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Deus Ex (2001) was a gem for its time, but it doesn’t translate well in the modern era.

Some spoilers ahead – hopefully I don't miss marking any.

Deus Ex is a cyberpunk, action RPG that puts you in the shoes of an anti-terrorist agent named JC Denton who uncovers a world-wide conspiracy. Somewhat short (I finished it in 27 hours), the missions and story progression are very tightly knit and flow well from set piece to set piece. Despite some shortcomings which I'll get into shortly, the story and openness of level design kept me intrigued enough to see it through to the end.

Deus Ex bills itself as an action RPG incorporating some FPS elements. It also leans really hard into stealth gameplay, but these two pieces don't play like you would expect them to. From an FPS perspective, your highly-trained augmented persona needs several seconds of aiming in order to fire accurate shots. In order to speed this process up you can crouch and not move which puts you at a disadvantage if you suddenly find yourself in a firefight. Stealth is made difficult by not having a map overview or anything that helps you plan out your sneaky routes. And if you do go for a takedown or anything while undetected, you have to make sure that you get the kill with the first shot otherwise that enemy who was faced away from you now knows precisely where you are and so does anyone else close enough to see the guy get hit. However, once you get used to the behavior of these mechanics, it's easy to work around their shortcomings.

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My biggest complaint was that the game itself is very dark. Every mission is set at night or in a building with terrible lighting. The maps are so dark that they basically start to run together, even though you are told that you're in a different place – most of the environments start to look the same. If you've seen one poorly lit outdoor space or hallway, you've seen them all. There was also some technical difficulties – frame rates were sporadic at best with some pretty significant drops. Though this could just be me not optimizing my 2016 PC to play a 2001 game properly.

Lastly, I found the final mission somewhat lackluster and the inclusion of multiple endings felt shoehorned in. The majority of the game is as linear as they come – you don't get to choose when and where you go or who you are cooperating with at any point up until the final hour of the game, where you're suddenly thrown multiple options for wrapping up the plot.

Overall I can see why this game is considered a classic. If you're a fan of old-school style games and haven't played this one yet give it a shot – just be patient with it. I think it hits more than it misses and the story from start to finish is at least intriguing enough to keep your attention through the sometimes frustrating gameplay bits.

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