Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Ion Storm
Release Date: December 2, 2003 (NA), March 5, 2004 (EU), June 17, 2004 (JP)
System: PC, Xbox
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about the original Deus Ex? It pioneered emergent, decision-based game play? It effortlessly created an amalgamation of the FPS and RPG genres? It’s friggin’ awesome? While the first game in the series has gotten more positive feedback than an HD remake of Final Fantasy VII, the second game, Deus Ex: Invisible War is considerably more controversial. PC gamers felt it was dumbed down to fit onto the less-powerful Xbox, diluting what made the first game great. Going back and playing the Xbox version a few weeks ago though, I can safely say that, for those tired of the shallow, linear experiences that many people feel dominates the modern gaming marketplace, this game is totally worth playing.
Taking place after the Collapse J.D. Denton brought about in the first game, Alex Denton must uncover the motivations behind a terrorist attack on Chicago and ultimately decide which secret organization will run the imminent new world order. Since I am PC illiterate and the first game did not play nice with my PC, I have yet to play the first, and this did make the plot much harder to follow. However, despite mediocre to downright hilarious voice acting and dorky main character, the mysterious atmosphere and intrigue that run through the story made at least being around for what was going on enjoyable.
The way the plot plays out is affected heavily by which organization Alex chooses to side with. Listing them all would be tiresome and make for a boring read, but rest assured players will not be at a shortage of moral and ideological conundrums and the story unfolds. The way players decide to carry out Alex’s objectives completely changes how each faction thinks of him, and there will come a time where players have to choose sides and cut themselves off from certain advantages and people. This adds plenty of replay value.
As for the RPG elements, rather than going with the leveling-up system that ran the first game’s character progression, the team at Ion Storm opted to replace that with bio-mod canisters, which can be found in the game’s open worlds, purchased, or received as rewards for quests that players complete. This means that rather than rewarding players with experience points for completing quests, the game gave out purely material awards. While this removes the grind that can sometimes dominate the proceedings, it also meant that maxing out one’s character was all too easy. I was bathing in bio-mod canisters by the end of the game, removing some of the excitement that comes with getting a new level.
Despite this, exploring the environments in the game was still a blast. You could go in guns blazing, Solid Snake style, or via diplomacy through talking to characters that didn’t start shooting as soon as you showed your face. Looking for weapon mods (or bio-mods earlier on in the game), new tools to round out your armory, or that shiny new gun makes it worth finding that vent to get you into an armory or using those muti-tools to open that door to some guy’s office.
Unfortunately, while the thrill of exploration never gets old, the mechanics that make it all work do. In the case of Deus Ex: Invisible War, they didn’t age all that great in some cases. While it has some modern day conveniences like a save-anywhere system, there are plenty of things that make the game seem almost 10 years old. Movement can feel extremely clumsy, as well as aiming weapons, making any shootouts you get into a pain at times. The physics are also aged, and sometimes jumping over obstacles or climbing up them just sucks. Finally, the flat visuals and A.I. that is easy to fool can sometimes put a damper on the experience. OH, and there’s no map, a big no-no for open-world games.
Despite all of these problems, though, a patient player willing to acclimate themselves to some slightly old interface issues will have plenty of fun. For those that have played the original too many times (if there is such a thing), or for those that want to take a break from the most recent entry, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, before giving it another go will find plenty to like if they have an original Xbox (no backwards compatibility with the 360 *tear) or a PC that can run it.