‘Deus Ex’ takes one step forward, two back
POSTEDAugust 18, 2004
From aliens buzzing trailer parks in saucer-shaped UFOs to secret meetings of The Illuminati, nobody can resist a good conspiracy. “Deus Ex,” released in 2000, became a cult favorite for its incredibly deep storyline and adaptive gameplay.
“Deus Ex: Invisible War” serves as a spiritual successor but falls short in some technical areas. However, the game is still rewarding, provided some problems can be accepted.
The game picks up about 20 years after the conclusion of the first game, and the world is still as gritty and cyberpunk as ever.
Alex D, the main character, quickly learns his enrollment in Tarsus, the covert ops training facility, may have been for ulterior purposes. As the game progresses, conspiracy after conspiracy unravels, leaving the player constantly wondering just how deep things can get (and they do get quite deep).
Biomodification, the practice of augmenting a human being with nanomachines, is becoming mainstream in this future. With it, supporters and opponents of the practice arise. This, mixed with a battle for power after a worldwide communications collapse, creates a situation where many groups are competing for different goals.
From the moment Alex steps out of Tarsus, everyone will be vying for his cooperation. From the capitalist-driven World Trade Organization, to The Order of Religious Fanatics, everyone has an agenda, and it is up to the player to decide who to help.
Throughout play, it is never clear to the player what is right or wrong. This kind of freedom is interesting even though it can be frustrating at times. Early in the game, up to four different factions contact you, all wanting you to accomplish conflicting goals. It is too much, too fast.
While gameplay and setting are original and fresh, their execution has some serious problems. The heads-up display is huge and obscures much of the screen. The in-game text is gigantic as well. These are both obvious results of the game’s simultaneous development on X-Box.
“Invisible War” also runs terribly on most computers. There is a graphical option called “bloom” in which everything has a hazy, “Blade Runner”-esque feel. This kills performance and some people prefer the look without it. Graphics are plain without bloom enabled, as most of the textures are blurry by today’s standards.
While a patch has been released to help most of these problems, they shouldn’t have been in a retail release in the first place.
Elements of gameplay have been simplified from the original. Lockpicks no longer exist, meaning hacking into computers and opening doors are done with the universal “multitools.” The skill system has been completely dropped, too, as well as different ammunition types. Ammo comes from universal clips with different guns using varying amounts of the ammunition resource.
“Invisible War” is the successor in terms of storyline to the original, but it plays like a huge step backwards in terms of gameplay mechanics. If that can be overlooked, there is still a rewarding storyline and some thought-provoking ideas contained within.