Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5463)
Written on  :  Sep 12, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars3.14 Stars

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Deus meh

The Good

After the global Collapse, the WTO established safe enclaves for the best and brightest citizens of the world. In these enclaves commercialism flourishes. WTO troops and private sector security forces guard commercial and housing districts, while corporations have free reign to raise and educate their future employees. But all is not well. The Order Church have stepped up their anti-WTO activities. Chicago is decimated by a nanotech bomb, an Arcologist compound in Cairo is under siege, and the Panzerwerks factories are crippled by saboteurs. And lurking in the background is the revitalized Knights Templar, whose neo-luddite rhetoric has taken on religious fervor.

Deus Ex: The Invisible War begins with an Order raid on a Tarsus Academy in Seattle. The player’s character, Alex D—a Tarsus student, finds him- or herself under fire and unable to trust the WTO structure he’s been raised in. While the Order is clearly in the wrong, events suggest that Tarsus had ulterior motives regarding his education. Alex finds himself pulled between the WTO and the Order, with both sides recruiting his friends and attempting to sway his opinion. Starting in Upper Seattle, the player is quickly immersed in the gray morality that is the world of Deus Ex.

Invisible War is an action RPG presented from an FPS perspective. The game presents the player with a series of choices in terms of quests and goals. The choices are often conflicting and usually weigh a stack of credits against Alex’s code of ethics. The owner of a nightclub will want someone killed but the mark could double your money. Killing a fighting greasel might improve your gambling luck. Small choices lack the larger repercussions found in the original game, but you can cater to the several factions vying for your favor.

While much of the game can be played over the barrel of the gun, stealthy players can complete the game with few, if any, kills. Like its predecessor, Invisible War is customizable. Through the use of legal and black market biomods, players can upgrade their character, concentrating on creating a covert ops hacker or a killing machine. Basic upgrades allow for health regeneration, increased strength, and increased speed. Illegal modifications let players hack ATMs, take control of security turrets, and drain life from unconscious enemies.

Invisible War doesn’t have to be combat intensive, but there is a decent amount of weaponry to be found. Ranged weapons include the typical lethal pistols, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. A poisoned dart boltcaster can knock out opponents from a distance. You can get up close and personal with a combat knife, energy sword, or various baton types. There is also a wide array of explosives for various user needs.

Of note, *all* projectile weapons draw from the same ammunition pool, but at a different rate. So you might not be able to send any more rockets flying at a Templar in full armor, but you can switch over to the pistol and fire off a few more rounds. Weapons can also be modified, but can only take two upgrades and can’t be downgraded if you change your mind.

The world of Deus Ex is still populated with interesting characters, some of whom return from the original game. The world is littered with books and datacubes, coming nowhere near Morrowind’s word count, but still filling in the gaps and explaining things like why all guns take the same ammunition. This entry has fewer locations than the original (and smaller levels), but there is still a bit of globetrotting to be done.

The Bad

Invisible War, aside from its weaknesses as a Deus Ex game, is a fun, largely open-ended excursion. Its ten hour playtime doesn’t provide enough time to develop characters or explore the storyline and players just coming to the franchise might prefer if characters just shut up rather than droning on about myriad conspiracies and organizations. Still there’s a lot to like here.

Most of what I didn’t like involved design choices. The HUD is clunky and crowded. Resembling an iris, good chunks of Alex’s peripheral vision are taken up with inventory and biomod information. You still have to enter an inventory screen to manage inventory, so it really isn’t time saving—especially since you can use the scroll wheel to move through active inventory items.

Levels look similar regardless of where they are geographically. I guess the proliferation of WTO technology is part of the problem, but I was really dying for something organic towards the game’s end.

Finally, aside from a rendered opening and four rendered endings, nothing happens outside of a game level—i.e., taking a helicopter from Cairo to Trier means clicking on a helicopter in Cairo and then magically showing up in Trier. A few transitional scenes would have been nice.

The Bottom Line

There’s an interesting conspiracy theory that Invisible War is smaller, simpler, and shorter than the original in an effort to make it more console-friendly. I’m not sure I buy it, but you have to wonder: in an age when sequels are bigger and better, why is Invisible War so scaled-down?

Let me step back, when I first played Deus Ex I was singularly unimpressed. As a first-person shooter, it was just average and lacked any sort of robust AI. As a first-person sneaker, I much preferred the Thief series. What I liked on my first play through, was the amount of character customization and the conversation options. And the fact that I had choices to make. Choices that seemed to matter.

The second time I played Deus Ex, I realized how brilliant the game was. Based on the choices your character makes, killing Anna early on or saving Paul, the game *feels* completely different. There’s an incredible level of branching, which I missed the first time out.

Back to Invisible War, I’m not sure that anything I did, up until the last half hour of gameplay, had any real effect. It’s that last half hour that determines which of the four endings you’ll get. Unfortunately, the previous 9-1/2 hours haven’t directed you towards any particular outcome. Are the Illuminati better than the Templars? Is the WTO’s vision of utopia more convincing than ApostleCorps’? Does any of it really matter?