Review by Winkle

"Disappointing is an Understatement"

- Introduction -
Deus Ex: Invisible War is the follow-up to the incredible and award-winning Deus Ex, which was released back in 2000 by Ion Storm. Once again, Warren Spector is back at the helm of the sequel that, during its development promised to shatter and blow the original out of the water. Unfortunately, many of these promises were broken, and they are very evident from the instant the player starts the game. Please note that the review is based on the patched version (1.1) of the game, as prior to installing the patch the game was actually unplayable.

- Reviewer's Computer Specs -
AMD Athlon XP2100+
512MB PC2100 DDR-RAM
MSI GeForce4 Ti4400 128MB AGP

- Graphics (5/10) -
All those beautiful and breath-taking screenshots we all saw during the development of this game is nothing but a farce. DX2 is a victim of console-porting, during mid-development the benevolent people at Ion Storm or Eidos decided to develop the PC and Xbox version at the same time. As a result, the graphics were severely toned down to meet the lower standards of the Xbox.
And boy does it show, the engine is a mess. Poor optimization makes things even worst, the graphics are disappointing at most and even with good hardware you'll be hard-pressed to get decent or playable frame-rates. Prior to the patch, the game was unplayable due to ''mouse-lag''. After the patch things improved but still required a fair bit of tweaking and messing with the game's files to get decent frame-rates.
This is hardly acceptable, especially where other recently released games (KoTOR, Prince of Persia) features far superior graphics and runs much more smoothly on inferior hardware.
Although a few things were done well, such as NPC models which looked very nice, although everyone had wide bug-eyes that made it look like they were high on something. Unfortunately for some reason the characters facial model was done very poorly, almost like a last-minute job which really hurts the atmosphere.
Level design is also nothing special; the vast majority of levels are cramped interior spaces and the outdoor environments look like something ripped straight out of Quake2. Despite the engine problems and issues, it is sad to say that the original Deus Ex looked considerably better then its successor.

- Audio (6/10) -
Very run-of-the-mill, there¡¦s nothing special here. The sound effects are decent and nothing great and the voice-acting is decent. Some characters have good voice-actors, and some don't. Although it is an improvement from the mono-tone hero of the first game, it still fails to distinguish itself from some of the other games out there.
The background music was also decent at best; once again it suffers from mediocrity and presents nothing unique. It was almost if the audio department was treated as a second-class citizen, we have seen examples were music carried the game onto a whole new level (Freedom Fighters for instance) but Ion Storm failed to take advantage of that.

- Gameplay (4/10) -
The strengths; the story, and that's about it. The plot of DX2 is its only saving factor, much like the original; DX2 features a very deep and twisting plot. The story was quite enjoyable and fans of the original should probably pick this up just for the story, than return it for a better game. It is highly suggested that you play the first game through first before tackling the sequel, there are numerous references to the original game and if you understand them, you'll be able to enjoy the game more. A nice touch also was the return of many of the casts from the original to give you that nostalgic feeling.
But alas, the plot cannot save a terrible game. The game-lay, much like the graphics can be summed up in two words, toned-down. Simply put, the game has far less micro-management then the original, instead focusing more on action instead of strategy and role-playing.
There are actually fewer biomods in this game then in the original, and even then you are only allowed to have five (one of the biomods is a default and cannot be changed). This makes for a much more limited field of play and options. Unfortunately the laughable AI and strange bugs will make the biomods mostly for show, I rarely used any of the biomods during the game and found them to be almost utterly useless.
Sadly, Ion Storm's decision to focus more on action is failed by the fact that the AI is comparable to that of the original Wolfenstein. Enemies can hear you approaching but that is made useless by the fact that they are all near-sighted and will not see you unless you're very close. Then they are hampered by their inability to draw their weapons quickly, coupled that with their poor vision and you have some very pathetic enemies. Chances are, you will go through the game using your pistol 99% of the time because you will literally have an average of 5 or 6 seconds to line-up a headshot.
Now in the rare occurrence where the enemy actually fires on you, no worries because all they do is stand their ground and fire. The age-old strafe technique works wonders, simply circling and firing on an enemy will let you wipe out entire armies of soldiers and bots with ease. Clearly this design was catered to the console-market.
Finally the damage modeling is also horrendous. There's a problem when you have to empty whole clips just to take one person out. I was so frustrated that I finally tweaked the damage multiplier to make the game a bit more realistic and less annoying. Another grip is lack of reloads, there's no reload function!
Game length, very short, around 8 hours at most.
All these features were obviously thrown in to make the Xbox version more playable, but at the same time it made the PC version less playable. It is sad to see the sequel to one of the best games in the history of computer gaming fall due to appeasement to the console gamers.

- Conclusion -
In summary, this game has a strong plot and story line. Unfortunately that's about it, there's nothing to back it up, poor graphics, mediocre audio and console-styled action gameplay has turned what could have been potentially the best game of 2003 into nothing more then bargain bin trash. It simply lacks any polish, and evidently was pushed out the door prematurely to meet the holiday rush.
If you're a big fan of Deus Ex, I would recommend this game just for the story. I loved the original and couldn't wait to tackle the sequel, but it was a very painful experience and I literally had to force myself to play through the game. Unless you've played the original and are a fan, do stay away from this one. There are much better games out there (Max Payne 2, KoTOR, Prince of Persia, Call of Duty for example). If you insist on playing this, get a copy of the original and run it through before you touch this. Hopefully that will make the experience less torturous (or more).
I never thought it would happen, but it would appear that Mr. Spector has finally made a bad game. Hell must be freezing over.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 12/23/03

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