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Deus Ex: Invisible War Review
|ON OTHER PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox|
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: ION Storm
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 02, 03 (released)
|» All About Deus Ex: Invisible War on ActionTrip|
After a long, long wait and plenty of what-if's, Dues Ex: Invisible War has finally arrived to Xbox and PC platforms. We've invested some extra time in reviewing the PC version, but we were also quite eager to check out how the game plays on Microsoft's next generation console. Much like its renowned predecessor, Deus Ex: Invisible War is a sci-fi first-person shooter with a strong emphasis on RPG elements. So, you can forget your classical shoot-and-run routine, the term FPS has an entirely different significance here. Deus Ex is all about character development and story progression, as opposed to the many traditional FPS. It's also about assessment and making crucial decisions that shape your character later on. Ion Storm and Eidos Interactive clearly aimed to preserve the spirit of the previous Dues Ex title, which obviously promises to keep fans happy. But they also took care in making every feature appealing to Deus Ex newbies alike.
Invisible War is set in 2072, or to be more precise, 20 years after the worldwide economic disaster commonly referred to as the Great Collapse. You find yourself in the shoes of Alex D, a young and bright cybernetically improved soon-to-be secret agent - Alex and his friends take part in the intensive training program at Tarsus Academy in Chicago. Alex's training at the Academy was soon hindered by an unexpected terrorist attack on the city of Chicago. After making a narrow escape from Chicago, our main character, along with some of his classmates, settles at the Seattle Training branch of the Tarsus Academy with the firm intention of continuing the so-called SOR program (Security Operations Residency Program). Troubled by the destruction of Chicago, Alex is decisive enough to seek his own destiny in this post-catastrophic world, where two great factions are struggling to gain predominance - Tarsus and The Order. Tarsus believes that The Order is nothing but a congregation of fanatics determined to rule the world. The Order, of course, counters this by saying that Tarsus is a human experimentation lab, which uses its candidates as guinea pigs. You find yourself somewhere in the middle of this great upheaval, with a great desire to find out who was responsible for obliterating the Windy City.
As mentioned before, on-the-spot decision making is an important part of the entire game and it really makes you feel like you're actively participating, rather than playing through tedious scripted events. This is a complex voyage and its outcome depends entirely on your actions. There's basically four different endings to the game, and almost countless ways to get to them. In case you were wondering, Invisible War doesn't exactly put you in some sort of idealistic crusade and it's not necessarily about doing the right thing. Occasionally, the only available path might require you to choose between two "wrongs," which makes the adventure a bit less clich'. At first it will be easy to remain neutral, working for various factions without any particular responsibilities. Once the plot starts to unfold, players are left to face some really tough and serious decisions. Still, the coolest thing in Deus Ex is that there's an open-ended side to almost everything you do throughout quests. For example, if Alex needs to gain access to certain restricted areas, there are always numerous ways to achieve this - you can blast through the doors and shoot everything in sight, sneak in through the ventilation system, hack your way in via computer terminals, or patiently inquire around until you get the door code.
Everywhere you go, various NPC's will often be desperate for your help, even if you've screwed them over a couple of times. Many characters, however, don't seem all that concerned what you happen to be doing, even if it you start shooting all around them. Also, the game allows you to loot various items freely and in full view of their owners, which sort of makes the characters somewhat useless. Much like it was with the NPC's, the programming team didn't make an extra effort to create a solid and convincing enemy AI. Most of your foes just rush impulsively into action. You'll rarely see enemies grouping, using combat tactics, or sneaking up behind you. Fair enough, Dues Ex was never meant to be heavy on combat and tactics. Regardless, it's clear that the AI needs more polish, even though it presents an improvement over the previous game.
This time around Deus Ex is not focused on gaining skills or experience. In other words, the developers have done away with the classic skill system, which was the main method of upgrading your character. Now Biomods (special upgrades that allow for numerous new abilities) are the center of gameplay practically all the time. From our standpoint, these changes don't have a negative influence on the gameplay, hence fans of the old game shouldn't be concerned. Using Biomods is a lot more clear-cut way of improving on the abilities and strengths of your character. One of the most praiseworthy aspects is the incredibly straightforward interface, thanks to which playing will be a cinch. Even with all the game's intricacy, RPG facets, and such, the developers did an excellent job on optimizing everything to work with the Xbox controller (I believe this was the first time I didn't need a mouse and keyboard to enjoy an RPG properly).
The graphics in Xbox version are quite solid. The game's cyber surroundings look cool, showing off expert use of effects such as lighting, shadows, and excellent bump-mapping (some of the best we've seen on the Xbox yet). Additionally, there's a huge number of objects and various other details, scrupulously designed and carefully placed in the backdrop of each scene. Character models appear convincing and we were also pleased with the way developers handled lip-synching - it's a pleasure having to sit through the dialogue. Unfortunately, when it comes to stuff like physics and certain segments of character animation, Invisible War seems a bit weak. Granted, you can move practically any object or dead body and the characters move realistically enough. But, to our great disappointment, it looks as though the developers spent very little time in tweaking the physics and making them a bit more true-to-life. You rarely have an authentic sense of mass when you start kicking and shoving stuff around; this goes for boxes, crates, and even dead bodies. And, while we're at it, character death animation also suffers from an apparent lack of realism. When shot, enemies tend to fall to the ground in a somewhat lifeless manner. After that they can be tossed around almost effortlessly.
Deus Ex: Invisible War will make the most of the Xbox audio capacities, offering a variety of high-quality sounds and a soundtrack that befits the dark cyber-sci setting. This makes for a decent audio experience, particularly to those of you equipped with home theater systems. We expected a bit more from voice acting though. Well, don't get me wrong, it's cool listening to the dialogues and all, but it's still nothing more than average acting.
Unlike the original, it won't take you too long to finish Invisible War (one weekend should do it). On the plus side, there are multiple ways to end the story, so you're likely to get the incentive to replay certain areas in the game once more. Even with some of the shortcomings, the game's still deserves a slightly higher score due to a tremendous effort that went into the open-ended gameplay, as well as the overall design. Deus Ex: Invisible War is an enjoyable first-person RPG certainly worth your attention and money.
8.4 Very Good
Open-ended gameplay, story, solid visuals, multiple endings;
Shorter than the original, disappointing AI, weird physics, sluggish framerate.
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