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Having my mind blown by a 20 year old game

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I was introduced to gaming through my uncle, first through Super Nintendo and then through Half-Life. When I was seven, he had a new game to show me. It was called Deus Ex an apparently you could influence the story as a player. If you left someone alive, that person would supposedly show up later in game and the story would branch in different paths because of it. At the time, and with no experience of RPG:s, this seemed some black magic-fuckery to me but my curiosity was peeked.

The second I realized how many ways I could infiltrate the Statue of Liberty, I was hooked. This was a video-game enigma that someone had encrypted and left on my desktop. However, being a kid who couldn’t speak english, I basically ran into a wall with the game. I simply had to give up, getting entangled in all the games objectives and systems.

Ever since however, it’s been etched in my mind as this almost mythical gaming monolith I couldn't decipher. And I’ve always been planning on replaying it some day in the future. It took me 20 years. But it had the same effect.

Nothing underscores the brilliance of Deus Ex better then Hong-Kong. You infiltrate a secretive business congolomerate, exfiltrate, infiltrate again but through a different route and end up in their secret underground base. You blow up an reactor before doing your final exfiltration through a sewer-system. When you end up back in town, you have done this massive arch through a sprawling, interconnected city-center. It's not a level, it's a place that the game seamlessly let's you gnaw through.

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The funny thing is that Deus Ex is far from a perfect game. It’s actually pretty flawed in many ways. The wicked difficulty is most often fun but can become downright obnoxious in certain areas – such as when 15 special forces-cyborg-divers insta-kills you the second you touch the water. The entire interface is overly complicated and finicky. Many people argue it as one of the smartest games of all times in terms of but this is not entirely true. A lot of the dialouge is hilariously awkward, especially towards the end. The addition of aliens and a laser-sword makes zero sense, but it adds to the games charm: JC Dentons head bobbing in sync with the music, on the hunt for global conspiracies.

I played Human Revolution as well, and it’s a worthy successor. The only problem is that it’s almost to competently designed, if there is such a thing. Everything about it is so polished, streamlined and smart that some charm is lost. I can’t really remember much about Human Revolution, except that I liked it.

The original is brimming with personality and details, you can tell how much heart Ion Storm must have poured into this and how excited they are that you are playing it. The music is pure fire in every area and the atmosphere is completely captivating.

I picked Tongs ending which I thought was smarter than people give it credit for. Throughout the game, Deus Ex has shown the backside of technological advancement. Mass surveilance, cyber-warfare, a class society based on genetics, corporate takeover and so on, all at the expense of democracy and human integrity. I’m pretty pro-technology in real-life but this is solid cyberpunk.

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Tongs solution is simply pulling the plug on everything, letting the world reset. There will be no more Men in Black, secret labs, universal constructors or augmented supersoldiers. Helios och Illuminati are both tempting offers but ultimately a scam. True freedom is never reached, it’s only a comfortable prison. The only real solution is to just pull the plug and start from scratch.

Having JC run out into the night, the entire world of Deus Ex exploding around him is a spot-on ending for spot-on game.


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