The sequel to what many consider one of the best computer games ever, Deus Ex: Invisible War has a lot of hype to live up to. This game was built for the Xbox and even though there is a PC version, it is obvious in even the graphics department that Ion Storm put a little more time in optimising the Xbox version given that there was a patch for the PC version not long after it came out.
Many people won’t give this game a fair shake because it was not built with the PC in mind. I’ve played the first Deus Ex and I walk into this game expecting nothing. I have a feeling if you have any expectations for this game you will probably be disappointed because this is a different Deus Ex than you became accustomed to on the PC. Let’s check it out.
The graphics section is a tough one to judge. For the things Invisible War does beautifully it also has things that bring it down a bit. Let’s start out with the beauty. The lighting, particle effects and use of the Havok engine (an engine used in Max Payne 2 and Rainbow Six 3 as well as many other games where everything moves realistically…where the term “rag doll physics” comes from) are simply phenomenal. There have been many thoughts out there that the lighting in this game is far more realistic and far more graphic intensive than the lighting found in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. In many ways I have to agree because the environment and things that affect the light in this game are far more vast than found in Splinter Cell. An example would be dumpsters in this game. You open up a dumpster’s left side and light floods in, you open up the right side and all light floods in. Now jump in the dumpster and close each lid and you’ll see how great the lighting is.
Particle effects and the Havok engine pretty much go hand in hand. You have the freedom to do pretty much anything you want in this game. You want to break everything you see? Go ahead and watch the Havok engine and particle effects at work. You want to use your gamut of bombs on some bots or humans? Go ahead and you’ll see the bombs explode and do their job beautifully. It is obvious that Invisible War has seen an update in the graphics engine over the original. The characters look better, the enviroments look sharper, the world seems that much larger and more alive than it did before. However, there are some minuses that come along with this.
The first one is framerate. For the most part the game runs at a good 30 fps clip, but as soon as things get a little busy on the screen (busy being lots of graphical assets on screen at once or graphical assets becoming larger as you move toward them and turn) the framerate drops significantly. The worst framerate drops happen to be at the most heated moment: during gunfire. Yep, get used to the slowdown during gunfights and learn to adapt to them because you can lose a lot of health in a short amount of time if you don’t know how to combat the slowdown. This game really is beautiful, it just suffers a lot from slowdown.
The other major problem is the mouth movements of the characters during cutscenes. Their lips don’t flow well with the words that are coming out of their mouths. For how beautiful this game is and how many cutscenes there are (all with voiceovers) it seems like a glaring oversight on the graphical section of this game.
Music almost seems non-existant in this game, much like it was in the original Deus Ex, so we have to fall back on the overall sound of the game which is fantastic. Dolby Digital 5.1 really gets a good workout here. You talk to someone in the game and if you do a 360 degree turn you will hear them coming from the correct speaker depending on where you are facing.
The objects you can pick up and throw sound realistic when they crumble or slam against a wall or the floor. Each weapon has its own sound as well and some gunfights can get quite loud. Every line, except when you have to choose from a number of options in a conversation are spoken. The voice actors do a commendable job since the amount of voice acting in this game is quite large.
Overall this section is done very well and kudos to the sound team for giving us a realistic experience.
Control is an up and down affair. It works well when you are in the exploration part of the game (which is about 90% of the game), but when you get to the action parts or where you choose to be stealthy, the controls are not as tight as you would like. The biggest problem in these situations are the framerate fluxuations at the worst times. Gunfights and the sneaking sections are the worst and you will find yourself going into the Options menu to highten or lower the sensitivity of the right analog stick for looking/aiming. Once you find an optimal level you should be able to overpower any framerate drops that happen.
Now onto the actual controls. The left analog stick moves you forward and backward and strafes left and right. The right analog stick is used to look, turn and aim. A button is your Action button (use, pick up, etc.), Y is for jump, X is for inventory, B is to quickly switch weapons. The right trigger is used for firing and throwing while the left trigger is used for the secondary fire on weapons. Your weapon and augmentation options are controlled via the D-pad. You press left to get to the main page of weapon choices (where you can go up and down), if you press right on the D-pad you go to augmentations. With the X button you can delve deeper into your toolkit and switch weapons around to the main set of items. The game is quite easy to get the hang of, but as I said once you get into an “action” scene all bets are off as the controls may not be as fluid as you would like.
It’s been 20 years since you controlled JC Denton in Deus Ex. It seems more groups, both religious and terroristic, have risen up in the years since Denton made his decision at the end of the first game. You are Alex D, an androgynous name so you can be a male or female from the start. In the beginning you are in Chicago, but someone drops a bomb and you and the other “experiments” are rescued and brought to Seattle. Seattle isn’t quite the city we know today, it is now a city broken up by classes. In Upper Seattle the well-off people seem to live, while in Lower Seattle the more seedy people live…or is it the other way around? That’s the beauty of this game, it truly gives you the freedom to do what you want…much like the first game. You want to join up with the Templars, a religious group that believes Alex D is the key to a new world, but don’t believe in augmentations? You want to join up with the WTO or the Tarsus group? Go right ahead…of course just like the original your plan of action will change how the game plays out. Much like the first game every situation seems to have a number of ways you can go. You can take the sneaky way through vents or you can go balls out and kill everyone. Your actions also have consequences with other groups, but that’s the beauty of this game.
There are some key differences between this game and its predecessor, many of which would probably turn some people off that figured this game might be more of the same. First off biomods and augmentations have been streamlined. You had far more choices in the previous game that you have here in ability to augment your abilities. Some of the people you hook up with don’t even believe in modding yourself, so you may take a path where you have little to no modifications. Then again there’s a group that thrives on modification and will give you tons of chances to augment your abilities. It’s been a while since I’ve played the original, but I remember far more choices to augment yourself over what is present here.
The other huge change is ammunition and the inventory. In the original you picked up ammunition for each of your weapons, in this game you pick up unified ammo. This means that each weapon uses the same ammo, but some bigger weapons use more ammo than the smaller ones. Ammo seems pretty plentiful in this game so you shouldn’t find yourself starving for it unless you go into all battles with a rocket launcher that will use up your ammo quickly. Each weapon can also be modified, something that is pulled over from the original and it is quite easy to modify a weapon. Just go to the inventory, select a weapon and follow the prompts.
The problem with the inventory is that it is very limited. You have two levels of physical inventory, although each weapon (no matter how big) will only take one spot. The problem is you will find a bunch of different types of bombs and each one takes up a spot, but each multiple one of the same adds to the same spot. You have to be picky with what is in your inventory because it can fill up quickly with wespons, bombs, medkits, food, etc. The inventory is streamlined, I just wish there were more spots.
Any fan of Deus Ex will most likely eat this game up, whether here on the Xbox or on the PC. Many will be unhappy about the changes made, but it is obvious that Warren Spector and Ion Storm Austin are seeking a wider audience with this game. The whole game is just fun to play, but there is a major problem with long load times. Granted that some sections of the game are large, but when you enter into another whole section the loading becomes unbearable…almost Top Spin-like unbearable. The loading screens seem to go on for longer than, say, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Overall I enjoyed this game and I just enjoyed the continuation of the story. The decisions you make seem to affect the world a bit more than in the first game. I think Invisible War is a culmination of what Spector and Ion Storm Austin wanted in the first game. Spector talked about that he wanted the inventory screen in the original to look a lot like it does in Deus Ex. Also, expect much of the feel here to transfer over to Thief III when it comes out in 2004 since many of the same people are working on that as well.
The decisions you make seem to affect the world a bit more than in the first game. I think Invisible War is a culmination of what Spector and Ion Storm Austin wanted in the first game. Spector talked about that he wanted the inventory screen in the original to look a lot like it does in Deus Ex. Also, expect much of the feel here to transfer over to Thief III when it comes out in 2004 since many of the same people are working on that as well.
Deus Ex: Invisible War is a bit short in contrast to what I remember of the original. It took me a little over 20 hours to beat this game and the replay value may or may not be there depending on whether you want to go through the game with another group, make other decisions, etc. The control of the game is overall good, but the framerate drops will turn off a lot of people. It’s such a beautiful game that seems to be somewhat walking around on crutches.