Review: Deus Ex: Invisible War
Game by Ion Storm and Eidos
January 3, 2004 -- Review by The Master
Anyone who reads this website regularly will realize that I am a huge Deus Ex fan. I've played the original Deus Ex through from start to finish at least 6 times, and have done so in every possible manner I could think of. I enjoyed the original game a great deal, so I have very high hopes and expectations for the follow-up: Invisible War. Thankfully I have not been disappointed.
For starters, since it's important to this review, my system specs:
- Dell Dimension 4100 system, 1ghz Pentium III processor
- 512mb of PC133 SDRAM
- Asylum GeforceFX 5600 AGP Video, 256mb SDRAM, 4x AGP
- Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! Value PCI sound card
- Western Digital HD, Sony 48x DVD/CDRW CD-ROM drive
As you can see, this system is not exactly top-of-the-line. It is actually less than the minimum specs quoted on the DX:IW game packaging (Pentium IV class system). However, I have had reasonably good performance using the default settings from the patched 1.1 version of the game. Despite what you may be reading in the various news groups and board postings, you don't need a liquid nitrogen cooled Beowulf cluster of Crays to run this game acceptably.
Overall, the graphics are at about the level of Unreal Tournament 2K3, which would make sense since that is the graphics engine the game is based upon. The AI is quite startlingly intelligent. A couple of times I thought I had outwitted an alerted guard, and he still found me when I wiggled that cardboard box I was hiding behind all the way across the room. The 'bots are also much more intelligent, and quite a bit more stubborn about killing you than in DX. The physics engine is pretty cool, allowing me to smack tires and old barrels around. However, it is quite sensitive to the slightest touch -- I've launched crates across a large room with a light touch more than once. The sound engine is quite a bit better than the original Deus Ex, with more ambient sound in the environment making things "real".
The weapons, inventory, skill and biomod system is greatly simplified from the original Deus Ex. Biomods are "organic" modifications you can make to your body to enhance your abilities. Examples include healing, enhanced vision, computer hacking, 'bot domination, and so forth. The old skills system in DX was completely tossed, and the new biomod system encapsulates it along with simplifying the DX biomod system. You can get a full load out of biomods rapidly in the game. I filled all but one of my slots before leaving the first level of the game. But, since they are so vital to getting around the game, this is a very good thing. The inventory system is vastly simplified from DX. DX:IW gives you 12 slots that you can load with equipment. Each type of firearm or equipment takes a slot. Each slot can house so many of each item. This system greatly limits your ability to load up tons of stuff and become a walking tank. You must CAREFULLY consider what equipment you want to cart around. You must also ration your ammo very carefully--it is quite hard to find without taking out people in the game.
The game story has been compelling for me. Remembering the incredible depth of story from the original DX (and knowing the script for that one was something like 10" high) makes this one seem a bit disappointing, but I have had fun with the story line in IW. Having both a male and female character option for the player doubled the workload for Ion Storm, so I guess I can forgive the seemingly less intense game story. Some of the factions in this game are too blatant, with completely opposite ideals and goals. This gets tiring as the various sides vie for your allegiance, but it has made for a lot of decisions on what you stand for as you play though the game. I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of references to critical characters from the original game. I hope I get to meet some of them later in the game.
My drawback listing is rather long for all of these compliments, however. While I am very happy with the game, some things about it just scream need for polishing. I was frustrated by the need for a DirectX 9 minimum video card, but considering the action in the game this is probably just to prevent overloading the CPU with extra work. The game does require a bit more in system specs (512mb of RAM, 1.1+ ghz processor), but considering the original game required at least 1.5 times the minimum system spec to play reasonably, this shouldn't be surprising of a DX style game. The mouse control was terrible until the v1.1 patch was released. Game saves are very fast, but loads are incredibly slow, taking almost a minute for each level change or load of a save game. While the AI is intelligent, it's very one-track minded, so once you get a 'bot on your trail, it's seemingly impossible to shake it, even by hiding or leaving the area. This also applies to people in the game, which is bothersome when you need to talk to someone but they're all freaked out about an alarm that was set off 2 days ago. However, of all my complaints, the level load times are the biggest.
Overall, I give the game a 7 out of 10. I see a lot here to like, but if you're expecting a game as huge and complex as the original Deus Ex, you're not necessarily going to find it here. However, I would highly recommend the title for anyone who really enjoyed the original Deus Ex.