Review by M4tokill
""Oh, what a bleak and horrible future we live in!""
Here finally is Deus Ex 2 - Invisible War, the sequel to the excellent, multiple game of the year award winner, and one of my favorite games of all time, Deus Ex. Unfortunately this Deus Ex doesn't compare to its ex. We'll break down the few pros, and many, many cons of this game in a second, but first let me say this. Before writing a review for a game I go around the internet and read other people's reviews for that game not only to see what other people liked and disliked about it, and how those matched my own opinions; but to also make sure that I cover as many aspects of the game as I can. By reading the comments of other people I make sure that I don't forget any parts or aspects of a game and thus make my review as wholesome and inclusive as possible. I also want to mention that I try to make my reviews as unbiased and objective as possible. I try to mention both the good and the bad of a game in a balanced manner, and avoid getting stuck-up on one particular thing that I don't like and that is in itself insignificant.
Why the long introduction? Well as I said I have read many reviews about this game, and there seem to be only two kinds of feelings towards it; people either really, really loved it, or they really, really hated it. So the point of all this talk is this: this review is very negative but I'm not going to say that I hated this game or try to flame against it in any way. Instead I will try to form a proper argument explaining why this game is not good, and try to show why many of the positive things mentioned in other places about this game are in fact incorrect.
But enough mambo jumbo. Let's begin with the game's plot and story since those are supposedly its strongest selling points. ''A compelling story where your actions determine the course of the plot, and ultimately the fate the world.'' You might see that sentence or something similar to it mentioned in many places. It is completely false. Issue the first: the story. Deus Ex IW does indeed tell a great story. But not great in the sense that it is good and enjoyable, such for example as when you eat some really good cake and you say ''man this cake is great!'' It is great in the sense that it deals (or at least tries to) with great ideals. Profound subjects that have indeed shaped, and continue to shape our lives. This game as a medium however is very, very weak. The story is told very plainly, without any great development, and never really engages the player's thought process. The fact that the world is near an end is laid out so casually that you'd think it happens every day. Adding to the dullness of this is the fact that your main character (and pretty much every other character in the world) rarely shows any emotion of any kind to the events happening around him. I mean this is the guy that holds the fate of the world in his hands and the best he can come up with is ''I'll look into it.'' Heaven forbid he should ever show any kind of excitement. Sure he has led a life where caring and understanding were not part of the daily diet, but still. As a mostly human being he should still realize that there are big things happening here. Another factor which seriously hurts the story development, is the fact that the game itself is very short. You never really get into it. There are very few side quests and even fewer main missions. You start off on your journey and before you know it you reach the finish line. Why are you here? Who knows. What are you doing here? I don't know. This game's plot development is similar to a roller coaster ride. It tries to throw as much as possible at you, as fast as possible. Brief and to the point. Unfortunately though, when you're telling this kind of dark, intriguing tale of world conspiracies, you really need to take your time and let the player absorb what has happened. Yet another factor that hurts the story is that fact that you never really care for this world, and the game gives you no incentives whatsoever for pushing on. Why should I or anyone care what happens to this world? What is pushing me towards one choice or another? Nothing, except for maybe biomod canisters, credits and the joy of shooting at things. Even when I thought that he (the main character) was forming some kind of friendship with his old, training school buddies, the game abruptly drops those paths and takes you back to the moronic main story. Issue the second: consequences of your actions. Simply put, there aren't any. Forget what anyone might try to tell you about the consequences of your decisions. In this game you can do anything you want and it won't make a difference. There are three main factions in this game, and a fourth slightly less important faction. At any point in the game, up to the very last moment, you can switch sides and do quests for any of them and it won't make a difference in the end. When the true final decision comes, about which faction will indeed take over, only then what you do matters. But that does not make this a game with many paths, it makes it just another game with different endings. For example, one of the side quests involves two competing coffee shops. At one point, one of the owners asks you to go and destroy the other guy's shipment. So I go to his store, sneak in through the standard air vent, and destroy his shipment. I go back to the guy that gave me the quest and get my reward. Then I go to the other guy (who's shipment I just destroyed) and he is completely oblivious to what has happened. He doesn't even mention the destroyed cofee, instead he gives me his own quest which I complete and get another reward. There are many other similar examples but who cares about mentioning them all. Rest assured though that the whole game is pretty much like that. You can do anything you want for any faction and things will still remain the same. Only if one faction asks you to kill someone, and another to help that someone, you might get a conflict but other than that you can do what you like without fear of botching things up. You can't botch things up anyway because all the people that give you the main quests contact you through telecom and you don't meet the real people up until the end so you can't try to kill any of them.
The game graphics. The thing about graphics in general, for any game, is this: everyone can make good graphics, but not everyone can make good graphics that perform well. Deus Ex IW has been bragging about its dynamic lighting effects for the last 3 years and in the final result they're more of a hassle rather than an impressive feature. Sure they're nice to look at, but to be able to really enjoy them you need a top of the line system. And I don't mean a today's top of the line system. I mean a top of the line system 2 years from now. For us regular Joes with our P4s 1.8GHz and GeForce FX5900 cards, the only good thing about the graphics is the 1.1 patch which allows you to turn off shadows completely, and thus giving you the ability to use higher resolutions than 800x600. The other thing about the lighting system is that the developers knew that it was highly inefficient. Because of this they could not afford to put many lights in the environments. And so they didn't. But then they saw that the environments were far too dark, and you couldn't see a foot in front of your face. So then they found a genius solution. They gave you this special modification that allows you to emit light. This light surrounds you and has a radius of about 2 feet. It casts no shadows and is completely static, so it does not hurt game performance any further. The only problem with it is that it has this bluish color, so it colors everything around you blue. Not that the game itself has a lot of colors but we'll talk about that latter. This light works good about giving you the ability to see where you're walking, though I found turning the gamma and brightness way, way up works much better. Some people though might say that the darkness was an intended effect to allow you to use stealth abilities. I will negate this idea in the next section.
The gameplay and the game world. First off let's talk about the stealth aspect. There's no need to use stealth in this game. The enemies are weak (up until the end), and you are strong. Their AI is stupid, and you know to aim for the head. If you happen to lose any firefights in this game then you either have some kind of vision problem and you can't aim, or your mouse is broken and you can't shoot. From the moment the enemy sees you, you have about 5 seconds until he gets his first shot off. He shoots strait and doesn't have a very good aim so if you just strafe a little bit you shouldn't get hit. Also when the enemy has engaged you, they tend to just sit in one place and fire so once you got the gun at head level, just let it rip. There are ways to make the enemy stronger by increasing the difficulty level and editing the .ini files but all these settings just change the damage dealt and received. They don't do anything about improving their AI. The game redeems itself in this aspect a little bit towards the end when it starts throwing these really tough enemies at you (with the one weak spot) and then you need to use a little bit more strategy. But even then, with your trusty rocket launcher, and the ample supply of ammunition scattered around the map you should have no trouble taking them down. A large issue that sort of eliminates the need to use any kind of strategy and planning is the fact that resources are plentiful. In the beginning, the game is a little stingy with ammo and multitools (used to compromise electronic equipment such as cameras and chest locks, it's a good thing metal keys are a thing of the past), but later on they come in abundance. There were many instances in the game where I just couldn't carry any more of them because my inventory was full. Speaking of inventory, that too is poorly designed. How can a flame thrower occupy the same space as a grenade. Fortunately multiples of the same objects (grenades and small items, not weapons) go in the same slot. But even then you still don't have enough slots for all your basic equipment. I understand that you need to use the space wisely, but there are some items which are standard and you always need with you. You always need healing items, and items to replenish your energy. You always need 3-4 different types of grenades that cover different fighting conditions (EMP, concussion etc), you always need a few different types of weaponry because each of them has different uses (sniper rifle, rocket launcher, SMG, sword). The more different items I have, the more ways I can find to resolve a problem, but the game doesn't allow for them. For example I can kill a bot with a rocket launcher (or other gun), with an EMP grenade or by using one of my special skills to disable it. I can't use the rocket launcher because I don't want to waste ammo (even though there's plenty of it), and I can't use special skills because I'm out of energy and I don't carry energy packs since I don't have room in my inventory, so I'm forced to use the EMP grenades. Some people might call this ''the intended strategy'' but I call it a cheap trick to try to make the game harder, and that ultimately limits the number of solutions to a given problem. As far the universal ammo is concerned, I didn't mind it much (actually I kinda liked it), and I don't consider it significant enough to spend too much time on it like some other people did. On the other side of the screen (literally) you have your biomods. These are special abilities that your character can use and they can be upgraded through biomod canisters. There are 15 biomods (16 if you count that blue light we mentioned) and most of them are useless except for a very nice few. These few are bot domination, computer hacking, and spy drone (a little camera that delivers an EMP attack). The other biomods serve absolutely no purpose and they don't provide any real gameplay advantages. Since biomod canisters are fairly abundant you can upgrade the above good biomods pretty early on and become one powerful dude, which further reduces the need to use strategy in your gameplay. By the way, when the game ended I had about 13 unused biomod canisters in my inventory. The old Deus Ex skill and experience system has been removed. That would not have been such a bad thing if the new system added anything to gameplay, but it doesn't. In the current game there is almost no incentive whatsoever to completing a quest. Some side quests give you credits (the game money) or items but both those things are too small of an encouragement to push you towards one end or the other. Items, as I said before, are more than abundant in the game world, and credits are almost useless since there are no traders in this game. Sure there are some guys who will sell you a few small items now and then, but those items are items that you find easily throughout the world and there is no need for them. The credits can't really be used for any other purpose, though I think I did come across a few instances where you could pay people money either for info or for them to do something, but that's pretty much it. Either way, by the end of the game I had enough money to buy a whole city (not that there was a lot of city to buy, but we'll talk about that later). Other smaller game play issues were the fact that you couldn't quick save/load until patch 1.1. The fact that there are a lot of bugs. The fact that there are very frequent and very long load times and other things like that.
Now let's shift to the game world. The game world can be easily described with three adjectives: ugly, dark, and small. Ugly because all textures are either some shade of gray, or some shade of ugly brown (or blue if you use that little light we mentioned). I realize that this is supposed to be a bleak and distressful future but come on, you can be a little more imaginative than that. The game is dark, as we described above, and will seriously hurt your eyes unless you pump up the gamma and brightness. Finally the world is small. All the environments in this game are so small and confined that you never get the feeling like you're really visiting these locations. Even outdoor locales feel like they're inside a building. I never realized Seattle had only 1 suites building with 3 apartments, 1 bar, 1 coffee shop, 1 coffee stand, 1 metro train with no station and only one stop, 1 apartment building with only 2 apartments, and 1 sleazy tavern. By the way each of these locations is a separate load. Inhabiting these locales is a very small number of people who mostly just wonder around in a circle, and don't have any real personality. Oh and 1 big elevator. It's a little hard to describe the confined feeling you get inside this world but rest assured that it pales in comparison to the large maps of the first Deus Ex (maps which took days to learn), and it certainly is no match for the worlds of other games such as Knights of the Old Republic, where you really get the feeling that the world is alive.
Forget everything I have just said. The only thing that really matters when judging a game is whether or not it gave the player (me and you) an enjoyable experience. Whether it was fun, and satisfying. So the question is, despite what I have said so far, did I love or did I hate this game? The answer is neither. I just did not care for this game. I was very hopeful about this game since I had enjoyed the first Deus Ex very much, but this game let me down from the get go. From the beginning I started to dislike it, but my dislike quickly vanished and soon I just stopped caring. I didn't care for the world, I didn't care for any of the events and factions in it, I didn't care for the main character, I just didn't care what happened. In my opinion that is the worst fate for a game because it is always better to instill some emotion in the player than no emotion at all, but this game barely tried. Towards the end it started to get a little interesting and the fighting was becoming a little challenging but if you ask me, it was too little too late. It seemed like the developers just didn't care about this title. Reinforcing this idea was the fact that I found a spelling mistake in one of the character dialogues. The voiceover said 'of' but the subtitles said 'if' (it should've been 'of'). This is a small and near insignificant observation, but I think it very well encompasses the whole of this game. A sub par effort that was clearly meant to sell solely on hype and promotion, and not on its content. If this game had been developed by a new, just starting out company I could have given it a 4, 5 or maybe even a 6 out of 10, and called it a 'decent effort'. But for Ion Storm and Eidos, two very experienced and well-established companies, to put out such a mediocre title, that in my opinion ruins the Deus Ex universe forever, there is really no excuse.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/04
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