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Deus Ex: Invisible War Review
|ON OTHER PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox|
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: ION Storm
PIV 1300, 256MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 2GB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 02, 03 (released)
|» All About Deus Ex: Invisible War on ActionTrip|
There are a few games that blaze new trails in gaming history, and the original Deus Ex is undoubtedly one of those games. Warren Spector's first ever project with Ion Storm was selected as one of the Ten Best PC Games of All Time by PC Gamer. In many ways, Deus Ex revolutionized the way we perceive layered and open-ended gameplay - it almost single-handedly defined the term - and set new standards of excellence for everyone to follow. Devoted PC gamers hailed Deus Ex as the title that successfully displays the superiority of the PC as a gaming platform.
Give up all your Biomods or I'll blow your face off!
Now would be a very good time to duck.
Even so, our industry isn't run by innovative ideas and brave design decisions. As all other industries, gaming's future is governed by the almighty dollar. The fact of the matter is while Deus Ex is a titan of PC gaming innovation, the game didn't sell too well. You'll find it rarely topped any bestseller charts anywhere. It just wasn't a mass market product. It was refined, sophisticated, and too involving for the average gamer. Our industry is edging ever so closer to the Hollywood movie industry. You'll find that the biggest box office hits are never too hard on the audience, nor are they too intellectually challenging. The best negative example of this is the movie "Fight Club," and if we were to draw any parallels one could say that Deus Ex pretty much suffered the same fate as "Fight Club." Both creations brought something unique to their respective industries, but ultimately failed to gain mass market recognition because enjoying them clearly required a little more effort from their respective audiences.
By now it should be quite clear where I'm heading with these few opening paragraphs. EIDOS has released a demo of Deus Ex: Invisible War some time ago and the members of the Deus Ex community are in an uproar (Uproar! Uproar, I say! - Six). Why? Well, that's because EIDOS and Ion Storm realized that brave design decisions and truly unique projects don't bring in the big bucks. Yet, at the same time, they wanted to stay as true as possible to the ideas and principles laid down by the game's original creator. The end result is a simplified, more casual gamer friendly title that clearly puts the Xbox before the PC. Encouraged by the success of their cross platform title Hitman 2, EIDOS has come to realize that the magic formula for making lots of cash lies in the ability of developers to produce titles that port well on as many platforms as possible. They've also realized that the consoles are simply raking in more cash, and have hence decided to optimize Deus Ex as much as possible for the Xbox. So, to be perfectly blunt and honest with you: yes, the original game has been significantly simplified in terms of interface and RPG elements, and yes, this is basically a game that was visually designed to look awesome on TV screens. Still, if one is to successfully avoid getting caught up in the fan boy hysteria, one has to acknowledge that Deus Ex: Invisible War manages to retain some of the excellent concepts of the original and even add a few new design solutions that simply weren't available at the time when the original was made.
I guess if the story in Deus Ex teaches anyone anything it's that things are never as black and white as some would have you believe. My advice to the many angry fans out there is to try to keep an open mind and accept the sequel for what it is. I'm sure that if they're able to do that they'll learn how to appreciate this game and acknowledge some of the positive ideas that it brings to this stale PC market.
So should I end my review here? It almost seems like I've said just about everything that needs to be said about the sequel. I almost get the impression that that's all the devoted fans really need to know, as they'll get the title regardless of what I say in this review. Nonetheless, I do have to earn my paycheck you know, so those of you with time to spare, grab some pop-corn, load up on the salsa and burritos, and read on.
Sheldon Pacotti, Lead Writer of Deus Ex: Invisible War described the game best when he said: "In Deus Ex: Invisible War we've tried to take the next step in nonlinearity. We've tried to reduce the number of choke-points, an example being the place in Deus Ex where the player must turn against UNATCO, whether he wants to or not. From the very beginning of the game, organizations are vying for the player's loyalty, and this dynamic manifests itself both as (1) parallel paths through a mission and (2) decision-points where the player must show his loyalty to one and only one organization. So we're moving toward decision-points instead of choke-points, and we're allowing players to miss some things, if they choose. What this means for the conspiracy story is that a given faction often sends the player to discover the secrets of its enemies, while keeping its own secrets well-hidden. The player's mission-objectives lead directly to a greater understanding of the 2070's geopolitical situation, which becomes directly relevant during the game's decision-points. Without going into specifics, Deus Ex: Invisible War's plot begins with what you might call a 2-space story, where two factions vie for the player's loyalty, moves toward a 3-space decision-point during the second-to-last mission, and ultimately widens to include four possible endgames. We've sacrificed some in-your-face storytelling in order to grant the player the freedom to make these decisions as he sees fit. It will be interesting to see how players react."
Sheldon perfectly summarizes the general design principles that lay the foundation for the sequel. I'll just add that the players assume the role of one Alex D, a modified human, equipped with the next generation of nano technology. Alex is an orphan, who sees its home city of Chicago being destroyed by terrorist fanatics. The game starts out as you make your escape from the crumbling city of Chicago to the Upper Seattle City Center. From that point on, your character is involved in a whirlwind of conspiracies that will have your head spinning before you can realize who plays the roles of puppets and puppeteers. While I don't mind a good conspiracy story, and Deus Ex: Invisible War certainly has a very advanced fantasy plot for a video game, I did kind of object to the overly pretentious notions presented to the player near the final chapter. It's like the writer was trying too damn hard to provide an ideological background for the game events in popular political principles and philosophical movements, to kind of make the story larger than it really is. While the story does offer some interesting concepts to ponder over, it often gets a bit too cryptic and philosophical for its own good. Overall though, Sheldon has managed to stay true to the principles presented at the beginning of the game and to provide a few brilliant plot twists near the end. I would have liked to have seen him offer more viable solutions for the problems presented, but I guess they might be saving those for Deus Ex 3. If you're a fan of sci-fi novels with a hidden political agenda, like Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov used to write, then you'll probably be pleased with what Deus Ex: Invisible War has to offer. The mere fact that I'm mentioning a game story in connection to the works of these literary greats is recommendation enough for the narrative in Deus Ex: Invisible War.
8.5 Very Good
Immersive open-ended gameplay, exploration, use of physics, gripping story, black market Biomods;
Steep hardware requirements, made to look and play better on the Xbox, balancing issues and other minor drawbacks.