I normally reject the whole console vs. PC argument as I can be equally entertained sat in front of my Gamecube as I can my PC, they both have games to suit a certain mood or play style, neither is superior. Deus Ex is one of the greatest games ever made and the sequel should have continued in this vein, giving us the same experience that improves on itself given the more advanced technology we have and the development time since the first game. However, what Deus Ex 2 actually is is a dumbed down and simplified game constructed to better fit the ideals of the console market – simply put, they sold out.
Ok, lets not get too carried away, Deus Ex 2 is not a bad game, but the games pedigree suggests it should be far better than what it is, and that’s ordinary. The sights for achievement appear to have been lowered for the design of this title, and I must say, I am now very worried about how Thief 3 is going to turn out…
But let’s return to here and now, I think I need to actually tell you why I feel let down by the game. There are two key issues, technical ones and gameplay ones. Now, I saw the screenshots of the game over the last year or so as the game developed and I was impressed. The lighting, the texturing, the characters, the whole game world appeared luscious and deep, I don’t know what magical filter they passed through though as the game doesn’t look much like that now.
Some of the environment is so poorly constricted it wouldn’t look out of place in the first game, you’ll see bits of scenery that just look plain ugly, square taps on sinks, extremely angular tables all finished off with quite jaggedy edges. Ion Storm still haven’t learned how to do life-like faces either, the wild starring eyes of the lead character are quite disturbing. There is some very attractive lighting effects though, particularly noticeable as you see moving lights creeping across the walls etc. There are some great shadows too, but even on low detail settings they will kill your game performance. In fact performance is a major issue all round, I tested the game on an AthlonXP 2400+ and Radeon 9700 with 1Gig PC2100 DDR and it was really struggling at times. A surprise considering the fact the levels have been made much smaller than in the first game, sliced into small, console friendly, load-screen separated sections. One other thing sticks in my mind too, the ragdoll system here needs a bit of work, I’ve seen some corpses left in very odd positions!
Visual problems aside, the thing that gets in the way the most are the alterations to the gameplay, most significantly effected being the RPG areas of the game, arguably the most unique feature of the first game. In the first game, completing tasks gave you Ability Points you could spend on your character, you chose how your game would be played. I remember playing as a light weapons using computer hacker, and boy did I have trouble working my way around the large armoured mechs! But none of this is in Deus Ex 2, you start as you finish, you can use every item and weapon in the game with perfectly adequate proficiency. You can deal with any given situation and that removes a great deal of fun and challenge, you no longer have to think about things as if your plan goes wrong you can just shoot your way out.
Also simplified is the biomod system, there are now far fewer options available to you in building your special abilities. Another bizarre decision is the unified ammo, yep, your pistol now uses the same ammunition as your rocket launcher and your flamethrower. You will never be in a situation wishing you had one more bullet for your sniper rifle again, further dumbing things down. The inventory system is totally different too, you get 6 slots rather than the gridded system you had before, now you can have 6 items regardless of size, a chocolate bar takes up as much space as a rocket launcher.
Where the game does stand up to its predecessor though is in the story, building from the events in the first game you play as the male or female Alex D. The world is under threat from a terrorist organization and you are a member of an organization of questionable ethics…much decision making ensues. It is easily the games strongest point as you are given a variety of optional missions to undertake and can work your way through the story as you see fit. The It is such as shame though to see this one structural part of the game handled with such maturity when the tools you have to build on this structure are so basic.
A further plus point is the sound, some of the music is gorgeous, the track playing on the title screen in particular has some really nice vocals on it. The voice-acting in the game is perfectly adequate too, some of the effects are great too, I particularly liked the chatter from the various robots you find around the game, either cleaning or guarding, they really add some much needed life to the world.
Deus Ex is a title that can stand toe to toe with Half Life in legendary game status, four years after its release it is still played and talked about. Deus Ex 2 will also be talked about in years to come, but not for its brilliance, for what a disappointment it was, for what a fantastic game it could have been. It’s far from terrible though, you might just be able to live with the changes that have been made, but for myself, like so many other people, I was such a big fan of the original game, this watered down sequel is not what I wanted.
The Final Word: It might be a great console title but the PC gamers will remember it for what it should have been and not for what it was.