Deus Ex: Invisible War
The original received countless awards, and the sequel was highly anticipated - but can Invisible War live up to its predecessor's legacy?
FPS / RPG
By Ben S. Dutka
After a wagonload of various awards, Deus Ex became more than just a cult phenomenon that successfully fused the FPS and RPG genres. Fans wanted a sequel immediately, but all good things come with time. A few years later, the gaming public got what they wanted, as Invisible War was released for the PC and Xbox platforms. It's time to see if the sequel accomplishes the daunting task of living up to the original.
Deus Ex was not known for its revolutionary graphics, but they were excellent for the time. The same can easily be said of Invisible War. While no one will say that it is one of the best graphical representations of 2003, few will argue against the fact that the visuals are both solid and effective. The futuristic environment is both dark and foreboding, colored mostly in dark blues, grays, and browns. The human characters are depicted well, despite the hard lines that dominated the angular bodies and faces of each NPC.
The nasty mutated creatures that you occasionally run into aren't the scariest or the best designed, but they are rarely your primary targets, and are only encountered every once in a while. All in all, the graphics of Deus Ex: Invisible War are very good, and the consistency and high level of quality is greatly appreciated. They fall short of spectacular, but still maintain that coveted "excellent" status.
Sound is essential when it comes to games played in the first-person, primarily because the sound effects should pull you into the action in much the same way that first-person view does. There is a slight problem when it comes to the effects, but it has nothing to do with the clarity, which is mostly perfect. While the graphics display sweeping consistency throughout the game, the sound effects can be affected by some serious volume inconsistencies.
During moments of intense action, the sound effects have the tendency to get muddled and blended together. The soundtrack doesn't have the same difficulty, but then again, it isn't as much of a focal point. There are no memorable tracks in Invisible War, and the low-pitched, sometimes plodding tracks can have a negative impact on the overall experience. However, they do fit well with the format and style of the game, and despite a few inaccuracies, gel fairly well with the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, it is an area where the original excelled. The sequel is not much different, and many of the same tricks and gadgets are present. For example, fans will recognize the Multitools, used to bypass electronic locks and keypads, the EMP grenades, used to disable bots, and several of the biomodification implants. However, the skill system from the original has disappeared, to be replaced with a slightly more simplified modification and customization format.
You will find and buy two different kinds of biomodification canisters in the game, Standard, and Black Market. These are used to upgrade a particular skill or ability. Each implant has three unique sets of skills; the first two are upgraded by using a Standard canister, the third by a Black Market canister. Each individual skill can be upgraded to Level 3. Thermal Cloak, Neural Interface, and Regeneration are just a few of the skills you may have at your disposal.
The most alluring part of Deus Ex: Invisible War is the mostly free-roving gameplay that allows the player to use these learned abilities in very different and very unique ways. The person that masters Bot Domination, Regeneration, and Thermal Cloak will approach certain levels very differently than the player who relies on a different set of focused skills. You sculpt the character's offense and defense simply by analyzing what kind of player you are.
As you progress through the game, you will take on many missions that you don't necessarily have to finish. Some are like side-quests in that they do not have an impact on the direction you take in the game, while others are plot-specific and require you to make a decision that will change your immediate future. For instance, the missions you take on from the QueeQueg's coffee stands will not matter in the long run, but they are great ways of getting extra items and credits.
The best thing to do is find and complete as many of these objectives as you can, simply because about 75% of your income will probably come from the rewards you receive by completing these missions. You can forge alliances with various groups, and believe whom you want to believe, another wonderful aspect of Invisible War. You travel the road you choose, and while most players will take on similar missions throughout the game, by the end, you will be forced to choose a side.
The game has a healthy helping of stealth, and for those of you who are "sniper happy," you'll find that you can spend most of the game sitting in corners and sniping to your heart's content. However, here again you will find the freedom to approach the game in any number of ways. Run 'n gun probably isn't the best idea, but I'll bet it could be done with the right biomodification and weapon mods. Each weapon can have two weapon mods installed, and these include handy-dandy things like Glass Destabilizer, Increased Range, and Ammo Scavenger.
The game controls smoothly, but the Xbox version experiences a major problem when it comes to fast-action response. The game will freeze for anywhere between a half second and two full seconds, during times of intense battle conflict. This can pose severe difficulties for the player. Furthermore, for a system that was once advertised as having "no load times," Deus Ex: Invisible War on the Xbox has abominably slow loading times, which wouldn't be that big of a factor if they weren't so frequent. To go through four small areas, you have to sit through several long minutes of loading time.
And therefore, despite the relative fluidity of your movements, the game experiences setbacks here and there. It's not enough to be considered debilitating, but it is enough to be annoying. In the end, though, Invisible War proves to be a mostly enjoyable experience, thanks to the freedom provided through the missions and the biomodification options; just don't expect a flawless technical display.
The depth in Invisible War rivals the original, although it does take a somewhat more straightforward approach. Through the options and customization, you will find depth that would satisfy most role-playing fans, and the diverse obstacles you will face should be more than enough for die-hard action fans. You will complete the game in less than 15 hours, which is less than half the length of the original, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (I for one believed the original wore on much too long).
The story is a commendable effort from writers who clearly have a deep and abiding interest in fate and the ol' conundrum "humanity vs. technology." At first, you will be aware of two competing factions, The Order, and the WTO. One is your typical corporate military; the other is an underground religious sect with ideals of their own. However, a shocking discovery is made nearer to the end of the game, and the player will find that another group may be the one to fear. Before you complete your quest, you will have to decide whom you wish to believe.
As Alex D., a "biomodded" and resourceful young woman who leaves the confines of her training with the WTO elite squad, you will discover that nothing is as it seems. You will also find out what the "D" stands for later on, but Deus Ex veterans probably have a good idea already. The post-Collapse world in Invisible War is anything but friendly, and while the presentation could've been better (the separate endings, dependent on who you side with in the end, left a little something to be desired), but all in all, it's very similar to that of the original…which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Overall, Deus Ex: Invisible War is not as good as its predecessor, but at least it's still a darn fine game. There are some surprising technical difficulties in the Xbox version, but you should be able to overcome them when faced with the deep and engaging gameplay. The game was actually about the right length this time, the story was very nearly on par with the original, the skill-sets and different missions provide a balanced and diverse format, and the control is excellent. Weighing conflicting goals and objectives can be oddly addictive, and this one may be tough to put down. Xbox owners do have fair warning, though…