Those of you who read our original review of Deus Ex know that the term is part of a Latin phrase used to describe a person or thing that appears out of nowhere and unexpectedly resolves a great conflict. Ironically, this Game of the Year Edition is the Deus Ex for this fine title.
The main difference between the standard version of the game and this one is that you can now play multiplayer, which is a must these days for any shooter. While the original Deus Ex was a fine single-player experience, nothing beats matching wits against an actual human opponent, or an entire gang of them. The AI in the game is pretty good, but after a while they get to be predictable. Plug a few shots into them and they will run screaming. Keep quiet and they will walk the same patrol route, etc. With humans, who knows what they will do next?
So I will mostly concentrate on the multiplayer abilities of the game. At first I found it a little odd to be in a deathmatch in one of Warren Spector’s games. Spector is best known for games like Thief and System Shock, where stealth is the ally of the player more so than a heavy repeating shotgun. And that’s just not the way deathmatches are normally played with shooters. Deus Ex’s single player mode is a lot more forgiving toward the upfront go-in-the-front-door-guns-blazing-type players than either System Shock or Thief, though this is often not the smartest way to accomplish your goals.
With multiplayer, your only mission is to kill your opponents while surviving yourself. This is not to say there are not the expected variants on that theme, but you won’t be doing any heavy role-playing like asking pedestrians where your opponents might be hiding.
The maps however are designed to accommodate different styles of play. They are large enough that you can hide on rooftops, craw through vents, swim and hide in the shadows. So you can use your various skills to your advantage.
The action is not as fast-paced as say, Soldier of Fortune deathmatches, but like the single player game, Deus Ex is a horse of a different color. I initially found that one of the best tactics was to sniper people running around, since the headshots are very fatal. But then I saw too many people doing this so I developed a different tactic. I went up to the sniper pads, careful to diffuse any mines planted on the walls as I went. Then I simply moved around popping the snipers with my assault gun while they peered into their scopes. Then I would hide in the darkness and wait for another sniper, or sometimes the same one, to come back and try again. I became sort of an anti-camper camper.
The single player game has also been improved somewhat, mostly in terms of performance. The original game, even on a very high-end machine, would often slow to a crawl at certain points and would very occasionally dump me to Windows. For the most part this does not happen anymore, though I do notice an occasional slowdown at rare moments in the game, like when multiple people are moving around on mirrored floors. Seems that ION Storm tweaked the memory usage settings just a bit and made the game eminently more playable.
The obvious comparison with multiplayer is with Half-life, another game that recently put out a Game of the Year addition. Against this opponent, Deus Ex has both advantages and weaknesses. The main advantage is the different weapons, augmentations and skills let you create an interesting character for the multiplayer experience. In Half-life everyone is basically an icon with identical abilities and skills, but with Deus Ex you can make a character that you identify with, and can change that modification if you later feel you don’t like how you are playing.
The disadvantage is that Deus Ex to some extent feels like a game that has had multiplayer added as an afterthought. You don’t run quite fast enough and aiming is slower than most shooter players are used too. Its still a lot of fun, but just expect it to be different at least somewhat from the standard shooter interface. People who hate Quake III with all its flashy too-fast atmospheres will love Deus Ex’s multiplayer.
And in addition to the multiplayer, you get the full single player game. To sweeten the deal, you also get the music CD from the game, which sounds pretty good if you are into creepy-type light techno. I play the music CD at my weekly pen-and-paper role-playing games, and it’s quite nice. If you already own the single player game however, and don’t have an itch for multiplayer, then you probably won’t be interested in this. Why spend $50 on a game that you already essentially own? However, if you never got into Deus Ex, this is a great time to start. The single player game is the best "thinking man’s shooter" in existence right now, and the extra multiplayer levels improve an already near-perfect title.