I do remember that I didn't much like the game, at least not compared to the original, and I get the impression a lot of people share that feeling. Nice to see that the proper spinning 3D logo is back again though. It was replaced for the PS2 port of Deus Ex 1 with an inferior variation for no good reason I can think of, but all is well again.
(Click the gameplay screenshots to augment their resolution.)
The unnamed scientists send assault drones out to shoot the nanite cloud and that works out about as well as you'd expect, but they do at least manage to evacuate the last of their trainees onto helicopters before the facility crumbles into dust, soon followed by the entire city of Chicago. Bloody nanites.
The original game gave me just five variations of the same face, but at least a few of them had a different hair colour. Though I suppose adding a second gender with its own model and voice actor does kind of make up for the appalling lack of a ginger option.
Surprisingly out of those six faces above, it's the female character on the left who is Invisible War's default protagonist; which is interesting as she sure ain't the one staring out at you on the box.
I was going to let them off the hook for the 'ONLY ON XBOX' thing, as I assumed the Xbox version must have come out a few months earlier. But nope, it was a simultaneous release. They're just disregarding the PC version altogether.
You know what else annoys me? The fact that Deus Ex 2 is an Xbox game while Deus Ex 1 is 'ONLY ON' the PlayStation 2. I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for how that worked out but still, people shouldn't have to own two machines belonging to the same generation to play through a game series.
I was concerned that since the game was made primarily for consoles this time it wouldn't let me type in the door keycode with my keyboard's numeric keypad, but it turns out I needn't have worried. It doesn't let me type in a code at all. C'mon game, a little extra immersion never hurt. Plus I loved the way I could unlock doors in the first game with codes and passwords I'd written down from an earlier playthrough.
Username: nsf001I am never going to forget that login. Or the door code 0451.
Oh whatever, there's no point whining about it now. The computer in the corner of the room is demanding my attention so I'll go check that out.
Star Trek: Elite Force trick of calling both genders Alex, as the name works fine for either of them.
The computer is relying a hologram call from Dr. Leila Nassif, Director of the Seattle Tarsus Academy. She explains that he was just evacuated here from Chicago during the terrorist attack in the intro, and that there's absolutely no reason he should be concerned by the way the academy building keeps shuddering.
See that gun he's got holstered there by the way? No idea what's going on there, as I'm actually entirely unarmed right now. Maybe it's plastic toy from his childhood he carries for sentimental reasons, I don't know.
GoldenEye flashbacks. Though unlike Bond, Alex is bioaugmented, so he doesn't have to look at his watch to bring up a menu. It's like having Google Glass embedded inside your eyeballs! Sounds great, except for the fact that he's one small glitch away from being stuck looking at this indefinitely.
Well I can't type in keycodes anymore, but they got the magic number in the game after all: 'Alex D - Apt. #451'.
Hey, how come Billie Adams doesn't get a hash in front of her apartment number huh? Very suspicious. Though I'm more suspicious about the fact that this map is apparently the entire level. Deus Ex's first map on the other hand is so big that it takes a minute and a half to sprint across end to end, and that has several floors to it.
Billie's concerned that our overseers are up to something sinister and the way they're flatly refusing to acknowledge that the building is clearly under attack right now is definitely helping her case. I try a few more times to knock the ornaments off her shelf, then give up and head for the level exit.
ONE LOADING SCREEN LATER.
I managed to run into two more trainees along the way and we had a chat about things. Like how we're all part of a special program to create cyborg operatives to work as security for big corporations. Plus how I found a dead guy in the hallway on the way here, but it's apparently nothing to be concerned about.
Eventually though the staff have to concede that yes maybe there might be armed assassins roaming the halls out to murder us, and that I should go gear up so that I can defend myself.
It seems that the lockpicks and multitools from Deus Ex have been combined into one tool which serves multiple purposes... called a multitool. This is interesting because they each had their own skill to raise in the original game and they often unlocked different paths. I guess the designers felt that this feature needed a bit of streamlining.
Actually I was curious about how the Xbox version compared to the PC game, and as far as I can tell the games are virtually identical, with the same tiny levels. The PC version has the advantage of slightly better textures in places, but the biggest difference is the frame rate. It's so much slicker on computer, even more than I would've expected.
Alright then, there's a terrorist out in the basketball court working for The Order, and I should probably go resolve that situation before he resolves to come into the locker rooms and shoot me.
Wait, did that actually work? I can actually hit people with bullets in this game from the very beginning? Well this is an interesting development.
In the first game JC Denton started off crap at everything until I invested a bit of XP into his skills, so at the beginning I'd have to stand still and wait patiently for the crosshairs to close before I could make an accurate shot. In this on the other hand I'm relatively lethal right from the start, even though it seems like they've taken out instant kill headshots to compensate. I went into the menus to check what pistol skill level I started with and found to my shock and dismay that the firearms skills are all missing. There's no skills or XP at all in fact; they've been stripped out in the name of streamlining.
Is the removal of gun skill levels a good thing? I'm not sure. It's generally considered better game design these days I believe to let the player's own skill determine where bullets are going to end up, and JC's ridiculously terrible aim in the first game sure made for some crappy firefights. But on the other hand his ineptitude encouraged the player to try other alternatives to a straight up shoot out. Plus it was so gratifying when I finally got his firearm skills and weapon mods maxed out and turned him into an angel of death.
Though I'm kind of feeling bad now for shooting him dead instead of trying to sneak past him or knocking him out. Then again I would like to keep my SSC guard allies alive if possible and that means neutralising threats decisively, so fuck it! Killing spree it is.
But what have they done to my beautiful grid inventory? I get just twelve spaces, six in the bag and six in my toolbar, and that's it. Deus Ex gives you thirty!
|Deus Ex (PC)|
But here I collect generic biomod canisters that can upgrade any body part. Though I'm still stuck with choosing one of two possible upgrades. The twist is that there are also black market upgrades which open up a third option. In this case I get to choose between a cloaking power, environmental protection, or hacking. Cloaking OR hacking, seriously?
I decided to choose cloaking, but I'm already regretting it. I mean only a crazy person would pass up on hacking, so it's got me doubting my sanity.
A FEW ROOMS LATER.
Except I'm not really free, because I've got all kinds of people talking to me in my head and I can't get rid of them. The guards waiting for me outside the Tarsus building told me to report to the WTO air terminal, and now Billie Adams and the Order are telling me to do the exact opposite and meet them down in Lower Seattle. How is it that all these people know exactly what I'm doing at all times? Am I streaming this to twitch.tv or something?
Also hang on... this is a city center?
|Deus Ex (PC)|
It's also a bit of a shame that the jump forward into the future has cost Invisible War the charm provided by the first game's real world settings. Somehow being able to see the Space Needle out of a window doesn't help all that much.
Like all coffee shops it's named after something from Moby Dick, in this case Captain Ahab's ship (with QueeQueg being one of his crew), and I'm already starting to have concerns about the manager's state of mind.
There's no trading opportunities here by the way. This NPC is purely a quest giver.
There's an air vent nearby so I suppose I could crawl in there and secretly press some buttons to open the Metro door, but I think I'll try a more creative approach first.
Hang on, why am I trying to get past these guys non-violently anyway? They've probably got the real attendant tied up in the back somewhere, hoping that some suave augmented hero will come along and save him.
Wow, I'm honestly surprised that my baton is so effective; it only took a few rapid fire hits to the head knock him unconscious. Though now his friend in the booth is looking even more agitated, so I should probably hide somewhere to ambush him as he comes out.
Amazingly I was able to solve this through real-world logic, by throwing a heavy thug at the door to knock it shut then picking the gun up. Then, with the last thug knocked out, I ran inside only to find the real Metro Pass seller in a storeroom, dead. My heroics were ultimately for nothing. Didn't even get XP for my trouble.
Right, what was I doing? Oh yeah, I'm taking the Metro to the WTO air terminal to report in.
SOON, AT THE WTO AIR TERMINAL.
It's not my fault! Just walking into a chair is enough to send it flying across the room, how am I supposed to resist a temptation like that?
Anyway, Chief Morgan explained a little in our chat about the Tarsus incident, and that she wants me to investigate my former employer and figure out what they're really up to. So my next job is to break into a penthouse belonging to the Minister of Culture in a building called the Emerald Suites and snoop around. Assuming I want to work with the WTO that is.
I'm testing to see if I can find any fun in this game. The results so far are intriguing, but I'll get to that later. Okay, I remember seeing a door leading to the Emerald Suites back in Upper Seattle, so I'll ride the Metro back again.
LATER, AT THE EMERALD SUITES.
I think I'll go look for the third option. Shouldn't be hard to find considering how tiny each level is.
So far, so good, except for one small problem: this isn't the Minister's penthouse suite. I have no idea where I am or who these two are.
The guards back outside in the hallway didn't really see the funny side of my case of mistaken breaking and entering, so I was forced to pro-actively defend myself with my rapid-fire baton. Now I have to start moving the bodies around to get at their ammo packs, because an enemy's items all drop out of them after they're taken down, and they usually land on top of them. It's like the game wants me to throw people everywhere.
Okay then, I'm gonna get a multitool out and go check that broken elevator shaft then.
LATER, IN THE PENTHOUSE SUITE.
What sort of lunatic has a triplaser activated machine gun on their ceiling anyway?
I'm supposed to be looking for a balance sheet, but I'm more interested in this AI simulation of a real pop star. NG Resonance here is friendly and knowledgeable, she always takes the time to chat with her fans, she remembers everyone she's talked to and what they talked about last... and she's eager to hear about any suspicious activity I have to report. She's so brazen about the fact that she's a surveillance tool that she even pays me her 'standard informant's bonus' for giving her info.
It's funny to think that back in 2003 entertainment devices that spy on their users for the government were considered sci-fi.
SEVERAL LOADING SCREENS LATER.
Actually that's not entirely true, as that locked box behind him definitely looks like it might contain his wares. I could always knock him and his bodyguard out and then go have a bit of a browse.
I didn't use a cheat or a console command to get up here by the way, I just climbed up the old fashioned way. Alex D's got a decent jump height and can pull himself up ledges, Thief-style, so it really wasn't much trouble to get onto the rooftops.
I'm obviously not supposed to be up here though, as: a. the graphics are glitching out everywhere, and b. I can actually see a fair bit of scenery from up here. Invisible War HATES letting me see things; every level has to be all small rooms and winding hallways.
A high ranking member of The Order got in contact on my brain radio earlier to let me know I'd be doing people a favour by taking these folks out, and doing a pilot a favour by getting his VTOL jet out of their hands, so I figured I'd come in, crack skulls, and get myself a ride to the next WTO mission area.
The trouble is that I can't really take on guards and bots, especially not in full view of a turret, so I'm trying to stealth it for once. Right now that's mostly involving a lot of hiding under this staircase, as this enemy just doesn't want to go back to his patrol. I think he can hear me walking around as I didn't choose to get the silent running augmentation earlier, though it's hard to know. I can definitely hear his friends walking around and talking amongst themselves, and that bloody bot next to him. If only they'd split up so I could make my move.
I know, I have a plan!
Man, I hope I come across some actual villains soon (or a stun gun), as all my lethal ranged weapons are sitting in my inventory useless and unloved right now. These SSC folks aren't actually all that evil so my augmented moral code insists that I play relatively nice. I guess I should just be grateful that stunned guards never wake up.
A bit of hacking to disable the turret and... I'm done! The landing zone is mine. Though the goal isn't showing up as being completed. I don't get what I've done wrong here, every single guard is down and I even knocked out the evil smuggler (and shoved her in a crate for safekeeping). Is the mission bugged or... oh hang on, I've just figured it out.
Man, look at that perfect aim; only took me twenty attempts to make that shot. Alright, time to go find the pilot and tell him he can get to his jet now. We have places to go.
LATER, AT THE GREASEL PIT BAR.
Infiltrating his personal space is basically the only thing I can do to bother him while we're here in this bar though, as the owner has installed an anti-weapon device to lock out all my guns. This is phenomenally stupid for two very obvious reasons:
- It also locks out my melee weapons, like my metal baton. I don't care what shutdown codes you send, you're not going to deactivate a solid metal rod.
- Only bars have this weapon deactivation technology. Not the WTO air terminal, not the super secret Tarsus labs, not the black market tech smugglers, just this pub and presumably others like it.
1, 2, 3, 4... UH, A WHOLE LOT OF LOADING SCREENS LATER.
Also I've finally got myself a stun dart gun! Now there's considerably less need for me to ambush enemies around corners. I can just run out, shoot someone twice, then run away again until the sedative takes effect.
You know what I can criticise though, now that I have used more than one gun? The fact that they both use the same ammo. I'm not even just talking about them using universal ammo pickups, I mean they both share the same magazine of ammo. Plus there's no reload button!
This to me is not great game design, because it discourages the use of high power weaponry. If I find a flame thrower or whatever that burns through my ammo quickly, I can't just have fun with it for a few seconds and then switch back to my pistol or dart gun when it's out, because they'll be empty too.
Mass Effect 2 also uses universal ammo pickups, but in that game collecting one increases each gun's individual ammo stash. It's a more enjoyable system because it encourages using a variety of guns instead of just sticking to the most ammo-efficient weapon.
Anyway I've got the helicopter, I can travel to the next mission area now, I think this is a good time to turn the game off.
Like I said earlier, this isn't my first run through the game, but I am honestly shocked at how much I'm enjoying the game this time around. I guess a decent frame rate and a change of perspective can make a big difference.
I don't think it looks as cool as Deus Ex, it definitely doesn't sound as cool as it's missing the iconic dynamic soundtrack, and it feels really claustrophobic by comparison. Plus Deus Ex had some terrible voice acting at time, but at least the NPCs had some character to them. The most interesting character I've found in Invisible War is a simulation of a pop singer.
But on the other hand the physics system is much improved and interaction with the world feels more natural. For instance, at one point I wanted to get up onto a roof, so I opened a door leading inside, Jackie Chan'd myself up onto the top of it, then jumped up the rest of the wall from there, just like a real person could do in the real world! Even found some loot up there. It'd take a nice big stack of boxes to manage the same trick in DX1. Though I also went also exploring in Lower Seattle as well and you saw how well getting up onto the rooftops worked out for me there.
It feels like the developers have made a real attempt to address what they saw as flaws in the first game, with mixed success. For example, some people got frustrated in how that they were railroaded into siding with one faction in DX1, as the reactivity is based around gameplay choices rather than story choices. In this however you can choose to complete objectives for two different factions on a case by case basis, along with the various opposing NPCs in the side missions. Not sure I appreciated the way that everyone seemed to be watching me during my every move, giving commentary on my decisions, but hey it suits the themes at least.
Though the developers also apparently saw the complexity of DX1 as a flaw, and tried to streamline the RPG elements it to make it more accessible. XP is gone, skills are gone, ammo types have gone, weapon stats have gone, the grid based inventory is gone, the reload button has gone. Sure DX1's skills kind of overlapped with the augmentations in function and DX:IW's biomod canisters do provide a fair amount of character improvement in their place, but they have their own problems (like forcing me to choose between cloaking OR hacking, c'mon son.) Plus as rewards go, finding another weapon or grenade I can't even pick up due to my tiny inventory is a poor substitute for a bit of exploration XP.
Though hey, at least I can explore. The gameplay choices that made the first game so special are present and correct, the ability to fuck around and make up your own solutions to situations is definitely there; if you squint at it this does resemble a true Deus Ex game. Plus I want to play it some more so the game gets a star, simple as that.
Awesome, now I can finally cross Deus Ex: Invisible War off my list and never speak about it again. But don't let that stop you leaving your own thoughts about the game, the article, my site or whatever in the comment box below. If you don't, then someone one else is going to come along and fill it with their own opinions instead, so you might as well.