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The International Writers Magazine: Gaming

Deus Ex
Developed by Ion Storm
Distributed by Eidos.
Jack Clarkson

"Deus Ex" is the first half of the Latin saying, "Deus Ex Machina", God from the machine. It’s the term for a plot device in which something comes along and just makes everything better like some kind of narrative Chuck Norris. The fact that in a game, you the player are always a Deus Ex Machina for whatever’s wrong in the world is only one of about twelve reasons for the title of this game; the fact that you can basically become Robot Jesus is one of the others…

The game stars JC Denton. (Anyone who noticed the symbolism in his initials can have a cookie! Anyone who’d already noticed it in mine can have five!) An experimental super-soldier working for a government anti-terror organisation called UNATCO, whilst a plague called the ‘grey death’ slowly kills the world’s population.
As you play through the game, the nature of the plague, the terrorists you fight so vehemently against and even the moral standing of UNATCO themselves are all brought into question. Soon enough JC finds himself embroiled in a global conspiracy of Epic proportions!
That’s all I can say about the story really… Because it’s different every time you play it.

This is one of those games where half the fun is talking to other people who’ve played it and seeing how they did it differently. I even once heard some friends say...
"The part I liked the most was the bit where your brother died."
"Wait? He died? He didn’t when I played it!"

When I found myself lost at one point (it turned out to be my fault in the end), I looked up a walkthrough on the internet. It told me I would have to fight one of my former colleagues, Anna Navarre, in order to get the key out of there… Unfortunately this didn’t help much, since about three hours prior I had turned around and blown her face off with a shotgun! In my defence, she deserved it! (I’ll leave it to you to find out why!) But the best thing about this game is that it didn’t matter, because there were other ways to progress through the section instead!

This is one of those few games, a rare gem in an ocean of filth, where your choices can be a ruthless bloodbath, silent ninja and anything in between. You can finish this game without killing anyone at all if you’re good enough. And with this game you will probably want to when you hear what some of the enemies have to say! When you hear an enemy soldier talk about how he has to pick his daughter up from school later and how he is so proud of her, it just doesn’t feel right to hurt him…

There are at least five ways through any given part of the game. Choices like ‘Guns-Blazing’, ‘Sneaking-Around’, ‘Hacking-Computers’, ‘Picking-Locks’, ‘Finding-Keys/Passwords’ and ‘Just-Plain-Asking-People-For-A-Bit-Of-Help’. Those methods can be mixed and matched at any point at will to get whatever results you want. And the diversity gets even greater when you get to the augmentations.

Remember what I said earlier about JC being a super-soldier? Well it turns out he can even upgrade his own body! Along the way, you will find ‘augmentation canisters’ that each offer you an irreversible choice between two special abilities. For instance I found one that offered either a cloaking device, making you invisible to humans, or a radar cloak, that made you invisible to all kinds of robots, security cameras and stuff… And which choice you make has an enormous effect on how you play the game from then on. The first time I played the game I chose the normal cloak. I was leaping at people from the air ducts and cutting their throats like Predator, but the game turned into a less sexy, more dangerous episode of Benny Hill whenever they brought the robots in!

You would have to play this game hundreds of times to get the full experience out of it!
Unfortunately, the game is rather old, so the graphics do look incredibly dated. I was able to forgive this in light of the amazing voice-acting, something you never see in videogames even today!

Secondly, the shoddy AI (Artificial Intelligence) of the enemies can betray itself in some amazing suspension-of-disbelief destroying spectacles! For instance, there is an option to pick dead bodies up in order to hide them, but this ability is absolutely useless when you realise that other enemies don’t seem to be able to see their fallen comrades sprawled out and still bleeding in front of them. This became a standard feature of any stealth game around the time I turned six! (Literally!)

Thirdly, when we gamers say games were harder back when we were young… We’re not talking with a sense of mis-placed nostalgia… We mean it! (For proof compare Half-Life and Half-Life 2.) Try playing this game on anything other than Easy or Medium and you will be in for a lead enema within seconds! But that’s okay; the game doesn’t get frustrating when you can just look for another way around a problem instead of having to face the same situation over and over again like most games!

As well as being groundbreaking in terms of game play, this game also has one of the most gripping storylines I have ever seen. There is a religious symbolism running through the entire story that I absolutely loved, whilst also raising questions about nature versus nurture, and an entire political debate about terrorism and totalitarianism. All taking place at the same time as you start to feel lost amongst the conflicting agendas of all the supporting characters.

If you’ve ever wanted to see what all those youngsters are up to when you’re too busy to actually take an active role in their upbringing. Then you owe it to yourself to find a copy of this game! (They can be found for about £5 in most shops, and most gamers will happily give you their copy if you just ask them nicely.)

Ask any intelligent gamer what the worlds greatest games are, Deus Ex will be one of them, along with Half-Life 2, Fallout, The Grim Fandango and Power-Explosionfist 3!

If you can’t tell which of those games I just made up you really have to stay in more often!

© Jack Clarkson. December 2007
Shl60522 at

Jack is studying Creative Writing and Death at the University of Portsmouth

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