Deus Ex: The Conspiracy User Review
After it's recent release on PSN, I figured why the hell not write a review? There's enough knowledge for me to state the brilliances and issues with this game. And considering it's a classic, some of those cons turn to be straight out pros.
*Note: Considering this is a port from the original PC version, I'll be mentioning differences between Deus Ex and Deus Ex: The Conspiracy*
The world of Deus Ex is set in a Dystopian sh*thole following the events of a terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty. Notice in the first mission the Twin Towers are missing from the pre-rendered backdrop...but the game was made in the year 2000... Their excuse was that they had no "space" to squeeze in those two tall splodges of light and shadow texture into the background... Creepy, right? Well this game has that special effect on people: the ability to question the world we live in. It's not just a game, or an experience. Deus Ex is a message in itself.
And what better way to address our questions than with a trenchcoat and shades wearing badass whose initials adopt from Jesus Christ himself? In the orderly wreckage of a wordly state we enter the boots of JC Denton, "in the fresh, as dark and serious as his brother" Paul. Both agents are raised by the elite to work for an international force and are augmented with nanomachines to enhance their badassness. It all seems like they have a sense freedom, as we do....
...though as with Deus Ex, turns out everything is a lie. It's also called Deus Ex for a reason, but let's not spoil anything further.
Hahha. Well. The first thing you may notice with this oldie is how fugly it looks. Perhaps it'll be too unbearable and you won't be able to strive pass the first few levels. You can't even see your feet. The game was based on the first Unreal engine after all, and the amount of leeway in the maps proves they needed to sacrifice a certain amount of detail; even for the day it came out it didn't exactly have jaw dropping visuals. But in this day and age where it's considered a classic, that sh*t gets overlooked. So let's look over the prowess and take a look at the artistic direction.
Deus Ex is dark. It's as if they want you to see the entire game through JC's sunglasses. Fortunately, just like his eyes, the game is filled with bright ideas. But just like his shades, they cover those ideas with a darkness, animating the tragedy and espionage loneliness you feel when you play it (⌐■_■)). And in your state of concealment, monuments and important objects will shine brightly with great contrast, yet they'll still seem stained by the murky, messy, cyberpunk environment...oh, plus the glorified lies and surveillance...
Fortunately the PS2 render happens to include a tad more graphical detail. The ugly part though is that for some reason the detail seems to almost smear, causing messy shadow patches and slight jag; I prefer the smoother silkier tones of the PC version. But fear not, for a key advantage for Deus Ex: the Conspiracy lies in the addition of new pre-rendered cutscenes - they only appear at the beginning and end, but it's a nice bonus...
...let me also rephrase: in this day and age where it's considered a classic, that excrement gets overlooked. So let's look over the prowess and have a listen to the music.
I'm presuming everyone knows, but music is an underlying feature for unforgettable presentation, and so if any other forms of presentation didn't already make this game for what it is, then the music immortalized it (I stole this quote). Nearly every soundtrack is memorable enough but what I applaud the composers mostly for is how each theme seems to portray every scenario so fittingly that it fortifies the overall atmosphere. Of course this should be exemplary for any videogame score, but I mean this is so well done that it's one of those games where randomly remembering a theme whilst engaging in any daily ritual will fire a jolt of nostalgia so deep into your brain that you'll be longing to rekindle it within seconds. But it's no good just me praising it; I'll add detail:
You start your first few missions pretty much within New York City, a place of grim stature compared to what we know currently, and to accompany this refuse laden city, themes such as 'Battery Park' play in slow tempo - steel pipe sounding percussion with major notes corrupted to bring a sense of irony to the track, just like the situation we're set in. Rendezvous within the UNATCO HQ will provide you with a more relaxed and familiar UNATCO theme to settle the player and feel as if he's in a haven. When the plot thickens and reality of the situation hits the player, the 'Return: Enemy Within' track practically symbolizes it, slowly building and finally unveiling itself as conflict and betrayal. From the alleviating and upbeat Hong Kong Synapse theme to the organ-based doom impending Paris Cathedral theme and timelessly resonating DuClare Chateau theme, these pieces all have one thing in common: they reflect the moments you're set in perfectly, and places you into that reflection, immersing you deeper into the experience. ~ ~ ~ ~
And now comes another distinguishable feature of the PS2's Conspiracy version as opposed to the original: the improvement on the sound engine for certain scores. Unlike the original main theme which contained many electronic synths to provide a cyberpunk feel, the PS2 version heavily emphasizes on orchestral sounds, which is just as good an alternative as it creates a more reconnaissance feel that we're all familiar with due to the recent century's pop culture of secret agent lore.
Voice acting is unchanged and is as terrible as ever, but by using my "it's a classic" theory, taking the cries and sound effects with a pinch of salt can turn those features into more of a humorous aspect, and somewhat memorable lines. For instance the emotionless traits and devious one-liners of the main character:
*after father dies*
"Oh no, daddy!"
"What a shame."
"Get out! I got a bomb!"
"A bomb's a bad choice for close ranged combat."
"Good, we're getting closer. You might as well tell me the rest; if I'm gonna' kill you, you're already dead."
And before that pretty much all types of weaponry sound retro, for I've noticed during that time it was typical to try and achieve livelier sounds rather than spend research on calibrating realistic ones; still, you gotta laugh at the really loud bullet drop, death cries, tap shoe footstep effects and literally canny shrapnel explosions.
Fear not, for gameplay is another massive importance to this game's innovation, and if everything else has failed you from further continuing Deus Ex, then the gameplay may hang on to you until the plot twists grab you. Back then it was hard to think how an FPS could also be an RPG. Even these days infact do we merely see plenty of FPS games with RPG elements, but as Yahtzee claims, Deus Ex feels like it's majorly both. With added stealth to boot.
Surprisingly, Deus Ex is also a game about choice, but they even make such a feature transparent. A Lot of the major decisions within the game are made by actions rather than words, and without any kind of hints to repercussions, you'll find Deus Ex to be a game that can surprise you on your second or third playthrough. It's also one of the only games that includes the ability to completely avoid clashing with every boss on multiple occasions.
Most importantly, choice is also implemented into the core concept of Deus Ex's gameplay: by that I mean the contrasting paths you can take and the available application of various methods to infiltrate an area - be it by becoming an unstoppable and direct force to being practically a spectre, invisible to even cameras. Through every kind of entry there is an abundance of different obstructions...and for it all the information and tools (or weaponry) to crack, break or even turn these obstacles. You can be ruthless, or you can kill no-one and be a complete pacifist.
Your preference of play can also determine the upgrade paths you choose, with a lovely list of skill slots, progressively collected canisters to fill those slots, and a skill choice between each canister to suit your battle tactics. These powers not only represent how vastly superior your main character is compared to pretty much nearly everybody but also spices up your gameplay and may assist you in whatever scenario you may run into depending on what routes you take. Every ability can be proven useful (don't pick swimming, it's fairly useless (⌐■_■)), but if you happened to miss out on specific powers then there's an array of equipment to compensate (depending on if you're explorative and/or enjoy hoarding). These features aren't overly existent to an extent where the game holds your hand and it's also balanced well enough to avoid ridiculous difficulty.
Weapon upgrades also exist from the start as well as weapon skill type upgrades, as does a collection of modifications to purchase or find. There's plenty of detail.
Speaking of exploration, there's plenty of that too when the time comes. Plenty of miniature narratives (in the form of anecdotes, news - mostly antagonistic in JC's situation), cultures and social aspects integrate into your missions, and whilst you may predict it would divert attention away from the game's FPS directive, it's actually placed in well and strengthens the overall structure of Deus Ex; again like the music it engrosses you, helping you understand and relate to the struggle at a deeper level (which is also why you should love RPGs).
The ladders suck.
-Gameplay & Control: PS2 Version Differences-
And speaking of hoarding, I now come to mention more cons for the PS2 version. I can't add classic excuses this time:
The inventory system in Deus Ex was a solution to the monotonousness you'd find in regular western RPGs up to this day. This was achieved by displaying the inventory as a grid, in which you could assort weapons and items into different placements on the grid. But because dimensions came into play within the grid (by that I mean every item was scaled), the system automatically became fun and similar to a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly the inventory required meticulousness and application of thought to squeeze in all that you wanted - and for some reason it felt rewarding when you could.
Unfortunately for the Conspiracy, the inventory is simplified. Scaling and limits still exist however the grid has been abolished and cluttered into separate slots, removing the fun nature of the original.
Another drastic simplification that must be mentioned is the health system. The original featured a diagram of your character's body and status of every limb. This meant if both your legs were shot to Swiss cheese, you'd have to crawl for the rest of your mission until you could find a medibot and restore your condition (unless you have the augmentation power to regenerate or you have med packs, of course). I remember through my training stages all my limbs were rendered useless, resulting me complete the final stage by headbutting a TNT crate into an ED-209 looking robot. Good times.
...well all of that was replaced. With a simple health bar.
To top it all off, some areas were recreated into smaller sizes and unlike the PC version there's an amount of loading screens between distances (and the loading times are atrociously long). Control is retro and unchanged: fast paced and very light footed, but there is uber auto-aim in this version, making headshots a lot easier to achieve.
The ladders still suck.
-Replay Value & Conclusion-
There's an old saying:
"Deus Ex - every time you mention it, SOMEONE will reinstall it."
On a personal note, for some reason this is one of the only games where I don't feel guilty being callous. I've played the game this way to enjoy my playthrough, however it managed to eventually pull me in on it's own. Mind you, the first time I've ever played Deus Ex was...last year... And I'm currently playing it again. Now that's saying something.
Overall, Deus Ex: The Conspiracy is a decent port that was ultimately let down slightly due to the PS2's limitations. Should this be a deal breaker, however? Unless you can play the PC version instead, then no. It's still a gem, and if you tend to veer away from PC gaming, or unluckily don't have the PC power to play Deus Ex (or if your PC is too powerful causing the game to run on crack, for me anyway) then I recommend you this port.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.