Summary: Jakub, that lucky bastard, got a near-final copy of Deus Ex: Invisible War to play around with, and he's got all the spicy details you need to know. Heck, he was even generous enough to provide 15 screens from the early game (to avoid all those naughty spoilers and whatnot. Did someone say naughty?)
JC Denton brought the world down in 2052, in what has become known as ďThe Great CollapseĒ. By disabling the Aquinas router which handled all electronic communication, JC destroyed all centralization, nation-states and any sort of national or international organization. Two decades have passed and the world is still recovering.
The player is put in the shoes of Alex, a trainee of the Tarsus Academy, the most prestigious private school in the post-Collapse world. Top graduates are given nanotechnological biomodifications, and prestigious security and covert ops jobs at various corporate entities. And then one day, the entire city of Chicago is destroyed for the sake of one Tarsus academy.
The game starts in Seattle, where the player has been transferred to a different academy just in time to save him from the Chicago disaster. Yet, almost immediately, this academy is under attack as well, though not as violent as the one perpetrated against Chicago. With the academy destroyed and the player freed from its controlling influence, he must now choose his path through the world, aligning with the WTO or the Order while trying to discover the truth behind the attacks.
As with its predecessor, Deus Ex: Invisible War is chock full of conspiracies, plot twists, betrayals and secret manipulation. Adventure, roleplaying and action are still part of the game, though many aspects have been streamlined. The cumbersome inventory is cleaned up, and the concept of skills has been removed. The skills, though they provided depth to Deus Ex, wonít be missed. Itís nice to be able to properly aim a sniper rifle like a real covert ops agent should.
Itís also nice being given the choice of being able to choose which sideís agenda to follow on any particular item. This allows the player to select a path that suits his own personal moral tastes, curiosity and even material desires. To give a minor spoiler, at one point in the game the player will be faced with the decision of killing a scientist, or letting him live and getting a very powerful and useful prototype weapon. One faction is determined to slay this creator of evil devices, another simply wants to make sure that the weapon is patented and regulated.
SIDEBAR: The original Deus Ex combined every conspiracy theory under the sun, except those about oil.
How to go
The plot choices arenít the only ones the player has to make. There are other decisions, tactical decisions, that are forced upon him. Going around killing all your foes clears your back, but youíll find yourself in very risky situations, and using up a lot of ammo and bioenergy. The alternative is to sneak by, look for an alternate path, but this of course means that if the alarm is raised, the enemies you left behind will just mean all the more trouble.
What biomods to choose is another familiar dilemma for Deus Ex players. Do you want to run fast or run silently? Is it more important to regenerate or see through walls? The choice is up to you, and it will greatly affect your play style. The mods are of course limited by the amount of energy Alex has, which has interesting consequences for the feel of the game. Yes, you get super hero abilities, but only for a short amount of time. A conservation strategy develops as you play, since you must balance the three most valuable commodities Ė health, ammunition and bioenergy.
Health is the most important, the easiest to lose and the most difficult to replenish, but if played right, health is at the least risk. The more ammunition or bioenergy a player is willing to commit, the less likely he is to lose health. Interestingly enough, ammunition is all one type Ė plasma ammo. Every gun adapts the ammo to what it needs. A shotgun will make shells, a rifle makes bullets, a rocket launcher makes rockets. How is this possible? Presumably with the ubiquitous nanites. Regardless of the how, itís an elegant solution, though we think the game could stand to give the player more of the ammo and let him hold more at the same time.
The Deus Ex experience was quite unlike anything else. Although a flawed game on many levels, as a whole it worked wonderfully. People latched onto the vision and looked over the inadequacies, filling in the blanks with their imagination. Invisible War fixes many of the most glaring issues, streamlining the game and making it feel more like a complete entity than disparate systems trying to work together.
Deus Ex: Invisible War is more open than the original. The player gets information, often partial or mixed with biased interpretations, from the various entities trying to sway him to their side. From there on in, heís free to make his own decisions and live with (or die because of) the consequences.
SIDEBAR: Itís now my goal to beat DX:IW only killing those that are plot-mandated.
The maps are very small in terms of area, but packed full of content. Itís almost like playing a BioWare RPG, there are so many sidequests to do, you forget youíre on a map the size of a Quake multiplayer level until you realize how much time has passed. There is a ton of exploration to do, optional and otherwise. There are secret areas, people to talk to who will give you hints and jobs, not to mention all sorts of filler material that fleshes the game atmosphere out.
The news network in the game presents various stories, but itís also easy to tell its pro-WTO slant. A pop superstar in the vein of Britney Spears is also present, her name is NG Resonance. There are various holographic AI facsimiles of her in many of the locations, with which you can interact.
When you finally get down to the action, itís a pleasant surprise. The combat wonít wow anyone, but the planning that goes into setting up an encounter will. Since youíre intent on conserving as much of your health, ammo and bioenergy as possible, youíll try for the easy kills or no kills at all. Every encounter is like a puzzle, but in a first-person shooter. The only other comparison we can think of is Thief, where you make do with limited resources. Itís not surprising then, to recall that ION is working in Thief III.
What do you think of Deus Ex: Invisible War? Are you excited? Thrilled? Ecstatic? Or do you share Tom Chickís view that anything Deus Ex is worthy only of the scrapheap? Sound Off! in the news comments and let us know.
SIDEBAR: Iím really looking forward to see what Garrettís adventures in Thief III lead him to.
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