Deus Ex is a classic of gaming, often considered the greatest PC game of all time. While I would give Thief II that honor, it's not hard to see why this game tops so many "best of" lists, and it's one of my personal favorites. This game may also be one of the best examples of why you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, as it looks like absolute ♥♥♥♥, with freaky-looking human models, blocky levels, barf-inducing textures, and subpar voice acting. However, if you can get past all that, you'll quickly find that this game is something special.
Deus Ex appears to be an FPS on the surface, but it's really an FPS-RPG. Throughout the game you acquire skill points that you can use to upgrade your skill with certain weapon types (pistol, rifle, heavy, etc.) You can use any weapon you find and have room for, but to be even remotely competent with them, you'll have to upgrade the respective skill, which increases damage and accuracy, and occasionally adds some other benefits. There are also other skills you can upgrade, such as Computer, which allows you to hack ATMs for money and security terminals to deactivate cameras and reprogram turrets, and Lockpicking, which decreases the amount of disposable lockpicks you need to open a door. The great thing about Deus Ex is that there is no one correct way to play the game. Every skill in the game, with the exception of Swimming and arguably Environmental Training, is useful, and there is a way to beat any mission with any skillset. You could use Multitools to bypass a security keypad to open a door, or you could hack a security terminal and open it from there, or you could lockpick your way into a drawer with a datacube containing the code, or you could just blow the door open with an explosive. There is always more than one way to solve a problem, something that is very, very rare in even the best games out there.
The amount of depth this game has amazes me. Once I was in a high-rise apartment, and I decided to break the window and jump out, merely for the entertainment of seeing how far up I actually was. I instead landed on a balcony, lockpicking my way into a room with binoculars and a computer terminal containing interesting details about the lore of the game. My jaw was literally agape. I could not believe that such an obscure location would actually have something noteworthy in it. No matter how many times you play Deus Ex, you will always find something new, be it a new way to complete a mission or just a fun easter egg, and this makes the replay value extremely high. The game is massive, and I believe this to be in part due to the extremely low-budget graphics. Since so little time and money was spent on the look of the game, the mechanics could be polished to a mirror shine and the world expanded in a meaningful way, with things to find in every nook and cranny.
I would also be remiss not to mention the game's fantastic story. It's a wonder the game managed to be so compelling despite the awful voice acting, and it speaks to the quality of the writing that this was achieved. The characters you encounter are lovable, and the overarching plot is both extremely complex and full of twists and turns, which is why, in the interest of avoiding spoilers and laziness, I won't be providing a plot summary. You'll just have to find out for yourself.
Lastly, there is the music, which is phenomenal. Alexander Brandon's compositions are varied, memorable, and always fit the location and the themes of the story. On top of that, the music isn't just nice to listen to: they also serve a gameplay purpose. During the missions, the music that plays will normally be very ambient and fade into the background, but when enemies are alerted of your prescense (this game has optional stealth), the music will become more intense, not only to change the mood from that of quiet sneaking to fast-paced gunplay, but also to let you know the enemies are on to you even if you're too far away to see or hear them. The rest of the sound design is solid, with satisfying gun noises that make shooting satisfying if you have to get into a fight. The only sound that isn't good is the sound of assault rifle bullets hitting a wall, which is utterly dreadful. It sounds more like rain hitting the ground than bullets colliding with solid steel, and it takes you out of the intensity of combat.
Overall, Deus Ex's presentation has some problems, but the overall package is one of the deepest, most complex and most fun games ever made, and it also has the advantage of being utterly unique. No other game is quite like Deus Ex and few are as well-designed and compelling.