Deus Ex: Invisible War

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Deus Ex: Invisible War
Developer(s) Ion Storm
Publisher(s) Eidos Interactive
Director(s) Harvey Smith
  • Bill Money
  • Paul Weaver
Designer(s) Ricardo Bare
Programmer(s) Chris Carollo
  • Whitney Ayres
  • Sergio Rosas
Writer(s) Sheldon Pacotti
Series Deus Ex
Engine Unreal Engine 1.5[1]
Release date(s)
  • NA: December 2, 2003
  • EU: March 5, 2004
Genre(s) Action role-playing, first-person shooter, stealth
Mode(s) Single-player

Deus Ex: Invisible War is an action role-playing stealth video game developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive. Released simultaneously for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox on December 2, 2003, the game is a sequel to the critically acclaimed Deus Ex. The game takes place in 2072, twenty years after Deus Ex, in a world being rebuilt after a catastrophic event called "The Collapse". Following a terrorist attack that destroys the city of Chicago, the player assumes the role of Alex D, a trainee at the Tarsus Academy, whose support is sought by several organizations. As the game progresses, the player learns of conspiratorial factions which seek to drastically change the world.

Invisible War was designed to allow player choice in both plot and gameplay, with branching plot lines and emergent gameplay elements.[2] Upon its release, the game received high critical acclaim for its graphics, gameplay and freedom of choice, but criticism was directed towards below-par enemy AI and design choices that made the game seem over simplified. As of April 2011, the game has sold over 1.2 million copies. The game was eventually followed by a 2011 prequel to both it and the original game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.[3]


Like its predecessor Deus Ex, Invisible War is a first-person game, playing from a character's eye view in a 3D environment. The game combines gameplay mechanics from multiple game genres, including stealth, role-playing video game and first-person shooter.[4][5] Regarding the categorization of Invisible War, Warren Spector stated, "... the whole genre thing, it's like 'Is Deus Ex a science-fiction game or a shooter?' Forget about shooter, role-playing, action and adventure... forget about those categories. ... [I]f I make a first-person perspective Western, is it a Western or a shooter? The whole idea of genre is a mess when you start applying it to games. It gets in the way of serious thought about games ... when you're in the trenches making a game, you're kinda just making a game".[6]

Player choice[edit]

Invisible War emphasizes player choice—for example, the player begins the game by selecting the player character's gender and skin color.[7] The character's name remains the same regardless of selection, being the gender-neutral 'Alex D.'. Some of the quests and dialogs change, depending on what gender was selected. The developers designed the game to allow multiple solutions for all of the game's situations, such as enabling the player to commandeer an airship by either bribing a guard, attacking with lethal force, or using stealth.[7]

In the first game of the series, the player was forced to follow a plot path where they aid Paul and Silhouette and turn against UNATCO. It was not possible to instead refuse to help Paul and Silhouette, and stay loyal to UNATCO. Invisible War enabled greater plot flexibility, showing the player different perspectives of each faction vying for their attention, and allowing the player to make their own choices and alliances. The player can also choose to change their alliances as events progress.

Role-playing game elements[edit]

The player character may be equipped with nanotechnological implants called "biomods", which like Deus Ex's nano-augmentations[8] grant special abilities, such as cloaking, a neural interface, or increased strength.[9] There are five assignable biomod slots, with each slot granting different selectable abilities. However, each slot may hold only one biomod ability; thus, the player must decide which abilities to equip.[9] Biomods may be upgraded twice after being installed. Some biomods drain the player character's "bio energy", which must be recharged with energy cells or repair bots.[9] Deus Ex's "skill points" are not present in Invisible War—instead, the player character does not have limitations on natural abilities such as aiming or proficiency with items. Biomods replace some of the previously skill point-based abilities, such as hacking.[4]

Invisible War contains a variety of items, including tools, weapons, food and others. An inventory, and a quickly accessible secondary inventory called a "toolbelt", provide twelve slots for storing items,[9] 15 with the strength enhancement biomod. Unlike in Deus Ex, where the amount of inventory space used by an item varied, a single item in Invisible War takes up a single inventory slot.[10]

Combat elements[edit]

Invisible War features several types of weapons, including melee weapons, grenades and firearms.[9] Many weapons may be altered with "weapon mods" found or purchased throughout the game. The effects of weapon mods include silencers, fragmentary rounds and increased damage, among others.[9] A single weapon may be equipped with up to two weapon mods, which cannot be removed. All weapons in Invisible War use the same ammunition, explained in the game by a nanotechnology that dynamically configures itself to the appropriate ammunition type.[9] Different weapons use different amounts of ammunition—for example, the rocket launcher uses more than the pistol.

The amount of damage sustained by a wounded enemy may vary depending on which area is wounded.[9] Unlike in the first game, however, the player character does not have separate hit points for the head, torso, and appendages.

Game engine[edit]

Invisible War was released for both the first generation Xbox and the PC. The PC version was a direct port of the Xbox game, and suffered from very small levels and very limited memory usage, not making full use of the disk and memory resources available. Unlike Deus Ex 1, only a very limited number of keyboard action keys were available, corresponding to the input limits of the Xbox controller. The PC game engine was locked to allocate only 64 megabytes of RAM, the same was available as on the Xbox, and the PC player has to pass through many map loading screens to traverse each small section of the world. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]



Invisible War is set in 2072, twenty years after Deus Ex, and is based on the premise that a combination of all three of the original game's possible endings occurred.[16] The actions of JC Denton in Deus Ex caused the world to descend into a period of war and economic depression known as "the Collapse",[17] during which several factions built themselves into world powers. These factions include the World Trade Organization (WTO), which converted many of the world's remaining metropolitan centers into highly regulated city-states; The Order, a religious order which created a new world religion from elements of all major religions and sociopolitical principles;[8] the "Knights Templar", who advocate the complete prevention of biomodification; the Omar, a society of heavily biomodified humans possessing a group mind, which runs a global black market, and wishes to become a transhuman race through biomodification;[18] and ApostleCorp, which seeks to help JC Denton achieve his goal of biomodifying every human on Earth, and thus equalizing the race. While JC Denton is seen by the public as a threat to society, these organizations seek to use or eliminate his power to rebuild the world in the way they see fit.[4] In keeping with the series' conspiracy theory theme, several of the major factions are revealed to be secretly connected—the Knights Templar originated within The Order, while the WTO and The Order are separate branches of the Illuminati. The story is now told more through character interactions than through game text. Books and newspapers in the game world are still readable, though the interface is now modal.

The developers placed Invisible War further in the future than its predecessor to give it a distinct setting, rather than "rehash[ing] what had come before".[4] Lead writer Sheldon Pacotti stated that the advanced timeline "[loses] a little bit of the frisson of a near-future real-world setting", but is "more visibly shaped by time and technology", bringing the "social and technological issues ... more into the foreground".[4] At the same time, the developers wanted to make the game relevant to current world affairs, and focused on themes including terrorism, while placing the game in real-world locations "linked in the public consciousness", such as Seattle, Washington.[4][10] Other criteria for locations included both a "distinct feel" and "recognizable landmarks", as well as "believable hooks for [the game's] conspiracies and fiction".[4]


Note: Given the non-linear nature of Invisible War, encountering certain plot elements depends on the actions of the player. The game also offers several subplots which the player may or may not encounter, depending on their actions within the game. This synopsis will concentrate on the main, unavoidable plot thread of the game. For simplicity, Alex D will be referred to throughout as male, though the player can choose a female Alex instead.

The game begins with Chicago being destroyed in a terrorist attack. Alex D, the protagonist, and another Tarsus trainee, Billie Adams, along with several Tarsus leaders, are evacuated to another Tarsus Facility. Some time after their arrival, the facility is attacked by forces of the Order Church.

Alex is contacted by Billie, who reveals that she is a member of the Order. She claims that Tarsus is using its trainees as test subjects in a biomodification program, and asks Alex to join the Order. Once at the Order base in Seattle, they are asked to find out what happened to a group of Order troops sent on a rescue mission to a Tarsus facility. They discover that they defected to the Knights Templar, who take a more militant approach to matters than the Order.

Over the course of the game, Alex goes on a series of missions for the Order, the WTO, ApostleCorp or combinations of those factions. The missions take them to Cairo, Trier, Antarctica and Liberty Island, New York. During the course of the game they discover that they are a clone of JC Denton, the protagonist of the first game with aspirations of creating a perfect global democracy through a bioengineered hive mind. They also learn that the organizations they are working for each desire to rule the world. ApostleCorp seeks to fulfill Denton’s vision of the future; the Illuminati, who control the WTO and the Order, want to use Denton’s technology to create a benevolent dictatorship; and the Templars want to eliminate biomodification entirely and create a global holy empire.

Near the end of the game, Alex comes into possession of data necessary for any of the factions to take control of the world. Each faction asks Alex to upload the data to their base on Liberty Island. Who rules the world in the end depends on which of the factions the player decides to upload the data to. It is also possible to simply send the data to none of them, instead destroying all of their bases on Liberty Island. This allows another faction, the Omar, to take control of the Earth after allowing the rest of humanity to wipe itself out in various wars.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 83.65% (PC)[19]
85.36% (Xbox)[20]
Metacritic 80/100 (PC)[21]
85/100 (Xbox)[21]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 8/10[22]
GameSpot 8/10[23]
IGN 9.0/10[24]

Deus Ex: Invisible War received largely positive reviews from multiple outlets. Aggregate site Metacritic gave the game a score of 80/100 on PC[21] and 85/100 on Xbox.[21] Fellow aggregate site GameRankings gave the game a score of 83.65% for PC and 85.36% for Xbox. As of April 23, 2011, the game has sold over 1.2 million copies.[25] On the whole, critics praised the improved graphics, physics, lighting, and the amount of choice the player was offered, but criticized flaws that seemed to have been carried over from the original, poorly designed enemy AI, and some design choices which marred the experience.[26][27][28]

IGN's Steve Butts was impressed by the improved lighting, the nostalgic aesthetics of the game world, and the impact of player choices in terms of story and gameplay style on the world, feeling the latter was an absorbing factor in Invisible War's design upon finding himself surprised by the way one of his choices had unexpected repercussions later in the game. The puzzle and quest designs also met with his approval commenting that, "Nearly every objective in the game can be achieved three or four ways". Aspects he found unappealing included the biomod system, unrealistic NPC behavior, and the rather distracting HUD.[24] Eurogamer's Rob Fahey shared many likes and issues with the IGN reviewer, although in his case, the freedom of choice proved to be more confusing than entertaining. He finished "Fundamentally, 'Invisible War' has chosen certain aspects of the 'Deus Ex' experience to focus on to the exclusion of others. [But] even if 'Invisible War' isn't exactly 'Deus Ex' ... it would be simply churlish not to acknowledge that it's a superb game in its own right, and one which will be enjoyed by most fans of the first game, as well as - hopefully - by a lot of complete newcomers to the paranoid conspiracy theory heaven that is the Deus Ex universe."[22]

GameSpot's Greg Kasavin enjoyed the freedom of choice, in-game variety, although he was less enthusiastic about the game's shared faults with Deus Ex, called the characters "superficial", and the sometimes unrealistic physics. He ended, "It's certainly a bold undertaking that delves into some philosophical and science-fiction territory that most games wouldn't dare touch, and though it may not be a superior game to its predecessor, on its own merits it's a great and original experience that's well worthwhile."[23] RPGFan's Christopher Holzworth was pleased by the game's take on the RPG genre, applauding the freedom of choice, the interesting blend of action-adventure and FPS elements, the physics engine, the realism of the in-game world, and the realistic character models, but criticized the quality of the voice acting, much of the pre-programmed NPC movement and the general graphics, although he still saw them as an improvement over the previous game.[29]

Electronic Gaming Monthly scored the game 8/9/7: Joe Fielder, the first reviewer, praised the game's freedom of choice, but found fault with its, "long loading times, somewhat clunky combat, ... crappy mapping system, and weak finales," and concluded that the game is, "definitely the padawan to [Knights of the Old Republic's] Jedi master." Second reviewer Dan Hsu said, "This is a truly great, immersive experience only hampered by poor enemy A.I," and third reviewer Bryan Intihar concluded: "If you can look past [its] technical hiccups, Invisible War shouldn't disappoint".[30][31] Fan response to Invisible War is notable for being quite split. User rankings on MobyGames, for instance, are around 3.5 out of five for both versions of the game,[32][33]


In 2007 at Warren Spector's University of Texas master class on game design, Project Director Harvey Smith felt the team did not do a good job designing Invisible War. stating the following;[34]

"This was a very difficult game for me... ...I feel like we fucked up the technology management of it, we had bad team chemistry, we wrote the wrong renderer, we wrote the wrong kind of AI, and then we shipped too early.

"And then the story was even bad... we moved the story into the future. We didn't understand it at the time but this undermined much of what made Deus Ex great: the familiarity, the groundedness... you're going through an alley, to jump up on a dumpster, to get to a fire escape, to break someone's apartment, and we've all seen that, so it's very powerful, it's very grounded. We moved [Invisible War] further into the future, and it started to feel like the Jetsons or some type of space thing...

"I feel we made an 85% rated RPG that was not a worthy sequel of the original game in terms of how interesting the original game was...

"It was also my first console game, and it is a different beast to work on a console game. You have to think about the interface and the memory differently and everything else."

— Harvey Smith (2007)

They then discussed some of the ways that Invisible War was specifically different from the original. From the outset Invisible War was intended to fix some of the problems seen in the original. Harvey felt that they spent too much time listening to hardcore players that did not like the original game, trying to change the sequel to meet their expectations. By doing this, they reduced the appeal of the game for the majority of players, trying to cater to the extreme views of this small minority.

"The lesson I've learned... is that you really need to talk to the players you are aiming at... It's not selling out to cater to an audience...

"You will have some hardcore friend who will tell you the most extreme version of what you're supposed to do, and that would be cool. And you will lose 90% of the audience if you do that... If you want to make an indie game, that's fine, sit in a closet and make an indie game and release it for four guys on the Internet... I highly recommend that if that is what drives you..

"If on the other hand you're taking $20 million of someone's money, and on the surface you are aiming for an XBox Live crowd, then going to some crazy extreme is probably not a good idea. Unless it's an extreme that will take your audience to some new interesting place. Then if you're going to do that, you're going to spend 80% of the project communicating with the user about this new thing that's interesting..

"So what I think we did with Deus Ex, is that we listened to our super hardcore friends who said Here's how I would fix Deus Ex. .. we had some good friends who told us how Deus Ex was just a giant disaster and here's what they would change. I love those guys, and we really felt sensitive about that.. We're not meeting the demands! or We're not meeting the standards of our very intelligent designer friends. So ashamed! Let's fix all that in the sequel. And we weren't listening to the players of the original game who liked what we had done.

"In trying to fix some of those.. redundant things, like skills and augmentations that were overlapping.. we eliminated that complexity, and boiled it down to one system that was easier.. on the console interface, easier to learn, but it didn't allow for some combinations, that even if they weren't mechanically interesting, they built a fantasy in the player's head.

"For example, [as a game designer] I could let you take the swimming skill, or an augmentation like aqualung, or I could give you a biomod for the sequel called Swimmer, and it has both built into it. They're mechanically the same... but it wasn't the same to the user.. who wanted the fantasy of saying 'I am going to be the aquatic guy, so I'm going to take up these slots [in skills] and these slots [in augmentations] to be the aquatic guy in combination.' Even though mechanically it's the same, in the fantasy it's different."

— Harvey Smith (2007)


  1. ^ lowen, z. "Deus Ex: Invisible War gets all-in-one unofficial patch". Rock Paper Shotgun. Positive Internet. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Bishop, Stuart (2003-10-07). "Deus Ex: Invisible War - exclusive interview!". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on 2009-12-10. Retrieved June 4, 2007. 
  3. ^ Alexander, Leigh (2007-11-26). "Eidos Announces Deus Ex 3, Talks New Montreal Studio". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Aihoshi, Richard (2003-11-17). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Interview, Part 1". IGN. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Interview with Harvey Smith". GamePro. 2003-09-17. Archived from the original on 2004-03-15. Retrieved May 25, 2007. 
  6. ^ Turner, Benjamin (2003-02-11). "Warren Spector on Deus Ex: Invisible War". GameSpy. Retrieved May 25, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b James Au, Wagner (December 2003). "New Gun in Town". Wired. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  8. ^ a b Aihoshi, Richard (2003-11-24). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Interview, Part 2". IGN. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Deus Ex: Invisible War game manual
  10. ^ a b Jojic, Uros (2003-03-21). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Interview". Actiontrip. Retrieved May 22, 2007. 
  11. ^, Retrospective: Deus Ex: Invisible War, The black sheep of cyberpunk conspiracy thrillers, by Tristan Donovan, written 28-08-2011, Accessed 12-07-2016
  12. ^ "Deus Ex – Invisible War: A Disappointing Success", By Shamus Young, written Apr 18, 2008, Accessed 12-07-2016
  13. ^ Gamasutra, "How Deus Ex: Invisible War Fails to Engage the Player", by Joannes Truyens, written 02/07/11, Accessed 12-07-2016
  14. ^ Reddit discussion: "Explain to me why Invisible War is so hated", Accessed 12-07-2016
  15. ^ Archived Steam forum discussion: "Deus Ex invisible war, worth buying $4.99?", written 08-03-2010, Accessed 12-07-2016
  16. ^ Shoemaker, Brad (2003-09-06). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Hands-On Impressions". GameSpot. Retrieved May 25, 2007. 
  17. ^ Load screen message: JC Denton's destruction of Area 51 plunged the world into a period of depression and war known as the Collapse. Deus Ex: Invisible War. Ion Storm, 2003
  18. ^ Pacotti, Sheldon (2003-11-06). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Dev Diary". Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  20. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War for Xbox". GameRankings. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Deus Ex: Invisible War for PC". Metacritic. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  22. ^ a b Rob Fahey (10 March 2004). "Deus Ex: Invisible War review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  23. ^ a b Greg Kasavin (December 1, 2003). "Deus Ex: Invisible War review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  24. ^ a b Steve Butts (December 1, 2003). "Deus Ex: Invisible War Review". IGN. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  25. ^ Burnes, Andrew (April 23, 2009). "Eidos & Square Enix Sales Figures Revealed". Voodoo Extreme. IGN. Retrieved September 7, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War review". PC Gamer: 81. January 2004. 
  27. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War review". Official Xbox Magazine: 74. December 2003. 
  28. ^ Biessener, Adam (January 2004). "Choose, But Choose Wisely". Game Informer: 152. 
  29. ^ Christopher Holzworth (2004-03-21). "Deus Ex II: Invisible War". RPGFan. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  30. ^ Fielder, Joe; Intihar, Bryan; Hsu, Dan (February 2004). "Deus Ex: Invisible War review". Electronic Gaming Monthly: 124. 
  31. ^ Fielder, Joe; Hsu, Dan; Intihar, Bryan (January 14, 2004). "Knights of the New Republic". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Archived from the original on May 6, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War for Windows on MobyGames". MobyGames. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  33. ^ "Deus Ex: Invisible War for Xbox on MobyGames". MobyGames. Retrieved May 21, 2007. 
  34. ^ Youtube: "Warren Spector lecture 03 - Harvey Smith", 01:27:55 - 1:33:00, DE:IW game designer Harvey Smith and Warren Spector talk about what went wrong with Deus Ex: Invisible War. Part of Warren Spector's Master Class at the University of Texas., video recorded 24-09-2007, accessed 12-07-2016

External links[edit]