Deus Ex - Walter Simons, you sexy dog

I just finished playing through Deus Ex again, and I’m perfectly happy with stating that Chick’s huffing glue. What the hell was he complaining about?

If you attack a character and do not kill him, everyone instantly knows where you are. It doesn’t matter if you had a silencer on a sniper rifle and attacked from the top of a building half way down the block; they’ll know exactly where you’re crouching.

Wha? Never happened to me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but christ, by the standards of the time it was pretty good. What-ever.

I don’t know who pointed it out first, but the expression on JC’s face when he finds out there’s a bomb on Jock’s helicopter - “A BOMB?”, slackjawed, is one of the funniest things ever put in a game.

Oh, and conspiracy theories have really taken on the role of religion in the industrial era, haven’t they?

What about the enemy AI that seems incapable of moving diagonally. It’s always L-shapes. Move to a point where you’re perpendicular to the wall and your target, move towards your target.

Or how the “Brilliant AI” tends to bunch up in doorways.

I get a lot of shit from friends for it, But I think Tom was spot on with his review.

The international hobo union must have sent some serious payoffs to Ion Storm, too; I’ve never seen so many homeless in a single game.

If the AI is so damn bad, how come its perfectly capable of killing you? Seriously, is it that much worse than any other FPS out there?

I’d say Half-Life had it beat by a lightyear. And that wasn’t even “real AI,” it was a series of scripted reactions. Still actually felt more impressive than a fight with Deus Ex’s lightweight automatons.

As for better “real AI,” try Thief.

So the AI stinks compared to the best of the genre? Oh no! I just played it the entire way through and had no issues with it - maybe I’m a lower class of FPS player.

Really? Did you do much sniping? I learned quickly that there was no point to hiding. Just find a spot with long lines of fire & depopulate the level as the guards ran to get me.

I played a primarily melee character, but I occasionally took out people from extreme range with the crossbow. As long as no one else is standing within a given range of your target when he drops, no one reacts.

As to the chasing - they don’t follow you, they just run to where the shot came from. You can fire from one corner of a building and run to the other corner, and they won’t follow you unless they can see or hear you doing so. I’m not sure what you want, either; should troops just stand there while you blast away from 1 mile?

That’s not the problem. The problem is that if you only wound him, all of the guards anywhere know your location instantly. Successful sniper shots let you stay hidden, but the price for failure is full disclosure of your location.

Of course not. They should respond (take cover, search for shooter, call for help - anything a person might actually do), but to have them respond with perfect knowledge of the shooters location is silly. As I recall, it even happens with remote explosives.

What’s wrong with them running towards towards the location the shot came from? I think soldiers could figure out that when someone goes flying to the left with a bullet in 'em, the shot came from the right. And without it, you can just fire, duck, repeat - it’s cruddy gameplay.

Not all guards are alerted, unless someone sets off the alarm - only those in a given radius.

I agree on the wall LAM thing, but in general the AI objections are just wierd.

Here’s the deal with Chick’s review.

He nails every single flaw in the game… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a review point out flaws in such a thorough way before. Its like he is writing from a chicklist. This is a Quality Control document disguised as a review. Even so, he’s probably only 75% accurate in his flaw analysis. Bioelectric Energy is not in particularly short supply. The Unreal engine is not a weakness… why would it be BETTER if there were more people walking the streets? This isn’t The Sims. “In a misstep of stunning proportions”… is this a serious review?

He either ignores or underappreciates every single strength in the game. The conspiracy theme was brilliantly executed. The game was about the culture and history of conspiracy primarily, and about A conspiracy secondarily. Since its about culture and history, OF COURSE its going to include everything and the kitchen sink. That it manages to be so focused and actually HAVE a narrative is remarkable given the material. The pacing through the game was excellent. This was a game that you play on the edge of your seat, at least the first time through.

The game also generated a ton of tension. The atmosphere of the game was very impressive. You really felt dark, stealthy, scared, tense, paranoid throughout the game… an artistic feat of game design.

The story was excellent and deep. Even beyond the conspiracy references, there are many religious and cultural landmarks treated brilliantly by the game design and writing. This is a much much deeper game than, say, either Thief game or either System Shock… possibly deeper than any game ever made, come to think of it.

Even Doom can be given a “bad rating” if you do to it what Chick did to Deus Ex…

This game is dark. If you can’t see well what’s the point?

You mean I can’t go up or down? What’s up with this engine? Ultima Underworld can do it but this piece of shit can’t? Obviously the Doom engine is a “misstep of stunning proportions”.

Weak industrial metal music through the ENTIRE game? What are they thinking? BORING.

Where’s a plot in this thing? I can’t find one anywhere.

Doom isn’t all bad though, its only 90% bad. There’ll be times when you’re sneaking up on a monster, its fun. But just as you’re starting to get into the spirit of things, something lame happens - you’ll have to use your weapon, you’ll have to stop for a moment to catch your breath, you’ll die and have to reload - and Doom reminds you that you’re playing a brainless, juvenile game with horrid music that uses one of the worst possible engines to tell a nonexistent story in unimaginative settings. Other than that, I suppose Doom is okay.

Oh my, I haven’t revisited this topic in a while! I’m pretty sure the review speaks for itself for the most part. But to elaborate:

The Unreal engine was a horrible choice at the time. Horrible. It bogged down frame rates back then (it probably runs fine on modern hardware) and limited Ion Storm in terms of what they could do (not that it stopped them from trying). For instance, I seem to recall every building having a long tunnel between the entrance and the interior proper, which was probably a product of how Unreal handled level transitions.

The AI was a big problem for its lack of consistency and the holes in how it behaved. It was trying to accomplish something bold and I felt it failed. I don’t know if it was addressed in any patches, but the release version was in terrible shape. Some games fare better with bad AI (Doom, for instance). Deus Ex, which was trying to present a believable analog of the real world to offer you freedom, immersion, blah, blah, blah… suffered something terrible for it.

As a narrative construct, Deus Ex felt like a big messy grab bag of everything that makes computer games the unimaginative cliches they usually are. I seem to recall Mr. Koontz posting some treatise on how Deus Ex was about The New Man, or some such thing, but I must have missed that part of the game by taking a different fork. I dunno. All I got were Men in Black and a magic sword and some spiders and stuff.

Of course, I haven’t played the game since it came out, so maybe I’m just misremembering. :)

 -Tom

Ah yes, the infamous Tom Chick Deus Ex Review. Even if Tom’s right about all the flaws, it’s still a helluva game. I mean, the AI in Morrowind is even more non-existant (L-shape? Try I-shape), but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most addicting games I’ve ever played. Sometimes a game can be so engrossing, you easily overlook its flaws. Deus Ex fits that category easily.

Tom was clearly not in the mood to play this game, and was probably suffering from the dreaded “jaded gamer” syndrome at the time. He sticks by the review and that’s fine but now he must suffer the consequence of pointless threads like this one, years after writing the review.

BTW that link to gamesdomain was not Tom’s original DX review, was it? I seem to recall he made a comment that throwing a basketball at a guard did not elicit an appropriate response from the guard (which to me went way beyond nitpicky). Was that a different review?

Here are a few essays on Deus Ex. The first one is about Paul’s “illness” in the 'ton Hotel. I fought for my interpretation of it as psychological on the PDX forums…


But think about the human response to knowing you will die in a short time, and not having anything you can do to prevent it. Doesn’t the very thought make you… ill?

Paul was STRESSED OUT. He was sitting in a chair… almost HUNCHED in the chair, fatalizing over his last hours among the living (and wondering what the hell would happen as increased punishment while his clock was ticking down).

The Killswitch did not literally cause the illness, but its terrible reality did, for Paul.

Notice how easily Paul’s “illness” was negated once JC saved him… he made his way past lots of UNATCO and out the front door of the 'ton, before apparently being captured at some point (later found in the MJ12 facilities). If the guy was physically ill he couldn’t have pulled this off… I had serious problems doing the same thing with a stealthy approach from JC!

Paul’s illness went away because JC gave him new HOPE… a hope for life he did not previously have, AND…

A Hope for the continued life of the resistance, as JC was able to send the warning signal (something Paul might have done had he been more brave).

Also, from Paul’s perspective he may well have preferred JC to send the signal. To make sure JC was fully WITH the resistance… to make sure there was no turning back. Notice that right afterward Simons declares war on JC… a war that Paul wants.

Now… why doesn’t JC have a “human” response to the Killswitch… with more dread? Well, one is that he knows of a solution (Tong). But of course Paul also knows of Tong, which implies that his dread is more a factor of being uncertain about JC being successful in his signal mission. The second is that JC is a Christ Figure… and something “more” than human.

This scenario is just another reason why Deus Ex is one of the greatest games of all time, and why those reasons have much to do with art.

This one comments on the meaning of the title, an abbreviation for Deus Ex Machina…


The ill-fated Zyrael (Hay-lover aka King Kashue must have put a horse’s head in his bed, scaring him away from the forums) left us with a golden nugget before that tragic event…

The game ITSELF is Deus Ex Machina.

The play is human culture… human history you could say.

The game Deus Ex is…

A person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.

The core tenet of Deus Ex - its understanding of the near future (or even present) condition of human culture, Insufficient Humanity, is according to the game an apparently insoluble difficulty. Through the actions of the Deus Ex characters (Page, Denton, Everett, etc) a solution is achieved.

For those two posts ALONE Deus Ex sucks.

This one has overall comments on the art of the game. I hope Tom Chick reads this…


This is a modified repost of things I wrote on Gamespy’s main board. It doesn’t make 100% sense since it is an amalgamation of a few different posts, but I tried to keep things semi-organized.

Over there I am engaged in a three-fold argument. One that presents Deus Ex as a work of art, the second that “Man becoming Machine” is the primary theme of Deus Ex, and the third that presents the Helios ending as the most important one (the most logical one based on the meaning of the game), and the one which is likely to be followed upon in Deus Ex 2.

JC Denton if anything symbolizes not the war between man and machine, but the transition.

Even Page’s goal was to merge with Helios (become machine). Page’s goal was to become “pure energy”, and Page was ostensibly the HUMAN factor in the game!

Understand too what a machine is and the whole reason for machines… to generate non-biological intelligence… intelligence derived from a non-biological source. Machines are to men what children are to women.

An interesting thing to note also is the personalities of the characters. Page as supremely passionate and a bit unhinged, Helios as utterly calm and calculating. And JC Denton? Not only did he oppose Page throughout the game (and never bothered to oppose Helios), his PERSONALITY more accurately reflected Helios than Page. And JC’s brother, which can only be called his last real link to humanity, much much more easily dies in the game than lives (you really have to work your ass off to keep him alive). So with him dead and JC already on “Helios’s side”, where do you think JC is headed?

JC Denton’s development during the game is to become MORE of a machine. You are adding not human elements to him but rather machine elements. JC adds cybernetic implants as he progresses… until he has machines which can kick in in any part of his body (well, almost any, sorry ladies) at any time whenever his “humanity” is insufficient. And isn’t the overriding theme of the game “Humanity is insufficient”? The solution to the problem of Humanity… Machine.

Page’s transition at the end (not to mention his entire GOAL) is to become more of a machine, and he FAILS when his link to the machine is broken.

Even Helios becomes more of a machine as he progresses from Daedalus/Icarus(sp?), who both have more human personalities (Icarus seeming a whole lot like Bob Page), to the utter “rationality” of Helios. Helios achieved HIS “becoming a machine” goal. And when Helios becomes the ultimate machine he is ready to become a god. And the name Helios refers to the Sun. Aka “light from above” or enabler of life, etc.

Early in the game the enemies are primarily human. Later in the game the enemy moves more and more heavily to bots. The world surrounding JC Denton thus becomes more and more a matter of machines.

The game had a few incredible settings. One was Everett’s house. Take a look at this

There are three main figures in Everett’s house. DeBeers, Everett, and whatever that machine thing was called (realistically he was an earlier version of Helios).

DeBeers represents humanity and the past, and is dying. JC Denton puts him out of his misery… aka puts humans out of their misery. Everett represents the transition and the present, as he created the machine which will succeed him.

And the machine… as naive as a child. Simple, honest, yet displaying much of the arrogance that Helios would later entail. Everett gave birth to him and he is still young (and he himself states, he is an unfinished version). DeBeers exists in a cold tomb. The machine exists next to a room with growing plants. Which is more alive?

A dying old man, an adult, and a child. The past, present, and future. And JC interacts with it all.

JC… interesting initials, wouldn’t you say? Who else has those initials? Someone else who went through life in search of a god.

Also, as a final note. JC looks upward on the box, as a light shines down. A simple religious reference to God and heaven.

Where do you think Helios is situated at the end? Do you remember?

Helios is at the top of an elevator. JC rises, rises, rises to meet him. He could have looked up and saw Helios’s light…

Man becoming machine.

The Unreal engine was a horrible choice at the time. Horrible. It bogged down frame rates back then

Oh, I can’t argue with that, it was atrocious, especially so on non-voodoo hardware. It’s quite playable now on a GF4 though.

Tom, you seem to be suspiciously close to saying bad AI is ok when it’s “monsters”, but not when it’s humans. Or something.

Tom was clearly not in the mood to play this game, and was probably suffering from the dreaded “jaded gamer” syndrome at the time.

Pshaw. I love games like Deus Ex.

BTW that link to gamesdomain was not Tom’s original DX review, was it? I seem to recall he made a comment that throwing a basketball at a guard did not elicit an appropriate response from the guard (which to me went way beyond nitpicky). Was that a different review?

The original review was rejected by Gamecenter, who never gave me another assignment after that, but Games Domain let me expand on it and they ran a longer version (this all came out because Gamecenter still used my screenshots).

I seem to recall the basketball thing, but I don’t know if the comment was mine or someone else’s. The point was that you could bounce a basketball off someone’s head and they wouldn’t react to it. This illustrates the extra burden placed on developers if they want to create the illusion of freedom in a game. There have to be consequences or the player’s choices aren’t meaningful. It wasn’t until Grand Theft Auto, of all things, that this design imperative was really appreciated.

 -Tom

This is a very funny post I made that Tom Chick will appreciate…


In Reply To #5

Its the secret augmentation, the one given to JC Denton that not even he knows about and that is constantly on (and works on advanced technology, powered by Denton’s normal bodily functions and requires no Bioelectrical Energy).

Every targetable enemy in Denton’s presence becomes… stupid. Guards find it totally reasonable after seeing the only human perhaps on the planet with the build and fashion-sense of JC to quip “Must have been a homeless guy” after the guy panics and ducks out of way, obviously implicating himself (out of curiosity, are homeless guys in the habit of extremely quick lateral movement when casually spotted?.. I must be out of touch to think homeless guys would not be hyper-athletic and paranoid). Guards after CHASING and getting into a protracted firefight with JC give up after a while, not contacting their comrades to be on “Red Alert” and giving coordinates for a manhunt to track JC down.

Eyesight, generally considered to form “90% of sensible reality”, cannot possibly account for that number with respect to the victims of JC’s “Stupidity-inducing Aug”, who take an amazing amount of time to identify someone who NEVER CHANGES HIS FUCKING OUTFIT throughout the entire game. Who cares about disguising yourself when you have the power of the “SI” Aug at your disposal (and besides, JC cannot possibly do without his “trenchcoat” look… he even takes showers with it on. It hasn’t been drycleaned in two years… I’m surprised noone in the game complained about the smell. JC doesn’t even OWN a second pair of underwear. Think about it.)

In the eternal “Man vs. Animal” Debate, JC argues effectively that they are in fact equal, as Dogs are just as intelligent as other enemy targetables in JC’s presence. They in fact eerily seem to share the same special intelligence (special as in ready-made for the special olympics).

Paul Denton meanwhile has regular appointments with a psychiatrist, complaining with “Goddammit!.. guards hunt me down without remorse!.. what the hell is JC’s secret?”

If only he knew about JC’s secret weapon… the only thing which POSSIBLY allows him to survive even a split-second on the mean streets he frequents.

Yes… the Stupidity-Inducing Augmentation.

JC’s motto: If you can’t beat 'em, make 'em braindead.

Guards find it totally reasonable after seeing the only human perhaps on the planet with the build and fashion-sense of JC to quip “Must have been a homeless guy”

Heh. Reminds me of Metal Gear Solid…

“Huh? What was that… Oh. It’s just a box.” over and over again.

When I first played Deus Ex, I was non-plussed. The interface was poor, despite it’s many similarities to System Shock 2, both visually and functionally. Their implementation of the Unreal engine caused my machine to cough and sputter and twitch, no matter how much money I dropped into upgrades. I wanted to like the game, but when you can’t even PLAY it, it’s a no go.

However, I got the GOTY edition with some piece of hardware as a free bonus disc… So on a whim I decided to give it another shot. I was pretty well hooked. I played through the campaign, and then went back through my saves and took alternate routes. The depth of the game is amazing.

Yeah, the AI is a little dodgy. To me, though, this game came out just when the emphasis on AI was just starting to be pushed. Until then, it was all about the bigger, better graphics, with a few notable exceptions. Is it human? No. Is it reasonable? I think so. It was just perceptive enough to be challenging, and just dumb enough to be fun.

And hey, at least it’s not Daikatana.