argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
In late 2003, Ion Storm released Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to 2000's highly lauded Deus Ex. Five months later, Ion Storm released Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third entry in the Thief series. Both games were built on the same engine and were the first in their respective series to be released for console as well as PC. And both games have a reputation of not being very good among fans (or at least on TTLG, which is where I go for my gaming needs).

I played Deadly Shadows back in 2008. You can read my initial thoughts on it here, though I don't like it as much now; it's the only Thief game I don't have installed. I think Deadly Shadows is worth a play, but it's definitely the weakest in the series for me and the only reason I even keep my copy is if I have the urge to play the Shalebridge Cradle again. (The Shalebridge Cradle is indeed a fantastic level, but I think the effect is lessened once you know what's going to happen next and you realise it's essentially a glorified fetch quest. [So is "Return to the Haunted Cathedral" from Thief: The Dark Project, but Lauryl (Deadly Shadows) is much more tolerable than Brother Murus (The Dark Project).])

Due to some confusion on my part, I ended up buying Deus Ex: Invisible War before the first Deus Ex. It didn't matter in the end, though, as Invisible War refused to run on my older laptop despite it meeting the system requirements and Deadly Shadows running fine. I've only played Deus Ex through once - which is a bit odd as I've played The Nameless Mod (a Deus Ex game-length mod) twice - but I spent over 50 hours on my run and had an absolutely fantastic time. Together with Thief and System Shock, Deus Ex is in my personal top three games and I believe I've played every long-ish fan mission there is (The Nameless Mod, ZODIAC, 2027, Red Sun, The Cassandra Project, Burden of 80 Proof, Hotel Carone) except the most recent (Nihilum).

So much has been written about Deus Ex, including Kieron Gillen's excellent review that captures a lot of Deus Ex's strengths, that I don't feel I can add much. So, moving on to Invisible War.

I started playing Invisible War back in August when S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's focus on shooting was driving me crazy. (I'll review Shadow of Chernobyl once I finish it, though I've been playing on and off since January, so . . . it may be a while. In short, great atmosphere and visuals, not half as much focus on exploration as what I wanted.) What a contrast that was. Moving from Shadow of Chernobyl's lack of hand-holding and difficulty (I play on the easiest setting and it still kicks my ass at times) to Invisible War's, well, we'll get to that below, was like night and day.

It took me 12 hours to play through Invisible War. 12 hours, over the course of three months, when the original took me over 50 hours over the course of less than a month. (I had more free time and was much more engaged in the game.) And yet, I feel like Invisible War overstayed its welcome by at least three hours.

Invisible War has some of the same problems Deadly Shadows, likely influenced by being released on the first-generation Xbox. Maps are relatively small and there are plentiful loading zones. No swimmable water, although Invisible War at least never draws attention to it. (Going to jail for falling in the water was one of the stupidest ideas in Deadly Shadows.) On the other hand, I thought both the player character and NPC movement was less stiff and smoother in Invisible War, though jumping and crate stacking are worse.

I started off Invisible War with the idea of playing a stealthy hacker, which, ever since Thief, tends to be my default character. The interface provoked much irritation and was clearly designed for a gamepad -- 'yes/no' prompts you have to use the mouse for; no keyboard support for custom-naming saved games, manually typing in passcodes, or writing notes in-game; no quick-save or load; no screenshot key (which is why there are no screenshots in this review, because Invisible War isn't worth the effort of using a second program); the minimum HUD is still rather invasive, and inventory management is a mess. Skill points were eliminated, as were different ammo types (yes, all firearms in the game use the same ammo, just in different amounts), the conversation log, and location-based health management. In short, the only ways to customise you character besides your play style are through your appearance, the weapons you use, and your biomods (augmentations). (I barely include dialogue choices, since there aren't very many and most don't seem to matter.) However, you can now choose to play as either a male or female.

Much more under cut. )

In summary: Deadly Shadows may be my least favourite Thief game, but it is at the minimum a decent game and a far, far better game than Invisible War. I don't think Invisible War is completely irredeemable - I did finish playing it instead of throwing my hands up in disgust after all - but there's not much to recommend it, especially compared to its predecessor.

So, what's good about Invisible War? The voice acting's not bad. There's a good mix of male and female NPCs. Invisible War actually does reward exploration, or at least what you can do in the small maps; as in Deus Ex, you can find ammo, equipment, etc., in somewhat out of the way places (under desks, behind pipes, and so on). Trier has a surprising number of readables that are actually decent. The ApostleCorp lab was somewhat neat, except that Invisible War cannot do horror or atmosphere. The Antarctic Versalife facility was better, and even had a nice ambient track!

If anyone wants to play Deus Ex: Invisible War on the PC, I will give you my copy for only the cost of shipping. (If the shipping's less than $6, I'll even pay that, too.) I have the CDs, both in very good condition, plus the manual, hardcover box, shiny slipcase, and even the kidneythieves card. I bought it second-hand, but there are hardly any signs of wear. The edges of the slipcase are the worst part, but still in good condition. There are a few photos below.

Deus Ex: Invisible War photos, up for sale. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Cut for photos and geekiness. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
I've been following fans' reactions to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, mostly on TTLG and The Nameless Mod/Off Topic Productions forums. Most reviews have been positive; the biggest complaints seem to be an unbalanced XP system, mandatory boss fights, and a weak ending. I've not been avoiding spoilers at all as I don't expect to have a PC that will run the game in the near future. For that matter, I still haven't played Deus Ex: Invisible War [Deus Ex 2], the black sheep of the Deus Ex franchise, despite owning it longer than the original Deus Ex. Opinion has been unanimous that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is better than Deus Ex: Invisible War.

One of the fan-debated decisions of DX:HR was the implementation of a third-person cover system with no first-person lean. Who knew that this would be exploited to make dancing videos? I am somewhat ashamed to admit to being completely addicted to this: Adam Jensen Does A Safety Dance!

Though I dislike third-person in-game cinematics for immersion reasons, I do find the Icarus landing system and Typhoon augs cool in a very shallow, 'ooh, pretty graphics' way.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
I haven't written a review for The Nameless Mod yet (or the original Deus Ex, for that matter), but I do have copious screencaps. The ones in this post fall into one of three categories: humorous, references to other series, or just plain cool. Image heavy with some strong language. (Alternately, you can view the screencaps through their gallery.)

[This post was typed up and formatted Sunday, but I didn't have time to edit it then.]

Hilarity. )

Hey, I've seen that before! )

Oooooh. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Thief talk. )

I still haven't written any kind of review for Deus Ex, but there is one conversation I thrilled at the first time I heard it which addresses many of the central themes of the game. It takes place relatively late in the game -- the main character, JC Denton, has completed the last of his quests in Paris and is in the home of Morgan Everett, current leader of the Illuminati. In a small side room guarded by an electronically coded door, JC discovers a prototype of an echelon system named Morpheus. You can watch or read the conversation below the following cut:

'God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.' )

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argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
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