Remember how I said (a very, very long time ago) that I was making an effort to play a lot of the most influential computer games? Well, after finishing Half-Life, I went quite a while without playing games.
Then, in November, I bought The Orange Box, and played Portal. Portal is an excellent though short first-person puzzle game that forces players to think hard about game physics — that’s a first. It features a “portal gun” which allows the player to teleport. I really enjoyed Portal, as did most people.
But what I’m writing about now is a game released in 2000, called Deus Ex. Developed by the generally disappointing group Ion Storm, Deus Ex is considered one of the best PC games of all time. I (not so) recently completed it, and I must wholeheartedly agree.
In 2052, you are JC Denton, a member of UNATCO, the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. An early test subject for nano-augmentation, you have superhuman abilities due to modifications made to you at birth. The world is in a downward spiral, as the Gray Death pandemic is killing the lower classes; while a vaccine, Ambrosia, exists, it is in short supply.
You have just been assigned your first UNATCO mission. A terrorist group, the NSF, has captured a shipment of Ambrosia on Liberty Island and you are tasked with recovering it. As you continue to pursue the NSF, you end up at LaGuardia Airport where the Ambrosia is being kept…and you find that a UNATCO ally very close to you is actually working for the NSF.
Uncovering the mystery reveals sinister connections with FEMA, Majestic 12, and the Illuminati as you travel between New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. The final battle takes place at Area 51, where the future of the world is placed in your hands. Do you want to merge yourself with the global communications network and become benevolent dictator of the world? Do you want to destroy the network and plunge the world into a second Dark Age? Or would you prefer to return the Illuminati to power, guiding the world’s governments with an invisible hand?
The massive amount of freedom afforded the player by Deus Ex is incredible. Every area is designed to allow many ways to accomplish each task. It is actually possible to beat the game without killing anybody — and even without going to such extremes, players’ strategies can range from stealth to all-out violence. There’s no sense of the “right way” to do anything in Deus Ex — any way that works is great. The plot is highly fluid, and while players end up in the same places at the same times, small actions from hours ago influence who survives and who is friendly.
All in all, I thought Deus Ex was a great game with a great story. I’m playing Halo right now, which kinda bores me with its focus on massive battles. Can anybody suggest more great games?