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I've been going about trying not to kill the 'civilians', e.g. the troopers and such. I like using the riot prod as one shock will knock 'em unconscious. I figured great, I'm not killing anyone, and they're out of the way.

However, on a lot of occasions when I knock people unconscious the game seems to react like they're dead. e.g.:

When I knocked JoJo unconscious as he was about to kill the Rentons, they talked as if they'd never have to deal with him again, and JC confirmed JoJo was dead.


When I told someone I wanted to use 'necessary force', he said oh whatever, but when I bought tranquilizer darts from him he said "so much for 'necessary force' eh?" implying I would be killing people.

Also the Unconscious people never get up! And if I shoot unconscious bodies in the face they don't become 'dead'.

So is there a difference or might I just as well be shooting people?

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The game does distinguish between lethal and nonlethal damage. For example, in the Battery Park mission, if you avoid lethal force, Sam Carter will be happy with you and Anna Navarre will be disappointed. (Note that in this particular mission, if you go talk to Anna, the soldiers at the entrance will attack the NSF and their deaths will be blamed on you. Don't approach Anna at the beginning if you want the 'pacifist' debriefing. This might be why you got the 'necessary force' comment. I'm not sure.)

Similarly, Paul will be happier with you if you don't kill people.

Further into the game, the distinction between lethal and nonlethal force becomes much more a matter of personal taste - there are far less in-game consequences for either killing or letting the enemy live. As tereško pointed out, one consequence is that if you knock a Man or Woman in Black unconscious, their body does not explode.

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oh the necessary force one was when asking to buy tranquilizer darts. the seller replied in a sarcastic way, like, oh so much about not hurting anybody. but tranq darts don't kill people, they knock em unconscious – Claudiu Sep 3 '12 at 19:24
There is also one more very important distinction of unconscious vs dead: when you knock-out/tase Man-in-Black, they will not explode and you will be able to loot their bodies. – tereško Nov 10 '12 at 2:39

There's minor differences tactically when it comes to Deus Ex itself which have been mentioned. If you start getting into mods, however, it can become more of a factor. For example, The Nameless Mod has a few cases where it matters.

But mostly it's whether you want to be a pacifist or not that decides what methods you use.

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