Deus Ex: Invisible War takes place a generation after JC Denton made the choice to hit
the reset button on civilization by disconnecting the Aquinas Router and thus severing all communication – that much becomes obvious early on. You are Alex, a trainee cybernetically enhanced agent in the Tarsus corporation who was evacuated at the last minute before a devastating attack destroyed the city of Chicago.
The game begins in Seattle, with another attack on the Tarsus facility there, which sets Alex free of Tarsus’ hold. From there on in, the player, as Alex, makes choices to back various factions. Initially, only the WTO and the Order, two organizations that sprung up from the ruins of the old world, one embracing regulated commercialism and the other a combination of religions, are the two that attempt to sway Alex to their path. The most impressive part of this and all other plot decisions is that the decisions are made based on player actions, rather than words.
As Alex progresses through a level, he’ll receive communiqués from the leaders and representatives of these factions, urging him to take certain actions. At no point is the player forced to say “ok, I’m going to do X” and then is put on a railroad path on that decision. During any time in the mission right up until the inevitable deciding choice, the player can change his mind as often as he wants. This seamless integration of plot and action is a carry-over from Deus Ex, but it’s one of those subtleties that few other action games have picked up on, though quite a few RPGs have this system in place.
Back and forth
Deus Ex: Invisible War is a much more compact and streamlined game than the original. The maps are smaller though a lot more happens on any given map than ever did in DX, and the game is significantly shorter. In many ways, it seems like ION Storm made the decision to cut a lot of the unnecessary aspects of Deus Ex out in order to provide a cleaner, trimmer gaming experience.
There were certainly compromises in order to fit the game on the Xbox – the levels and interface are examples of such. Despite the huge public outcry, however, it isn’t such a big deal. The game has enough performance problems with the levels as it is, and enlarging the levels might not be the brightest idea. Besides, there’s the added benefit of having the levels small – almost every door hides something, a lot more characters have something to say. There’s very little waste, but also little pomp – a theme that repeats itself throughout the game.
The interface is much harder to forgive. Although the HUD isn’t a big deal, the inventory/item management is god-awful. There’s absolutely no reason a drag-and-drop to move, double-click to select inventory couldn’t have been implemented in the month between going gold and shipping. The limited inventory slots are a bit of an annoyance at times, though at least they do force the player into tactical inventory decisions. A lot of immersion was sacrificed for gameplay; a gigantic flamethrower takes up as much effective space as a knife? Although this does make inventory management an art, we can’t say the sacrifice is worth it for everyone.