Deus Ex: Invisible War is an action RPG developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos in 2003. It is the second game in the Deus Ex series and is set twenty years after the first Deus Ex.
You take on the role of “Alex D” (whose gender and appearance can be customised at the start of the game), a clone trainee at Tarsus Academy – a WTO (World Trade Organisation) school for covert operations and security.
Gameplay in Invisible War is basically the same as the first Deus Ex, mixing elements of RPGs with exploration, stealth and first-person shooting. The story themes are similar too, with terrorism and conspiracies being major factors.
A HUD (Heads-Up Display) shows your health and energy levels, plus six inventory and biomod slots on-screen at all times. Biomods are technological augmentations that enhance the player character’s abilities when installed and they come in two varieties: standard and black market types. You can only have one biomod installed in each of your slots (eyes, cranium, skeleton, arms, and legs) and these basically define what kind of character you’re playing. You can change biomods, if you find that you’ve gone down the wrong route, but there are limited upgrade canisters in the game, so it’s better not to change too often (if at all).
As you progress through the game you meet and have conversations with many different characters, some of whom can be useful, and you’re usually given multiple-choice answers from which you can choose to respond. In fact: just like in the first Deus Ex, in Invisible War the game is all about giving you the freedom to choose how you want to solve problems and define your character and there are usually multiple ways of doing that – either by using brute force, hacking, or stealth.
There are also a number of different factions vying for your loyalty and they can all give you mission goals to attempt. It’s up to you which you decide to follow and the game goes out of its way to tell you that there is no “wrong way” to do this. You begin the game was a WTO operative, so are initially expected to follow orders from them, until you start to realise that they’re not being totally honest with you. As you do more missions for certain factions this will affect how the other factions react to you. And there will, of course, be a point of no return for some of them.
You’ll begin to acquire a variety of weapons and gadgets as you make your way through the story, some of which can be modified. Your inventory space is strictly limited, though, so you do have to be selective about what you decide to carry. Smart players will collect all the different mines and grenades that are dropped by fallen enemies (or found in various places) and hoard them on a floor somewhere, switching them out for when they’re needed on certain missions.
One extremely useful device that has been carried over from the first game is the “Multitool” – a yellow glowing screwdriver-looking thing that allows you to bypass locks or shut down cameras, and these can often be found lying around in various places. You can never have enough Multitools in a Deus Ex game, and if you run out of them it can be a problem, so you have to use them sparingly.
Graphically, Invisible War is much more advanced than the first Deus Ex, but it’s still quite primitive by today’s standards. Invisible War uses Unreal Engine version two, whereas the first Deus Ex used the first Unreal Engine. Sound-wise, Invisible War‘s musical themes and sound effects are similar to the first game, which is no bad thing as they are distinctive and atmospheric. The opening music in this game is similar to the iconic music of the first game, which I found reassuring.
Initially Deus Ex: Invisible War is a little overwhelming, due to the multiple faction goals and knowing what to do next, but in reality – at the start of the game – you can do all of them without upsetting anyone too much.
At first you’ll be introduced to some interesting characters (like the Omar traders), and also plenty of inconsequential characters, some of whom will give you optional side-quests. The game’s interface makes talking to them, and managing your missions, easy, and there are maps available to help you if you get lost. But in general the game’s hub-based environments are simple enough to navigate, even though there is a jarring and annoying screen loading switch when you travel from one area to another (or at least there was on my machine).
Invisible War does have a few small gameplay issues, like the physics being a bit over-sensitive. Characters walk around and kick tables and chairs into the air as though they were weightless. Which is weird. Some characters also seem to use exactly the same 3D models and textures (the WTO Civic Manager and the VOX Club Owner are identical, for example), which can be confusing. That said: Deus Ex: Invisible War is still an absorbing and interesting game, and sequel to one of the best video games ever made. Whether it’s as good as (or worse than) the first Deus Ex is down to personal taste. Some people seem to think that Invisible War is the weakest entry in the Deus Ex series. I enjoyed playing it, although I didn’t think that it was quite as good, or as ground-breaking, as the first Deus Ex. I still think that it’s a game worth playing, and worth picking up in a sale if you haven’t played it yet. I would suggest playing the first Deus Ex before Invisible War, though, because it just sets up the premise of the series better.