Deus Ex: Invisible War
by RaiRaiRai

Deus Ex: Invisible War
Platform: PC, Xbox (reviewed)
ESRB: Mature
Genre: First-Person Shooter/RPG

Not long into Deus Ex: Invisible War, something amazing happens. It's not something that runs up and hits you round the face, like the visceral intensity of Otogi, but it's not quite the cerebral warmth of perfectly completing a mission in Thief, either.

About two hours into Deus Ex: Invisible War, you realize that you're not a floating hand holding a gun. You're not a nigh-invulnerable super-soldier with his mind already made up, and a path all laid out for him. Two hours into the sequel to 1999's Deus Ex, you realize that you are Alex D, former student of Tarsus Academy, former resident of a smoldering pile of dust that used to be Chicago, and that you've got a densely-layered clusterfuck of choices in front of him.

After some minor exposition involving the destruction of the city of Chicago, Deus Ex: Invisible War throws you face-first into an escape from either the forces invading your school or the school itself, which also serves as your tutorial. The game teaches you well enough about how to shoot, use your biomods (more on those later), and sneak, all while giving you enough scraps of information to make your first choices outside the school.

Once you're out of the school, all bets are off, and you are presented with your first mutually exclusive choice, in the form of two notes that get sent to your Datavault. Your Datavault fills about the same role as the journal from Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, keeping track of what missions you've been given and the like. There's never an option to turn a job down: if you don't want to do it, then don't. What's more, this also lets you complete several jobs simultaneously, given that they all use elements already present in the game environment.

Given that you can't return to any of the previous cities you visit, it's a good idea to do as many side quests as you can, to keep yourself prepared for whatever may be ahead. Unfortunately, doing so often feels like busywork. Still, the jobs themselves are often fun and challenging, and they're usually varied enough that you'll seek them out, at least on your first play through, because they can net you credits, which can be used to buy ammunition, weaponry, and, most importantly, biomod canisters and weapon mods.

Biomod canisters and gun upgrades work in about the same way: You use them to add specific abilities to either yourself or your arsenal. It's a relatively simple method, but it feels incredibly stripped-down and feels somewhat tacked-on, which is odd for a game that's all about this kind of stuff. Your biomods go in one of five slots: eye, brain, skeletal, arm, and leg. But there are only three biomods for each slot. So, if you want both the Enhanced Eyesight and the Spy Drone, too damn bad, 'cos it's gonna be one or the other. Some of the biomods are more or less useless, though: the Hazard Defense Drone is so pocketed into a specific niche that it's not worth bothering with, and the Biotox Attack Drone is too damn weak to be any help in battle. Still, when picking your biomods, you'll be forced to make quite a few one-or-the-other choices between two equally viable options. On another note, biomods are also DX:IW's analogue to leveling up in a typical RPG. This actually makes your own character progression feel much more organic than a level-up screen ever could. This can be either a good thing or a bad one, depending on what you prefer.

As for weapon mods, well, they're there. There are the useful ones, like the Silencer or Glass Destabilizer (which destroys panes of glass silently), and you've got stuff like the EMP Converter, which becomes obsolete the second you grab a Mag-Rail (which can be very early in the game, if you so choose). It's interesting to see what you can come up with, but the game doesn't give you Weapon Mods in enough quantity for you to experiment properly, and then there's the fact that once you've installed a Mod onto a gun, it can't be overwritten. In the end, Weapon Mods become a sort of mixed bag, where a good pick will feel exceptionally rewarding, and a bad one will see you reloading your previous save.

While we're on the topic of weaponry, whoever decided that every firearm needs to use the same ammunition needs to be shot in the face until it stops being funny, case closed. Yes, it can be handy, given that when you're maxed out on ammo, you can use any firearm you like. However, if you empty out all your rounds (which can happen all to easily if you favor the SMG or sniper rifle), you're out of luck, and you'll be forced to use one of the melee weapons you've got. Wait, what's that? You didn't pick up any melee weapons? Well, too bad. In spite of all the super-secret-super-soldier Tarsus-sponsored spy training, throwing a punch is too complex an idea for Alex D to wrap his head around.

Another major example of sloppy design is the AI of most every NPC you come across. In one of the game's more heartfelt moments, you can choose to release a Grey alien held captive. However, after commenting on the cruelty of human science, this mysterious Grey proceeds to proudly walk into walls. Yeah, our science might be cruel, but at least we can see straight, asshole. The game's maps are designed well enough to minimize such happenings with hostile NPC characters, but the holes in the AI still show through often enough that it can become bothersome.

But in spite of all this, Deus Ex: Invisible War is an excellent game. It manages to (barely) outshine its flaws through sheer gumption, clever map design, and some excellent writing and voice acting to boot. It manages to grab you by the balls and drag you through social and political issues that most games don't even try to go near, and it makes you love every second. It provides a solid story all the way through, and showers you with options for everything, from building your character's abilities, to completing a mission, to how you upgrade your weapons, and ultimately, the fate of the human race. I lied at the beginning of this review: When you play Deus Ex: Invisible war, you are not Alex D. Alex D is you.

All things considered, Deus Ex: Invisible War is no better or no worse a game than its predecessor, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.


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