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Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

Posted on 21st Oct 2009 at 12:46 by Joe Martin with 9 comments

Joe Martin
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War is a game which gets a bad rap whenever you see it discussed among PC gamers, who inevitably love the first game and loathe the sequel. To be honest though, I never thought it was half as bad as anyone was making out. If approached with reasonable rationality and not the more obvious optimism, the game actually held up quite well.

Yes, Invisible War had issues. It obviously suffered from attempts to bring the series to consoles. The tiny, insular and empty levels. The universal ammo system. The constant load times and clunky, overly rounded feel of the engine – these were all issues that dogged the game and deservedly so, but slamming Deus Ex 2 for not living up to the legend of it’s predecessor is easier than fist-fighting with a one-armed toddler.

Instead, I prefer to think of the good things about Deus Ex 2 – the things it did better than the original. Believe me, they’re there.

Games I Own: Deus Ex 2 *Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

The weapons are one of my favourite things about Deus Ex 2 because, despite the incredibly annoying ammo system, the range of weapons in the sequel was better than in the first game. All you ever needed in the original Deus Ex was the mini-crossbow which you got in the first level and the Stealth pistol you got in the second, adding on weapon augs as you found them. There was simply no need to even look at the other skills and guns, since they usually didn’t have the same level of versatility or abundance. Deus Ex 2 meanwhile introduced some unique weapons that provided an incentive to search areas more closely and to try new weapons. Rifles that lit enemies on fire, truncheons that did poison damage – that kind of thing.

The story of the game is a pretty strong one too and, even though it starts off with a bit of a limp, it can’t have been easy to bring together the storylines of the first game and to then expand on them. Deus Ex 2 does admirably though, creating a world that’s both adapted to and grown wary of the augmentations that were first introduced to the fiction in Deus Ex 1.

The thing I like most about the game though is the roster of characters and the way they grow or have grown between titles. JC Denton may have been the hero of the first game, but his impersonal, grandiloquent and impassive nature always gave him an inhuman feel even if it’s a theme that was definitely underplayed in the first game.

Games I Own: Deus Ex 2 *Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

Deus Ex 2’s final stages bring that idea back to the forefront though as, on the one hand you’ve built an emotional bond to JC based on the first game, but at the same time he appears oddly out of touch and monstrous since his merging with Helios. You know he’s the good guy, but you honestly question whether he’s doing the right thing or not.

The setting and idea of the Tarsus Academy may be pretty laughable too, but getting the chance to meet up with former classmates throughout the game and see how their path deviates from yours is an interesting idea too. It perfectly balances against your actions, making you question if you’re really the good guy after all.

Don’t get me wrong – I prefer Deus Ex to Invisible War and those tiny levels really are a bitch, but Deus Ex 2 is nowhere near as bad as people have convinced themselves it is. I just hope the same doesn’t hold true for Deus Ex 3.

Times I’ve Completed It: Three, maybe four complete playthroughs.

Random Trivia: The competing coffee shops that form an on-going subquest in the game are named Perquod and QueeQueg in reference to Moby Dick by Hemmingway. Perquod was Ahab’s ship in the novel, while QueeQueg was the name of the harpooner.

9 Comments

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harveypooka 21st October 2009, 14:10 Quote
It was the single type of ammo that worked for everything and some truly ridiculous moments in that game that ruined it. I remember killing every single guard outside some super-secret facility, making my way inside and then being given a super-secret weapon just because I asked to have a look at it, it was some bollocks like "oh, I got lost! Can I have a look at that super weapon? Thanks!". Balls!
Paradigm Shifter 21st October 2009, 15:09 Quote
One of my issues with Invisible War was the fact that the game felt like it was on rails the whole way through. I never felt like I had a choice, bar that early one of 'which side do I pick' - the ones trying to act good (who are therefore likely to be evil) or the ones who the other side says are bad (and who are therefore, in the twisted logic of game universes everywhere) probably the 'good' guys - if anyone in the Deus Ex world can truly be labelled "good".

I can't complain about the AI as even more recent games have suffered from the 'go into new area, everyone forgets you did something naughty' syndrome that so irritated me about IW.

If Invisible War hadn't been titled 'Deus Ex' perhaps it wouldn't have received such a brutal bashing from PC gamers, but everything tried to draw comparisons to the old game... which did 99% of it better. Some of the levels in Deus Ex were huge. Most of the levels in IW could get navigated across in ten seconds or sometimes less.

Ultimately, I struggled with Invisible War mostly because it ran very badly. If I went back and played it now, where hopefully the load times won't bore me to tears, I might like it more. I would have to try to forget Deus Ex first, however.
sear 21st October 2009, 15:40 Quote
Aside from the incredibly clunky controls, terrible lack of location-based damage on enemies, awful, pathetic user interface, etc., there are two major sins of the game: bad writing/voice acting, and bad level design. You touched on the latter, but the former... there really is not a single memorable line or character from Deus Ex 2.

The first Deus Ex did have its issues with voice-acting and to some degree writing, sure. The absolutely, hideously bad (arguably racist) acting seen in Hong Kong during the game is a very, very black mark, for example. However, every single character, even the unimportant ones, all felt like real people, with their own lives, their own emotions, their own motivations. I feel absolutely nothing like this comes out in Deus Ex 2 - they're all bland, emotionless robots who speak in matter-of-factly sorts of ways.

Deus Ex 2's factions are equally unlikable. One of the reasons the decision at the end of Deus Ex was hard was because you were familiar with two of the factions involved, and while the third one seemed to offer the best choice, it was also one from a party you weren't sure you could trust. There were people you may have identified with more or less, sure, but overall, aside from the villains, you can't really say that they weren't your friends. In trying to create shades of grey between them all in Deus Ex 2, instead they simply wound up turning them into assholes, albeit of slightly varying degrees. I want to identify with the people I am supposed to be siding with in your game, and I think too many efforts were taken to make them appear in a negative light for the purposes of "difficult moral decisions".

As for the level design, one of the best parts of Deus Ex was the use of vertical exploration. In a world where almost all games are essentially flat mazes, Deus Ex really allowed the player to move freely. Need to reach the top of a building? Take the elevator, sure, or take the stairs of a nearby building, but why do that when you can scale the ledges and fire escapes, jumping rooftop to rooftop? Got a fence you can't get over? Turn on your jumping augmentation and just hop over it. I think there are a couple of places where this could have been used a bit better, but it's one of the only first-person games I've ever seen to take both horizontal and vertical factors into account in its level design.

It's true that Deus Ex does have some problems. The Crossbow and Stealth Pistol do more or less negate the other guns in the game, provided you can go for headshots, but of course you also need to rely on stealth to use them, so it may not suit your play-style. However, the major issue is the Dragon's Tooth Sword. Once you get it about halfway through, there is almost no reason to use any other weapon, since it can kill almost anything in one or two hits, and doesn't rely on ammo like other weapons.

Despite that, though, it's still a single-player game, and it's not as if the Dragon's Tooth Sword makes the game too difficult, it just makes other weapons somewhat unnecessary. Balance isn't really very important so long as the game isn't ridiculously difficult or absurdly easy, and Deus Ex was never a game where combat was the central focus anyway. I'd much rather have a couple of unbalanced weapons than a bland, claustrophobic, clunky, game like Deus Ex 2.
alpaca 21st October 2009, 15:53 Quote
i picked up up a few very good games i never heard of before here on bit tech (grim fandango, between good & evil, ... ) and no offence meant to the whole game community here, but honestly, i did not really like deus ex...
Skiddywinks 21st October 2009, 16:46 Quote
Good game, terrible Deus Ex.
Xir 21st October 2009, 17:28 Quote
Okay...I promise to stop whining and get both...
Probably end up ordering in the UK though...
DiegoAAC 21st October 2009, 18:47 Quote
Random Trivia: Moby Dick was written by Herman Melville. And the order is based in the first amalgamated church of Futurama (Alright, that isn't true. but dx2 will be funnier if it was)
mute1 22nd October 2009, 00:42 Quote
(SPOILERS for those who haven't played it)

When I first played it, I briefly felt the same way as you, Joe, but I quickly realised the game was indeed very poor (not just by Deus Ex standards as some people like to say).

Firstly, it would be impossible for the game to have happened. Why? Because they stupidly combined all three, mutually-exclusive endings from the first game.
Secondly, the plot was poor. Making JC Denton some sort of soulless manifestation of the AI ruined many of the deeper messages of the first game, for those who bothered to find them. Or, I should say, it ruined them in the way the plot was implemented at least.

I could go on but I won't (I didn't even mind the universal ammunition as it was intended to have strategic consequences and it worked in doing this).

Two last things, however: Naming the main character 'Alex D' - geez, I wonder what the significance of that could be... Even a monkey could figure that one out from the start.
Killing JC Denton with a couple of shots to the head from the railgun. Like they didn't pick that up in testing. Probably the Xbox players found it more difficult and they were the players the developer/publisher cared about.

A handful of good ideas with a great deal more bad ones, and all poorly executed. I would have been better off not playing it.
docodine 22nd October 2009, 04:56 Quote
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