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Ion Storm's Deus Ex featured intense action, a branching storyline, and deep character customization options. However, its fans will tell you that Deus Ex's biggest strength is the freedom it provides in allowing players to approach each of the game's objectives in numerous different ways.
Boris Bauer, Replay Studios: "I'm a fan of exploring, (action) adventure, and shooter games. I also like some of the major RPG games. Deus Ex successfully combined shooter action, stealth game play, storytelling, exploration, and common 'RPG' elements (skill/item systems, character development) in a believable futuristic game world.
"The most outstanding qualities are the games's atmosphere (game world, sound, and music) and a long series of interesting player choices throughout the whole game. The design of Deus Ex pushed the boundaries of lots of genres inspiring and influencing a lot of todays action adventure/stealth action and RPG games."
Kain Shin, Arkane Studios: "The setting was fresh, and it took the school of Looking Glass's FPS/RPG hybrid genre to a new level by engaging the user in meaningful emotional interactions, allowing the player to express themselves as they choose in a way that had never been combined before.
"It is a collaborative work of art that invites the user's real-time actions to paint a representation of themself in that particular setting without being strong-armed into an explicit identity from another person's moral compass."
Bart Stewart: "The greatness of a computer game is measured by the degree to which a wide variety of gamers have positive memories of it long after playing it. On that basis, Deus Ex is the greatest game of the 2000s... at least. Other games in the decade of the 2000s had more action. A few may have been more intelligent or more emotionally satisfying. But no other game succeeded so well in combining all three of these modes of human expression to create a single coherent gaming experience for the hands and the head and the heart.
"The active gameplay features of Deus Ex allowed a wide range of interesting choices on both the personal and tactical levels. Player were given distinctive choices for how to enhance the character's personal abilities as well as his gear, and these choices directly supported solving tactical challenges through multiple styles of play.
"But the timing of the choices offered was so well-balanced that players never felt over- or under-powered. Complementing the gameplay rules was a storyline that has real meaning beyond the simple mindless destruction of most computer games: what are the implications for human liberty when technology connects all individuals and defines what they believe to be true?
"This remarkable story, and the deep dialogue and gameplay options that expressed and reinforced it without telling the player what to think or feel, remains superior to anything I have ever seen in any other computer game. In summary, while there have been many very good games in the 2000s, no other game equaled or exceeded the degree to which Deus Ex integrated every major style of fun that a computer game can offer."
Janne Haffer: "Games can be such a limited medium, even if you disregard all technical and budgetary limitations you still have the impossible balancing acts of interactivity vs story-telling and player choices vs direction. Deus Ex manages better than any other game to be balanced and still remain coherent in every single thing it tries to do.
"Every location is just large enough to feel free, but small enough to remain interesting. Every NPC has just enough character to feel interesting but not so much to bog the game down or feel out of place. Every item, skill, enemy feels like they are exactly what you expect them to be, and still the game just keeps surprising you.
"All the hugely successful and awesome games of this decade has done one or a few things really really well, often way better than the "same feature" in Deus Ex. However in the end, while playing those games you always end up thinking "this could have been so much better if detail X was like Y instead. Deus Ex by no means has perfect gameplay, story or atmosphere, but it is the only game that manages to not fail at one single thing. And it does it seemingly with a simple shrug, like it's saying 'how could it be done any other way?'"
Mike Orenich, LucasArts: "It was the first game that I played which truly allowed you the freedom to complete the game/missions with multiple paths. The RPG elements (skills & augmentations) allowed you to customize as you progressed through the game, so you could blast your way killing everyone in sight or sneak through solving the game without killing anyone.
"The best part was how your actions influenced the story and the character's responses to you as the player. If you helped someone out and responded nicely, they often gave you information like a password or helped you by giving you a price cut on goods.
"I spent hours customizing my character, the UI, reading all of the books and datacubes in the game. The story was top-notch as well. This game was released in 2000 and has an eerie history to the back-story. In the fiction, terrorists had apparently blown up the twin towers in New York city. Sadly this piece of fiction became fact in 2001."
Tynan Sylvester: "Combined multiple forward-thinking design elements into a cohesive whole. Many of the design patterns didn't reappear in other games until years later. Still by far the best story told in a video game. No game has come close since until BioShock, released 6 years after DX."
Alan Youngblood, Matreya Studios: "I first played its somewhat inferior port on PS2 but later bought the PC version. It takes a premise of X-files (an awesome TV detective show) and backs it up with the greatest gameplay. The level of interactivity is amazing.
"What makes Deus Ex hands down awesome is that you can play it the way you want to. With so many games that force you to play the only way the lazy designers allow, Deus Ex shines as a beacon of great game design and gameplay. I love that I can play the same game running and guning or with stealth or no violence and all negotiation. The fact that gamers are still buying it and still playing and loving it makes it the game of the decade."
Anonymous: "Deus Ex represented the complete fusion of the progress of two of gaming's most celebrated genres: first-person shooting and role-playing, without a direct preference to either. It boasted of a rich, complex and thought-provoking story written intelligently, with the player allowed just the right level to freedom to make their own choices and take the gameplay in their own stride.
"The well-researched world of Deus Ex is one of the most memorable in gaming, bringing forth a cyberpunk world that wasn't clichéed or trite, but novel and intellectual, in the same vein as Neuromancer or Blade Runner. Deus Ex was the heralder of a revolutionary genre, and an intellectual leap in video games and game storytelling, that unfortunately never saw the dawn of light."
David Sattar: "Just the perfect shooter, but it was so much more than just a shooter. All the skill tree development and of course the augments. The game allowed a multitude of ways to succeed and not every path had to be taken, not every door had to be entered.
"Best of all, if you did have to get to the other side of a given door, there were usually several ways to do it. I must have played it through a dozen times, and I was still finding new things on all by the last two runs through. And that wasn't all - there was still the backstory conspiracy of shadowy world spanning organisations to revel in."
Michael Correnti: "This game was revolutionary in almost every aspect, but most notably it made 'choice' more than just a buzzword or an empty promise. Virtually every situation in the game plays out differently depending on your personality or, on later playthroughs, your penchant for trying new things.
"That the game happens to have an engrossing story line, beautiful environments, characters you come to love and some of the most literate writing ever seen from this industry, well -- that is all gravy."
Bruce Racey: "Sure, it wasn't the first game to mix RPGs and FPSs, it probably wasn't the first game that allowed you choice in how to tackle puzzles, it wasn't the first game with a complex, multilayered story. But it was the best. Deus Ex was the first game I've ever played where I truly felt free.
"Between stealth, run & gun, hacking, and god knows how many other powers, it was the first game you could really play 'your way'. Sure, older RPGs gave a superficial semblence of choice, they let you be a brawling melee barbarian or an archer, or a mage, but ultimately you played the game the same way."