Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC, 2003): Definition of Gray Morality
August 5, 2010, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC, 2003, US)

At the time of this writing, on Gamespot alone, there are 148 other user-reviews of DX:IW (this review regards the PC version of the game), so I hesitate to include a lengthy plot synopsis here (but it is an involved game and summarizing it is tricky): A sequel to the original “Deus Ex” (2000), this game takes place about 50 or so years from now after “The Collapse” (a catastrophic event where global communications and economies completely folded, resulting in social chaos, extremism, terrorism).

You play Alex D. (male or female, you choose) whose special abilities and innate intellect, since middle school, have been nurtured through an elite educational system, The Tarsus Academies—where you have also had biomods installed into your body that allow you to do certain cool stuff (hack ATM machines and gun turrets with your mind, illuminate dark places with light that comes out of your eyes, heal yourself after taking bullets, create attack drones out of thin air that fly about your head and attack opponents, etc.).

The game begins and you are an adult, ready to take on your semi-predefined role as a special-ops-security-government-whoever, and your academy in Chicago is attacked, basically turned to dust by this gray exploding gel-bomb that some terrorist detonates in the middle of a busy city block. Some social groups in the post-Collapse world are afraid that government or commercial concerns, like Tarsus Academies, will take away liberties as the world scrambles to aright itself after “The Collapse.” As an important asset, you are then hastily moved to Seattle, which is also attacked by a group called “The Order” (churchy folks), and you are accidentally “set free” to explore what to do (though you are not technically a prisoner or anything). 

There’s MUCH more to this narrative, but enough of that. Play the damn game to find out. So before the meta-commentary, I’ll provide some needed context: I’ve come to this game not having played the original DX, so I’ll make no comparisons to it (which seems to be a staple negative response from the fanbase who complain that this game is a badly dumbed-down version of the mindblowing original…so, whatever); and in 2010, a full 7 years after its release, I am finally getting around to playing DX:IW. You might call me a little slow. My friends do.

Having said that, sometimes waiting is the best thing you can do. Allow me to explain: I suggest that anyone playing this game at this point in time should definitely do two things before beginning. (The next bit is technical; if you’re not planning on playing the game, skip the next 2 paragraphs…)

First, once you’ve installed the game, download and also install the Unified Texture Pack for Deus Ex: Invisible War (Google it). This amazingly comprehensive, free, fan-made texture pack (which I think was finalized sometime in 2007, four years after the release of DX:IW) pretty much redraws the game from the ground up (including all environments, characters, weapons), giving it a nice new shiny coat of paint, almost (but not quite) bringing it up to next-gen standards.

Second, in addition to installing the texture pack, I suggest if you are playing on a widescreen monitor (chances are highly likely you are in this day and age), that you also employ the Deus Ex Invisible War Widescreen Fix (again, Google it). DX:IW was released at a point in time when widescreen support was not very popular yet, and DX:IW does not natively support widescreen aspect ratios. However, this clever fix (courtesy of Widescreen Gaming Forum–a group that is also known as WSGF) will widen the game across your entire screen without stretching everything out of shape; this fix broadens the FOV (field of view), ostensibly widening the gameplaying area and giving you much more landscape to work with as you traverse the game. (One major earlier complaint about the game, especially in its Xbox iteration, is that many of the areas feel hemmed in and small–this fix helps to mediate that a little, but not entirely.) The widescreen fix requires a little bit of work and some hash calculating, as well as downloading one small program, but I’m no computer genius and the directions you’ll find on the WSGF (or via Google) are straightforward, and it worked beautifully for me. With both the texture pack and the widescreen fix applied, you can play DX:IW at its best-looking ever–any earlier poor reviews based on graphical issues or limitations are hereby null and void. (BTW, if you are a gamepad hound like me, the game plays perfectly fine with one; I used the Xpadder program and a Wireless Receiver for Windows with my 360 controller.) Now onto the gameplay itself…

In agreement with many reviews found all over the net, the most immediate “big picture” comparison that comes to my mind is Mass Effect. There’s no denying that games like Mass Effect would not exist if it weren’t for the DX franchise. You’ve got a solid, complex sci-fi story that begins with a societal collapse; rather sharply drawn NPCs with distinct personalities and goals; complex organizations of people; politically charged, agonistic relationships among said organizations and the individuals within them; varied futuristic (but earth-based) locales from Cairo to Antartica; conflicting missions and allegiances you must choose among; firefights; dialogue trees; multiple narrative paths and endings, some minor rpg elements; biomodifications to enhance fighting or stealth abilities; upgrades to futuristic weapons. It’s all there in first-person-shooter form–of course in a much earlier package which is just as ambitious but perhaps too limited technologically (for the time) to pull it off as successfully as a Mass Effect franchise.

But not all is rosy. Due primarily its age I guess, it was honestly a long haul for me to play, and I put the game down (shut it off, fell asleep with controller in hand, etc.) many times–there were stretches of lackluster action, an ornery graphical interface which was unnecessarily complex, and stiff animations (regardless of the enhancements I already mentioned). In between beginning and finishing this title, I actually completed both Xbox 360 games “Metro 2033” [which lit me afire!] and also the 2009 “Aliens vs. Predator.” But I persevered with DX:IW and completed it. (Hey, I complete every game I begin…pretty much.)

Unlike Mass Effect, which rather steadily aims for the action crowd regardless of its complex narrative, DX:IW struck me as primarily a thinking-person’s game instead of an action-oriented one (although it is, ultimately, a first-person shooter, without question). To that end, for a game with branching narratives and several different possible endings, this is the grayest of games (regarding moral choices you must make) that I’ve ever played–far surpassing Mass Effect in this realm. Given the world being played in (20 years after the Collapse, where everything–technology, the economy, society–went to hell), there are three or four opposing groups vying for power-each with a distinct plan they believe will help to revitalize society and keep it from sinking back into chaos. And they all make rather good arguments why their way is best (one group is more personal and anti-tech, another advocates spreading biotechnology throughout civilization to make everyone equal, another advocates spiritual as well as organizational/governmental changes, etc.). As we are all familiar with this game type, the choices you make will influence who your character becomes and what endings the game will show you. Of course, as one of your compatriots suggests, you can eliminate all factions and see what happens when there is a void to be filled.

Some reviews at the time of the game’s initial release said that such a gray playing field helped to foment disinterest in the game. Are things more fun when there is clearly an “evil” path and a “virtuous” one? (Take Mass Effect as a case in point; Saren may as well be Darth Vader, black costume and all–there’s no surprise who the evil dude is in this equation. On the contrary, DX:IW does not work like that at all.) Personally, I found the grayness very adult-like and refreshing (and much more real, in a way). For a game where I spent most of the time kicking myself to get through it for some reason, by the end, I was seriously contemplating (during time away from the game) which choices I should be making and what the outcome would be, since it is not very clear. That sort of thing does not happen often with me. I applaud the game for this.

Ultimately, I guess there is no best or right choice-just choices. I watched 3 of the 5 or so endings before getting bored replaying the last battles (which, if you want to see all the endings, you can do so by only replaying the final battles, each about 15 minutes long), and as it turned out, none of the choices were overtly wrong-but all of them very different, leading to different kinds of futures for our society post 2050.

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6 Comments so far
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I played this on xbox when the transition of generations was happening. Due to circumstances in life I was playing more games, but running out of stuff to play. So after Jade Empire followed by KotOR, then Sands of Time Trilogy, then this, I was pretty happy to still be a generation behind catching up. If I would of went out and got a 360 when it was the cool thing to do I would of missed some great games.

That said, I went into this game knowing nothing of the original, I knew the framerate was poor (sub 30) before I even knew what a framerate was (same issue with KotOR). Once I learned that this game was about approaching situations how you want I really enjoyed it. I think it gets a bad wrap due to the legacy of the first game, but this game still has a lot of those elements from that game.

I played this knowing nothing of Mass Effect, fast forward to this year, I started playing Human Revolution and thought “Man, this is a lot like ME2, it even has the same music.”

ME2 being my favorite game this gen, I really enjoyed DE:HR a lot and fully recommend it. I bought Invisible War off Steam awhile back and thought about playing it again. Thanks for the heads up on the texture pack, I will definitely use it when I get to it. I would like to play Invisible War knowing what I know now about the series. Right now I’m mid original Dues Ex, not sure if I will push through due to the poor map, I do like a lot that it does though.

Comment by Mark

Hey, thanks for reading. If you didn’t subscribe, feel free. I only update this every so often (when playing one of these bottom-shelfers), so you won’t get inundated with posts or anything. I know all about being a generation behind—there’s still so much good stuff out there to play that isn’t Gears 3 (though I’ll play that too). Speaking of this-gen, I too just finished DX:HR on the 360, and I agree it really is an impressive piece of work. It may have lasted a little too long for me (the second return to Hengsha made me think we were repeating things a bit), but I have attention-span issues anyway! And, while I don’t write about those billion-dollar triple-A titles on this blog, in some other writing I was doing, I also compared the music (and some gameplay elements) in DX:HR to Mass Effect. So we are definitely on the same page. I hope the texture pack for DX:IW works with the Steam version (I imagine it would), and especially take advantage of the field-of-view fix if you are playing in widescreen. It helps to uncramp some otherwise tight spaces in DX:IW, at least in my opinion. The fixes (there is more than one approach apparently) are located at widescreengamingforum.com. Cheers!

Comment by wkduffy

Being a great fan of the original Deus Ex, I have for a long time been looking forward to playing Deus Ex Invisible War. Frustratingly Deus Ex Invisible War has been standing idly on my shelf for several years, due to the game mysteriously crashing every time I had installed it and tried to run it. In the end I had given up…it was most likely something video card related issue, DE IW was infamous in its day for its high videocard requirements, yet it simply mystified me that the games installation menu told me my video card was fully adequate (and well it should be, the pc being from 2009 with a 1gb video card, far beyond DE IW´s 2004 releasedate). In the end I accidently found out what was wrong and why the game stubbornly crashed…it was´nt video card related afterall. I found a solution to the problem and finally : I could play DE IW. I had read a lot about the game. Generally negative comparisons with the original Deus Ex : DE IW gameplay and story was not as good as the original game; it was disappointing etc. So I had lowered my expectations from the start. But even if the game was inferior to the original DE, I was still looking forward to playing. Now that I have completed it, I must say that my relatively negative expectations was not fullfilled : The game is a worthy successor to DE. Sure, there are certain gameplay elements and design choices which are controversial and can be criticized: The absence of the skills system from DE; the relatively small levels (generally rather disappointing given that the Unreal 2 engine which was used for DE IW should be able to handle large outdoor scenes); and the A.I of the enemies which was somewhat weak. But also a lot of improvements to the original DE, apart from graphical side (both games of course falls short of todays standards, but that is hardly surprising given that DE are from 2000 and DE IW from 2004, and cannot hope to compare to the new fabulously looking DE 3) : More gameplay choices and sidequest than the original game and generally more freedom of playing style; good story, probably better than the original, and the whole atmosphere : music, leveldesign, the snippets of political and philosophical thoughts which also characterized the original DE game and the whole general “feel” of the game, sneaking around, taking guards out and avoiding surveilliance hardware – very much a worthy follow-up to DE. So give this, by now ageing, game a try, if you like games with a complex storyline and freedom of play. Also now that I resolved the problems with DE IW, I think I will return to my earlier attempts at getting “Neuro” to run too…may be the problems with Neuro, just as it turned out with DE IW, aren´t videocard related after all and can be solved. It will look into it now with renewed hopes 🙂

Comment by Thomas Jørgensen

Hey Thomas, glad you got it running. I am a firm believer that time can make a difference in how we percieve a game, in both positive and negative ways. Time can be unkind to games graphically, but if a game (like DE: IW) gets a negative immediate reaction upon its release (especially due to the unrealistically high expectations of fans and the hype surrounding a game’s release), sometimes a little time can help to distance us from those immediate reactions and see the good within it. Many of the games I play, I think, fall into this category–games that have had a lukewarm reception are “rediscovered” in a positive way a few years later after all the hub-bub has died down, and suddenly we enjoy them much more. If i can ask, what exactly was the “issue” you were having, in short?

Comment by wkduffy

Hey again Keith and sorry I didn´t answer your question regarding the issue I had with DE IW, but I have been rather busy at work and though you are asking for an answer in short I must warn you..it is an Odyssey of despair and bad game design decision, but also ultimately TRIUMPH. But you asked for it…and here it is : The problem I had with DW IW was that the game wouldn´t start…simply no reaction after installation and activation of the exe-file (Neuro more or less does the same, it´s not even CTD but failure to initialize). I dutifully patched DE IW, and now the game did start-up but crashed-to-desktop whenever I tried to start a new game. I found out the reason for this, though. Apparently my version of the game was already “patched” and further patching just made things worse…alright. no patching needed, but what to do ? After searching the internet I found some vague references to a problem similar to the one I had encountered…DE IW failure to initialize…and suddenly it struck me…the problem was that DE IW save game files are set automatically to be placed under “My Documents” on the pc (and it cannot be changed, grrrrrr…bad design decision). Normally this would not cause problems, but in the case of the pc I was to play DE IW it was a problem. The folder “My Documents” is not placed on my harddesk, but rather on a large server, because my pc is not really mine, but rather an employer provided pc, and the placement of the “My Documents” folder cannot be changed. “Well, there´s a solution to that” I thought, simply connect to the server through my vpn connection while running DE IW. Whooahhh, it worked, now I could start the game…but to my frustration DE IW told that “there was not enough free space on my harddesk” (only 25 GigaBytes !!!). I simply couldn´t fathom it…how could the game claim that there was not enough space on my harddesk with 25 GB free ? At that point i just gave up, believing it was somehow related to my videocard drivers or whatever and had the game standing on my shelves for a couple of years. Then came the new DE 3 – Human revolution. Oh man I was drooling over that game and frustated that I couldn´t play it, because I positively knew my employer provided pc did not have the videocard requirements, and I would have to await the time when I could convince my wife that we urgently needed to buy a new and powerfull pc for ourselves (same story with Mass Effect 1 og 2 I have had on my shelves for some time now. I even won ME 2 for free in a competion by some game magazine. About the only time I ever won anything..and I can´t play it. Life is hard and unjust :). But…then I found out about an internet site called OnLine.com which offered gaming service through their servers…the only thing you nedeed was either a pc or tv-set…since the actual program execution takes place on OnLine.com´s servers and the results are streamed to your pc or tv which acts as a “dumb” terminal. I was almost exstatic with the though that I could actually play DE 3…and yet again, fickle lady-luck or rather her ugly stepsister gave me a lefthanded hock on the jaw…OnLine.com only provided servie to customers living in either : US, UK or Canada…not in continental Europa where I live. Aaarggghhh…well, this time sometime good eventually came out of all the adversity…I made a solemn wov, that if I couldn´t play DE 3 (that is until OnLine.com expands their business to contintal Europa, which they plan to do or until I can afford a brand new power pc) then I would not cease trying to get DE IW up and running on my pc, until all possibilities had been exhausted. So I went back to the “Not enough free space on your harddesk” problem and after some more combing through internet gaming sites, etc. I found out that the problem was related to the fact that My Documents was placed on a server and not on my physical harddesk. Probably something about Read/Write properties on the server. So it seemed it was a problem that could not be fixed…then I had the idea that if I could just find some game save files for DE IW and place those files in the DE IW save directory in My Documents on the server, then maybe I would be able to load the saved game. I googled and looked thoroughly but only save game file for the Xbox versions of DE IW was available…and then the solution struck me in it all its simplicity…why on earth hadn´t I thought about that solution before…my teenage daughter bought herself a new laptop pc last year for her savings…maybe if I could persuade her to allow me to install DE IW on her laptop and the starting the game and saving immediately, I could the transfer the save game file from her laptop to the DE IW save game directory in the My Document folder on the server that my work pc was set up to correspond to. After a lot of rather undignified begging and threatening (“if you can´t allow your old dad to install a game for 30 minutes – promises to uninstall it afterwards, then he sure ain´t to drive you anywhere in “his” car etc.) my daughter reluctantly and with a sullen demeanor allowed me to installed DE IW for about 30 min. on her laptop…enough time to start up a game (no problem with that on her laptop) and then saving several times in quick succession to generate several save game files, and then the transfer to the relevant folder on the VPN connected server and finally some tensionfilled waiting as DE IW started up on my pc and then…YES ! I almost whooped with joy (by now it was not just about playing a game, but had evolved into something more…it just wanted to triumph over the bastards that had designed DE IW to be so f…… impossible to get up and running). To my enormous relief the game accepted the transferred files and I could finally play DE IW….that is…with a catch. Because I couldn´t create new save files (again the “Not enough free blahblah” statement), but the game would accept overwritten the transfered files so I was able to progress in the game. Well, that´s the end of the story… sorry about not answering in short , but maybe this could be usefull to somebody else reading this and having problems with DE IW (and a lot of people have had problems with this game…I could see that from the game-solution and what-to-do sites I consulted in my search for a solution) or at least take heart from the moral implications of the tale  : Always persevere in your noble quest to get a certain pc game to thy bidding…I will look into the similar problems I encountered with the Neuro game with new hope and energy…there got to be a way…
Best regards

Comment by Thomas Jørgensen

Thomas: Yours is a story of triumph over technology. You know, this is precisely why I like console gaming–you put in a disc and it goes. No tales like yours to tell. The problem of course is that there are so many good games that do not exist for consoles, so PC gaming is still a must. Honestly, I have to say that I don’t play a PC game without first having to fiddle with this or that for the better part of an afternoon before ever seeing a splash screen! It never fails. And while I don’t have a monster rig, it can hold its own and for all intents purposes, I shouldn’t be experiencing difficulties of any kind! Nevertheless, I do, and I have come to the conclusion over the years that PC gaming is not for the fainthearted, precisely for reasons like these. So often, it actually takes some pretty well-honed deductive reasoning (your story is case in point!) and some tech smarts just to entertain yourself with a PC game. Lots of gamers are not willing to go through all of that. But when we have to, when it’s worth it, it’s REALLY worth it (regardless of whether the game is any good or not, if you know what I mean)!

Comment by wkduffy




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