Deus Ex: Invisible War - We Wanted Orange, We Got Lemon-Lime  

We Wanted Orange, We Got Lemon-Lime
by John Boske

10-15 hours


Rating definitions 

   How do you beat your own record? How do you out-do a one-of-a-kind FPS/RPG hybrid that met substantial critical acclaim and garnered praise from gamers across the board? Perhaps this is one question that Ion Storm shouldn't have asked, for while Deus Ex: Invisible war is a functional, and even enjoyable title on its own, it is a far cry from its predecessor, and bears several serious flaws that keep it from being anything other than a mediocre experience. It is all too obvious that this game was simplified for the console, and that some ideas simply didn't pan out the way Ion Storm was hoping they would.

   The game takes place some time after the end of the first Deus Ex, towards the end of the 21s century and following an event called The Collapse - the complete destruction of all worldwide communications, and the end of most national governments, which are replaced instead by autonomous city-states. In this apocalyptic future, the boundaries between man and machine have become very indistinct, with some humans opting to augment themselves mechanically, or even through nanotechnology. As Alex D. (whose gender and basic appearance are up to the player), you are one of the latter; a student of Tarsus Academy, a school for gifted youngsters aimed towards developing elite spies, security forces, assassins and other high-profile assignments. The game opens with the entire city of Chicago being destroyed in a terrorist attack, and you and the other Tarsus students are ferried to the academy in Seattle. It is there where you start to learn that Tarsus may be more than just a school, and that some people are very interested in capturing you - or your corpse.

   The first thing you're likely to notice about Invisible War is that it is slow. Clunky, even. This is because of a weird toggle in one of the system files that limits the amount of processing power the game can use - even if your system is well above specs. You have to manually alter the file before you can even think about bumping up the resolution or turning up the detail. The good news is that the game looks very not bad once you do. Character models are well designed and textures generally look pretty good. Light-sourcing and shadow effects are used very effectively, if your machine can handle the performance hit. The bad news is that level design is cramped, sometimes hideously so. You get to visit some neat-looking places - a hip Seattle nightclub, a mosque and neighboring arcology in Cairo, a decrepit base in Antarctica - but the sense of claustrophobia and confinement is almost inescapable. It is painfully obvious that the game was designed with the XBox's limitations in mind, and the PC version was developed almost identically, with no consideration for its differing capabilities.

Caption Seattle has evolved beyond our mortal "daylight".

   The music is nothing to write home about, with a few notable exceptions, particularly the music in some of the clubs. Unfortunately, even there it is often underplayed and subdued; it will frequently be lost over background noise, voices, or weapons fire. Voices are generally done well, and although Alex doesn't emote too much, he still sounds more human than JC Denton from the previous game. The rest of the cast performs decently, and those who've played the original will recognize some of the voices here and there, particularly with a few of the returning characters. Again, however, nobody stands out as especially well spoken, although in-combat dialogue fits fairly well. The same goes for sound effects, as most are forgettable apart from gunfire and weapons, which have nice, satisfying booms and cracks.

   The interface works, but for something that was supposed to be streamlined and efficient, it comes off as dumbed-down and awkward. The heads-up display is obtrusive, and looks like it was designed for a human retina and not for a computer screen. Health has been revamped, so instead of having separate health meters for arms, legs, body and head, you have one health bar for the whole body - and, strangely, a couple slices of bread or candy bars pack the same punch as a medkit. The text size is uncomfortably large, meaning little information can be displayed (such as from an incoming transmission) at any given time, and the note system is now meaningless considering you no longer have to type in codes or passwords - all logins are done automatically. Ammo is universal, meaning you fill up your pistol and your flamethrower with the same clip. It's as dumb as it sounds, and it's way too easy to burn through it all.

Caption Looking for me, boys? Let's dance!

   Ostensibly you can develop Alex however you like, and ally with whoever you choose, but this is largely an illusion. You have five slots for augs, each of which supposedly gives you different abilities and lets you adapt to different stiles of play; in reality, you have choices between awesome abilities like hacking or regeneration, and lame ones that shoot toxic darts or let you jump higher. The skill system is completely gone, and you never get better at fighting or picking locks or using medkits as you could in the first game. The game stresses, again and again, how it is your choice who to ally with, but ultimately that choice is meaningless; you can, quite literally, work for a group in one section of the game, then turn around and work for their enemies. The ending is particularly ridiculous in this regard, with a three-way battle between warring factions, each of whom you can ally with at the last minute, even if you've worked against them the entire game.

   Deus Ex: Invisible War brings some neat ideas to the table, and at the end of the day it does provide a fairly compelling experience, alongside some solid action. However, long gone are the RPG elements of the original, replaced by hollow facsimilies; the game offers a lot of choice, but only the illusion of consequence. Even if one can forgive the technical flaws - sloppy coding, poor use of the PC's comparatively larger resources - the problems with the attempts at freedom are just as glaring. Deus Ex was a hard act to follow, but even a casual glance at Invisible War will reveal a laundry list of things they simply could have done better.

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