Deus Ex - A Far Superior Alternative to Metal Gear Solid
I'm currently playing Deus Ex for the first time and I simply can't help but feel this way. I felt the same way when I first played Human Revolution years ago. First, the similarities between the two franchises. Spoilers below.
- Many thematic similarities. Both franchises explore the concept of governments or government-like bodies using people as tools and weapons to extreme ends, both portray such governments in negative light for their lust for power.
- Throughout both franchises you play as one of such tools and you're betrayed by your superiors, and in Deus Ex and MGS1 you have a genetically engineered twin brother who goes rogue. The revelation of these things is always a major plot point in every Deus Ex and MGS game.
- Technology causing conflict is used as a major plot point in all of them.
- Both are stealth/action franchises with "tactical espionage" and many tools to use in gameplay (more on this later).
The similarities are obvious. Similar themes, similar gameplay concepts. And before anyone says it, yes Metal Gear is older and probably did inspire Deus Ex, but not to the degree you might think. Look back at Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, not the Metal Gear Solid games. They aren't heavily story driven, not like MGS is. MGS took the Metal Gear franchise to a different level, but Metal Gear Solid (1998) and Deus Ex (2000) were in development for a similar amount of time so many of the similarities between the two of them are coincidental.
Now for why I find Deus Ex superior in every way imaginable, and why I find it hard to care at all about the MGS franchise.
- Story/writing: Deus Ex is so much more mature, less cliche, less ridiculous. Metal Gear Solid relies far too much on villains with superpowers, and the series generally makes no sense. They like to explain these superpowers with one word, whether it's "nanomachines" in MGS4 or "parasites" in MGS5. It's as if they didn't even think it out, such lazy half-assed writing that still makes no sense at the end of it all. The writing is just so over the top and unbelievable, like how in most boss fights (especially in MGS1) the player character and boss exchange speeches with one another while fighting (and in later games, while performing ridiculous superhuman feats), which leads to abrupt pauses in gameplay and thus ruining the flow. That's just the Japanese style of writing though, I believe they think it's poetic while I just see it as unbelievable to the point where it becomes a ridiculous cartoon.
Deus Ex is far more rooted and logical. Characters don't act out of character like they always do in MGS (e.g. follow Ocelot throughout the entire franchise, especially in MGS4). I don't think Human Revolution ever has anything ridiculous enough to get riled over, and I've only encountered one thing in the original that doesn't make enough sense but it's nothing really major, it only relates to a mission and is not a major story element while major story elements in MGS often don't make sense. The writing of Deus Ex is much more professional and tightly crafted, it never exceeds its own grasp like MGS always does. The story of the first Deus Ex is also more complex than any MGS game without exhibiting the same flaws I just mentioned.
Then there is the fact that Deus Ex games are RPG hybrids, meaning they are interactive stories unlike the static MGS games that are always the same every time. From smaller details like NPC dialogue changing depending on how you're completing quests (e.g. if you kill a lot of people, NPCs may fear you and call you a monster while others will pat you on the back for it) to the big "choice and consequence" as people like to say. Deus Ex has more of this choice and consequence than Human Revolution mind you, major plot events can play out very differently and characters can meet different ends or no end at all depending on your actions. But this choice and consequence is realistic and logical which separates them from a lot of other games. And let's not forget the persuasion system of HR which emphasizes character development and results in the most dynamic, realistic conversations in video game history.
- Level Design: Aside from MGS5, all the MGS games are linear corridor games. Even MGS3 which largely takes place in a jungle; in this case the corridors aren't literal, yet it is hardly any more open than the corridor ones. This linearity makes the applicable MGS games utter failures as stealth games. You are limited to sneaking out in the open far too often. Not much of a problem in Deus Ex, never a problem in Human Revolution, as both of these games offer far more paths.
Then there is the detail on the levels, or lack thereof in MGS. MGS's level "details" are just silly easter eggs, while Deus Ex provides hours of exploration in which you will find side quests, and a highly interactive world that not only carries the thematic story elements in its design but you will also find things like newspapers/eBooks/books, datacubes, computers, and more, which can all be interacted with in Deus Ex. You can read these things, and they either provide insight and perspective to the world, showing the state of mind of civilians and other people affected, or they can provide foreshadowing and a closer look at what's really going on. Whereas MGS levels are pretty much entirely static and filled with synthetic limitations that Deus Ex doesn't have. You can interact with different kinds of electronics and books, vending machines, and more in Deus Ex.
- Stealth: Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Metal Gear Solid 5 are the only decent stealth games here. All the other MGS games are horrible at stealth due to the linear level design and also the AI. Deus Ex's AI is similarly bad and it lacks in gameplay balance and offerings to be a great stealth game. The AI in the older MGS games and Deus Ex is such that if one enemy spots you, all the others will know your precise location for the next 30-60 seconds no matter how much you move. It's like they stuck a tracking device on you. Deus Ex is even worse; enemies are alerted similarly if you damage them from an unseen location, or if they hear you take down another enemy. Again, if any of these things happen, all enemies in the area will know your precise location for about 30 seconds. It makes zero sense. MGS5 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution are free from this issue.
Human Revolution is by far the most advanced stealth game of the bunch, followed by MGS5. The older MGS games give you a few "tools" for stealth such as a silenced tranquilizer pistol (not silenced at first in MGS3 though), a few silenced lethal weapons (pistols mostly), concussive grenades and mines (as well as lethal ones of course), hand to hand combat with the ability to knock enemies unconscious, the ability to throw empty magazines for distraction, the ability to knock on walls for distraction, the ability to hide in a locker (contextual), the ability to lay down porn magazines to comically distract enemies (a clear joke), the ability to move bodies, and the ability to hide bodies in lockers or certain containers (contextual). Notice how contextual everything is? All severe limitations. MGS also has security cameras, and while they can be destroyed (thus raising an alarm) or EMP'd there is no way to stealthily, permanently deactivate them, because the level designers were too lazy to design security control rooms and because the game is not interactive. All of this along with the crappy level design and AI are why all the MGS games save for MGS5 are terrible stealth games.
Deus Ex offers a mini-crossbow which can be loaded with tranquilizer "darts" (not sure why they say darts instead of bolts), but a dart is only an instant takedown if you shoot someone in the back of the neck. And remember that if you shoot someone and they aren't immediately killed or knocked out, all nearby enemies will instantly know your exact location for the next 30 seconds or so. The result is, this weapon is too ineffective to be of any use for a "ghost" playthrough. It also has melee weapons such as a riot prod (like a cattle prod or a taser) which is actually very effective for stealth, a silencer attachment that applies to most guns (pistols and rifles alike), melee weapons including one that can instantly knock someone out provided you hit them in the back of the neck or in the ass (so it's too limited and illogical), gas grenades, EMP grenades, lethal grenades and mines, and augmentations that can benefit stealth. One such augmentation is an invisibility cloak that drains energy very quickly (like Crysis but without the auto recharge), another one is a similar cloak except it only works against robots and cameras, another is infrared vision, another is a spy drone which is far more capable than MGS's equivalents, etc. You can actually find security rooms which the security cameras and turrets and doors are controlled by, and you can turn off cameras, deactivate robots and turrets, lock/unlock and open/close doors, all provided your Computer skill is good enough. But at the end of the day, there aren't many "tools" for sneaking, not nearly as many as Human Revolution. Plus there is the stupid synthetic limitation of cameras being invulnerable. This is the one painfully obvious synthetic limitation of Deus Ex really. The AI however is the main reason why Deus Ex is not a very good stealth game.
MGS5 has much better AI than its predecessors, and while the AI is stupid it is very impressive on one aspect; it is very dynamic. Wounded soldiers will actually be brought to a place where they receive medical attention, enemy encampments will dynamically respond to your methods of attack and prepare specifically for it. It's something only applicable to an open world game like this. MGS5 also lets you climb most ledges and such, it has a pleasing amount of platforming for an open world stealth/action game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution has the most gameplay variety and "tools." It has far more augmentations than the original, it has hand to hand takedowns which can be upgraded so that it works on multiple opponents at once, more lethal and non-lethal weapons effective for stealth both at close range and long range, it doesn't have the horrible AI limitation of "if one person sees you, so does everyone else," it has the least linear level design. The augmentations are such a bonus for stealth, I won't bother going into the variety myself.
- Combat: Combat in the older MGS games (pre MGS5) is so clunky that it's unplayable and should be avoided entirely. Combined with the stealth failure they are, that leaves them in a bad place. Combat in Deus Ex is straightforward; traditional old school FPS combat (so no iron sights) with a crosshair designed to minimize accuracy unless you install weapon upgrades and level up the appropriate weapon skills. So it kind of sucks unless you've maxed out the skills and installed said upgrades. One headshot is often times not enough to kill someone in Deus Ex. It has some combat related augmentations, but augmentations as a whole are far less noteworthy than in Human Revolution. Neither Deus Ex or the original MGS games have much in the way of health regeneration; if wounded you must heal yourself manually, and MGS3 has a revolutionary healing system that I wish more games had.
MGS5 combat is that of a fluid, casual shooter. The player is a walking tank with rapid auto health regen. Like its predecessors, it takes many shots to kill someone.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution combat is that of a first-person shooter that was particularly fluid for the time (2011) and still fluid enough now, and with a Gears of War inspired cover system that works exceptionally well. Some of the combat related augmentations are incredible, like the Typhoon explosive system and dermal armor. This game has the best balance as far as the amount of shots it takes to kill enemies and the player, including headshots, when played on the hardest difficulty. I favor this game's combat over the others for the variety, although only this and MGS5 have decent combat while all the others are dated to say the least.
I'll stop here for now. What does everyone else think about these two franchises and any relation between them?