Deus Ex Speedrun

 By Shamus Apr 21, 2013 74 comments

You know, I was fairly positive about Deus Ex: Human Revolution during our Spoiler Warning run. I was really impressed with how large and opened-ended it was by the standards of the day. But then I spent this evening watching a Deus Ex speedrun and I was reminded just how staggeringly massive the original was, and just how many ways you could accomplish something. Human Revolution was proud of itself when it gave you two ways into a base, but the original game often had half a dozen, some of which were impacted by decisions you’d made earlier in the game.

I always love a good speed run. Here it is, the entire game in 43 minutes! That’s amazing. I think I usually spend longer than that doing the first mission.


Link (YouTube)

Lots of deliberate glitching and other shenanigans. My favorite is how he skips the entire first mission. If you’ve never played the game:

You’re supposed to cut through the NSF terrorists that have taken control of the Statue of Liberty. You make your way in, rescue a fellow agent in the basement, then fight or sneak to the top and arrest or kill the terrorist leader. Once that’s over, you go back down and visit your headquarters, which is near the statue.

In this run, totally ignores the mission and tosses a gas grenade over the wall so that it lands beside headquarters. The cloud reaches INTO the lobby, where it injures one of your fellow soldiers. He gets pissed off and comes out to get you. In doing so, he opens the door that’s supposed to stay locked until the first mission is over. The player then runs him over and enters headquarters, where all the scripts behave as if the first mission was complete.


2020201474 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. MechaHobo says:

    Um… I think the end got cut off.

  2. Brandon says:

    Always love a good speedrun. :)

    Interestingly enough I’m watching through the Human Revolution Spoiler Warning right now. This is a bit off topic for your current post, but it is startling how much more excellent the characters are in Deus Ex compared to say, Dishonored. Compare the characters of Pritchard to Piero for instance.

    Arguably they were meant to be similar archetypes, but Pritchard just comes off so much better.

    Sorry about the off-topic. :p

    • Michael says:

      Prichard works because, fundamentally, he has a relationship with Jenson. He’s interacting and responding to someone he doesn’t particularly like, but has to work with.

      Piero doesn’t. Swap out the name, and his responses would make just as much sense if he was selling things to an outsider rat that wandered through.

      At some fundimental level, Dishonored feels to me (without having played much of it) like the characters interact with one another at a single level, they either trust or hate each other, and for the most part, if they trust or hate someone is determined solely on if they’re working for the Conspiracy or the Regent.

      Deus Ex is loaded with interpersonal relations that go beyond simply, “oh, he works with me, I must trust him,” and are based in the characters being more than one note exposition dispensers (occasionally) with legs.

      Edit: Actually, there’s an idea to improve the outsider… have him be a rat. Just sitting down there, scuttling around on things, maybe on a bookshelf, just looking at you, talking in that incredible monotone.

      • MrGuy says:

        I feel like Piero is a good example for a principal I’ve noticed across multiple games – that there’s a local minimum on the curve of “how much character development did we do on this character?” vs. “how much does this character add to the world?”

        Let’s say they did a lot LESS to develop Piero. Just make him a straight-up shop. Don’t make him a member of the conspiracy – just the merchant down the street. Less backstory. Less perceived importance to the plot. I think he would have worked BETTER. Because we’re used to NPC’s that are shops. He’d make sense. Just like Peasant #2, he’s a functionary who isn’t supposed to be thought about. So we don’t.

        The problem is when they develop Piero more than “just a functionary” but don’t commit sufficiently to developing that character into a relatable being. They’ve clearly pulled the character “out of the background” by putting some amount of backstory together. They’ve deliberately called your attention to “hey, look! backstory!” But the thing you’re supposed to look at isn’t, well, interesting. And now it’s not just that the character is uninteresting – it’s that it’s NOTICIBLY uninteresting.

        Immersion breaking doesn’t happen whenever something doesn’t fit with reality. It happens when that bad fit is noticible.

        If you’re going to bother making us notice a character, you need to put enough thought into the development that the character will be worth noticing. If you do just enough to get to the “Piero point” and stop, you’ve actually made the game less interesting than if you hadn’t tried to develop the character at all.

        • Ithilanor says:

          Huh, it’s kind of like the Uncanny Valley as applied to characterization. Very interesting point.

        • Chauzuvoy says:

          I think the problem with Dishonored’s characterization goes a little bit deeper than that. It’s like they stopped writing the characters or the world right when the game started. They’ve got a fascinating backstory to the world, and some interesting character turns, what with Emily being your daughter, or Piero being an outsider worshipper, or the whole Granny Rags/Slackjaw conflict, and so on. There are some interesting things going on. But that all happens before the game starts. Jessamine is killed, the conspiracy is established, and by the time the game proper starts there’s nothing for Corvo to do other than play the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially because the gameplay through which you do that is really pretty fun. But from a narrative perspective, it’s like a version of Dirty Harry told from the perspective of a .357 Magnum. There is an interesting story there, and occasionally you’ll see snapshots of interesting things happening between other characters, like Callista trying to raise Emily in the middle of a civil war, or Pendleton being torn over the fate of his brothers. But it’s all done off-screen. Most of the actual decisions and interactions happen before the game starts, or while you’re imprisoned or out doing their bidding.

          I don’t think the problem is necessarily that the game has generally bad characterization, I think it’s that they viewed characterization as worldbuilding, and by the time the player enters into the picture, the world has already been built. Corvo isn’t a completely silent protagonist, but he’d may as well be. He has nothing relating him to the world. His only interaction with the conspiracy is buying stuff from Piero and being told who to kill next. I think the reason Daud was such an awesome bit was that he actually interacted with Corvo. Not only was he an interesting bossfight with a cool “I was like you once” undertone, but Daud actually interacts with you. He goads you. He entreats you as an equal. He comments on your relationship with the outsider. He actually talks to Corvo like he’s another character in the story, rather than a tool to be pointed at whatever story problem requires his particular brand of violence.

          If Corvo had been a stronger character, then I think the characterization as a whole would have been notably improved, because all of their worldbuilding would have actually had something to hang on. As it is, there’s a bunch of cool stuff which can’t actually make itself apparent or relevant to the player because it’s not at all relevant to Corvo.

  3. Decius says:

    That’s nothing compared to the Morrowind speedrun.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_fFApDyki4

    • Ed Lu says:

      Huh, he’s updated it since the last time I saw it. He doesn’t even need to buy that axe anymore, and I didn’t even see where he got Sunder and that dwarven halberd. Utter insanity…

  4. Nimas says:

    Was anyone else amused when the guards shouted “It’s Denton, remember the briefing.”?

    I would have loved to have been at that briefing for this speedrun ><

    • The Nick says:

      “Denton is currently near the Statue of Liberty. He’ll be intercontinental in about 20 minutes and he’ll be here in 20 more! Get ready!”

      • Gruhunchously says:

        “C’mon guys, I take an hour off and when I get back, I find that the new UNATCO recruit has betrayed us, run our whole world-spanning conspiracy into the ground, and wiped out global communications? Poor show, I hope you’re happy with yourselves.”

  5. Hieronymus says:

    Looking back at all of the times I’ve played through this game, I realize that I have never used grenades in the correct manner.

    Also, I have absolutely no idea how he skipped to the missile launch. That baffles me.

    • Bryan says:

      Almost looks like you can activate the helicopter out just by being in the right place and doing … something that isn’t shown terribly well. (That’s how he got out of the gas station hostage-rescue level too; headed out somewhere odd and hit magic buttons until the ‘copter showed up and let him end the level.)

      Though in the case of the missile launch, I have no idea what the deal was with that grate. Possibly a different glitch. Hmm…

      • silver Harloe says:

        Rescue Tiffany: helo shows if you rescue her or if she dies. He killed her with a blast to the wall next to her.

        Missile Launch: so normally you break into silo control and redirect the missile and that opens the silo and you have to kill what’s-his-name before he manually redirects it – my guess is killing him is what activates the helo (because surely you can’t face him before you redirect the missile, right? right!?) and that he used the LAW to do just that.

  6. StashAugustine says:

    Holy hell.

    He put points into swimming.

  7. ngthagg says:

    This is my favourite speed run to date. It’s the Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, done live during a speed run marathon earlier this year. The best part is that the speed runner gives a history of speed runs on this game. Early 3D games were apparently very vulnerable to glitches.

    • Corpital says:

      “Very vulnerable to glitches” is an extremely benevolent way of putting it, many of them are incredibly broken and fun to watch, Donkey Kong 64 or Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 come to mind.

  8. Ben Finkel says:

    My favorite part is still the Chekhov’s Gun of a cigarette. That, or maybe Tracer Tong talking non-stop throughout the Paris sewers.

    Undoubtedly the best speedrun ever. I’ve loved it for five years, and I doubt there will be a better one for years to come.

    • McNutcase says:

      I was inwardly screaming about his horrible torso condition through that, until I realised what he was about to do… deliberately. I think I only twigged because I’ve managed to kill JC with a cigarette accidentally previously. Maybe if he didn’t insist on trying to smoke all 20 at once…

      My major problem was I kept thinking I was receiving email, but that’s my fault for using the Infolink sound as my phone’s email alert noise…

  9. Gruhunchously says:

    After playing the game dozens of times, it’s only now that I realize that J.C and Jock totally left Gary Savage on the roof of the MJ12 sub-base. How exactly is he supposed to get out?

  10. Knoster says:

    When J.C sneaks onto an elevator with three people looking straight at him, jumping up and down: “Is that Josh playing?”

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I wonder how fast it can be done with one of the mods that removes glitches and boosts the ai.

    Also,a game for which the speedrun is 40+ minutes,is an impressive one.

  12. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I would love a running commentary explaining what he’s doing. Is he knifing those guards for any reason other than to get the gas grenades off them?

    And wow, I never realized just how much you could sequence break in this game. Even before counting the “use the grenade to break your fall” trick -which I will remember the next time I want to make a dramatic exit from Maggie Chow’s place.

    Does he pick up a mod that lets him make those massive jumps? I missed it.

    • Supahewok says:

      2 things with those jumps:

      1) His leg implant is maxed out fairly early on. That affects both running speed AND jump height.

      2? It looks like he’s taking advantage of some other grenade glitch. Looks like if you jump off of the grenade when it bounces you get launched super high? Might be the physics engine going crazy trying to figure it out. I dunno if that’s right, but its got something to do with the grenades.

    • evilmrhenry says:

      The awesome jumps come from a combo of the jump aug, and using a grenade at exactly the right moment, similarly to using it to stop fall damage. (Also for glitching through some doors.)

      I love the idea that this is what facing a nano-enhanced super-soldier is like. Just a guy in a black trench coat, bunny-hopping down the street at 30 mph. By the time your brain realizes that you should be shooting at him, he’s past you, glitched through the gate somehow, and correctly guessed the keypad code to the secure facility on the first try.

  13. Shamus’ speedrun of Deus Ex was faster. Of course, he had help from the infernal forces haunting his old computer, but it was still a blast to watch.

  14. Johan says:

    “The player then runs him over and enters headquarters, where all the scripts behave as if the first mission was complete.”
    If I recall correctly, there is a line of dialogue from one of the soldiers saying “wow, you glitched your way in here, well we’ll act like you actually did the mission”

    This is what I’ve heard, but other than that yeah it’s exactly the same as if you did the mission

  15. mandrilltiger says:

    Speaking of speed runs there is a run of Hitman Blood Money: http://speeddemosarchive.com/HitmanBloodMoney.html

    Pretty crazy some of the levels are done in less than minute. “The Murder of the Crows” is probably the most impressive.

  16. Knight of Fools says:

    I love the moment where the guy says, “WASTE NO TIME!”

  17. Humanoid says:

    After watching the whole thing, on a big-screen TV no less, I think my eyes will be seeing dithered pixels for the next week, best case scenario. Yaaaugh.

    I also have to admit I’ve never played past the first level myself, so between this and DOUG the Eagle’s anti-walkthrough, I only have an extremely twisted perception of what actually happens in the game.

  18. Moriarty says:

    Segmented runs are kinda boring. He used 41 segments during the run, so basically he recorded every minute of it over and over and spliced them together afterwards. I prefer runs done in one sitting.

  19. atomf says:

    NSF to me means National Science Foundation, the source of much grant money. NSF terrorists was a funny mental picture.

  20. X2-Eliah says:

    So, er, this may be a daft question, but what is up with the grid-like filter on top of everythign in this video?

    • Eroen says:

      That’s a compression artefact. I tried linking a better version three comments up, but that seems stuck in a mod queue or something. You can find it yourself at the Speed Demos Archive.

      • Humanoid says:

        I used to have an nVidia Riva128-based video card (in the form of a Diamond Viper V330) in the late 90s that dithered everything horribly, though not to that extreme obviously. In the folly of my youth I had fell for the “our card is faster than a Voodoo!” marketing, neglecting to notice the fact that it was obviously cheating with massive image quality sacrifices. I mean even in 2D videos (such as Civ2′s wonder videos), greys which displayed fine on my previous card (an S3 Virge DX 3D decelerator) instead were basically white with black pepper randomly sprinkled over it. To this date it’s my worst tech purchase ever.

        Fortunately nVidia later redeemed themselves with the excellent TNT series which beat 3dfx fair and square, but a decade-and-a-half later, that initial debut fail still leaves its sour taste in my mouth.

  21. Even says:

    One thing I love about speedruns like these is discovering the different kind of glitches that are possible just with regular gameplay. That LAM-jump trick is just amazing. As it happens, I accidentally discovered you can kill Navarre with a LAM on my last playthrough when on a whim I planted one by the door right before the room where the NSF boss is. She decided to run into it in mid-cutscene and consequently got blown to bits.

    • Hal says:

      Indeed. I screwed my game up in a big way doing that once.

      When you’re creeping through the VersaLife building, you witness a conversation between Maggie Chow and Bob Page through a window. I ended up killing both Page and Chow. (I don’t recall if I did it with an explosion through the wall, or if I cheated and clipped through the wall. Not important.)

      When I made it to the Vandenberg base later, after merging the AIs to form Helios, Page contacts you on the infolink to have a chat about how he has Savage’s daughter. At this point, you have a chat with Page’s hologram. Except, according to the game, Page was dead, so it wouldn’t spawn his hologram to chat with me.

      I suppose you could call that an unintentional victory condition.

  22. GM says:

    anyone want to see a speedrun of Dishonored by the way it the link is at the brick opening part for Josh http://youtu.be/8N-NtlFixbI?t=39m8s 42 minute or so it says.

  23. JPH says:

    I think this marks a difference between you and I in the way we judge how games are good.

    Deus Ex had loads of different ways to approach obstacles, but many of those ways were silly, nonsensical and immersion-breaking. For instance, climbing up a building by jumping onto wall-grenades should not be possible.

    And that stunt he pulled at the beginning, throwing a grenade to make a guard open the door and allow you to bypass the entire first mission? The fact that you can break the game like that so easily isn’t “OMG SO MANY CHOICES,” it’s sloppy and unrefined game design.

    This is one of the many reasons why I consider Human Revolution to have better gameplay in general than its predecessor. It’s a tighter game; it’s not as hilariously easy to break.

    “Predecessor? JPH, don’t you mean predecessors?”

    No. Get out.

    • Shamus says:

      I wasn’t listing glitching as “ways in”. Even ignoring those, the original is still more open by a mile. Doors, side entrances, underground tunnels, vents, fences to hop – hack a computer, blow up a wall, assault the front door, cloak past the guards, hack the robot to make a distraction, bash open a window. Half the ways in aren’t even advertised. They’re just THERE, to be found by players who look for them.

      It’s just very different in feel from a game that has a front door where two guards are having a conversation:

      HEY BOB DID THEY FIX THE SIDE DOOR SO PEOPLE CAN’T JUST WALK IN?

      NOPE! THEY SURE DIDN’T, FRED.

      WHELP. OKAY.

      We’ll probably never see games like those old ones again. You can’t have that many ways in unless you have gigantic levels.

      • JPH says:

        To be fair, after the first mission or two, Human Revolution features almost all those options you just listed. A lot of its levels were more open than some people give it credit for.

        And I always felt like Deus Ex had the same problem you just criticized Human Revolution for – so many of its options are very obviously telegraphed, to the point where it becomes less satisfying to find the way through. I was doing a replay of Deus Ex on realistic difficulty recently and I found myself full of all ammo types, medkits, lockpicks, multitools and so forth very quickly, because solutions are so easy to find and equipment is so plentiful.

        • Humanoid says:

          DXHR needed a scene of Josh climbing the exterior of Tai Yong Medical and surfing a grenade down the funicular shaft.

          Ahem. I think the ideal is somewhere in between the two. (And before you bite my head off, by in between I don’t mean chronologically) A world design confident in itself to allow all its elements to co-exist in the same space, but which react to both itself and to player input in a reasonable and realistic fashion. e.g. You wouldn’t get the gas grenade area-of-effect clipping through the wall, but if you made a huge disturbance outside, you might just induce someone (or a whole squad) to come out to deal with you. DXHR in comparison is more like a stage show, where the actors only come out on cue and stand in some magical off-stage ether until then.

          Where DXHR impressed me wasn’t in the telegraphed (I suspect we’re extra sensitive to this currently because of the ongoing Dishonored season’s contrast) multiple paths level navigation, but the rare examples of sequence breaking in a realistic way – e.g. the transmitter thing in the Bay City Roller area which you can disable at any time, since it’s been established plotwise that it’s been there for the duration of the game at that point. A more mundane one I suppose is picking up the TYM ID card as you first land in Hengsha. The complete opposite can be seen in the SW playthrough with the Zelazny miniquest, where Josh couldn’t even encounter them until he had spoken with the guy in the LIMB clinic to spawn them.

          At the extreme end of the spectrum there’s obviously WoW type quests where you need to collect a dozen bear posteriors, except that bears don’t have posteriors until you accept the quest.

          Aside, I personally love glitching and general game abuse, which is why the frequently maligned Ultima 8 is one of my favourite games. I also quite liked it thematically, a world already dead, where your only option was not to save it, but to escape it.

      • tengokujin says:

        I can only hope that the vastly improved amounts of RAM in the new consoles mean that games might actually start increasing map sizes instead of pixel density.
        #FoolishHopes

    • X2-Eliah says:

      I think you highlighted a very important difference on how people perceive game ‘goodness’ in general – specifically whether glitchability and perusage thereof is seen as good or bad.

      As a recent example I really like to bring up because *everyone* knows what’s meant without needing to explain much – it’s the Skyrim vs. Oblivion separation that was brought up in a past diecast, even – Iirc Josh (or Rutskarn?) said that Skyrim was a worse-off game because it glitched less, and that glitching was what made Oblivion fun.
      That sentiment – that fun from a game can be derived from breaking it is something I’ve always disagreed with, and yet it is also something I keep seeing stated over and over and over.

      I won’t begin to guess how large the division is, or how it’s proportioned, but there’s definitely at least two camps of gamers – the ones who play a game to break it, and the ones who play a game to play it. And.. I suspect both sides would view the others’ efforts as “oh god what the hell are you doing no no no no stop that’s not what you do here!”.

      • Humanoid says:

        Likely the answer depends on whether the definition of ‘glitchy’ in this sense – is the game wigging out constantly or on what a developer might call a boundary case?

        I’ve stated earlier that I’m in the camp who enjoys glitches, but only to the extent where it’s reacting to “unreasonable” player input. I see it as somewhat of an unspoken pact between the developer and the player: the game should respond normally and reasonably to reasonable player input, no matter what game it is. Thus the distinction is made in the edge cases where you could say the player is not holding up their end of the pact: does the game try to react, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing in an amusing way, to the player trying to abuse the system or engine? Or does it lock down your options so tightly that it smacks your fingers with a ruler whenever you try to do something even moderately off the beaten track?

        The ideal game described in such a scenario should go some way towards satisfying the desires of both camps.

  24. Oleyo says:

    Wow.

    My favorite part was when he threw down a grenade, then started and ended a conversation which spawned enemies, just in time for the grenade to blow up, killing them.

    Just….Flawless

  25. Starkos says:

    Shamus, I just want to say thank you. It’s because of you that I jumped into Deus Ex: Human Revolution without knowing what I was getting myself into. The result has been a rewarding jaunt through two amazing games that I otherwise never would’ve blinked twice at.

  26. Steve C says:

    Some guy decorated his bedroom Deus Ex style. It looks “timeless, graceful, and utterly cool” even if you ignore the reference.

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