Deus Ex is a first-person shooter set in a dark, grim, near future. Gameplay is similar to that of Thief, with stealth being at least as important as racking up a high body count. There is no multi-player mode in the game -- it's just you against the computer.
Disease ravages the population while the struggle for the much-in demand antidote "Ambrosia" rages on. Trying to keep order and make some sense of the situation is J.C. Denton, a cybernetically augmented agent of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO) who is up against National Secessionist Forces (NSF), re-packaged Triads, and the shadowy underground known as Silhouette.
The maps are large and require time to explore, with the first arena being a blown-up Statue of Liberty. Each set location is highly interactive with door locks to be picked, security cameras to bypass, and computer terminals for hints and codes. Books and newspapers picked up during exploration provide interesting, moody background, as well as an occasional clue. Buildings and areas of conflict are not always linear and often offer multiple entry points.
Various personalities dot the landscape. The UNATCO soldier, the undercover contact disguised as a bum, the poor, hungry kid -- all have different degrees of interaction with Denton. Some will say just a line or two while others have entire black-market scams and try to sell you useful items. Some NPCs initiate cut-scenes, in which they impart important information. The bad guys mutter and hum while on sentry duty, and come running and dodging when the bullet ballet starts.
When talk is useless and weapons carry the conversation, there is a mix to be had, from the ubiquitous pistols and shotguns to flamethrowers, throwing knives, and mini-crossbows. Some serious military ordnance can be carried as well, such as rocket and grenade launchers, assault rifles, and several types of grenades (including the Electro Magnetic Pulse grenade for taking out the robotic defenses). Non-lethal means of attack are also available and include tranquilizer darts for the crossbow, a riot prod (similar to a taser), gas grenades, and the tried-and-true baton. A non-lethal approach is appreciated by UNATCO, making for some interesting decisions.
You can't carry everything, however, and inventory management becomes a challenge. You'll have choices to make, ranging from items such as soda-pop (useful for a bit of health restoration and bribes) to the weapons you'll need. All sorts of electronics can be found in the game's environments, along with several tools used to manipulate them. Lock picks and micro-tools are needed because brute strength won't always get the job done. Electro fuel cells are required to power your cybernetic abilities, such as night sight and extra melee strength, while new cybernetic augmentation canisters upgrade and vary your built-in abilities.
Conversations, mission goals and logs of what you do are available with a couple of keystrokes, making bookkeeping and note taking easier. If you do want to add your own comments, you can type them directly into the standard note section.
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