In this review, Jim and Brian are going to discuss their impressions of Deus Ex: Invisible War. Jim has played through the PC version and Brian has played through the Xbox version. Thus, this review will cover the quality of the game for both systems and give glimpses into the different experiences each reviewer had with the open gameplay.The Original Deus ExBrian: The original is one of my favorite games of all time. The freedom the game allowed was unmatched at the time. Objectives could be solved in numerous ways, the environments and game world were beautifully designed, and your actions had significant consequences. I remember being sucked right into the role of J.C. Denton from the first mission onward.Jim: The first Deus Ex game really created a new gaming experience by ditching the standard linearity of first-person shooters. It also made the storyline important by giving the player important choices that ultimately determined the outcome of the game. Even today, very few games match the level of immersion that the first Deus Ex provided.Storyline for the SequelFor those who don’t remember, the original game had three possible endings. Instead of trying to handle each case in the sequel, the developers have made the a*umption that any of the choices would have resulted in a worldwide “Collapse” of technology and communication.It is now 20 years later and technology, communication, and power have risen once again. The Dentons have been missing for the last two decades, so you’ll be controlling a new character, ambiguously named Alex D. At the onset of the game, you’ll choose whether Alex is male or female and choose his/her skin color before being dropped into the Deus Ex universe.You start off in an academy, where you’ll meet three other “students.” You’ll be able to walk around, unlock some doors with any multi-tools you find, and find out where your fellow students originated from. Immediately after getting to know each one, the facility is raided by a faction named the Order. Although they claim they are trying to free you from being part of a sick experiment, their violent actions speak otherwise and force you to retreat to safety. From that point on, you’ll begin your path down a winding and cryptic storyline that has plenty of complications to keep you on your toes.Changes in the sequelOne of the major changes in this sequel is the interface. You don’t have an inventory based on item size anymore. Now, there are a set number of slots where you store your weapons, multi-tools, grenades, health packs, and energy cells. The system allows 10 health packs, energy cells, or grenades in a single slot and 20 multi-tools per slot.The biomod upgrades are arranged differently now as well. There are five slots that can be modified, each with three possible predefined modifications. Two of these modifications require regular biomods while the third requires a black market biomod. You can find black market ones or purchase them from sellers called the Omar. The regular modifications include regenerating health, enhanced vision, silent movement, increased speed, increased strength, cloaking yourself from organic beings, masking yourself from cameras/bots, protection from radiation/poison, or creating orbs that intercept rockets or fire non-lethal darts. The illegal modifications allow you to hack security systems, use EMP charges with melee attacks, break down corpses for health, take over bots/cameras, or create a spy drone that can fly around and disable bots and stun organic beings. Each modification can be upgraded to level 3, whereby it will use the least amount of energy and have the most powerful effect.Weapons are handled differently now too. There are still melee weapons like knives, stun prods, batons, and swords, but every ranged weapon uses unified ammo and can be upgraded with weapon mods. There are mods for increasing range, increasing firing rate, using less ammo per shot, silencing shots, evaporating glass, fragmentary rounds, and adding EMP capabilities to your shots. Every mod is not useable for every weapon and you can only use two mods on a single weapon.GameplayBrian: Once you become accustomed to the new interface, you’ll find the gameplay in Invisible War to be very similar to its predecessor. The storyline is focused, but you have lots of freedom to complete objectives. In a mission where you must infiltrate a base in order to download a vital module, there are two paths directly into the base. One is underground, while another is through a door. You’ll face much more resistance getting to the door, whereas taking the underground method will provide you with a more stealthy approach. My first time through the game I went the more combat-oriented method, firing off my shotgun, throwing EMP grenades to disable bots, and hacking security terminals to take control of turrets. The second time through, I was much stealthier, using a spy drone to take out the turrets and soldiers simultaneously and masking myself from cameras. This second approach allowed me to take down all my opposition without killing any one and didn’t require a single shot from my weapons.It’s really up to you to determine how you want to complete the objectives and whether or not some objectives are worth carrying out. When different factions start a*igning you conflicting tasks, you’ll have to decide which one to carry out and then deal with the consequences from the factions you didn’t obey. And unlike most game worlds, the consequences in the Deus Ex universe are significant.The only real flaw to the gameplay is some questionable A.I. Bots, cameras, and turrets all work convincingly, but the organic enemies aren’t always on their toes. They’re a little too quick to give up on you if you go into hiding after causing a ruckus and there are other times where you can be standing right beside them and they won’t even notice you there. Both times through the game I noticed odd behaviors like this.Jim: The gameplay is designed to allow you to use varied methods of accomplishing objectives, whether it be through stealth, combat or a combination of the two. Overall, it does this successfully but not without some faults. The limited amount of ammo, especially in the early segments of the game forces you to spend a lot of time looking around for ammo when you should be focusing on your objectives. I know it’s supposed to force you to be more selective in how you use your ammo, as well as focusing on stealth but the problem lies with the unrealistic damage model. If you don’t happen to aim for an enemy’s head, you’ll spend a fair amount of ammo taking them down so you end up falling into a vicious cycle of wasting ammo to kill and then going around looking for new ammo. This limits a player’s combat approach, which is not a total downer since the bio-mods do provide the necessary tools for effective stealth and a sniper rifle does become available not too long into the game. My main point is that it should be up to the player to determine how and when they use either a combat or stealth approach to any given scenario.The always on HUD, which has an oval shape to simulate your retina is initially strange to see especially in the PC version of the game. It does take some time to get used to since it’s dab smack in the middle of the screen. You can adjust its opaqueness, which helps to reduce it’s intrusiveness but I do wish there could have been an option to turn it completely off in the PC version considering that you can a*ign hotkeys for weapons and biomods.GraphicsBrian: The enhancement to the visual quality is astounding here. Invisible War contains some of the most beautifully rendered scenes ever to exist in a video game. The shadowing and lighting is as good as what’s been seen from Doom 3 and Halo 2 up to this point. Characters cast shadows on their own bodies, while canisters and crates can be stacked to create new shadows for you to hide in. The texture quality is also extremely impressive with bump-mapping at every turn.The problem with all this advanced technology is that the frame rate is consistently low on the Xbox. It’s certainly playable and you’ll get used to the 20-30 frames per second (fps) after playing the game for a few hours, but it will take an adjustment period if you’ve been playing a game running at a smooth 60 fps.Jim: I had similar frame rate issues with the PC version of the game on a mid-range system (P4 2.4GHz, ATI Radeon 9700). I wouldn’t categorize the frame rate problem as major but gamers with lower-end computers will definitely feel the pain. My recommendation is to tweak the graphics settings to achieve a satisfactory performance level. With that said, the PC version definitely benefits from a computer monitor’s higher resolutions since everything is much sharper and much more detailed than what you see on a TV screen with the Xbox. The Xbox version appears to be darker and just doesn’t have the same clarity as the PC version. Regardless of which system, the game’s graphics do seem to be a bit on the drab side as gray and brown are the game’s dominant colors. You get used to this look but I feel it limits the overall impact of the graphics engine.My only other complaint is with clipping since it rears its ugly head quite often. Waste paper baskets should not cut into dead bodies nor should you be able to see through the stairway you’re hiding under. The bar is set higher with Deus Ex so you just can’t ignore these blemishes. The funny thing is that the physics engine is rather advanced so you would think collision issues would not be a problem. Maybe more time should have been spent on addressing the collision problems instead of perfecting the art of tossing dead bodies.SoundBrian: The audio component of Invisible War didn’t impress me nearly as much as the visual component, but it’s not without its strengths. The surround sound works nicely here and the voices are better overall than in the original Deus Ex – the main characters sounded a little flat to me though. I didn’t find some of the weapon sound effects to be very impressive either. The boom of the sniper rifle is one of my favorite sounds in the game while the weak grunt of the handgun doesn’t do much. For me, it was hit and miss in the sound department.Jim: The quality of the sound in the game is definitely average but its importance to the overall gameplay experience should not be underestimated. The developers have done an exceptional job in ensuring that sound is an integral part of the experience. For example, when trying to avoid enemies it’s essential to be able to gauge where they’re located at all times so listening for footsteps and voices becomes second nature when playing in a stealth mode. Another example is avoiding turrets by timing the noise they make when rotating. These are typical examples of how sound is essential to gameplay in Invisible War. The characters’ voices are fine but I do wish that some of the cheesy dialogue had removed since it cheapens the overall quality of the game.When it’s all said and doneBrian: Although I had some trouble getting into the game at first, by the end I was completely caught up in the Deus Ex universe and my second time through was even more enjoyable than my first. The freedom that made the original so addicting had returned, the story was very interesting, and the game world was rich and responsive. The consistently low frame rate, oblivious enemies, and brevity of the game (under 15 hours) keep this from being as good as the original, but I whole-heartedly recommend the Xbox version to Deus Ex fans that don’t have a top of the line computer. Even with its flaws, this is a great single player experience that can be played differently multiple times with a living game world that sucks you right in.Jim: Fans of the first Deus Ex will have to open to the changes made in Invisible War since the game was designed to be played on a console as well as a PC. Some purists may cry foul with the dropping of the skill feature and the new HUD design but overall, fans of the first game should be happy that Invisible War maintains the same level of storyline depth and open-ended gameplay that the Deus Ex name is known for. It is by no means perfect but it still manages to stand above the legion of cookie-cutter action games.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.