|Deus Ex: Invisible War|
|Developer: Ion Storm
Release Date: Out Now
You are Alex D, a trainee bio-modified agent at the Tarsus Academy (a global chain of schools that provides the best education and training for the select few who are admitted). Once graduated the students are assigned to a corporation best suited to them; it could be the pseudo-religious Order, the WTO (strict law enforcers with tight organisation and public surveillance in mind), or the Templars (a "revived" incarnation of an ancient secret society - agenda unknown).
You are about to be caught up in a twisted tale of double-dealing, conspiracy, power struggles, cloning and human biological enhancement. Invisible War is a sequel set twenty years after the original Deus Ex that made such a splash on the PC market in 2001. The story moves from New York to Chicago, and when Chicago is destroyed by a monstrous weapon it moves on to a depressing cyberpunk version of Seattle, where the playable story starts.
As you'll know if you played Deus Ex, DEIW doesn't feel like a typical first person shooter. This is not an all-action game like Halo, in fact the game plays and feels like an adventure game as you find yourself investigating every object, item, nook and cranny, and when the first confrontation or gun battle erupts it almost comes as a surprise. As far as the power struggles go, you may perform missions for your masters, or either of two warring factions - you can even complete requested tasks for all three sides (or is it four?), and decide whom you want to stick with at a later date. You may unearth dark secrets that immediately set you against one side or another or you may get found out and your hand may be forced, but the choices of missions are many, and there are always several different ways of completing them. The Order, the WTO, the Templars, another, different cause perhaps? Stealth or subterfuge, violent gunplay or distraction, assassination or arson, hacking or bribing, the choice is nearly always yours.
You are bio-modified, so you can enhance all kinds of bodily attributes beyond the norm as well as add some incredible abilities on top. The enhanceable (it's a word) areas are:
Each area allows three types of mods - two normal ones and a black market super-duper one. You can only have one per body area though, which makes for some important decisions when "modding-up" because this obviously strongly affects the way you'll play the game.
You can steal, borrow or buy various consumables, weapons and ammo, and there are always the 'Omar' (a heavily bio-modded sub-race of humans that look like aliens) who specialize in the hard-to-find goodies like black market biomods. Almost everywhere you go there will be security guards, cameras or bots though, so if you steal something or enter somewhere you shouldn't expect some attention from the law.
Your weapons can be modified too; silencers, increased damage, fragmentary rounds and various other enhancements can be added. Strangely they all use the same basic ammo material, which is supposedly converted by the individual weapon. Downed enemies always drop their weapons and you can use them and scavenge their partially depleted ammo clips and secondary weapons like grenades.
DEIW has levels that are highly complex (there are many ducts and tunnels weaving their way through most maps) but none are too complicated, and the game retains the tight, almost claustrophobic feel of the original. Like a host of other games coming soon, DEIW has real world physics attached to all sorts of peripheral objects like crates, barrels and furniture, and of course the bodies now have the obligatory ragdoll physics. You can pick up and drop or throw almost anything too, and it certainly adds immeasurably to the game (as well as giving you lots of opportunities to "play" with the game engine).
After a stunning rendered intro the game's graphics don't disappoint, with detailed, well animated and lip synched characters and excellent lighting effects throughout. You even get to choose whether you play as a male or female character and pick your skin tone (Alex handily being one of those ambiguous names). A clever interface speeds up what could have been a painful weapon/biomod selection process, and wonderful textures make wood, concrete, stone and snow look just like they should... But something that really does disappoint is the jumpy frame rate, most of the time perfectly acceptable to the eye, the game occasionally actually freezes for a fraction of a second (often when explosions of various kinds go off) - and this feels extremely odd in a game of such high quality in all other departments. Another niggle is the loading times, which are simply too slow and intrusive for 2004.
However, regardless of frame rate issues and loading times more appropriate to the Playstation, I cannot wait to play Invisible War through again, this time as the female Alex with a different set of biomods and overall strategy. What we have here is a highly atmospheric and absorbing game, and even if you prefer the more action-orientated titles, I think that just like me you'll probably find the hours flying by as you get completely immersed in the frankly bizarre, preposterous and confusing sci-fi plot (that makes The X-Files look like Eastenders). There are so many offers, counteroffers, twists, turns and choices that you'll need a much bigger brain than mine to understand it all the first time around (or possibly a wall chart), the result of which is that that Deus Ex: Invisible War has replay value like few other games.
- Excellent graphics, environments and character models.
- Atmospheric lighting, sound and music.
- Clever plot twists and multiple choices/paths throughout the game.
- You are definitely going to want to play the game through more than once.
- A genuinely different first person gaming experience.
- Slow loading times.
- Iffy frame rate.
- Confusing plot.
- We want all the biomods at once, and the game won't let you have them.
- We're biomodded and we wanted to be able to punch bad guys.