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SummaryButchered, Bothered, and Bewildered
The GoodI consider the first Deus Ex one of the most important games ever made. Like many other fans of that Warren Spector masterpiece, I was impatiently waiting for the sequel; when I laid my hands on it, it made me shrug my shoulders more than once, until I decided it was not worth my time. However, I found myself coming back to the game in my thoughts; eventually, eight years later, my interest having been revived by Human Revolution, I gave it another chance.
All the annoying simplifications aside, the core gameplay still retains some of that special Deus Ex magic.The abundance of stuff to find brings back fond memories of a game that can become a giant scavenger hunt; even though they went over the top with that (thorough exploration rewards you with way more items than you'll ever need), it is still fun. I love collecting items, sometimes just for the sake of it, and Invisible War does satisfy that instinct somewhat.
Each level has branching paths accommodated to different styles of play. Don't want to spend multitools to disable laser beams? Maybe you could crawl through a nearby vent; but beware of spider bots. Any given area can be tackled by using different means - not necessarily by seeking out alternate routes. Tired of all this crawling? How about walking in gun-blazing, and dispatching of those giant robots with the EMP secondary fire of your mag rail? Be my guest. Think it would be too challenging? Activate a biomod that makes you invisible to robots, and quickly run past it. Every approach has its obvious advantages and disadvantages, but the bottom line is that the player can switch gears at any time, allowing for fluent gameplay. This cardinal aspect of the original Deus Ex was carried over to the sequel - though I must say that at times it felt like mechanical copying.
The world of Invisible War is fully interactive. Objects will physically react to your actions; you can move, knock down, throw, destroy, and interact with pretty much everything you see. Every single item, no matter how unimportant it is, can be picked up and put elsewhere. Moving items sometimes rewards you with a discovery of an alternate route, and throwing chairs and crates at enemies (with an appropriate biomod installed) is very cool.
The BadWhy the hate? This is a sentence I've encountered on more than one website dedicated to the series. Many fans of the original Deus Ex loathe Invisible War; while I do not quite share this sentiment, I can certainly see where the hate comes from.
It's all been discussed many times before: removal of role-playing elements, unified ammo, dumbed-down interface, claustrophobic hubs. Side quests are always great, but the player needs to be rewarded for completing them. Without experience points, money would be the only reward; however, money is useless in the game. You cannot buy anything except food, and you don't need it. Even if you could buy other items, you wouldn't need to: everything is plentiful. Biomod canisters, in particular, are as common as bread loaves. I'm actually glad they removed shops because those would have made the game even easier. But of course it would have been better if they balanced all this without cutting out anything. And of course, there is the console habit of imposing limitations on everything.
Unified ammo - there is no way around it, it's not a good idea. Yes, I found myself rejoicing when I realized I will never run out of sniper rifle ammo. But that ruined the whole "you must survive with whatever little you have" aspect of the game; it went contrary to the concept of using different means to solve problems.
The interface bothered me enormously until I realized I could turn off the item display in the HUD by making it completely opaque. Wandering around in cities that consisted of a few narrow corridors was even less agreeable. Seriously: no city feels like one; in some places the cramped design borders on ridiculous, literally squeezing you into straight paths you can not deviate from. Add to that the painful loading times: minuscule locations are separated from each other by loading screens announced with an ironic "do you want to travel to..." greeting. Travel? You call opening a door and stepping through it traveling?
There was also something less tangible - a certain aspect of design and presentation that kept bothering me. A feeble, but constant unpleasant feeling relentlessly accompanied my playing sessions. I disliked the game's cold, calculated nature. It is as if somebody took some cool aspects from the first Deus Ex and carefully combined them together without infusing them with passion. I could never shake off the impression of artificial, deliberate planning.
Invisible War did nothing to correct the flaws of the original game. They bothered me more in the sequel than they did in the predecessor: three years have passed, and the second game lost a lot of what made the first one great, so I expected that they will at least address the weaker aspects of the original. Bad voice acting and moronic AI are still there. Hostile areas still tend to be monotonous and abstract.
The Bottom LineInvisible War is a curious product. It's a terrible sequel, but I wouldn't call it a bad game. Even in its butchered, mutilated state, Deus Ex manages to elevate itself above the crowd.
Another reviewer passed the following verdict on Invisible War: "it's by far not as good as the first game, but it's still better than a lot of that crap out there". I think there is much truth in this statement.