Invisible War...

...or 'How I Dared To Stick Up For Deus Ex 2, And The Inevitable Flamefest That Followed. Martha, Tell The Kids I Love Them.'

So, review number two (though technically number 1 was a checklist, not a review), and boy am I in for it now. In my experience, bringing up the subject of Invisible War tends to elicit these kinds of responses from gamers: vomiting, bleeding of the eyes and ears, the shits, profuse swearing (and boy do I mean profuse) and in some instances haemorragi...hoemorra...heart attacks. But mostly lots and lots of hate.

Well, maybe it's the inner child in me, but that's just what I'm going to do (Invisible War, not heart attacks. The swearing I can't control). Partly to see how much abuse I'll draw (though this being the Escapist, I'm sure it will be very eloquent abuse) but mostly because for many years now I have watched this poor game being picked on like some poor battered child in a playground, and I've now decided to step in.

So yer honour, here is my defence, and all I ask is for 5 minutes to present it. Hear me with an open mind and make your judgements afterwards.

Invisible War is the sequel, as I'm sure we all know to Deus Ex, and was developed for both PC and Xbox (bizarrely, the Xbox never saw a port of DX but the PS2 did). Here is where most people pick their first quarrel. Due to the Xbox's lesser specs, levels in IW tended to be smaller than in the original, and many immediately saw this as a gigantic flaw. 'But hold your horses' says I, 'and lets explore this proper'.

Levels in DX were indeed a lot bigger, but in my opinion combat was the worse for it. Characters more than ten feet away, let alone fifty as was often the case, are bloody impossible to hit when you've got a crosshair that insists on tripling in size whenever you make a move. Standing stock still gives you a better chance at hitting enemies, but most likely they're hitting you more. Big levels mean nothing if you can't even shoot beyond the length of your own bootlaces.

Invisible War? Well, rather than think of the levels as small, I like to think of them as cosy (that's not denial talking, hear me out). Enemies are within snuggling distance, and that means you actually have to get creative. Rather than just crouch and shoot, you need to make use of tactics such as evasion, flanking and the like. Combat is more intimate (I hope to god that's the right word) and if you don't work out how use the gizmos and tools you've got (spiderbots, grenades, etc), you're going to find yourself overrun by Templars or WTO mercs, all with big guns.

Speaking of combat, let's talk about the abolition of the skills system. I like it.

Now, before you all send me letterbombs and anthrax for such blasphemy, hear me out. In DX, I lost count of how many times my grand plans were ruined because I didn't have enough points in a certain skill. Not enough Sniper points meaning I couldn't make a certain shot, or having spent Electronics points where I should have spent Demolitions. In order to do things I had to have points. It was like a tarrif system. 'No points amigo? No go go'

Whereas Invisible War did away with this. If you wanted to be a marksman type character, you just had to pick yourself up a sniper and get zooming. If it turned out that sniping wasn't for you, you could pick up a shotgun and go John Rambo instead. Cynics said this diluted the customization too much, but there was still plenty on offer. You could add various stealth biomods to your character and pimp out your rifle with accuracy mods, silencers, glass destabiliser whatnots and the like. There was still a ton of variety, it was just done in the gameplay this time, rather than on a stats sheet.

'But ah' say the cynics, 'how can Invisible War be called an rpg? Afterall, Crysis does a lot of these things ye have mentioned, but we wouldn't call that an rpg now, would we?'

To answer this (you smug buggers) I bring up another point- the plot. Specifically, how you can make choices within it and there will be real consequences. Some readers may know that I did a Fable review (still up) in which I complained about the lack of choice. IW is the antithesis to that. While you will still have to go to the same locations, you have a huge amount of freedom within them. Main characters can be assassinated, factions chosen, quests completed or ignored, and it's all done without the dull 'Good vs Evil' malarky that every developer and his dog seems intent on shovelling out. Rather than black and white (or indeed Black and White), IW is built of shades of grey. All the factions have their own goals and motives, and it's up to you to choose the one that best suits you. All the major political ideals get a look in: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Anarchism, et al. The motives and methods of each faction are believable, there is no clear cut 'Mwahaha I'm going to rule the world' antagonist. You choose who the bad guy is, you choose who to follow and who to betray. There is no good and evil, only idealism.

Looking back and seeing how epic this post has gotten (nothing wrong with quantity, but it's got to have the quality to match), I'll finish with this. People seem intent on demonizing IW, often simply because it had the brass cheek to be a sequel to Deus Ex. 'What's this. Some cheeky bugger's released a Deus Ex 2. Fetch me musket!' No it's not perfect, but loading screens be damned, neither was the original. Can you hear that at the back?

DEUS EX WAS FLAWED TOO!

A supposedly super secret agent having pissweak shooting skills at the start of the game. The health system (controversial maybe, but I hated it. Complicated does NOT equal immersive). The friggin AI!

I read a telling review of IW at PC Format. The argument went 'It's a fantastically amazing labyrinthine epic game. But because it dares to be different from DX1 we've decided we're not going to like it!' All I ask is that you look back to when IW was released. How many games were there at the time that offered a comparable richness of plot and gameplay? How many offered such a amazingly detailed world that really gave you the illusion you could make a difference?

Still unconvinced? You royal bugger!

Two words: Universal ammo.

I'll agree that Deus Ex has you starting out shooting small. If you level up your character, you can be a tank. That's what I did. I can take out an MJ12 Merc in 3 seconds flat. Boo-ya.

I haven't played Invisible War, and in fact only got a few chapters into the first Deus Ex because load times on the PS2 version detracted from my enjoyment immensely.

I'll speak objectively as an outside to the subject when I say that those who hate this game are not going to change their minds based on your review, but you nevertheless did a good job of explaining why you personally enjoyed it. And, in the end, there are very few right or wrong opinions, just valid and invalid. What you enjoy might not be what others look for, but you established your expectations and nobody can fault you for that.

Hey, I'm not alone!

I was a huge defender of Invisible War when it came out. I mean, I still prefer the first one by far, but that doesn't mean that IW isn't a worthy successor. The smaller levels never really bothered me, though hitting a loading screen every ten feet did. I missed the skill system and the old interface and the different ammo types, and all of that.

But when it came down to it, you were still navigating a labyrinth of conspiracies, betrayal, and extreme ideology. You were still jetsetting all over the world. You were still in one of the best near-future sci-fi worlds in any game. You were still given choices as to how to approach situations. And all while not looking or sounding nearly as gumpy as JC.

So count me in as a defender of DX:IW. And I can't wait to see what they manage to do with DX3.

I thought i was the only one.....

sure, the ammo/interface was annoying, but i was really immersed anyways.

DX3 is coming out!?!?! Why wasnt i informed...

Invisible War wasn't bad, but it couldn't match up to the expectations. I played the PS2 Deus Ex and the PC demo, but I actually preferred the PS2 version's aiming and health systems; that might have something to do with my greater-than-normal acceptance of IW. But the two biggest, unforgivable hits against IW are the level design and the universal ammo. The latter point was VERY bad late in the game because of how I played it, as a stealth sniper. The original was flexible in this regard, but it is really hard to one-shot-snipe the super soldiers in IW, so I ran out of ammo very quickly, and melee is out of the question. Oh, and the main character, at least as a male, is a nerd.

I can still enjoy IW, but I wish I still had the original.

Cheers muchly :)

yes DX3 is a-coming. Quite how they'll manage it considering the diversity of the endings of IW is beyond me. Maybe a prequel to DX.

Actually no, that reminds me too much of Episode 1

I played Invisible War all the way to the end. It did not feel much like Deus Ex to me, but playing the same game as the original just with a slightly altered plot and a new game mechanic or two and I doubt I would have got to the end at all.

Having said that I do not remember anything at all about Invisible War, despite having played it more recently than Deus Ex. I don't remember it being terrible, it just wasn't as memorable as the original game.

My biggest problem was the scale. Yeah the small levels were full of details and things to explore. But revisit the statue of liberty on Dx1 and then DX2 at the end. I felt confined, though it was good to be back at UNATCO.

The skill system was flawed but did allow for making your character feel different on each playthrough. Plus the biomods on DX2 just felt wrong, plus you got access to all of them about 2 hours into the game.

The game wasn't as bad as people remember. Replaying it is quite fun, but DX1 stole my heart and like a first love you never forget them.

EDIT: In defence of JC's bad shooting as a bad ass secret agent. I made it out of the tutorial first time through with no legs and arms and deep into the red for my head and torso. Just making it through alive is probably good enough to become an agent for UNATCO. Not too bothered about how well you can shoot lol.

I think the thing I liked least about DX2 was the pace at which you recieved your mods / powerups and such.

In DX1 your plans could be foiled because you decided to do something that is contrary to them, like put a point in hacking instead of into rifles, The lost points could mean you didn't take your shot as well, but you were forced to decide, do I want to be a sniper or a hacker. You could definitely be both, but it took longer. In Deus Ex, even if you know where EVERYTHING is, you still will be playing for a good while before you've even started to fill up your biomod slots, much less upgrade them, and because mods were unique to their slots, you couldn't be set with see through walls action at the end of the first level. having skill points and mods to hand out let the designers slowly give you strength and power and control the pace better.

Deus Ex 2 GIVES YOU 4 biomods before the tutorial's through!) Without the forced slot placement, you were able to achieve truly inhuman powers far too quickly, I certainly want to end up with those abilities, but I loved how in DX 2 it was around the time you got to France that you were really coming into your own as the stealthy bio-mod enhanced soldier you are. You got a lot more payoff mentally because you waited so long for it.

You know, I agree with you. On my first playthrough, I was upset because many of the things that I liked so much from the original were missing, but having played through hundreds of times (I did a speedrun for speed demos archive) I have to say the game has really grown on me. The design of maps especially is interesting. Central locations with missions in surrounding areas allow you to pick your path and even complete various objectives in whatever order you want. For my speedrun alone it took more than a week of planning to find the fastest way to complete objectives and reach the end credits, simply becuase there are so many friggin' ways to do it. There were also more side missions in DX2, which significantly increases replay value. The characters weren't as much fun as the original, but the story was solid and I completely agree about the ability to make decisions. Even moreso than in DX1, I mean, how many of you wanted to say fuck the NSF, I want to stay with UNATCO, even after you knew they were the bad guys? Well in DX2 you can side with the bad guys if you want. That alone wins it major points with me.

To be honest I can't stand dx2, eventhough I've never gotten much further then the first level. My reasons why it's so inferior biased on first impressions:

DX1:proper regular inventory system, easy to manage everything.
DX2:terrible "eye inventory" where it takes me 5 minutes to simply move stuff around because I can't use a mouse.
Dx1:the world was there, it was up to you to figure it out with some clues here or there in the textlog.
Dx2:large popup thing if I recall correctly stating YOU CAN SNEAK THROUGH HERE "insert arrow" with obvious airducts.
Dx1:everything had it's skill, you sucked if you didn't have the skill. You started out with nothing, you were a rookie and you actually felt getting stronger in your own way.
Dx2:I tried to pick a safe, only to realize the lockpicks and multitools were now one and the same ( correct me if I'm wrong ) and you didn't even have to point it at the actual lock itself( consoleproof ). I quit the game right there..

Not to mention even now if I try to play dx2 it runs absolutely terrible for some reason. Yes I only played the very start of the game, perhaps there is a good story or something of that matter. But the inventory system alone I thought terribly thought out. I heard they're working on dx3, hopefully they'll return to the old way of playing. Fingers crossed.

Well, my problem with your review is very basically that it isn't. A review, that is.

I'm not saying you're wrong - hell, I just bought DX2:IW four days ago and enjoy it immensely. However, your review immediately starts off defensive and sticks that way. There's no mention of the backdrop of the game, the story, the gameplay or, in fact, any other element about the game except a passing mention to biomods.

Basically, your post doesn't attract anyone to playing IW (which should be the objective for a positive review) and it might actually damage the chances of people who haven't already played it trying it out, since you come off as basically defending a minority of people liking it. That tells people; well, the game wasn't good enough for most people to like it. Whether most people DID like it or not, and it was just the hardcore DeXtards who hated it, is up in the air.

Also, you ramble quite a lot in the start and overuse authorian inserts; I'm tempted to say "too much," but that depends on what you're trying to write. Is it a review? A solicitation? A defence? A very personal opinion? If it's the last, I read it as a good, funny one. I laughed in several places; but if it was, I'd stick it in Game Talk, tbh.

Yeah, I liked your Fable review better ;)

I think the main problem people have with IW is the title. You can't really consider it to be a true sequel. That just leads people to believe that it'll play anything remotely like the first, and then smacks them in the face with a dumbed-down hammer. It's a perfectly good game, just not really worthy of the title.

Then again, plot-wise, the fact that you can be a kick-arse super soldier who can snipe things a mile off before hacking the hell out of a nearby tank half an hour after you boot up the game probably makes sense, what with the massive steps forward in biotechnology and genetic manipulation and all those other big, shiny words. It's still a crappy idea, you understand, but it's a story-led crappy idea, at least.

Also, kudos for defending IW. It's good to hear someone talk about why it might not be the heathen spawn of Satan, Beelzebul and Daikatana for once. Even if you seemed a little... Eager to have a bunch of DX fanboys come along and tear you several new ones. It got a little stale. Good stuff, even if it was more a defence than a review.

Okay so I guess I'd better do my duty and defend Deus Ex then. Deus Ex 2: Invisible War is a great game and better than a large majority of FPS games out there, but let's face it, it's pretty fucking Mickey Mouse compared to Deus Ex.

The confined levels are annoying as hell and Ion's Storm's other game released around the same time, Thief 3, has a similar problem because it uses the same engine. Clearly the only reason why the levels are so teensy is because the engine obviously must have some pretty severe size limitations per area. As any Half-Life 2 commentary track will tell you, 'vistas' are important both for atmosphere purposes and to make you feel like you're occasionally achieving something. Invisible War feels like you're in a box the whole time which makes it pretty claustrophobic, monotonous going. You can almost feel the game engine itself squeezing you in.

Youre defense of the small levels in Invisible War from a combat point of view makes no sense whatsoever. In one sentence you say "levels in DX were indeed a lot bigger, but in my opinion combat was the worse for it" and then you go on to say "big levels mean nothing" (because a lot of guns only work effectively at close range). These two statements are contradictory. Either big levels affect the combat situation or they do not. Pick one.

But that's not the game's biggest problem anyway. The main sin is that the damn thing is just so DUMB (at least compared to Deus Ex anyway). Universal ammo isn't a big issue, but skills were a huge part of Deus Ex and to see them gone is really sad. Skills are where the RPG element really shines because that's where you DEFINE your character. Take it away and you really don't have an RPG anymore, no matter how many plot twists you have or how many alternate endings you can choose from. With RPGs you are SUPPOSED to not be able to do everything. You make a choice and that precludes you from other choices. Rather than chopping and changing who you are and what you're about (gee I can't use assault rifles very well, let's try stealth and melee for a bit) like it's a supermaket and you just accidentally bought the wrong flavoured ice cream. I shouldn't be able to change the key aspects that define my character as freely as my younger sister changes her mobile phone covers, and doing so is INHERENTLY ANTI-RPG. A complex, multi-layered plot with multiple endings and the ability to choose your own path (to a limited extent) does NOT make something an RPG. You might as well call SHOGO: Mobile Armoured Division (remember that game?) an RPG.

About that plot - it is quite good (for a computer game anyway - of course it would be laughed out of a cinema just like almost all computer game plots and yes I include the first Deus Ex here too). At least they didn't dumb THAT aspect of the game down, hey? However the game is shorter which is annoying... it's true that you get your toys a lot sooner in Invisible War which is a pity. Bioshock (another dumbed-down sequel) makes the same blunder. But then Invisible War is just a shorter game overall, so that seems logical doesn't it?

On the plus side, you get to pick the gender of your character. I liked that.

Overall, Invisible War is a GREAT game. But it's still Deus Ex's prettier but dumber little sibling. If Deus Ex had never been released, people would have gone nuts over Invisible War's greatness. However, the simple fact is, it doesn't match up to the first game in terms of depth, and people were looking for a DEEPER experience out of the sequel, not necessarily a more attractive one. THey wanted be able to do more stuff. But in Invisible War, you can't even do half the stuff you could in the first game. That's why it got savaged, not because it was a "bad game" overall.

I once sat down and decided to replay DX1. After a week or two I had finally made it through the game and thought "DX2, why not?". So I got the game, installed the game, played the game, had a cup of coffee somewhere near the end of the game, finished the game, went to work. One night of game play, with no real desire to go back and try it again is to me not a lot of value in a game.

Don't get me wrong, I like the game. As long as I remove the Deus Ex from the title. Take that away and change some of the names and you have a first rate shooter with an immense amount of depth. For a shooter. Invisible War does so many thing I wish I could do in other games. Imagine Half Life with lockpicking or airduct sneaking in Quake 4. (as in optional airduct sneaking). I really believe that the FPS genre would be a better place today if some of the good things in Invisible War where used more. But to call it a sequel to Deus Ex?. Story wise, I guess so. But when they remove everything that made DX1 great? No, it is not a sequel to maybe the best FPS-RPG ever. It is simply a good shooter, no more and no less.

My experience with the DX series is interesting, to say the least.

The first Deus Ex was, for me, an incredible foray into roleplaying games, and I loved every second of it. I recently replayed it, and even though the graphics make me cringe (damn you and your bumpmapped perfection, Mass Effect) the storyline is still amazing.

The second Deus ex, however, came off as more of a disappointment. I enjoyed the smaller levels; unlike the first game, where you could snipe off a couple thugs, sneak to safety then come back and snipe more, in Invisible War you're constantly on the move for fear of a WTO merc sticking a grenade up your ass. However, the biomods seemed to be distributed like daisies, and I disliked the feeling of being powerful enough to wipe out legions of enemies before having to heal.

I'm also biased against IW because of some stupid glitch; I accidentally loaded a save from the beginning of the game while somewhere in the middle, and found that my autosave and the rest of my saves had all been corrupted (loading them sent me to a black screen). Kinda gave up there.

Pulsifer:
Well, my problem with your review is very basically that it isn't. A review, that is.

I'm not saying you're wrong - hell, I just bought DX2:IW four days ago and enjoy it immensely. However, your review immediately starts off defensive and sticks that way. There's no mention of the backdrop of the game, the story, the gameplay or, in fact, any other element about the game except a passing mention to biomods.

Basically, your post doesn't attract anyone to playing IW (which should be the objective for a positive review) and it might actually damage the chances of people who haven't already played it trying it out, since you come off as basically defending a minority of people liking it. That tells people; well, the game wasn't good enough for most people to like it. Whether most people DID like it or not, and it was just the hardcore DeXtards who hated it, is up in the air.

Also, you ramble quite a lot in the start and overuse authorian inserts; I'm tempted to say "too much," but that depends on what you're trying to write. Is it a review? A solicitation? A defence? A very personal opinion? If it's the last, I read it as a good, funny one. I laughed in several places; but if it was, I'd stick it in Game Talk, tbh.

Yeah, I liked your Fable review better ;)

Cheers. If I'm honest I did set out for it to be more of a defence than an out and out 'Graphics-8, Gameplay-9, Immersion-Pi' review. I just thought this shiny new Reviews Forum was as good a place as any to dump it. If it comes across as overly defensive, I can only argue that I wanted to provide a counter-argument (read as frothy-mouthed rant) to those who have for years have slated IW as a terrible game. I can think of many games, both from then and now, that have been far more terrible than this apparant pile of rubbish. For future reference, it's probably best I suggest you read my articles less as formal reviews, and more for the pointless stream-of-consciousness ravings that they are.

And I'm glad I made you laugh. I'm doing something right at least :)

 

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