I’m reminded of Warren Spector’s classic shooter RPG because it’s free on GameTap this week. If you haven’t played “Deus Ex” — or think its sequel “Deus Ex: Invisible War” is representative of the original’s greatness — it’s worth your while to check it out.
There are few modern games that allowed the kind of true freedom and consequence that was afforded to players in “Deus Ex.” Actually, I can’t recall feeling the same measure of choice until “Grand Theft Auto IV” forced me to choose between killing two people.
The choices in “Deus Ex,” however, were different. While you always made them, often times “Deus Ex” never made you aware there were other options.
For instance, there are several opportunities to kill off one of the main antagonists, Anna Navarre — but you don’t have to. You have several chances to take out Navarre, though all but one are forced on you. Another character, Gunther Hermann, actually starts attacking you. Your first instinct may be to take him out — but you don’t have to.
If you’re smart, there are ways to avoid fighting Hermann. The character lives on and continues to play a part in the storyline. You might never realize this was an opportunity the first time you played through “Deux Ex,” and that was part of the beauty of it. You discovered the replaybility by sharing your stories with other players and realizing, “Wow, I could do that?”
That said, for as many times as “Deus Ex” allowed decisions relying on player-experimentation, twice as often it didn’t. There are large parts of user-created FAQs that lay out which characters are killable — and when. Some characters aren’t killable early in the game, but become killable later in the story.
Plenty of games offer choice these days, but the consequences of those do not fall on the player alone. There were narrative moments in “Deus Ex” where players were forced to make one decision or the other, but the truly satisfying ones; the decisions that made you step back were the ones you didn’t realize you could make.
“Deus Ex: Invisible War” tried to expand on this, but it wasn’t as compelling. Whether that’s because “Deus Ex” was partially a happy accident or Warren Spector removing himself as the chief architect, “Deux Ex” remains the master.
And that’s why you should play “Deus Ex” on GameTap this week. Or, if you’re like me, scour around eBay and buy another copy.