Deus Ex: Invisible War
Deus Ex was a groundbreaking FPS that seamlessly meshed RPG elements, a conspiracy-laden narrative and multiple paths and objectives. There was always more than one way to complete an objective, and that simple idea, along with all the other strengths, made Deus Ex a classic. The long-awaited sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War (henceforth Deus Ex 2) is not an awful game; it’s just totally unworthy of the Deus Ex name for a number of reasons.
Those who have beaten the first game may be wondering which ending Deus Ex 2 is based on. Essentially, all of them are interwoven together. There was a huge collapse after JC Denton’s actions at the end of the first game, but now the futuristic world is quickly rebuilding itself after 20 tough years. Human beings are still being biomodified to increase their strength, and there are still various organizations trying to achieve power in the post-collapse world. Some of the groups lurk in the shadows, though some make themselves highly visible, such as the terrorists that destroyed the city of Chicago.
You play as Alex D, a trainee at the Tarsus Academy who just transferred to Seattle after the Chicago base was destroyed. Just as Alex started to get settled in, religious extremists attack and Alex D winds up free from the Tarsus Academy. No longer confined to the strict Tarsus control, it’s up to you to decide which group to align yourself to. Throughout the game different leaders try convincing you who to join up with. Each group harbors secrets, and there’s a new revelation at every turn. The many secrets and conspiracies are mildly interesting, but it’s all a rehash of the first game only this time there are no memorable characters and the feeling of surprise is gone.
The gameplay is frustratingly dumbed down, but at least a few things are done right. Exploring is still very rewarding. In the cities there are many characters who give you sidequests that can be completed for some cash or items. There are hidden areas at every turn, and items scattered all around for your usage. Of course, you won’t always be hanging out in safe areas. You’ll have to go to many facilities that don’t really appreciate someone sneaking around. Deus Ex 2 encourages you to find multiple ways to approach a situation. For example, you can find an air duct to sneak through, use some multitools (AKA lock picks) to get in elsewhere, or bust through the front door and simply blast the hell out of anything that moves.
Assuming the “blast the hell out of anything” path is taken, it becomes very evident that the AI is rather poor. Once in a while the enemies try to avoid a grenade you just tossed, but occasionally they won’t budge. Guys with rocket launcher fire at point-blank range, which tends to take out the dumbass and any of his allies that are nearby. In one instance, the AI was incredibly sketchy. I was in a room full of people supposedly allied with me. I’d walk right in front of them and they would not attack me or anything, so I assumed I was safe. After walking down a flight of stairs a tiny spiderbot noticed me. The whole room decided to attack me for no reason. The turrets were going off, and I was getting shot from all sides. I still have no idea what happened there.
Aside from the different paths, freedom of choice is emphasized in a couple other aspects. The biggest decisions lie in how to complete an objective. With various groups asking for your help, you have to decide what exactly to do. If you piss off one group then they’ll send some soldiers to help “convince” you to act otherwise in the future. Deciding allegiances is the only thing that has been improved over the original.
More important decisions are made through deciding which skills to learn through the use of biomods. There are three different mods for six different body parts, so deciding which of the many biomods will cater to your playing style. You can decide to learn to hack, which will grant you access to ATM machines and security terminals. Or you can make a stealth character that can evade humans and machines. Most biomods take up energy, so they cannot be used indefinitely without finding energy cells.
Unfortunately, the amount of customization has been drastically reduced from Deus Ex. There used to be an excellent leveling-up system in which you could increase weapons proficiency and other skills through experience points. For some reason this was inexplicably removed. That’s not all that’s been dumbed down. Now all weapons use the same ammo, with different weapons taking up different amounts. Not only is this just plain silly, but it hurts my brain thinking on how something like this would be possible.
But the most annoying thing has been dumbed down is how tiny most of the levels are. Apparently Deus Ex 2 was designed for the Xbox, and that shows in the size of all of the levels. There are load times all over the place, and the lack of size makes for less tactical options that veterans are used to. Only two of the levels even come close to the size of anything in the first game, but the difference in size still obvious.
Considering the size of the levels, it’s baffling on how poorly the game was optimized. There are constant drops in the frame rate, and even though my computer exceeds the recommended requirements,Deus Ex 2 still ran very poorly. The graphics aren’t even that impressive. Aside from some excellent lighting effects and the occasionally impressive Havok physics there really isn’t anything special. Apparently a lot more time was put in the Xbox version than in the PC version. Considering it was PC fans who recognized the original as a classic, this is especially insulting.
The last level of Deus Ex: Invisible War took place in one of the locales from first installment. The whole time I was playing this stage I could just think about how disappointing this sequel is. It’s not that it’s a truly awful game; it’s just that it’s average when it should be great. After I finally beat Deus Ex 2 I loaded up the first game and played through it again without thinking once about the sequel. I suggest you do the same in order to maintain the splendid memories of a classic game.