Name: Deus Ex - Invisible War
Genre: Action Adventure / FPS / RPG
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 2003 (UK)
Deus Ex: Invisible War was the sequel to the hugely successful PC game Deus Ex. Developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos, it was released in 2003 for the PC and the original Xbox
This game had quite the reception on release critics loved it and fans of the series hated it. I’ll get into more detail later. I personally love the game and this review should hopefully explain why this game is somewhat misunderstood but is of course not perfect. What I will be doing is reviewing this game off its own merits and not compared to the original game until the end. I brought this game day one back in the day when I was younger for the price of £39.99 which is insane as these days the game goes for less than £1 that’s less than an egg and cress sandwich, but hell I was hyped for this game in line day one.
The story is quite confusing in Invisible War. You play as Alex. Alex can be male or female depending on your choices at the character select screen. Alex has just been moved to a new facility after a terrorist attack in Chicago Alex is a resident of Tarus Academy Security Operations Residency program, which is quite the mouth full in itself. Basically your initial job is to sort out those terrorists. However, all is not what it seems. I’m going to leave it there because the story moves pretty fast in this game. Essentially if you love deep convoluted plots where you get to choose the outcome and the direction the story takes you will probably enjoy this. Though the more you invest in the game by reading data cubes, exploring and checking e mails the more you get out of the story. There are times where depending on your play style the story may become a bit of a bore, but the writers have done a good job to insert a lot of game changing twists quite regularly throughout the game to keep you interested. You will talk to many people in the game and see a lot of dialogue so if this sounds like something that may bore you may want to avoid this game, though saying that dialogue can be skipped if you really don’t want to watch it. People who like choose your own adventure stories will probably get a kick out of this.
The gameplay is very much how you want to play. Want to be a gun touting bad ass go ahead. Want to hide in the shadows and stealth it the option is there too. You play the game how you want to play. At its core Invisible War is a first person somewhat role playing game. Your character can be upgraded with Biomods, these are modular nanotechnology implants that imbue you with extraordinary abilities like improved hacking skills, improved strength, improved vision etc. Mods can come in regular legal form or even black market form which tend to be really awesome upgrades in comparison to the standard. I thought that inclusion of the name for them was a nice touch. There does seem to be a missed opportunity here though as using black market biomods holds no consequence in the game itself. Yes, they are hard to find and expensive but the developers could have carried a heavy burden to over clocking your protagonist.
Ammo is universal (think Mass Effect 2 & 3) however, certain weapons will drain the ammo quicker than others. This actually works quite well in the game as it shows limitations to going with a particular play style, if you go guns blazing you will find you’ll be out of ammo pretty quickly. It feels like for every decision you make in the game there are consequences though minor to the challenge you face.
As for controls the game is very solid. Guns shoot well and the stealth works. You feel in control of each situation. There is plenty of room for experimentation as there are multiple ways to solve missions in the game invasive and passive. Some problems can be solved via conversation alone without resorting to violence what so ever.
Graphics for Invisible war are very good and in terms of the level designs and environment hold up even today. The futuristic setting is colourful and vibrant and the way lighting is used in the game is incredible, you feel like you’re in the future. It is from the same engine that brought Thief: Deadly Shadows. Ion Storm did a great job creating varied environments set all over the world. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for character models.
Essentially all characters you meet in this game except real key characters are modelled pretty much the same with minor differences that was obvious even in 2003. It’s quite a shame if this game was made with the same technology today they would probably remedy this. It is quite odd when you speak to a coffee clerk in Seattle looks the same as the coffee clerk in Cario. Now some people may ask why does this matter since a lot of old games use the same character models, well that’s the thing the game looks so good you expect character to look different, also older games had no trouble providing varied character models including the original Deus Ex title in the series. It’s one of those sacrifices I guess for a better game engine. Also another negative point is the game areas and levels are heavily compressed, you will see a lot of loading screens to go into different areas and it gets quite irritating. It makes sense because a lot has been put into each section and for a game that was way ahead of its time in the year it was released it clearly shows the limitations of video game technology at the time. It was difficult to have good graphics and levels without a lot of loading.
The music for Invisible War is truly inspired. Ion Storm composers Alexander Brandon and Todd Simmons created a score here that right from the get go engrossed you into the game. The stand out track by far is the opening title screen which I feel is even better than some of the top soundtracks available out there today. What was interesting was on release the soundtrack was released for free online but since the mob of haters were too busy bashing the game a lot of people didn’t know it had even been released. If you’re curious it is still available to download for free even today.
Invisible war is quite a long campaign and will keep you busy for a few weeks of casual playing, maybe less than a week if you commit to it. Though there are several routes through the game I didn’t find myself rushing back to replay it. It’s the sort of game you will revisit every so often down the road.
Now it’s time to do the obligatory thing and compare this game to the original game. So Invisible war is absolutely more simplified compared to the original Deus ex game. Locked doors are no longer opened with the player inputting the code manually, they are automatically unlocked provided you have the code logged in your data pad. Ammo is universal and works for all weapons as opposed to separate ammo for individual guns. Upgrades are done through the use of biomods instead of augmentation canisters and a XP system. Measured against its predecessor many like to cite Invisible War as dumbed down for mainstream. I personally feel it’s trying something different, experimentation if you will. Developers are far too scared these days to stray away from the tried and tested approach when creating game sequels.
I understand money needs to be made with games, but if you want to truly maintain an audience you need to innovate, and that is what Invisible War tries. It may not have been the most successful experiment and the masses may not have liked it but it still sold over 1.3 million copies and at least it tried.
Verdict:- Invisible War excels in its presentation and setting. It has a deep story and plays solidly. This is fairly long game so if you’re looking for a pick up and play option this is probably not for you.
A great experiment in trying something different with the first person perspective gameplay. However, there is room for improvement here more character models, less loading screens and just a little more polish would have made this experience something truly special. Rate it as its own game and you have quite the gem here.
Second Opinion:- The gaming press went mental over this back in the day and rightly so because for it's time it was a real corker, as big and as in depth as say knights of the Old Republic was.
It's size and scale plus ambition is ultimately what led to it's annoyances with large loading times and some graphical glitches and the odd freezing issues however some patience and care resulted in a great experience overall.
Whilst age has not been ultra kind it does still hold up very well and is for this robot one of those make sure you play moments for the original xbox for sure.
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10