Review by EdS25
"Joins its older brother offering unparalleled player freedom."
The original Deus Ex is widely regarded as a work of genius. Like many masterpieces, it was never fully appreciated upon release; it built a community of rabid fans over the steady course of time. Fans who appreciated the freedom of the open-ended gameplay style. Fans who loved the characters, and the complexity and depth of its intricate story and setting. Fans who have been waiting impatiently for a sequel to their beloved game and hoping beyond hope that it would somehow top the original. I do not envy the developers who have these fans to answer to. The sequel to Deus Ex is here, and while still brilliant in many respects, a few technical and interface issues mar an otherwise very enjoyable and immersive game.
Both of the Deus Ex games are based on a single concept : player freedom. Freedom to craft your character how you want, deal with situations in your own way, deal death and judgment at every turn (or not). I am not a game designer, far from it actually, but I believe this type of game is hard to make. How do you allow for the multitude of possibilities gamers will come up with to interact with your world? What if they decide to kill every major character they meet? What if they decide to do nothing but set penguins on fire? What if they abandon the story and decide their main goal is to collect every can of soda in the game and then dump them all into a humongous pile to test your physics engine? In this regard, I have the utmost respect for the developers for how much of this actually WORKS. Sure there are a couple of loopholes here and there (characters giving me orders to do stuff I have already done) but I give credit where credit is due.
In Deus Ex 2, you are Alex D, a biomodified student of Tarsus Academy in Chicago. Once a terrorist attack destroys my beloved hometown, you are whisked away to Seattle with a few of your classmates, and the adventure begins. Who was behind the terrorist attack? How is the world functioning after the great Collapse? In this world of biomodifcation and nanotechnology, who is in power? Who should be? Where the hell are the Dentons? These are the questions you will seek answers to throughout the game. If a couple of these don't make sense, that may be because you missed out on the first game.
I definitely think that Deus Ex 2 is more rewarding if you have played the first. There are several key characters that return, as well as a few locations. Playing Invisible War without playing the Deus Ex would be kind of like watching Empire Strikes Back without seeing Star Wars. You can follow the story, but you lose the background and miss out on many references.
As mentioned before, Deus Ex is about the player's freedom to deal with situations how he sees fit. Instead of the classic example of a locked door, I will go with the more interesting dilemma of needing an item stored in a hangar bay filled with elite troopers, a massive assault bot, and gun turrets.
Option 1 : Run and Gun. Not recommended, but if you have upgraded your strength and speed, and have a nice cache of ammo, you might actually survive. Another neat ability with this route is ''Aggressive Defense'' which will detonate enemies' rockets as soon as they're fired - they will basically blow themselves up. (Although one wonders why they keep firing after the first rocket - I would have been impressed if they switched to a melee attack after that.)
Option 2 : Stealth. Use your cloaking abilities against both Organics and Bots. Sneak around in the shadows, eliminate the guards one by one, then deal with the Bot.
Option 3 : Hacker. Hack the security system, and take out the guards with the turrets. Set them to auto-attack, or control it yourself if your Neural Interface is upgraded.
Option 4: Scrambler Grenade. Will force the Bot to attack his own troops. Once he clears them out, walk right on by with a smug grin on your face.
Option 5: Bot Domination. Sneak in the shadows, and use Thermal Cloaking (Invisibility to Bots) to get close enough to take control of the Military Grade Bot. Use his rocket launcher to take out everything that moves.
Option 6: Lure the enemies out of the hangar, where nearby members of their rival faction will start blasting at them.
Option 7 : Use enhanced vison to see the troopers through the walls, and use the wall-penetrating rail gun to take them out.
Options 8-?? : Completely up to you.
I used this lengthy description to give an example of not only how many options are available, but also the types of character you can play. If dealing with this situation using sci-fi skills and gadgets appeals to you, I can almost garauntee you will enjoy this game.
So is there anything bad about the game? Sure. The main trouble I had is that some of the combat felt really ''loose'' to me. I have played FPS's with much better aiming and control. I also missed some of the interfaces of the original Deus Ex : hacking computers, dialing keypads, heck even ATM's had their own interface which made the world feel more immersive. That has been ''streamlined'' in Deus Ex 2, and yes I absolutely REFUSE to use the term ''dumbed-down.''
Deus Ex 2 does not feel dumbed-down to me, mainly because the player freedoms and choices are still intact, totally REGARDLESS of whether your damn pistol uses the same ammo as the flamethrower. Much like some of the decisions in the first game and Knight of the Old Republic, there is a moral ambiguity present. Decisions really fall into a gray area. The various factions in the game will be pulling you in opposite directions. One will want you to assassinate a leader of a resistance, the other to help him. Will this be good for the people of this world or not? There are doubts on either side, and it is completely up to YOU. I literally felt myself ''weighing'' decisions, and to me that is a sign of an incredibly well-designed, thought-provoking game.
Let me get this out of the way - yes, the framerate isn't perfect. There are a few rooms in the game where it gets especially choppy. But I would say about 90% of the time it is incredibly solid, especially considering the fantastic lighting and detail the engine is churning out.
Again, I will describe the graphics (as well as physics) with an example : let's say you have a tall halogen light in the corner of your room. It casts a cone of light up into the corner, and creates shadows below. Let's say you knock it over. It wobbles for a second, then falls. The cone of light now creates a hotspot on the ground, which radiates and fades outward. The light now casts a large shadow of its bowl shaped top on to the wall. Imagine how this looks in the real world. Got it? That's EXACTLY what it looks like in the game. I think I literally spent about 10 minutes playing with that light, rolling it around and marveling at how it affected the lighting and shadow of the room. Then I pushed a table in the light cone, and sure enough the shadow was projected onto the wall. You might think I am too easily impressed, but these were some of the best graphics I've seen yet. Some thought the physics system was too exaggerated, but I found that to be fairly realistic as well.
Sound and Music
Unfortunately, the voice overs and music were not that great. The main character never raises his voice over a monotone, even when in incredible danger and/or deciding the fate of the entire planet. There were also several times that I was supposed to be eavesdropping on conversations and couldn't hear them without turning my stereo to full blast. (Of course, then I was nearly deafened when an enemy snuck up behind me and detonated a concussion grenade 3 or 4 mm from my head.)
However, the sound effects were pretty damn good. There is a large thud from the subwoofer accompanying each shotgun blast, and it makes it feel really solid. The biomod canisters that augment your abilites essentially inject a billion nanomachines into your bloodstream and well, that's exactly what it sounds like. (As if I would know.)
Deus Ex 2 showed a game clock of about 13 hours after my first playthrough. However, this is not a true representation. Throughout Deus Ex 2, I would scout areas, then try several different methods (see above) to deal with situations. I would then pick the method that either conserved ammo, or energy, or was just plain friggin cool and go with that.
Deus Ex 2 has a lot of replayability because of the freedom involved. The multiple endings are nice but I believe you can view them all by changing what you do in the last 10-15 minutes of the game. Kind of disappointing, really. I envisioned more that you would have to join and stay loyal to a faction for the entire game to get that ending, then play the entire game completely different for the next.
However, it is the decisions you make that will keep the game interesting for the next go around. One involves your choice of pilot when you go to each area: the Han Solo type will get you by security, for a price, whereas the government agent will set you at the front door for free. It is a much different play experience to sneak in through the unguarded roof access than have to deal with the guards at the front gate.
My next time through I will play as a female, with completely different Biomods (skills), and attempt to alter the story quite a bit by making much different (albeit much more informed) decisions. Therefore Deus Ex 2 has excellent replay value in my opinion.
Deus Ex : Invisible War was a well-designed, immersive game, with incredible graphics and unparalleled player freedom. There simply aren't enough games like this.
Score: 8.5/10 (-1.5 for a few technical problems, uninspired voice/music, and not being quite as good as the original.)
In Deus Ex 3 I would love to see the marriage of the first Deus Ex's complexity with the jawdropping visuals and complete moral ambiguity of Invisible War.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/17/03
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