Review by Dark Id
"DX2: Invisible War. Your one stop for penguin burning action, conspiracies, betrayal, killer basketballs, and guys with the surname "D.""
Deus Ex was a revolutionary game, no doubt. With its engaging storyline, interesting gameplay mechanics, detailed character interacts, and the sheer world it created and drew the the player into. Deus Ex: Invisible War is the sequel to that game. As such, it has lofty expectations as a sequel to such a revered title. Sadly, it does not fully live up to these ideals. Invisible War could be compared to Chrono Cross in that it is a solid title on its own right, but does not live up to the legacy left behind by its predecessor.
With that said, let us begin.
Where to begin... The original Deus Ex was more or less a RPG that played like a FPS. It had a skill system which could make your character, JC Denton, improve in certain fields by spending points earned via discovering hidden locations, completing primary or secondary objects, or just getting to where he needs to be. This is been completely done away with in Invisible War. Rather disappointing, seeing as it was much more of an incentive to explore and talk to everyone to improve your character previously. But what are you gonna do?
Another unique point of the original Deus Ex was the Augmentations your character receive. These were special abilities which ranged from spiffy abilities such as running as fast as the wind and stealth camouflage to crap such as the ability to breath underwater longer or protection from the hazardous materials...which made all of perhaps a half dozen threatening appearances in the game... The same system is still in place in Invisible War, however it isn't quite as diverse as before. Now referred to as ''biomods'' (the word augmentation has been stripped from the characters vocabulary in this addition), these are some very useful abilities that will be of great use through your trials. Your character is allocated a single modification for several parts of their bodies. Of these areas, you can choose of two normal mods or one ''black market'' modification. These abilities can be upgraded by collecting additional biomod canisters through the game. However, unlike the first installment, biomod canisters are growing on trees this time around. I'm quite serious when I say I had around a dozen spare canisters by the end. All abilities can be maxed out by no more than half way through the game. Kinda kills the old feel of joy upon finding an upgrade canister in the first game. Oh well...
As before, there are multiple routes to every mission. Thought the objectives given to you mostly boil down to collect X, talk to X, kill X, steal X, or destroy X. Still, there are several approaches to many missions, especially any sort of enemy facility infiltration. For example, say you need to break into the bad guy base and kill Bob. Your options could be:
- You could go in guns blazing. Kill everyone and eliminate your mark.
- Whip out your sniper rifle and silently take everyone out then kill Bob.
- Go in like some badass ninja assassin and silently slash everyone's throat who even looks remotely like trouble.
- Find a continently place, man sided ventalation shaft to crawl into the compound take Bob out from another angle.
- Get some disgruntled employee to give you the passcode to Bob's office so you can just waltz in and show him the business end of your shotgun.
- Hack and reprogram the gun turrets to make Bob more aerodynamic.
There is no Bob and I don't condone the killing of anyone named Bob. But this is basically an example of how things go.
Speaking of guns. The actual combat has been...downgraded to say the least. All weapons now use the same weapon. From a pistol to a flamethrower to a rocket launcher to a dart gun. Everything now fall under the universal ammo's care. From what I see, popular opinion is this idea, to put it bluntly, sucks. Gone is ammo conservation of the big guns for dire situations. Now everything feeds off the same lifeline, only the big bangs guzzle more fuel. Looks good on paper, sucks in practice, and come to think of it...the idea of the a dart and a laser blaster using the same ammo would look pretty stupid on paper.
Furthermore, the original Deus Ex had specific body damage for enemies and yourself. Limbs would degrade with damage until unusable without large difficultly. You get the idea. This is gone now. Instead is what I like to call the ''WTF kinda damage system is this!?'' system. That term is copywritten as of now, so don't steal it. A new innovation in FPS not seen since the advent of the ability to aim:
Headshots =/= Kill
That's right. Whip out your pistol and shoot that 12 year old school girl in the head once. She'll say something along the lines of ''(grunt) GOTCHA!'' and run along leaving you wondering why she just took a slug from point blank range. Sure, maybe another shot might finish her. But still...the hell...
Apparently if you possess a gun, you head becomes twice as hard as it takes around 3-4 shots to the cranium to down such a person. And if you're a major secondary character, you've got some sort of Wolverine like adamantium head. Some weapons can take down people quickly still. A zoomed in sniper shot to the head takes down normal folks and run-of-the-mill thugs in a single shot. Two or three for bigger badasses. Furthermore, in the future, men can take rockets to the face with little concern as long as they have slight bit of armor to protect them. Another example of the strangeness of the ''WTF kinda damage system is this!?'' system is your godlike strength. Upgrade your strength mod and you can can kill people throwing a basketball at them twice. ''Elderly man killed by stray basketball'', I can see the headline now. Really, this is inexcusable.
The last quirk is the non-playable character AI. I dare say it may be stupider than the original Deus Ex's AI. Unsurprisingly, seeing as the average vision for an enemy in a videogame is around 20/130 or something close to that, enemies are rather blind. But it's when they do see you that you should worry. Enemies regularly pursue you when spotted, round the corner, get a shotgun shell to the face. Their nearby comrade won't be ''oh snap, I shouldn't run straight around that corner for fear of shotgun swallowing.'' Nope, it's more like ''bah, I can take h -- *blam*'' I've seen enemies get confused and decide to run around in circles until they spotted me again. They do show a slight bit of intelligence when they have a sliver of health left. Or rather, maybe it's wishful thinking. Lesser enemies often drop their guns and run to safety then proceed to shiver in fear when they are near death. No noble sacrifice to take you out. Nope, just run and hide and hope the badman who has slaughtered all of his comrades will take mercy on him, despite the fact that he just shot your character several times probably. Sigh...
One last thing, stay the hell away from NPC's that help you. Especially token security guards. If one of them even looks like they are going to lob a grenade; RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. I constantly observed a crack security guard lob a grenade to take out his diabolical adversary...only to have it hit the low ceiling and stop at his feet... Sigh...
This all might sound negative, but there are just a few glaring negative points. Overall, it is a VERY fun experience if you can look past the iffy mechanics about.
Deus Ex: Invisible War's story is very good. One of the better one's around. Is it better than the original's? No way. But that doesn't stop it from being quite gripping.
Invisible War takes place 20 years after the original game. JC Denton's actions from the end of the original send the world into a massive depression and brief dark age referred to as the ''Collapse.'' You take on the role of Alex D (who's gender you can choose from the get go.) Yes, his or her name is ''Alex D.'' And yes, if you are wondering what that D stands for you are correct. In any case, the game opens with Chicago being obliterated by an unknown fanatical group, with yourself and a few of your colleagues, at the Tarsus Academy, escaping in the nick of time. You quickly find yourself leaving Tarsus and being manipulated by several organizations with conflicting interests, all in a struggle to press their own ideologies onto the masses. In brief:
- The WTO (World Trade Organization): An organization trying to rebuild the world from the ashes of the collapse by means of building new cities above the decaying old ones. Big business/government types.
- The Order: The only religion in town these days. Trying to bring balance to the people or some crap like that. Basically a semi-creepy hippie religion.
- The Omar: A group of cyborgs who basically pettle their black market wares.
- The Knights Templar: A group of racist fanatics who wish to kill everything that isn't pure (pure being free of biomodifications and the like.)
These groups, especially the first two, try to influence your actions throughout the game. They provide missions for you, some of which have conflicting objectives; causing you to make a choice of who you trust or which is more profitable. For instance, one group might want you to interrogate a certain person, the other might want you to plant a bullet in their head.
Unfortunately, the story isn't quite as fleshed out and full with twists as the previous title. Furthermore, there aren't all that many really interesting characters. Alex D is just flat out boring as a character and seems rather disinterested in the whole affair. A few old characters return, but few are like their old selves from DX1. There is also lack of a clear cut villain such as Bob Page or Walton Simons. That can be a good thing sometimes, but here it's more of everyone is a jackass that's trying to use you for their own ends. Also, the locales aren't nearly as many, and all are rather small and cramp. Lastly, things stray a bit far from the gritty futuristic cyberpunk theme with a few of the things that pop-up.
A higher point is decisions you make echo on later. You can kill someone early on and never hear from them again, thus eliminating a future battle or plot point. You could also spare someone, only to find they screw you over later on. Everything has an effect later on, which is quite nifty in my opinion.
In all, it is a good storyline to be sure and creates a convincing world. It just lacks the length and depth to really stand out.
Ah, now here is something excellent. Invisible War looks quite fantastic. Realistic, real time shadows are cast (sadly, you lack a shadow...and feet...) off of everything. Havok's physic engine is employed which gave me a hour or two of fun by itself messing around with. Bodies crumple in accordance to their surroundings, go sailing when a nearby explosion hits. Barrels and boxes fall off one another. It all looks very nice in practice. There can be a few framerate quirks when things get hectic. I think my Xbox nearly exploded when I stuffed over a dozen bodies into a elevator, up to the roof, and tossed a grenade into the mix. It's isn't realistic physics by any means, but they are certainly fun.
Character models are mixed bag. Animations are all quite stiff. The actual bodies of characters look very good, but a few faces look off. Eyes and such features look painted on and mouths, while animated well, look a bit off as well. They still look pretty damn good in either case.
The environments look fantastic. Especially with the lighting. Textures look slightly rough up close, but you'd have to be quite a stickler for details to care of such.
In all, an amazingly fine job of graphics. One of the best looking games on the Xbox at the moment.
Sound is a mixed bag. Actual sound effects are all good. Guns sound like they should, barrels bang about appropriately, boxes smash like normal. Nothing special, but it gets the job done.
Voice acting is fairly average. Alex D in particular is very wooden and monotone. To be fair, so was JC. However, JC Denton sounded like a badass, even with a deadpan acting job. Alex D sounds like an average guy or girl who is fairly disinterested in the whole affair and is reading off of a script. Most everyone shows next to no emotion. There are a few well done voices; but nothing spiffy as Simons' or especially Bob Page or even JC. Actually, Walton Simons's old voice actor returns with his weird but cool sounding voice in a completely unrelated role, but that's besides the point. To be fair, Invisible War does have any absolute horrible voice actors such as the ones present for the original's Hong Kong chapter. Yikes...
Music...uhh...quite honestly I don't remember a damn bit of music from this game. There are some terrible pop songs in the bars that come to mind, but even then it sounded like someone was mumbling some pop-punk crap. DX1 had a fairly good techoish soundtrack that fit the mood very well. The kickass Deus Ex theme of the original is sort of there in the beginning menu, but it's barely recognizable as it is morphed into something quite different. In all, not nearly as good as the originals and nothing note worthy all around.
The overall play time is around fifteen hours if you take it slow, do everything, carefully plan your moves. I could easily see myself blast through it in less than ten. Not nearly as long as the original by any means.
However, there are quite a bit of different options this time around. The game could be replayed with yourself staying loyal to a certain side, killing everyone, going completely stealth, etc. There are tons of ways to approach each objective, making each experience different. Personally, I love such types of games and will find myself replaying this one again. Mileage may vary.
There are also four different endings and an addition secret one ''ending.'' However, much like DX1, they can all be accomplished by making a different decision the last ten minutes of the game.
Rent or Buy?
Personally, I'd say it's worthy of a purchase. There is tons of replayability. A fairly good storyline and just a solid game overall. It isn't close to the original Deus Ex in most respects, but it is still a quality title.
Finals (8/10 not an average):
I enjoyed Deus Ex: Invisible War very much. However, perhaps I set the bar too high by expecting it to match its predecessor. It's a great ride while it lasts but it leaves a slightly sour aftertaste in retrospect. Take it as you will.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/04
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