Tuesday 7-Oct-2003 3:35 PM All the hottest news on the other groundbreaking FPS we've all been waiting for While the world has been going understandably bananas for Half-Life 2, another title that's set to redefine the first-person shooting genre isn't too far off now. Deus Ex: Invisible War is the sequel to 2000's RPG-cum-FPS hybrid, and fans of the original's urban dystopia (but with really cool cyberpunk types) will no doubt be flipping out over this one; but those of you who are new to the title should be pretty excited, too...
So what's occuring this time round? Due for PC and Xbox in Europe next February, we collared Invisible War lead writer Sheldon Pacotti, producer Bill Money, and designer Kent Hudson, threatening to force upon them conspiracy theories on all things illuminati until they made with the info.
What's the plot of Deus Ex: Invisible War, and what's the background of Alex D who we'll be playing in the game?
Pacotti: Invisible War begins twenty years after the end of the original Deus Ex. The player, a bio-modified agent known as Alex D, is roused from his sleep and rushed to a rooftop helipad to be transported away.
The player soon learns that the city of Chicago, Alex D's former home, has been completely destroyed by a nano-tech terrorist attack.
The only fragments of Alex's former world are now confined to the training facility in Seattle: Billie Adams (a fellow trainee from Chicago), two other students from the Seattle program and the expectation that the mysterious rites and trials of his training will lead to a lucrative job as a corporate mercenary and spy.
The player soon learns that Alex D's biomods are a prized technology coveted by several powerful corporations and prominent worldwide factions. A globe hopping adventure ensues that takes the player to Cairo, Antarctica and Trier, Germany in pursuit of the ultimate truth that may save humanity or doom it...
Can you give us any idea of specific missions we'll be undertaking, or what objectives Alex will have to complete or what he/she will be up to?
Money: The great thing about a Deus Ex game is the player can really tell his or her own story. We provide a fictional outline and set up goals within that story, then let the player do things how they want, when they want.
That makes describing a Deus Ex game very difficult. My experience in the game will be totally different than yours, but we will share the commonality of the overall fiction.
What are you currently focussing on in the game, in terms of development?
Money: We are in the final stages of development and testing. Tuning and balancing the game to make it as fun as possible, we are basically wrapping up the loose ends and putting a fine coat of polish on the game. Invisible War will be available in early December in the US on both Xbox and PC. [Invisible War will release in Europe in February].
How has Unreal technology helped you realise your vision for Deus Ex: Invisible War?
Pacotti: Using the Unreal Warfare engine allowed us to get a head start in designing and developing the game maps and systems. Over the last two years we have slowly replaced many aspects of the Unreal engine with our own custom renderer.
The new renderer fully supports per-pixel lighting with volumetric shadows. That allows us to have true shadows on most everything in the game world.
What key changes have you made to the original Deus Ex's gameplay for the sequel?
Hudson: There are too many to list, so I'll just touch on a few that I enjoy the most:
Invisible War has numerous new biomods. One of my favourites is Bot Domination. Bot Domination allows you to take over bots, drive them around, and use their weapons to fight your enemies.
Another, the Health Leach Drone, allows you can break down the dead bodies of your opponents to both heal yourself and hide the evidence. You can equip yourself with nothing but drone biomods, meaning that you're something of a sci-fi summoner, walking around with autonomous drones that will protect you, attack your enemies, and so on.
We also really improved the weapon mods system. The first game's weapon mods were basically hidden math modifiers (+7% damage, +10% range, etc.) that weren't terribly exciting.
In Invisible War, we've made their impact much more noticeable. You can mod your gun to do extra EMP damage to bots (spawning a nice blue explosion with every hit), you can mod the bullets to explode on impact for more damage, you can modify your bullets to silently melt panes of glass to avoid setting of alarms, and so on.
Weapon mods have turned out to be one of the most fun features in the game: it's great to collect three pistols and make one your stealth assassin pistol, one your anti-bot pistol, and one your assault pistol.
How have you developed or altered/enhanced the stealth and role-playing elements that we saw in the original game?
Hudson: The stealth in Invisible War is head and shoulders above what was offered in the original Deus Ex. Having Thief in development across the hall (as well as hiring some critical members of the original Thief team) means that we've got some serious experts when it comes to stealth.
One of our AI programmers, David Kalina, also worked on Splinter Cell, which has of course received a lot of recognition as a stealth game.
We have enhanced the AI so that they have a wider and more realistic set of responses to your actions. They do logical searches, they notice all sorts of evidence, they call to their allies, and they have situation-specific voice lines.
Light and shadow come into play as well, especially now that we have a fully dynamic lighting system that allows the player to create his or her own dark safe zones. We also have a large set of stealth tools and biomods for the player to use, allowing him to become invisible, move silently, blind guards, create diversion noises, and so on.
The role-playing aspect is still a strong point of the game. We feel that this game's story improves on what we established with Deus Ex. One of the biggest differences is that you can now decide which path to follow. In Deus Ex, the player started with UNATCO and then was forced to side with the NSF.
The player never had the option of staying with UNATCO. In Invisible War, you can choose which faction to side with, and your game will reflect that. You will have different goals, different allies, and different interactions based on who you side with.
This not only means that you have more impact on what happens in the game, but also means that when you replay the game later you can truly have a different story and a brand new experience.
You'll even notice subtle differences between playing as a male or a female. And, on the gameplay side, we've come up with some great new biomods that will allow all new levels of character creation and player expression.
What advancements are you making in the area of AI? For example, will enemy NPCs actually be "aware" of environments and be able to use this knowledge to their tactical advantage?
Hudson: Invisible War is way more sophisticated than the original Deus Ex. In the first game you could run around with any weapon and shoot one enemy after another in the head while they just stood there.
In Invisible War, the AI employs combat tactics like sidestepping, working with allies to gain better vantage points, taking cover, and doing combat rolls. We still have the same deep RPG character development and story, but the game is much more enjoyable from a pure action standpoint. We spent a lot of time making the game more visceral and more exciting.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of development in terms of ensuring that the title will appeal to both Xbox and PC owners?
Money: We really put a lot of effort into making our interface accessible for both Xbox and PC users. Besides minor interface and texture changes, both versions are nearly identical.
Throughout the project we didn't cut corners in terms of bringing a Deus Ex style game to a console. We pushed the Xbox to the limit in order to get a better PC product.
One of the reasons we initially chose the Xbox was because it had the power to bring our kind of game to a console audience without sacrificing our goals on the PC. Looking back, I think we made the right choice.
You presented Deus Ex fans with multiplayer update for the original title some time after its release. Will Deus Ex: Invisible War include multiplayer out of the box, or is this something you might consider adding via a patch at a later date?
Hudson: We aren't counting anything out, but right now we are focusing on making the best single-player experience possible.
What, in your view, is the most exciting aspect of Deus Ex: Invisible War?
Hudson: For me, it's just the overall freedom of choice. We're doing a lot of playthroughs to test the game, and at the beginning of each one we each pick a totally new character type to play. One guy will be a stealthy corporate sniper, another guy will be a brute force melee tank, someone else will play the game without ever picking up a weapon, and so on.
The combinations of weapons, biomods, and faction alliances makes every playthrough a fresh and new experience. I can't think of a single other game that gives you that choice. In addition, as you play, you just feel like you're driving the action.
You are making the decisions that shape the game, you are deciding which quests to take, you are providing your own moral compass in difficult situations.
We aren't the game where you either have no choice at all or where the choice is so simplistic that it's comedic (i.e. saving the fluffy kitten is the obvious choice of how to be "good" and shooting the nice old lady crossing the street is the obvious way to be "evil").
When you play Invisible War, you make your own choices, you tell your own story, and you have to deal with the logical consequences of your actions.