Deus Ex: The Conspiracy
Ion Storm and Eidos Interactive bring a unique gaming experience to Ps2.
A couple of years ago, Deus Ex was released for PC. Developed by Ion Storm, published by Eidos Interactive, the game was awarded by great part of the magazines and websites – and by their readers – as game of the year.
Deus Ex: The Conspiracy is the Ps2 version of that game: Ion Storm worked hard for more than a year to bring the unique gaming experience to Sony’s black console. Deus Ex is a complex game, one of the most impressive and advanced creations in the industry, and many thought a console port wouldn’t have done any justice to the original. But they were wrong. This Ps2 version has more than a sense to exist, the unbelievably rich gaming experience is still intact on the TV as it was on the monitor of a PC.
The story of Deus Ex is a continuous series of revelations, absolute turning points, where alliances and friends can turn into your worst enemy in a moment, where the world you interact with is just a lie, something that hides something else that hides something else. A story that works perfectly, like a clock, where you can actually shape your character, where you can find your own personal way to act, a story where the player is the true protagonist.
The game takes place in a near future, in a world where the gap between the rich and poor cannot be filled. The privileged ones live high above the city streets, where great part of the population struggles to survive. Violence and all the bad things you could imagine happens in the streets. A fatal worldwide plague, the Grey Death, is killing thousands. A cure, called Ambrosia, does exist, but the distribution of it has been strangely slow. It seems only the rich have a possibility to survive the Grey Death. That’s why a terrorist organization, the National Secessionist Force, has decided to start its battle , claiming the cure is being blocked by secret government organizations.
Your codename is J.C. Denton. You are a rookie agent of UNATCO, a special anti-terrorist group created by the United Nations to fight organizations like the NSF. At the beginning of the game you have to block their attempt to steal Ambrosia and distribute it to the people on the streets. But are you sure you are on the right side? The answer won’t be simple. In Deus Ex, it’s up to you to give a shape to the truth.
You might think this is just another first person shooter. Wrong. Deus Ex has nearly nothing to do with Unreal Tournament or TimeSplitters. First person shooter, RPG, adventure game: Deus Ex is all this, and much more. The game is entirely played in a first person view. The third person view occurs only during cutscenes and interactive dialogues.
J.C. Denton follows in the footsteps of his older brother Paul; both of them have been selected as prototypes for the nano-technologically augmentation program of the UNATCO.
Their bodies can be modified and enhanced installing “Augmentations”. Augmentations will basically reprogram your character’s body, thus giving you new strengths and abilities. Augmentation canisters can be found during the game; each of them offers a choice between two different augmentations. Since augmentations can’t be removed once they have been installed, you’ll have to pay great attention while choosing. Anyhow, it’s not a matter of wrong/right choice. Deus Ex is all about freedom.
Basically, when you choose an augmentation, you shape your character accordingly to the way you prefer to play the game. If you want to play stealthily, avoiding as much as possible direct confrontations, trying to save the lives of innocent people, then you have to install augmentations like “Run Silent” (reduces the sound made by J.C. Denton while moving), “Spy Drone” (J.C.’s advanced nanofactories can assemble a spy drone which can then be remotely controlled), “Vision Enhancement” and many others. But if you are the one who likes to kill, well, you could install augmentations like “Ballistic Protection” (reduces damages from projectile and bladed weapons), “Aggressive Defense System” (rockets and grenades are detonated before reaching you) and so on.
Augmentations can also be upgraded, using the proper canisters. At higher levels, augmentations will let J.C. Denton perform things you have never seen in a videogame; “Vision Enhancement” will let you see other creatures through walls, “Ballistic Protection” will make you nearly invulnerable to damage from any type of weapon, “Speed Enhancement” will give you the possibility to leap from the tallest building and run like the wind… the list is so long and so incredible that I could continue for the whole review. The truth is that playing with a fully augmented character in Deus Ex is pure, insane fun. Of course, once you have installed an augmentation, you can’t use it continuously. You have a limited amount of Energy, but this can be recharged and there are also augmentations that will reduce the energy consumption.
But Augmentations are only one of the ways to enhance your character. In fact, J.C. Denton can also learn “Skills”. Just like Augmentations, Skills have different levels. You can upgrade your skills spending the credits you’ll earn during the game.
The first time you play Deus Ex, you are given a certain amount of credits that you can distribute to customize your character from the very beginning. There are 11 different skills like Computer Skills, Electronic Skills, Combat Skills, Lockpicking, Medicine, Swimming and you can decide which ones you want to improve.
Also weapons can be upgraded by using Weapon Mods scattered throughout the game. Many of these mods, like silencers, can be used just once while others, like accuracy and speed mods, can be used multiple times on the same weapon.
You might have played RPGs that gave you similar possibilities to customize your characters, but Deus Ex does something that a few other games did, and none of
them, on my opinion, did it so well.
Most of the adventure / role playing games give you the possibility to enhance your characters in different ways proceeding in the game: experience points, magic spells, weapons and so on. These upgrades, these new abilities are like variations within a closed system defined by the developers. You basically upgrade your characters, you gain new skills, you encounter new, stronger enemies, you defeat them and then you gain other skills that will be useful in the next battles and so on. Yes, you can decide to make of your character a skilled archer or a good magician, but this will affect only battles or minor aspects in the explorations and will never change the overall gameplay.
Deus Ex is different. Augmentations, skills, weapon upgrades - all work together to create your character, they lead you to different paths that will change the story and the destiny of J.C. Denton. Dialogues are not the usual Yes/No stuff, they are realistic, and they put you in situations in which you can make of your character another Solid Snake or an evil Revolver Ocelot. In this game you always have more than a route, more than a possibility to solve the same problem. I’ll make an example that doesn’t make any justice to the complexity of Deus Ex. You have this locked door, and you need to open it, in some way. If you are a good hacker (you have upgraded your hacking skills) chances are you have found the right code to open the door in a secret database. Or maybe you’re a genius with electronic devices, and you could try to bypass the electronic protection of the door. And are you sure you couldn’t try to break down the door using your physical force?
The same freedom is given when it’s time to face your enemies. In one of the first levels of the game, you have to rescue some hostages in the hands of two terrorists in the second floor of a hotel. Of course, if you don’t care about hostages, you can enter the second floor and kill everybody with a flamethrower. It could be funny, but maybe you want our J.C. Denton to be a better guy and you decide to find a secondary access to the second floor and moving slowly you then stun the terrorists with your riot prod, without killing anybody. Or you are a sniper, and with your rifle you kill the terrorists with a couple of good head shots before they can figure out who is shooting at them.
But what’s more important, all your actions will also affect how the story develops. You could decide that terrorists are not the real bad guys, so you could kill your co-workers, and this will change the events. You might have killed a hooker in the streets just because your are mad, but this could have consequences during the rest of the game.
But how the game actually plays on the Playstation 2?
First of all, the developers had to port a keyboard/mouse PC interface to the Dual Shock 2, trying to recreate on Ps2 the same experience. It’s evident they have been working on the control system all over the year of development.
Well, they did a fine work and sincerely, pc players forgive me, playing Deus Ex with a Dual Shock in the palm of your hands is more exciting than using a Keyboard and a mouse (which are also supported in this Ps2 version). The left analog stick is used to move forward or backward and to strafe, while the right stick is used to turn, look and aim. The developers had the nice idea to use the L3 button (that’s when you press the left stick) to crouch, while the R3 button is used to reload your weapon. Aiming with the Dual Shock 2 in first person is not as easy as with the PC interface and for this reason the developers introduced an auto-aim function that works just fine. The d-pad is brilliantly used to manage your weapons with no need to access the game inventory menu. Up and down are used to cycle through the weapons you have selected, while right is used to holster weapon and left is used to throw it. Weapons, augmentations and skills are easy to manage too, thanks to a nice and cool looking menu system. On a note, in this Ps2 version the developers decided to let you install augmentations as soon as you have found an augmentation canister, while in the Pc version you had to search for a medbot to install them. A good idea, I’d say.
The Ps2 version has just some minor flaws. The massive levels of the PC version have been split in many sublevels. For this reason, loading times are more frequent and sometimes they clearly interrupt the gaming experience. Anyhow, the sub-levels transitions also work as continue points and it’s also important to remind that the original Deus Ex had very long loading times on an average PC. Besides, the Ps2 version saves your game on the memory card in a few seconds, while playing the game on a Pc you had to wait for more than 30 seconds for an insanely huge save file.
Overall, Ion Storm did a wonderful work here, mainly because they didn’t try to change the game to appeal the console audience. Deus Ex is still intact, and that’s why the Ps2 version of one of the best games ever released is an incredible gaming experience.