Considering how large and dense Deus Ex is, you might want to play it before you read this.
“Being a soldier isn’t just following orders, it’s following those orders in the service of a higher cause. When that cause is betrayed, we’re not soldiers anymore, just pieces on a chess board dying for the wrong reason.”
Like Gordon Freeman, JC Denton has a past with little importance to the player. The character’s past is really only provided to justify location. The plot is built around the actions of JC Denton, ethical and tactical decisions made by the player and motive decisions made by the protagonist. Deus Ex is a story following the most radical man on the planet and puts game-play to good use to portray such.
When playing The Nameless Mod (a mod for Deus Ex), you can enter a store consisting of fan-made books relating to Deus Ex. The owner of the store claims that the level of moral choice in Deus Ex allows the player to morph his/her/its personality onto JC Denton. I’m here to say that that is completely wrong. In Deus Ex you are only the protagonist in terms of logical and ethical thinking everything else is in a fixed line and the ethical side only lasts long enough to establish political motive. The ethical choices made by the player only delays the inevitable, you can either try to fix UNATCO or follow protocol. The end result remains the same.
The player effects the protagonist by determining what skills the character will inherit. The player also dictates JC Denton’s opinions and motivations, but the game-play simply provides too much a gap between the player and protagonist for The Nameless Mod statement to be true. Like Mass Effect the ethical choice is only limited to two decisions, you are really only choosing a character from two preset ideals. The bloodthirsty oppressor and the humble pacifist, both of which are portrayed by their relation to other characters.
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.” -Edward R. Murrow
In the beginning of the game when you work for UNATCO, JC is judged by ALL of his colleagues (except of course the soldiers). JC Denton is a prototype to be assessed, mainly because of the rules that govern how nano-augs operate, but after a while his actions begin to teach them more than just tactical efficiency. Many of the people that remain loyal to JC are colleagues that oversee his operations. Leading by example, he shows these people that the current system is bullshit. Authoritarian laws, to some seem to be necessary for smooth operation and to others are easily broken (and need to be broken).
The kill-switch in JC’s body are (in a way) an authoritarian law established to be unbreakable, but in practice it can and must be broken for any true progress to be made. The entire objective in Hong Kong prior to fixing the kill-switch, is merely to confirm everyone’s prior opinion and no progression in the plot can be made until that objective is completed. In the eyes of leaders such as Joseph Manderley and Walton Simons, JC is a defect.
“You can’t run, Denton. Even if you escape, your killswitch is counting down. You’ll be dead in twenty-three hours. Another fifty billion dollars down the drain.”
The entire plot of Deus Ex is one large conspiracy, threaded together by other conspiracy theories in the real world. The art style and atmosphere of Deus Ex has a lot to do with it. Having every single level in a night time setting, helps enforce the overtones of stealth and conspiracy. Everyone knows that of course.
I’ve run out of thoughts, oh well. Commander Shepard is next.