Free to be, you and me.
Having only played early, unfinished beta versions of the PC hit Deus
Ex, I was more than curious to see what its console counterpart had to offer.
Well, I’m pleased to say that most of what was loved about the PC version has
been retained. Freedom and open-ended gameplay are what you can expect from
Deus Ex: The Conspiracy, though limited console resources make it far
The story tells of an unsavory future where the affluent hoard precious cures
and vaccines for deadly epidemics plaguing the globe. Inevitably, this causes
much social unrest. UNATCO (The United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition) fights
to maintain what little order remains.
take on the guise of rookie UNATCO agent J.C. Denton. You quickly realize that
UNATCO’s intentions are less than honorable and…spoiler, spoiler, spoiler.
Suffice it to say the story is one of the game’s better features, steeped in
espionage and plot-twists worthy of a cult budget film.
Deus Ex is hardly your typical first-person shooter. As J.C., you will
undertake various missions broken down into primary and secondary objectives.
After completing an objective, you’re awarded points that can be allocated to
further proficiency in a wide range of skills, tools and weaponry. You can upgrade
your ability to hack computer consoles, fire heavy and small arms weapons, use
multi-tools (electronic lock picking), conventional lock picks, demolitions,
melee weapons, swimming, environmental suits and a few others. Combine this
with the ability to enhance cyborg-like augmentations such as speed, strength
and swimming – not to mention augmenting various munitions you acquire in the
field – and you can see just how open-ended the problem solving can get. Augment
your tranquilizer crossbow with a scope and you’re well on your way down the
path of the sly and sneaky.
I must note: mastery is the key to survival in Deus Ex. You want to
be an expert in the few, not passable in the many. Being well-balanced might
be fine if you’re breakfast, but in Deus Ex it means you won’t be able to open
a certain door or aim a sniper rifle. If you’re a hacker, then don’t waste your
time also trying to become Rambo. But if you want, you can “have it your
To complement this intricate smorgasbord of gameplay, the developers have
designed the world with unbelievable interactivity and variation. Nearly every
obstacle, puzzle, or group of grunts (of which the game has many) in Deus
Ex can be bypassed or circumnavigated in more than one way. Need to get
into a building? Well, do a little reconnaissance. Maybe you can throw a 40oz.
bottle you picked up missions ago to distract a guard, which may let you access
a computer terminal that you can hack into and bypass the electronic lock to
open vital access points. Or maybe you’ve been beefing out your speed and shooting
ability and decide to introduce the dumb guards to your version of The Matrix
with guns a blazin’. Perhaps there’s a better way in through the roof, or through
a window, or, heck, who knows. It’s all left to the player’s discretion, which
should be a welcome change of pace for console-only gamers.
Controlling J.C. and accessing essential weapons, items and augmentations
is pretty simple but does take a bit of acclimation. Every button has a function
and the default control scheme is smart in its design. Movement is handled with
the analog sticks, while the triggers are for jumping and firing. The rest of
the buttons allow you to toggle your inventory, which makes switching weapons
and augs in the middle of a firefight much easier than it was in the PC version.
Although aiming with the analog stick in this game is much harder than it is
in other console FPSs, the control is still pretty well thought out.
It doesn’t state it anywhere on the box or in the manual, but you are able
to plug in a USB mouse & keyboard for more precision. The problem here is that
there is no documentation indicating which key does what. You’ll spend about
an hour trying to figure out how to access you augmentations. Still, the option
Unfortunately, Deus Ex is a rollercoaster ride of good and bad. The
unique gameplay experience is followed by a very familiar payload of problems
– namely, weak A.I and unforgivable graphics.
with the NPC characters adds life, atmosphere and reveals a great deal of optional
information to aid you (or annoy you) in completing your objectives. But enemy
guards are often deaf and blind when you’re in plain sight, even if you’re making
enough noise to wake the entire compound. At other times, their hearing and
sight becomes supersonic. Maybe they’re using the Sword of Omens’ sight-beyond-sight
to spy your cozy hiding spots.
Enemies will hide in plain view or not seek cover at all, and shoot with uncanny
William Tell-like accuracy. It’s a double edged sword. AI consistency and efficiency
fall short to freedom and open-ended gameplay, as do aesthetics.
If there is a PS2 game whose graphics fare worse than those in Deus Ex,
then that is a game I truly dread seeing. At first glance you wonder why a console
version was even developed. Characters and objects have an amazingly low polygon
count, leaving a lot of sharp edges. Colors are very bland; I understand it
may be to help the game’s dark, brooding feel, but come on. Color palettes are
there for a reason, people. Plus, the weapon models aren’t interesting and lack
For that matter, the entire game world in general could use some detailed
touch-up work. There are absolutely no cuts, grooves or attention to detail
in the slightest. The textures are flat and lifeless.
I wish I could say the character animation makes up for this, but I can’t.
NPCs have very few frames of unimpressive animation. They slide around on the
floor like Gumby. At least the developers could
have timed the steps in cync with the characters’ rate of travel so it wouldn’t
appear like the NPCs all wear rocket skates.
There is one other minor problem Deus Ex poses – excessive loading.
Like many other PC to console ports, this game needs to load nearly every twenty
minutes, breaking up the player’s groove and just being plain old aggravating.
When you add it all up, Deus Ex is a mixed bag of good and evil. The
gameplay experience is like none other – you will have to pull yourself away
from testing the limits of the game world’s interactivity and get to the mission
at hand. “I wonder if I can get some smokes from that there cigarette machi…holy
monkey dung! I can!” But where it succeeds in its concept, it stumbles in its
delivery. Deus Ex: The Conspiracy is a one-of-a-kind video game experience.
Just don’t expect a pretty one.