time adding permanent traits which heavily augment gameplay. (A similar system appears in the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game.) The skills the player has to choose from are multivariate: Melee and ranged weapons are divided by type, while other skills such as computer hacking, stealth, and physical attributes are present as well. There are no social skills, but character interaction choices heavily define the gameplay (for example, choosing whether to go straight to a meeting or lagging behind to hang out with an ally or even following someone and eavesdropping on their conversation can all have very different outcomes). There is no one solution to any particular problem in the game: A player can sneak around back and assassinate the guards, hack the security turrets to take them out, talk to one of the enemies and try to gain access and even talk them down from their plan, or simply barge in the front gate, guns blazing. The benefits of adding more skills to combat powers (a sharper, more accurate reticule and more damage) is counterbalanced perfectly by similar benefits for other traits (more persuasive dialgue options or the ability to bypass more complex security measures).
The visuals present in Deus Ex have not aged well. The models are a bit clunky and the textures are laughable by today's standards, but the game still encapsulates a very well-defined and unified cyberpunk visual style that reminds me (in some ways) of games like Beyond Good and Evil where the futuristic elements are overlaid atop the more pedestrian, familiar aspects of the city. The game features a fully voiced dialogue with excellent acting (comparable even to modern releases such as Mass Effect) and a haunting, techno-orchestral musical score that accents the setting very well.
As the game's story unfolds, Denton is drawn ever deeper and deeper into the conspiracies surrounding him, meeting interesting characters along the way as well. Each character is well-fleshed-out and I really felt like they each exhibited a well-developed personality. (Daedalus ftw.) The plot evolves well, though some elements (i.e. Area 51) did seem a bit outlandish. The game has multiple endings depending on the choices you make and the alliances you forge (or discard) as you play through the game.
Overall, Deus Ex is by far one of the best games I have ever played. Every element of the game speaks to the style and care implemented in its creation. It seamlessly blends an action game and a role playing game while at the same time spinning a memorable tale set in a vibrant, living world that I can't wait to go back and visit again.