If this game has taught me anything, it is to take what others say with a grain of salt. I went into this expecting an experience akin to that of arm wrestling with a chainsaw, but I guess that everyone's talk of this game lowered my expectations to unreasonable depths. Invisible War is, while not as good as its predecessor, a good game.
A big complaint I notice is the "consolization", the clear downgrade in many aspects of the overall design of the first game, including large levels, complex controls, dynamic damage, skills, and swimming. (The multiplayer is gone as well.) There is a lack of control options, which correlated directly to removal of leaning, reduced toolbelt size and biomod (augmentation) slots, and an ugly HUD. As for the size of areas, I would chalk that up to incredibly sloppy coding and graphics that were ahead of their time. One might look at the game's system requirements and then remember that this released in North America in 2003. However, as far as I'm concerned, it is still little excuse; The smaller areas force a different style of gameplay, and the frequency and time of the loading screens is just annoying.
Atmosphere-wise, there is nothing wrong. The graphics are great, and the story, a direct sequel, I would say surpasses that of the original, at least in terms of depth. In terms of how memorable the characters are... eh, I don't really have much to say. Open-ended missions change the flow of the game. Rather than being given one main objective at a time a la the first game, the player is given multiple objectives from warring factions that ultimately branch to the end, and make the ending seem like more of a result of the path taken throughout the game, rather than a rushed decision made at the last minute, though the latter is certainly still possible should you enjoy being chaotic in choosing your allies.
Sadly, if the story is more open than the original, the same cannot be said for weapons and inventory management. Multitools and lockpicks are now one and the same. Items now only take up one slot each, so there is no need for inventory Tetris, but the small size can only be increased by installing and upgrading a specific biomod. Food can be stacked regardless of the type. Firearms have universal ammo, which I saw to be a self-defeating mechanism. In the original Deus Ex, running out of ammo for a weapon forced me to rethink my entire combat strategy and apply it until I could renew my supplies. Here, run out for one gun, you run out for just about everything else. On top of that, weapons can only take two mods at a time, and mods cannot be removed once applied.
Even with a decent variety of weapons, I found little point to using nonlethal tactics. At least during the first few hours of the first game, you would get reprimanded for it. Here, there is almost never a reason to not just kill enemies on the spot. Even when I do use a nonlethal weapon, the game treats the character as having died, and he or she will not appear again. The small area sizes, while not too restrictive, encourage more aggressive gameplay by giving very limited options as to approach.
The player has fewer biomods/augmentations at one time. Luckily, many of the classics are here, as well as some new ones to compensate for the ones which were pulled. The best change here is having three to choose from for any specific slot, and the ability to change between them should you have the materials. It's a fine way to keep the player from restarting when he's realized that the combination he's chosen to go with is ineffective.
I'm certain I've left something out, but this review has to end sometime. Even with all of its simplification problems, it manages to cling enough to the core Deus Ex gameplay. I plan on coming back to this sometime in the future, as I'm certain there's a lot more for me to discover, and the mission structure provides a great deal of replay value. Methinks people would treat this game better were it not called Deus Ex, but as it stands, Invisible War is a fine addition to the series.