"Invisible War" isn't bad, but it's disappointing because it could have been so much better.

User Rating: 7.2 | Deus Ex: Invisible War PC
I have seen the description “Deus Ex Lite” for this game, and for the most part, it’s a very accurate. This game has merits that make it worth playing, but it’s still vastly inferior to the first game, which I gave a 9.6 score. This game has a lot of good ideas, but they are largely negated by lots of really bad design decisions. The way I see it, there are two HUGE faults that keep this from being a 9+ game. First, as has been well publicized, the role-playing system – it just sucks. Plain and simple. It’s not very useful, flexible, robust, or strategic. The skills system that helped make the first game so great is gone, and that was a huge mistake. The replacement, a carved up biomod system and a weak weapons mod system, both of which require little planning or thought. There are only five biomod slots, and it only takes you a few hours into the game to find five biomod canisters to fill them up with. Halfway through the game, you're maxed ou on biomods. There are no weapons-related skills or biomods, which means that there is no way to shape your character as a crossbow, demolitions, or heavy weapons expert. What was so great about the first game was figuring out what tradeoffs to make on your skills, and then combining your skills with biomods to shape your character. That type of character development is missing in this system. It’s impossible to overstate what a huge fault this is. You can easily one-kill headshot your enemies the second that you get a sniper rifle, and thanks to the absurd Universal Ammo system, you don’t have to worry about running out of sniper ammo. There is no electronics skill that makes you more efficient at using multitools. There is no sense of power development like what you get in a good RPG, where you start off as a complete wimp and end up the game as a demigod. That is why Deus Ex: Invisible War is very shallow as an RPG. The other huge fault of this game is the size of the maps. They are ridiculously tiny. Most of the areas are tight, indoor cramped spaces. Most of the “outdoor” areas are tight cramped spaces that have a sky instead of a ceiling. Exploring an area to find the alternate “secret” entrance to a well-guarded facility is laughably easy. There is hardly any exploring in this game. Part of the fun of the first game was wandering around the huge open maps and maybe sneaking into a huge building through the roof. In this game, the front door and the air vent that takes you around it are only five feet away. What’s the point? Small maps also mean frequent (and long) loading times. There are so many other little nagging faults in this game. Terrible AI, wonky physics. This game isn't terrible, but it's disappointing in so many ways. One welcome change from the first game is a big improvement in the voice acting. Both the male and female Alex voice actors sound very good. Some voice actors return to do the same character as the last game, but they sound better. Tracer Tong is back and he has a new voice actor instead of an English-speaking guy trying to sound Chinese. Except for voice acting though, the rest of the sound in this game takes a big step backwards. The ambient music soundtrack is almost nonexisten. The weapons sound like toys, and the noises in the game don’t do a good job of letting you know how stealthy are your being. Sometimes I would tip off guards even though I couldn’t hear my own footsteps. Stealth in this game just doesn’t work well at all. The riot prod is useless and the tranquilizer dart gun takes two shots now instead of one to take down an enemy. But you don’t need stealth, since most enemies aren’t much of a threat to you, and you can just take most of them down with an easy sniper rifle headshot. Deus Ex: Invisible War has some saving graces that make it worth playing. The storyline is still excellent. I think that it would have helped to make the game longer and give it more character development, but it’s still great. The story has one or two very surprising twists in it, and it gets you to think philosophically, just like the first one. It all makes for a good legitimate sequel story, instead of just a thrown-together rehash of the first one (which is common for sequels). The developers had some good creative ideas too. Some of the “black market” biomod canisters that you find are wicked, like one that lets you control bots, and one that imparts EMP to your melee attacks. I also got a lot of amu****t out of the NG Resonance character, a holographic AI that provides some comic relief, as well as some hints and side quests. And, even with the scaled-back role-playing system, “Invisible War” still has tons of good dialog and lots of open-ended problem-solving. Plus, there’s nothing else like it out there as far as action/RPG games go. It’s too bad though, that there was so much removed for this game. If it had been a full-fledged sequel instead of “Deus Ex Lite”, then it could have been as good as the first one. There were some good ideas here, but unfortunately, they don’t stand out enough. Maybe the next “Deus Ex” game will combine the best elements of the first two and be a truly great one.