Revisiting Deus Ex: Invisible War
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13 years after its release, Richard Cobbett went back to Deus Ex: Invisible War - the oft-maligned sequel to the seminal Deus Ex - in the hope time and a couple of prequels might have been kind to it. The results are available for all to read in a new PC Gamer piece, where unfortunately he comes to the same conclusions many players reached at release:
Invisible War could be forgiven its technical shortcomings, but they're just the start of its problems. The deeper issues are rooted in its basic design. The faction system, for instance, spends most of the game bouncing between being comical and just plain broken.
Wander into an apartment block, the Emerald Suites, and the head of the WTO—a complete stranger at this point—phones up to ask if you’d mind raiding the Minister of Culture’s bedroom. The intro starts with you under attack by the religious faction, nominally to ‘rescued’ from a fate as a test-subject for the not-particularly-scary Tarsus Academy, only instead the leader of the assault has decided to kill everybody. Yet despite this, the Order can’t get it into its head that, just maybe, you might hold something of a grudge. Instead, for the rest of the game, they’re constantly in your head as if you directly work for them.
This reaches a head in Cairo. If you choose to ignore the Order and choose to instead kill the plants in a greenhouse on behalf of the WTO, they actively send a couple of agents after you. Kill them, and the Order respond with, more or less “Now you see what happens to our enemies. Unrelated, got another assignment for you if you’re up for it. Hello? Hello?”
It certainly wasn’t a lazy, coughed-up sequel designed to make a quick buck, or one that lacked for talent behind the scenes.
Instead, it was the victim of technology that wasn’t ready, and a team that hadn’t quite grasped the spirit of Deus Ex—team leader Harvey Smith later confessed to having taken it too far out of the familiar, and relying on the advice of hardcore players and fellow designers about what was wrong with the original game, rather than leaning on players who loved the original to hear what it did right. (Smith would of course later more than make up for this with Dishonored, which despite being overtly mission based rather than offering a continuous Deus Ex style flow in sprawling social hubs, is as close to being a Deus Ex successor as anything that officially bears its name.)