That was spectacularly good, wow. It really impressed me just how much better Deus Ex does a lot of things than modern equivalents in both RPGs and immersive sims! Modern immersive sims genuinely have never quite matched this for level design! The ending is definitely a little bit rushed narratively but it's still actually a solid block of excellent mission levels. Zowie!
The gameplay moment-to-moment is dated a lot regardless, I think, of one's build, but the trick this playthrough for me that kept me engaged was to focus on a playstyle that is fun for me and not what I figured the game "wanted." Doing run-and-gun rocket and full auto and shotgun violence was actually really really fun and the game ultimately did support it, not just the methodical stealth I'd tried to leave my comfort zone to do on prior playthroughs where I didn't reach the end.
It's so strange that this game with incredibly cheeseball voice acting, and writing that has a sense of humor about the parts it knows are goofy action espionage pastiche, is also genuinely thought-provoking when it wants to be. It sets up factions with coherent, consistent ideologies, and characters I cared about who had their own established beliefs. When it had those characters pitch me on each of the 3 endings, I actually had to think about which of the two non-rich-CEO-prick options I aligned with! The 3 endings also have completely different final area objectives in a gameplay sense, rather than being A Set Of Three Buttons like Human Revolution and Mass Effect 3 offered.
That mix of sense of humor and thought provocation was particularly appealing to me because a lot of game writing tries to have a Single Tone. Human Revolution suffers from this and it compounds the execution just not being as good as the original Deus Ex. When JC is a huge obvious cop it feels goofy and kinda amusing, but when Adam Jensen is a cop he's just so angsty and self-serious about it. And then, having eliminated humor and lightness from its very yellow world, Human Revolution offers no philosophy deeper than "if people were racist against cyborgs would that be fucked up or what?"
Deus Ex is a very silly game in most ways and those characters I cared about were ultimately rough sketches. The coherent, consistent ideologies at war in the narrative are not particularly complex. But they still set a bar that is rarely met by games writing, and the game design in multiple areas sets a bar that other games rarely meet after over two decades. My biggest takeaway from this playthrough is that Deus Ex firmly and unambiguously earned its status as a classic. Good stuff, highly recommend to anyone who can stomach installing multiple fan-developed fixes to make it work right because the IP landlords who control the games industry loathe preservation and history.