Written by  :  Scott Monster (1014)
Written on  :  Jun 19, 2004
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

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Almost heaven, nearly hell.

The Good

Note: I played this game with the 1.2 patch installed. I highly recommend patching it before playing the game.

As a big fan of the original, I am unable to review it without comparing the 2 products. The graphics are a major delight. While not photo-realistic as compared to Max Payne, the NPCs look more realistic. You can even see the garish eye shadow on some of the games female characters.

The detailed architecture of the levels shows that the developers did create an atmosphere using stagecraft. The levels unwind themselves in ways that are both realistic and immersive. I found myself almost smelling the tainted air in the Cairo level. The eye candy is everywhere.

The music is greatly improved. Its more atmospheric, less distracting and certainly more fitting than the original. The minimalist themes worked well, slightly reminiscent of themes you’d hear in Anachronox. (Not surprising, they’re both from Ion Storm.)

The game play is very similar to the original. If you played Deus Ex, you can leap in to sequel with little or no training. The non-linear nature is here as well. For each level, you have primary and secondary tasks. The primary tasks often are issued by opposing forces, so you can align yourself with either party by choosing one task over another. You gain knowledge, products or credits by performing secondary tasks. The Secondary tasks are not essential to the game, but they add to the fun and can make other parts of the game easier.

The voice acting is pretty good too. Nothing extraordinary, but well with the nature of the game.

The characters are actually very well written. The interaction is pretty cool and fairly deep in discussing real world politics and policies. You find that all the leading parties have similar intentions but very different ways of accomplishing their goals.

Some of the dialogue choices can get you benefits or in to a firefight. So you can at least play diplomat or gunner, depending on how you want to play.

The rag-doll physics did add a nice touch to game play. More intriguing were the environmental physics. You could bump items out of the way, uncovering vents and doorways.

You can also choose genders and skin colors. The choices do not seem to affect the game play very much, with the exception of a randy helicopter pilot.

The playing style can still be varied, and is improved by using biomods of your choice. You can become a killing machine or someone who sneaks around. The biomods let you build a character of specific strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to what reviewers have said, I find the choices do offer a very subtle element of RPG.

The weapons mods can add a little more fun as well. You can install 2 mods per weapon, changing its usefulness and nature of destruction. A machine gun with an EMP damage can pretty much trash anything. And the ammo is universal, so locking and loading is fairly easy.

The choices of endings are pretty cool. They tend to range from easy to impossible.

The Bad

The audio quality was less than stellar. At times, it was worse than the original. The compression used unequally throughout the game. It was not unusual for a dialogue to lose and gain fidelity due to a change in recording/compression quality.

The long load times. Gahh….

The overuse of the same stock body motion captures. It was actually funny to watch women conversing and derisively rocking their upper torso in tandem. The men still look like they have no flexibility in their spinal columns. When the men talk, they actively wave their arms around, looking like the robot from Lost in Space.

The overuse of the same models. With the exception of the main characters, All the NPCs look the same. You’d killed a NPC in one level, and run in to her identical twin in another level. And you keep running in to identical twins, everywhere. And the twins would wear the same identical clothes with the same identical stains. I realize that its standard practice to recycle, but it’s messes up the immersive perspective a bit.

The targeting of items you want to pick up is erratic. You can pick ammo and supplies from the recently dead. But you have to move them first. And then, you have to move the unwanted items away before you can convince the targeting site to point the item you want.

Unlike the last game, your reputation is consistently neutral. You can kill goons and have their leader plead for your assistance in another level. The game becomes more indulgent and less fun because you can do what you want and still have a relatively clean slate with everyone.

The wish is for more RPG elements in actual Role-playing. It would be extremely cool if your choices were reflected in more depth in your NPC interactions. But then again, I wasn’t expecting Fallout, so I’m ok with this part.

And unlike this ghastly long review, IT’S TOO SHORT!

The Bottom Line

Fun, pretty, and with snarky bits of political education. But not as fun as the original.