I play old games (Deus Ex: Invisible War)

What is up my brodog. I can hold this gun sideways, making me a legitimate person from "the hood"

This blog is brought to you by me figuring that I should contribute to Sweep's great social blogging experiment, as well as the general idea that yeah, I should probably write more of these. With that out of the way, let's talk about disappointing sequels for a second, shall we? When I think about those, games such as Dragon Age II, Master of Orion 3, and X-COM Apocalypse come to mind as games that tried something different and were worse for it. While some of these games can still be good or at least decent on their own merits (DAII, but please let's not start that discussion again here), others are horrible, horrible trainwrecks that forget everything that was good about the prior titles in favor of their own stupid agendas (MOO3). Of course, as far as the vast internet is concerned, I don't think there has ever been as much widespread condemnation of any sort of sequel than Deus Ex: Invisible War, which I finished playing and am now blogging about for your pleasure. Which end does it fall on? READ ON TO FIND OUT.

Ok. Deus Ex Invisible War is a bad game. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has played it. However, without my exposure to the first game back in May and my exposure to the worthy successor Human Revolution now, I don't think I would've known that, because without any of that context Invisible War is still very much the same kind of game as either of its contemporaries. You play as an augmented robot man (or lady in my case, because I didn't want to be the dudebro on the cover) who can choose to solve problems either by shooting everything or crawling through a lot of vent ducts and not shooting anyone. The reason IW is not a good game is simply because almost every single aspect of it is done poorly, as if the developer was someone who had played half the first game, got very intoxicated and then proceeded to crank out a sequel without ever bothering to look at anything twice and wonder if it was a good idea. It's hard to believe that it's the same dev team, but yep, it's still Ion Storm, perhaps sans Warren Spector.

It's sad when holograms of pop stars are the most interesting thing about this game

While the PC elitist complaint of "Consolization" and "Dumbing down" usually leads to me rolling my eyes at the old men in their wheelchairs raving against the gamebreaking feature that was "Autosave", it has actual merit in this regard. The RPG mechanics of the first game, for as poorly done as I thought they were, are done even more poorly here. You can have 5 of 15 augmentations at any time, and unsurprisingly some are better than others. Regeneration? Yes. Being able to cloak from robots and cameras? Yes. Collect Health from corpses? Maybe not... The problem here stems from the fact that you can easily max out pretty much all the skills that you want early on. With hacking maxed out early on, it's easy to get as much money as you need from ATMs, which along with the removal of the skill system (not necessarily a bad thing, but whatever) makes the pitiful rewards of sidequests not worth it most of the time. So, of course I didn't do any sidequest that forced me to go out of my way to do it. Because, in addition to not being worth it, the sidequests are usually pretty boring. There are some bright spots, such as informing on corrupt officials to a hologram of pop sensation NG Resonance or the petty conflicts between two different coffee chains, but yeah. They're lame.

Think of a game mechanic from the first game. Now imagine that being implemented poorly. Ok. You have the basic gameplay down

But what about the main game itself? Well, I'm glad you asked. Being that this game had to run on the original Xbox without said console exploding, the environments are distinctly and blatantly compartmentalized into tiny cubes. Since the levels in the first DX were MASSIVE in a good way, by comparison it's easy to find the quest objective, do whatever you need to do, and then shoot your way out (By the way: Universal Ammo is a really, really stupid idea) or turn on super speed and just run past everyone (my tactic of choice for the second half of the game.) There's no real exploration and any sort of duct system is incredibly easy to find and navigate. I probably finished this game in 6 or 7 hours (for some reason Steam says I've only played 30 minutes), meaning that YOUR MODERN CONTEMPORARY ACTION TITLE IS LONGER THAN THIS GAME. Or, at least the way I played the game. I guess you could do every sidequest and play the game "Vinny Caravella" style, but the gameplay isn't good enough for me to have wanted to do that. In any case, it took me twice as long to finish Human Revolution and the first game.

So guys, how about that Team Fortress 2? Pretty good game, huh? Man, the image formatting on these forums still sucks

But, easily enough, the worst part of Invisible War isn't the constrained level design, nor the various other poor gameplay-related decisions made, but the story. Within the first 15 minutes you are introduced to most of the cast of characters, who you are never really never given a reason to care about and introduced to two different factions you have no reason to care about. The world itself is set up rather poorly, basically being some sort of generic sci-fi dystopia that is never really fleshed out beyond occasional loading screen messages and some incidental dialog. Once again, it makes an amazing contrast to Human Revolution, which manages to establish its world extremely well as a hotbed of confict and social change. Heck, even the first game did it better. Thus, with this world set up the game proceeds to have two faction leaders talk into your earpiece telling you lame reasons to follow them while you travel around the globe (or, to be more accurate, you go to like 5 places) doing things for no real reason other than that's how you need to move the plot ahead. However, it's when the game ties itself in with the first Deus Ex that it crosses the line from mediocrity to hilarious badness. Not only are the first two factions you choose between part of the Illuminati (thus making whatever you did for either pointless in the grand scheme of things), but your character is a clone of JC Denton for no real reason other than "Just cuz". At that point, you choose between 3 factions (who, like the factions for the first half of the game, will continue to give you second chances despite the amount of their personnel you've murdered) and then are given one of 4 endings, two of which are basically repeats from the first game and one of which involves siding with the antagonist for poorly justified reasons. I do appreciate the 4th ending though, where you screw everyone over and without a strong guiding force earth is doomed to centuries of endless warfare. It's all so clumsily done that even by the wooden pseudo-philisophical "Conspiracy theories instead of creative storytelling" standards of the first game's plot it's still a letdown.

Even then, I guess I'm still glad I played this game. No, I'm not glad I "Played" this game, because the actual playing parts kind of suck. But now I know what everyone on the internet is talking about (Spoilers: You were right all along) and now I see why this game is so hated. Somehow, the same developer managed to make a worse version of the same game 4 years later with no real tangible improvements, and that's kind of sad. While I'm sure there was more going on with this game's development (basically, I blame John Romero) than just them making it for the Xbox, that clearly was a factor in how it turned out. Is there something that can be taken from this? Probably. Don't dumb down your already not especially smart games for an audience that won't buy them anyways. And with that, I'm off. To play some good games. Hopefully.

15 Comments
16 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater
What is up my brodog. I can hold this gun sideways, making me a legitimate person from "the hood"

This blog is brought to you by me figuring that I should contribute to Sweep's great social blogging experiment, as well as the general idea that yeah, I should probably write more of these. With that out of the way, let's talk about disappointing sequels for a second, shall we? When I think about those, games such as Dragon Age II, Master of Orion 3, and X-COM Apocalypse come to mind as games that tried something different and were worse for it. While some of these games can still be good or at least decent on their own merits (DAII, but please let's not start that discussion again here), others are horrible, horrible trainwrecks that forget everything that was good about the prior titles in favor of their own stupid agendas (MOO3). Of course, as far as the vast internet is concerned, I don't think there has ever been as much widespread condemnation of any sort of sequel than Deus Ex: Invisible War, which I finished playing and am now blogging about for your pleasure. Which end does it fall on? READ ON TO FIND OUT.

Ok. Deus Ex Invisible War is a bad game. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has played it. However, without my exposure to the first game back in May and my exposure to the worthy successor Human Revolution now, I don't think I would've known that, because without any of that context Invisible War is still very much the same kind of game as either of its contemporaries. You play as an augmented robot man (or lady in my case, because I didn't want to be the dudebro on the cover) who can choose to solve problems either by shooting everything or crawling through a lot of vent ducts and not shooting anyone. The reason IW is not a good game is simply because almost every single aspect of it is done poorly, as if the developer was someone who had played half the first game, got very intoxicated and then proceeded to crank out a sequel without ever bothering to look at anything twice and wonder if it was a good idea. It's hard to believe that it's the same dev team, but yep, it's still Ion Storm, perhaps sans Warren Spector.

It's sad when holograms of pop stars are the most interesting thing about this game

While the PC elitist complaint of "Consolization" and "Dumbing down" usually leads to me rolling my eyes at the old men in their wheelchairs raving against the gamebreaking feature that was "Autosave", it has actual merit in this regard. The RPG mechanics of the first game, for as poorly done as I thought they were, are done even more poorly here. You can have 5 of 15 augmentations at any time, and unsurprisingly some are better than others. Regeneration? Yes. Being able to cloak from robots and cameras? Yes. Collect Health from corpses? Maybe not... The problem here stems from the fact that you can easily max out pretty much all the skills that you want early on. With hacking maxed out early on, it's easy to get as much money as you need from ATMs, which along with the removal of the skill system (not necessarily a bad thing, but whatever) makes the pitiful rewards of sidequests not worth it most of the time. So, of course I didn't do any sidequest that forced me to go out of my way to do it. Because, in addition to not being worth it, the sidequests are usually pretty boring. There are some bright spots, such as informing on corrupt officials to a hologram of pop sensation NG Resonance or the petty conflicts between two different coffee chains, but yeah. They're lame.

Think of a game mechanic from the first game. Now imagine that being implemented poorly. Ok. You have the basic gameplay down

But what about the main game itself? Well, I'm glad you asked. Being that this game had to run on the original Xbox without said console exploding, the environments are distinctly and blatantly compartmentalized into tiny cubes. Since the levels in the first DX were MASSIVE in a good way, by comparison it's easy to find the quest objective, do whatever you need to do, and then shoot your way out (By the way: Universal Ammo is a really, really stupid idea) or turn on super speed and just run past everyone (my tactic of choice for the second half of the game.) There's no real exploration and any sort of duct system is incredibly easy to find and navigate. I probably finished this game in 6 or 7 hours (for some reason Steam says I've only played 30 minutes), meaning that YOUR MODERN CONTEMPORARY ACTION TITLE IS LONGER THAN THIS GAME. Or, at least the way I played the game. I guess you could do every sidequest and play the game "Vinny Caravella" style, but the gameplay isn't good enough for me to have wanted to do that. In any case, it took me twice as long to finish Human Revolution and the first game.

So guys, how about that Team Fortress 2? Pretty good game, huh? Man, the image formatting on these forums still sucks

But, easily enough, the worst part of Invisible War isn't the constrained level design, nor the various other poor gameplay-related decisions made, but the story. Within the first 15 minutes you are introduced to most of the cast of characters, who you are never really never given a reason to care about and introduced to two different factions you have no reason to care about. The world itself is set up rather poorly, basically being some sort of generic sci-fi dystopia that is never really fleshed out beyond occasional loading screen messages and some incidental dialog. Once again, it makes an amazing contrast to Human Revolution, which manages to establish its world extremely well as a hotbed of confict and social change. Heck, even the first game did it better. Thus, with this world set up the game proceeds to have two faction leaders talk into your earpiece telling you lame reasons to follow them while you travel around the globe (or, to be more accurate, you go to like 5 places) doing things for no real reason other than that's how you need to move the plot ahead. However, it's when the game ties itself in with the first Deus Ex that it crosses the line from mediocrity to hilarious badness. Not only are the first two factions you choose between part of the Illuminati (thus making whatever you did for either pointless in the grand scheme of things), but your character is a clone of JC Denton for no real reason other than "Just cuz". At that point, you choose between 3 factions (who, like the factions for the first half of the game, will continue to give you second chances despite the amount of their personnel you've murdered) and then are given one of 4 endings, two of which are basically repeats from the first game and one of which involves siding with the antagonist for poorly justified reasons. I do appreciate the 4th ending though, where you screw everyone over and without a strong guiding force earth is doomed to centuries of endless warfare. It's all so clumsily done that even by the wooden pseudo-philisophical "Conspiracy theories instead of creative storytelling" standards of the first game's plot it's still a letdown.

Even then, I guess I'm still glad I played this game. No, I'm not glad I "Played" this game, because the actual playing parts kind of suck. But now I know what everyone on the internet is talking about (Spoilers: You were right all along) and now I see why this game is so hated. Somehow, the same developer managed to make a worse version of the same game 4 years later with no real tangible improvements, and that's kind of sad. While I'm sure there was more going on with this game's development (basically, I blame John Romero) than just them making it for the Xbox, that clearly was a factor in how it turned out. Is there something that can be taken from this? Probably. Don't dumb down your already not especially smart games for an audience that won't buy them anyways. And with that, I'm off. To play some good games. Hopefully.

Posted by Tordah

I finished the original Deus Ex just last week (clocked in at 25 hours with all side missions done) and loved it. Given the bad reputation of Invisible War, I've been hesitant to jump into it, and I'm afraid this blog makes me even less motivated to do so.

However, I believe my tolerance for "bad games" is pretty high, so I think it'll be fine. And if it really is as bad as you say, then I guess it being short is a good thing...

Posted by Mento

You know, I find enough goofy shit to make comics out of for the two good Deus Ex games. I sort of wonder what terrifying bounties Invisible War might hold. But then I resist tracking it down, because playing bad games isn't really something I find myself wanting to do too much. I mean, I can see why you'd want to make sure that the internet wasn't just being its usual hyperbolic self about how bad it was, but your curiosity continues to land you with some terrible-ass PC games at times, duder. Doesn't help I deliberately point you towards some of the worst of them.

Also, I very much agree with the editor jank around here - though it wouldn't surprise me if it turns out that Firefox just gets pissy with all the technology the Top Men squeeze behind these editors. Chrome probably has bookmark sidebars and NoScript by now, I should probably think about switching over.

Moderator
Posted by Clubvodka

Nice blog but I'll have to politely disagree. Invisible War is a good game!

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Tordah: It's pretty bad, but it's also pretty breezy as far as games go. The gameplay, while certainly bad, is not abysmal by any means. It works. You can shoot people and they will (eventually) die. Your computer does not set itself on fire.

@Mento: I'd imagine there would be a lot of comic fodder in IW, mostly stemming from the game's flaws. And really, this is the first blog of a game I haven't liked since Code Veronica like 2 years ago. Yeah, your recommendations did lead to me playing Menzoberranzan and Dungeon Hack for 30 minutes each, but making the videos for those games was almost worth it.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I felt some vague need to explain why I liked this game better than Deus Ex, but you know what? Looking back at my blog thoughts on this game and turning it on for a few minutes reminded me that I still didn't think this game was all that great anyways. I thought both it and Deus Ex were great ideas come far too early in terms of technology. I give them major props for being forward-thinking games, but on the whole, neither one was a whole hell of a lot of fun in execution. That being said, I think I liked IW more for its environments, NPC's, and the general feel of the world. It felt like it was trying a little less to be like Blade Runner 2.0 and really tried to come into its own in a lot of ways. Did those ways ultimately fail? Yep, and pretty hard. But man, I'm just never going to agree with the general populace that IW was the worse game.

And with that, I promise, I will stop talking about both games with you for the foreseeable future. What do you have goin' on in terms of gaming plans next?

Moderator
Posted by august
Edited by ArbitraryWater

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Yeah, I think we've made our respective opinions on this series clear enough. After this topic runs its course, I probably won't talk about Deus Ex until decemberish, where titles in the series will most likely occupy both of my GOTY lists (Didn't come out in 2011, did come out in 2011). As for what I'm going to do next? My problem is how fickle I am in choosing a game to play and sticking to it, as the ever present, ever impossible to complete specters of both Civ V and TF2 are always haunting my steam library. Thankfully, taking general college classes seems like an excellent way to have far too much free time (at least, this early on in the semester), and until I make some new friends or something there is a lot of room for video games in my schedule. We'll see. Maybe King's Bounty, maybe Warhammer 40K, maybe Vampire the Masquerade.

@august: Yeah, I figured that. I still appreciate that it exists, much like Human Revolution's "screw everyone" ending. Still, at the end of the day the endings for both games are still handled rather poorly.

Posted by Sir_Loin_of_Beef

Word of warning to all people who are thinking about trying out Invisible War, be aware that it doesn't work on most computers with more than one core and there is no official fix for the game crashing (alot of people have had this problem including myself, I can't get past the character portrait screen) the game runs just fine on my old single core PC from 2005.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Civ 5 is the behemoth I know I'll never completely finish, but man, I do so love to try. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on any of the games you've mentioned. I've mentioned my general irritations with Vampire: The Masquerade. King's Bounty is kind of a hard game for me to get into due to visual limitations, but I get the nagging feeling I just need to tinker with the UI or find some mods or something similar. It doesn't seem like a bad game, just hard to get into when you can't really read the introductory and mission text.

Moderator
Posted by ReyGitano

Fictional pop stars are always the best part of any game, hologram or not. Hell, all I remember about Final Fantasy X-2 is Yuna singing in the commercial.

I just finished playing FFX a month ago and I'm still not sure how she went from priestess-thingy to pop star.

Posted by Egge

I'm struggling to remember anything about Invisible War apart from that discussion with the hologram and those extremely depressing endings (all of them). I think it's fair to say that I never actively hated IW (despite obviously recognizing its inferiority to DX1); it was just something I played through and then forgot about. The extremely odd and clearly Xbox 1-driven implementation of Unreal Engine 2.0 was one of those most memorable aspects of the game (though not in a good way), but Thief: Deadly Shadows proved that it was at least possible to make rather nice games within that basic framework.

Posted by BisonHero

There are so many negative things to discuss in a review of Invisible War that sometimes I am let down when a critic doesn't mention the things that I found particularly awful about the game.

You, however, do not disappoint! I'm glad you mentioned the sidequests, because Jesus Christ, they become so pointless by like the halfway point. The skill system from the first game had its share of flaws, but by stripping it out entirely, the only thing IW can reward the player with is basically items, credits, or biomods. And they can't do biomods too often or else you max everything too early, so it's generally just credits. Credits which you use to buy...biomods and nothing else?

I haven't played Deus Ex 1 since about 2005/2006, and evidently you've played it much more recently, so I have something I want your help with. What was Nicolette DuClaire like in the first game? My recollection was that her mom (a Parisian freedom fighter) had recently been murdered, and Nicolette was a sort of informant, who told you what her mom had been up to so you could avenge her death. Aside from that, I remember her basically just being a random teen girl in a night club who seemed like she had no aspirations to be a freedom fighter or politician or anything.

Cut to however many years later when Invisible War takes place, and suddenly she is an incredibly important figurehead for the Illuminati and runs an entire arm of their organization. Am I grossly misremembering her character from the first game, or did Ion Storm just completely rewrite her character to include her in the second game, as a pathetic callback to the first game?

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: I've already played my fair share of King's Bounty: The Legend, but since the save file is on my computer at home I was planning on moving on to Armored Princess/Crossworlds. If the 26 hours I played are any indication, it's not a short game (I had maybe passed the halfway point by then), and I don't imagine Armored Princess is much shorter. However, it does have a tendency to slog, once you realize your progression is basically tied to your hero's leadership stat since that determines how big stacks of units can be in your army.

@ReyGitano: Maybe I'm a sad, sad, cynical person, but I think I'd rather play FFX2 than I would FFX. Since I have no ties to any of the characters it won't bother me that the somber, dutiful priestess somehow turned into an energetic popstar who wears hot pants and sings poorly translated J-Pop (really, that's icing on the cake), and then searches for magical clothes changing spheres all through GURL POWAH. Keep in mind that I am someone who doesn't care about FF at all past the SNES era, so my opinion may be a little skewed.

@Egge: Yeah, I guess Thief 3 does suffer from a lot of these same problems. It never ran especially well on my old computer, so I didn't get very far, but I do remember the levels being sectionalized, as opposed to the massive sprawling labrynths of the first and second games. Man, Thief was awesome. Also quite hard, being from that era where being discovered in a stealth game was paramount to having to quickload.

@BisonHero: I played the first game for the first time back in May (click on the link in the main post if you want to read that blog), and I honestly couldn't tell you anything about the personality of the french lady who walks you through her house. The thing is, I find the characters in either ion storm Deus Ex game to be the worst kind of cardboard cutouts with no real personality outside of their distinct character trait. Does it make sense? Maybe. I don't know. Tell me why JC denton isn't wearing his glasses or speaking in a gravely monotone, because that's something I'd like to know.

Posted by ReyGitano

@ArbitraryWater: I won't lie, I played Final Fantasy X because I felt that it's just one of those games people should have in their library... but deep inside I think it was all just so I would have an excuse to play FFX-2

Posted by Yummylee

A fun read, and I guffaw'd at your caption for the amazing boxart this game has. Guy looks like some sort of Backstreet Boys reject. Definitely a standout for the ''guy with gun'' boxart trend.