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January 7, 2008

Filed under: gaming»software»deus_ex

We Will Lead Them into the Day

Nine reasons why Invisible War is better than the original Deus Ex:

  1. Door Number 3 - For all of its depth and open-world conceit, Deus Ex had the moral ambiguity of a Giuliani campaign ad. MJ12 are the bad guys, you're a good guy, that's the end of it. Invisible War's factions may be a cliche of technocrat vs. religious zealot, morphing into more generic order vs. chaos, but at least they're all viable options. And it milks that ambiguity for all it's worth, which has the effect of giving the game a wider perspective.
  2. Hints from Helios - The AI, oh heavens above, the AI. Enemies in Deus Ex had three animations, and its approach to any situation was to spastically flicker through them. Yet somehow, any action taken by the player would immediately alert them to your location, even if you subsequently moved. For the sequel, the AI still possesses ESP powers, but only for its supernatural hearing. Other than that, they're more realistically stupid.
  3. The Peashooter 9000 - Remember when you picked up a machine gun in Deus Ex, and felt like you could take take out a few guards? Me neither. Most of the guns had the heft and lethality of a gin-soaked papercut, and JC reloaded with glacial speed. Maybe it's because they didn't mean the game to technically be a "shooter." In that case, I would suggest that they make the not-shooting parts of the game less blindingly dull. Which brings us to...
  4. The Six Gazillion Dollar Man - Augmentations in Deus Ex would have been a lot more fun if most of them weren't completely useless, or if you had any real hint as to what they'd do before you installed them. I think the problem is that they thought "how can we solve these specific gameplay-related strategies," and not "how can we make the player feel like an unstoppable ninja cyborg?" Speaking personally, I tend to forgive holes in the former if the latter is successful. Invisible War was criticized for its lack of augmentation options (five slots of three options each), but every single one of them does something useful.
  5. Robot Envy - So JC Denton can't aim, when he does aim it doesn't do much damage, and he never gets the ability to crush someone's head between his fingers. In that case, what's with the whining jealousy act from all the other secret agent cyborgs? You can't go thirty seconds without Hermann or Anna Navarre complaining about being made obsolete, even though they have big robot limbs and JC can't kick over a cardboard cutout without dying from the bruises. I suspect they are actually elaborately mocking him.
  6. Yeah, but check out the nano-pockets on that trenchcoat - I understand what they were trying to do with the inventory system in Deus Ex, but it's still stupid. It was stupid then, it was stupid when they reused it in System Shock 2, and (if possible) it reached maximum stupidity in Resident Evil. Look: no-one wants to geometrically rearrange their entire inventory just so they can carry an extra can of soda. If I wanted to declutter spaces for fun, I have a storage room downstairs that needs some attention. Invisible War just uses 10 multipurpose slots, which is far less realistic, but has the advantage of freeing up my time for playing the game.
  7. The fine line between dead and deadpan - I am still unclear, frankly, on the reasons that voiceovers have almost always been terrible. It's not like there are technical reasons. Deus Ex was more inconsistent than anything else, but it still had too many moments of unconvincing tell-don't-show. JC's film-noir monotone quickly grates, not to mention the incredibly unsubtle foreign accents.
  8. Walt Sent Me - Passwords in the original game were a great opportunity to insert sly references and in-jokes. They were also kind of a pain to retrieve, so I like that Invisible War just remembers and types them for you. Likewise, I don't remember the extra missions in Deus Ex being particularly fun or interesting, but I think I completed most of them in the sequel--possibly because they were dense enough that I could accomplish several in one stroke.
  9. Shmarbucks - The running joke of the warring coffee shops is not only fitting, given the presence of the WTO, but also resolves gracefully.
On the other hand, the endings from the first game certainly has Invisible War beat, perhaps due to the social theorizing taking place in the latter--the wider perspective means that they neglected giving the player a personal reward, and aimed for an ideological one instead.

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