Review by zestypinto
If You Don't Want to Compare
Deus Ex: Invisible War is a game that feels like it wasn't pushed in design. It seems to suffer from certain issues that are visibly apparent to the traditional gamer and from plot holes that the fans of the original will disapprove of, but I will get to that.
Gameplay: This was a game that was bragged to be so open-ended that you could beat the game without killing anyone and they are right in that it is very possible. The game is impressive in that respect. You have a variety of options with what and how you can modify your character and your playstyle: will you play the pacifist, the hacker, or the gun-toting soldier? Weapons are varying to different types as well as several unique weapons, all of them customizable with mods just like your character.
One thing that I should note is that ammunition is universal, making it possible to never worry about finding bullets for your customized weapon and being forced to dump it. Admittedly, I thought the idea was cheesy, but in practice it streamlined the game a lot. I can't help but notice that this also seems to remove a certain dynamic associated with FPS's: by making ammunition universal, there is never the dilemma of switching weapons because of ammunition deficiency of a certain type. The simplification doesn't really add anything to the game, though; if anything, the streamlining seems to make it easier in that respect.
Speaking of streamlining, this theme seems to be very common in this game. In fact, a lot of this game seems to be streamlined for ease. DE:IW was designed for a console in mind and this may be what encouraged such customization. In honesty, however, for the PC the customization is a little too simple. I spent too many times with a set of keys trying to modify a weapon only to drop the item in the process. While I'm sure it isn't as annoying on an X-Box, I beg to differ when I have 102 keys to use for whatever purpose. Simplification may also be the one thing that
Perhaps most annoying of the game is its lack to memorize your defaults for future games. Each time I have started a game, the first thing I had to do was switch the resolution up, up, up, then modify the keyset again. It gets frustrating for a game that promises replay value.
Graphics: Good for the time, although nowadays you can tell its dated feel. Compared with Half-Life 2, which was released not too long after, the graphics are practically outdated. For most of the game the effects were nice, but some of the skins seemed too simple. Certain characters would speak with continuous wide-eyed surprise on their faces, while children in danger were perpetually happy even as they raised their hands in fear.
Sound: Passable. There was nothing memorable about it and certain sound effects made me question if they were rehashed from System Shock 2.
Storyline: I suppose one can say that it is exceptional in comparison to most storylines from titles around the same time. You are a student from the prestigious Tarsus Academy, where you are taught everything to becoming a special ops agent. It seems that somewhere along the way, however, someone has something against your academy and destroys all of it with a device that eviscerates the building and everything around it, decimating the entire city of Chicago into rubble. Tarsus has its share of enemies and allies, but who would go to the trouble of killing millions just to destroy one facility? What is this really about?
Although there is not much ideology and surprises thrown in your face in this game, if you choose to find it the storyline of this game is fairly well-crafted. Factions aren't simple entities of good and evil, and even the common thug is suggestively never what they are out of choice as much as desperation.
Major issue: While this is a decent game, the most troublesome issue with DE: IW has to be that it's the sequel to one of the most thought-provoking intelligently-programmed PC games of its time. Deus Ex had smart dialogue, a twisting but consistent plot, a customizable key system that was much easier to set AND kept this data, music that was addictive to listen to and heightened the atmosphere, and offered some interesting contrast by relying on skill/biomod systems to flex the character in interesting ways. Sadly, its sequel even suffers in offering homage to its previous series by having plotholes and minor inconsistencies between the first game and its sequel. Granted, minor inconsistencies are really nitpicking, but the first one was made so seamlessly that it is hard not to notice these bits and pieces that deviated.
Conclusion: In the end, it's not a bad game, but it's not great either. The fact that it is a follow-up to one of the best games of its time makes it hard not to call this game a disappointment. Considering it by itself, though, I suppose I could call it playable for a nice weekend distraction, but it's nothing I would call amazing.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Deus Ex: Invisible War (US, 12/02/03)
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