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SummaryInvisible War is an underrated title, and despite its simplified elements, is still amongst the most intriguing of modern adventure titles.
The Bottom LineThe original Deus Ex threw the first person genre into a loop, rather than conforming to established methods, it combined role playing, stealth, shooting, and adventure gaming into one neat little package. It had a very cool story which dealt with government conspiracies and changed around as you played. It was one of the few true "choice" systems that actually managed to conform to your playing style and keep you fully immersed rather than asking you to make a junction with a limited choice set.
I missed out on much of the last generation of gaming, but I did play Deus Ex and I loved it. Yet everyone kept telling me how terrible Invisible War was, but regardless I wanted to at least play it. And I have to ask... why all the hate? No, its not the sequel it could have been, but its still a very cool game with a heavy adventure element.
The story takes place 20 years after the events of the first game. After the destruction of Area 51 and the death of the man in charge of the Majestic 12, the world's government falls to pieces and leaves the world in an economic depression known as the collapse. Like in the first game, terrorism is seemingly common place now, no one is truly safe and no one is truly trustworthy. Global fear and panic naturally ensues.
Meanwhile, the augmentation project from the first game has taken a step up, able to genetically alter humans. This too causes unrest, people afraid of what an augmented human can truly do when the sky is practically the limit. The game begins with a terrorist attack on Chicago, and focuses on a corporation known as Tarsus. Relocating to Seattle, you are young Tarsus Academy student Alex D. Even there you are not safe as the Tarsus Academy is attacked, but the veil is slowly lifted when Tarsus is truly treating its students as lab rats for even further human augmentation and breeding genetic soldiers. This is where the game leaves you with the questions and as you progress, the story will take you for many twists and turns, much like its predecessor.
It also helps the story that the developers have expanded the games universe more. Although some things seem a little too high tech for a global depression, it does have a nice art design and there are many new facets of the series' universe which make it a richer and more diverse one. The story is a little easier to follow than its predecessor, even if it doesn't carry the same impact. My biggest flaw with the story here is that a plot point the game treats like a twist later on is made obvious right at the start. Your characters name is Alex D. What "D" stands for is a little too obvious to anyone who has played the first title.
The gameplay from its predecessor is largely intact, save for one element. While the Stealth, exploration, and shooting are all here in pristine condition the RPG elements have wandered off somewhere and are rarely heard from. You do not gain experience or skills, augmentation canisters are more common and save for black market or "professional" mods, they let you pick any augmentation you want right off the bat rather than having each augmentation canister have a unique trait. Upgrade canisters are gone as well, with upgrades available with each augmentation canister. The game also takes away your notes and makes keypads and other such devices instant use, provided you found that datacube. This does fracture the immersion some, and while the game is still highly immersive, it will not keep you glued to your chair as long as its predecessor due to this.
The dumbed down RPG elements are the weakest element of Invisible War and I too, was pissed at first and ready to condemn it like most other fans of the first game. But don't be so quick to condemn it, once you simmer down and have explored the world a bit, you will be hooked. At least I was. Once again, an important element of what made the first game unique shows up here: Exploration and adventure. They did not dumb this element down, and exploring the rich world is just as rewarding as it ever was. The adventure elements, like its predecessor, actually conform to your gameplay style rather than providing simple junctions like most games with a "choice" element. Granted, there are some exceptions here where you do make crucial choices from a tree, but they only open up separate possibilities and this element is really just to choose which faction to side with. The game will still evolve as you play, which keeps it a replayable and fresh experience.
The graphics, like its predecessor, are... well, "Meh." The Unreal 2.0 engine is used this time, and similar to how the first game failed to use the power of the first Unreal engine, this game doesn't make use of its powerful engine. Characters have creepy faces that stare with an occasional sprite blinking for them and they animate minimally. Textures are extremely low resolution. About the only thing the graphics really have going for them are some terrific lighting effects. The lighting is great and shadowing is realistic. Apparently the lower res graphics/textures were used to facilitate the Xbox, but that is not an excuse. Doom 3 had an engine tailored for the PC and the Xbox, but the PC version still took advantage of any extra hardware.
Another problem with the graphics are the framerates. Due to some very sloppy code, the game has performance issues up the butt. Sometimes, even on a modern computer, the framerate can dive and jitter. The games simplistic system requirements are misleading, and when I first bought it I was going to install it on the laptop I bought 2 years ago and play it on a roadtrip, and despite that Laptop being able to play some notorious system hogs such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but with the shadowing on the game ran at an unplayable 6 frames per second and with those effects off, 14 was an improvement but still pathetic.
I didn't have too much problem running it on my Desktop, but there were still dives and jitters and apparently everyone had these problems. Its one thing to neglect visual detail to facilitate a console, but you shouldn't neglect solid coding to facilitate a console instead.
Regardless, the game world is still highly immersive and fun to explore and will take you to many locales through the course of its story. The game is noticeably shorter than the first game, whereas the first game could take a solid 28+ hours to complete, Invisible War clocks in around 18. Granted, that's not bad and there is so much to see and do that that number would be higher if I were including side quests and such, I am only focusing on a dry run of the main plot length to gauge that number.
The music is really cool. Like its predecessor, the sound has a techno-ish vibe that fits the Cyberpunk style like a glove. There are lots of cool highlights, and the game also has one of the best fictional artists I've heard in awhile. What I mean by this is that there is a female techno/pop rock artist who exists solely in the games universe, but her music appears in the game universe and it ain't half bad. I'll admit that I pretended to dance to one of her tunes at the club where you first hear them. Granted that style of music may not be for everyone, but I certainly dug it.
The games shooting elements are base, but they work and can be expanded. You can still modify your guns, and the modification is a bit more balanced this time. In the first game, I had a pistol with a scope, 5 accuracy upgrades, 2 clip upgrades, a laser sight, a silencer and armour piercing bullets. Although it was kinda cool crafting a unique pistol through the upgrades, that pistol was overpowered as hell. About the only other fictional handgun I can think of that could beat that pistol is Dirty Harry's infamously awesome .44 Magnum. Here, each weapon can only hold two weapon mods. This keeps them a bit more balanced and the action a bit more even, along with the fact that this game is a little more forgiving at times then its predecessors. You won't turn into a bloody block of Swiss cheese within the first 5 minutes like you did last time.
The weapon mods are also a bit more diverse and offer a wider variety of changes. Some are rarer and have unique effects, such as glass destabilization, which can actually melt glass. I had a pistol with that mod and a standard silencer mod and it was perfect for silent take downs as well as robberies. I do have to admit, it was fun, one time I snuck into someones home to rob them and rather than kill them, just knocked them out and I was thinking "What if he wakes up and hits that alarm?" and I noticed a ventilation shaft above the room and tossed his body there and shut it. Later I heard footsteps, and he was standing in the vent running towards the alarm but obviously couldn't get out. I also got a pretty nifty energy sword out of this with m handy glass destabilization mod.
Shooting this time also uses a unified ammo system, which is efficient, though it does have its con. You never have to reload per se and you never have to worry about a gun taking 3 hours to reload like some of the ones in the first game. Every weapon in your arsenal uses this ammo, although some drain more ammo than others. As I said, it is an efficient system that keeps the action fast paced. Its biggest con is that you don't get alternate ammo types in their proper form. Here, they take the form of weapon mods, meaning you can't switch between them once you've modded a weapon with the alternate ammo and I often feel its a waste of a weapons' modification slot.
As a whole, Invisible War is, in my mind, heavily underrated. I understand that more often than not, video game sequels are arguably the only form of sequels that can be better than their predecessors, but I do not understand why one slightly inferior sequel should be condemned when what content is here is in top shape. I had a lot of fun and loved the story, characters, universe, and gameplay. Isn't fun the primary objective of a game? To each their own, but I recommend Invisible War to fans of shooters, stealth em' ups and adventure fans; and I wish for Deus Ex fans to give this one another chance with a clear mind.