I Am Not Adam Jensen

By Alec Meer on August 24th, 2011 at 4:20 pm.

Pictured: Me

Please note: this includes some small spoilers, but none of them relate to the game’s core plot.

I am not Adam Jensen, and Adam Jensen is not me. Our goals are not aligned.

This is not a complaint. This is exactly why Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been the mainstream game I’ve been most obsessed with this year. Jensen’s goals are these: to avenge his girlfriend and to serve his employer. These goals change over time, and most importantly become far bigger than such comparatively petty interests. They also don’t get in the way of my goals.

My goals are these: find everything, upgrade everything, read everything, buy everything, hack everything, don’t kill anyone. I am free to do them, and I did them compulsively for tens of hours. At the same time, I’m not terribly invested in why I’m doing these things, from the game narrative’s point of my view. I want to know how it all plays out, but being a dutiful employee and a dutiful boyfriend – those are Adam Jensen’s goals, not mine.

One of the smartest things Deus Ex 3 does, in contrast to its revered forebear, is to trim the crazier fat – to throw out the vast majority of the wildest sci-fi facets (greasels and grays, I’m looking at you) and conspiracy theories in favour of laser-focusing on mechanical augmentation of human beings, and the moral, political and industrial repercussions of this. The downside of this sensible story streamlining, or at least of DX3’s particular and often low-key approach, is that, at least at first, it loses some of videogames’ traditional world in peril/only you can save it element, and how that can make you attach to your character and their purpose.

In DX3, at least at first, all you’re doing is your job: corporate security. You’re not the saviour of the goddamned universe, you’re some shmoe doing his job. You’re defending the interests of your employer, with even the vengeance/answers quest relegated to a secondary interest for the longest time. To add insult to injury, you don’t even seem to draw a paycheque for your job (your wage is mentioned occasionally, and I’m guessing it’s lucrative given the success of Sarif Industries and the fact that working for them cost you all your limbs, but I’ll be damned if I can find a way to get these surely substantial monies), so instead you find yourself stealing credits from hobos in order to afford guns and augmentation upgrades to help do your job better. That’s apparently a peril for any roleplaying-inclined game that has you as an employee rather than a lone agent – see the original Mass Effect’s having your purchase weapons from a subordinate working in your own ship’s basement.

So: I do not have the interests of a corporate security chief, I do not have the income of a corporate security chief, I am not a corporate security chief. I am not Adam Jensen. I have my own rules. I have my own agenda. And that’s mostly related to scavenging and hacking.

Fortunately, Adam’s agenda rarely interferes with mine. Outside of cutscenes and getting shot, Jensen rarely reacts to what he discovers or does. Whether it’s discovering dark truths about his own origins – something the game oddly does within a side-quest rather than the main storyline, which at a guess is the devs trying to not bog down those players who want to blood’n’guts their way through the game at high speed – robbing his colleagues’ offices or pointlessly murdering prostitutes, Jensen simply does not give a shit. He cares about protecting his employer’s corporate interests, he cares about finding out what happened to Megan, but he doesn’t care about what he does en route or how he does it.

He’s a moral vacuum and, for all the I AM COOL CYBERPUNK MAN post-takedown animations and cutscene posturing, he spends most of the game being a non-entity. I am not Adam Jensen, for Adam Jensen is no-one.

That’s exactly how it should be. The game has to walk a narrow line, of giving the player freedom of choice but having them consider, at key storyline moments, what the best thing to do for themselves, for others and for the entire human race is. It finds the best one it can, which is to have ‘you’ be silent and non-reactive to the most horrific brutalities, the darkest personal truths, the most incredible derring-do and even great acts of kindness. Jensen never editorialises, unless it’s in one of the very occasional moments where he and you – in a rare moment of truly conjoined purpose – are looking for a way to persuade another character to reveal information he wants. Otherwise, the game lets me be free, free to be whoever I want to be. And that is some sort of skulking, obsessive-compulsive looter, apparently. That’s exactly why I dig the hell out of Human Revolution. It feels like it’s mine.

When Jensen does make himself and his purposes completely front and centre, they’re so profoundly different from my goals of getting over there or unlocking this or finding out more about that that I do lose my association with the game a little. Why doesn’t he ask character X about horrifying discovery Y that’s been haunting me? Why does he, to dig up what’s already become an old chestnut, so unconcernedly watch a boss character bleed to death even though I’ve just spent the last 12 hours carefully not killing anyone? Why doesn’t he seem at all distraught that a guard has spotted him when I’ve been so determined to remain invisible? Why doesn’t he seem to give a toss about getting experience points and unlocking new abilities? Come now: I’ve told you the answer to that. You know what I’m going to say.

The other reason, though, is because the game does such a stand-up job of letting me play how I want to play. Personally, that means a strange and contradictory confluence of pacifism and completism, of determination to Do The Right Thing and yet not miss out anything that meant I’d dangerously try to hack every computer and takedown every guard (for the experience points) even though I wanted to get in and out like a ghost (for the experience points). The game gives me so much leeway, each and every NPC or item encounter tapping into a raft of unspoken dilemmas and possibilities my mindset, skillset and inventory allows, that any moment where I lose that leeway is jarring. This oddly quiet saga of what happened to Megan Reed and David Sarif’s struggle with rival firms, even though it does gradually escalate into more global threat and purpose? That’s nothing to do with me finding out the door code for Office 33 and then nicking credits and protein bars from the desk draws.

Very occasionally, the larger game pays heed to my own motivations, and gently rigs things I so catch my own reflection. There’s a glorious moment, in its way my favourite in the game, where I was hacking another colleague’s computer. On it is an email talking about a recent spate of office thefts, and how it’s really upsetting everyone. Being the thief in question, I feel a moment of real remorse, if twinned with frustration that this dilemma only exists in these emails – the characters themselves, least of all Jensen, will never reference this directly, no matter how distraught they sound in these emails. Outwardly, everyone here only cares about the bigger picture, the fate of Sarif Industries. But the idea that my selfish purpose really does exist in the game after all, has effects upon someone other than myself, is startling. I head back to my own office, to check my own mails. In one, someone else is being accused of the thefts I’m secretly responsible for. Tearful, she claims it’s not her, and that if the office security chief – that’s me – can pop into her office, he’ll find proof. She leaves her door code. What do I do?

What do you think I did? I walked right over there, hacked her PC and was about to nick the credit chip lying so temptingly, so openly on her bookcase. A dim itch birthed somewhere at the back of my brain, a warning that came only from me, not from the game. I managed to pause my outstretched hand, milliseconds before pressing the E key – something which was by this point second-nature. Was this a trap? Would taking it be the ‘proof’ the falsely-accused thief had spoken of? Was the game trying to catch me out? Were the game a person, we’d have been looking each other square in the eye at the point, each daring the other to blink first. ‘Gotcha’, the game seemed to say. ‘I know what you’re really like, you nasty, amoral little scavenger.’

I would not have been lost for a reply in this imaginary conversation. I would have smiled a grim half-smile and calmly riposted ‘and I’ve got you. I’ve caught you acknowledging that I’m not Adam Jensen, devoted corporate servant, hero-in-waiting. Now we both admit it, both know it. What now, game?’

Thing is, I never took those credits. There’s every chance nothing would have happened if I did. I honestly don’t know if it was the proof of what the woman spoke, or just my own paranoia speaking. I had been in this office earlier on, and could swear I’d looted it clean that time – how could I possibly have missed those credits? Maybe I did. Or maybe they’d been put there since. Maybe. Maybe. That paranoia took ahold of me, defined my actions, had me afraid not of consequence but of being accused of evil, and in turn stopped me stealing anything else from Sarif Industries employees (thought admittedly there wasn’t a lot left to take by that point). Adam Jensen never experienced that, never had that dilemma or paranoia. Adam Jensen doesn’t care about stealing credits, or whether he’ll be caught doing it. He’s got his own problems, his own interests. Sometimes they intersect with mine, but really we’re both off doing our own thing – two minds in one augmented body. I am not Adam Jensen – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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108 Comments »

  1. Matt says:

    Thing is, we can’t play it yet and don’t want to read this…..

    • John Walker says:

      How many of you are there?!

    • Matt says:

      Any and all of us in England! (and the rest of Europe?) The ‘No Oceans’ law hasn’t been recognised yet :(

    • StranaMente says:

      Count me in, as Europe – Italy.

    • PickyBugger says:

      Yeah can’t help but feel this could have waited a while even if there are only minor spoilers. I’ll bookmark it and hopefully read it once I’ve played the game but I can’t promise anything.

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      BathroomCitizen says:

      Yeah, me too. Didn’t read it because we still can’t play it.

      Italy too here.

    • Loopy says:

      Saving this for after I’ve played the game, I don’t want to risk spoiling anything… sorry Alec. ;-)

    • merc-ai says:

      I agree with Matt and many others above.
      This is a great article. And it’s a good game, as stated by many sources many times.
      But can we please stop the goddamn teasing until the game comes out worldwide? Review is one thing, but surely this article could have waited for several more days?

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      Makariel says:

      Another one here, Netherlands. I check every 5 minutes if the pre-load button at steam has magically changed into play, but no no no :-(

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      I read it but I’m still unable to play til the big day, although since I’m currently playing through the first one for the first time I might have a couple of extra days after the release before I can load it up for the first time. (I only preordered to support the devs so that they make the next Thief quicker and based on the warm reception it’s been receiving in previews)

    • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

      What’s worse, RPS forgot about the ‘No Oceans’ law either. Now they’re OK to post glowing reviews of a game without even mentioning this travesty. Why?

      I’ve complained about it before, and I’m going to complain again, until we see a reply with a red background. Or blood, whichever comes first. That’s what being an angry Internet nerd is all about! Oh, how I wish I was fat.

    • piderman says:

      Don’t worry lads and lasses, only 29 hours to go!

      :(

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      felisc says:

      yep remember your very own “no oceans”, stop teasing us here !

    • barules says:

      Asia,but thing is,here’s its releasing a couple of days (or four) AFTER the European release.Ya lucky European bastards. :D

    • frewster says:

      You can always VPN to an American server to unlock it early. I’m not sure how Valve feels about that, but quite a few people on Something Awful seemed to get away with it.

    • godwin says:

      In Asia too, but it’s unlocking in 17 hours?

  2. Bhazor says:

    Fourth Picture

    “Pah, men. At least buy me a drink first.”

  3. Timthos says:

    I started out not killing anyone, then I discovered an upgraded shotgun is pretty damn amusing.

  4. Zaboomafoozarg says:

    My version is augmented.

  5. Sardukar says:

    I am Adam Jensen’s hungry eye.
    Adam and I spend enough time together that I feel some remorse for his ( I tell myself mission-necessary) habit of widespread looting.
    I don’t kill if I can avoid it – Megan wouldn’t like that. I look this cool because of her, so I’m grateful.
    Adam and I take scumbags down together. He does it because it needs to be done, I do it for the XP and thrill. We agree it’s a good idea.
    Adam gets discriminated against and Adam answers a lot of questions. Adam gurgles and dies while I watch, usually because of something I did, that he wouldn’t have. I feel a little sorry for the guy.
    I think I’ll buy Dermal Armour for Adam.

    Now the compulsive box-stacking, to get higher or crack systems in front of cops or guards? That’s all me.

  6. bwion says:

    “In DX3, at least at first, all you’re doing is your job: corporate security. You’re not the saviour of the goddamned universe, you’re some shmoe doing his job.”

    And that’s when I went from ‘mildly interested’ to ‘will certainly buy this game eventually’. (Not right away, for I am not a magical money man without bills to pay. But eventually.)

    • arccos says:

      Alec is exactly right, too. It does feel like you’re just doing the job because you kind of have to.

      I disagree that the player motivations and the character motivations often misalign. While you can sometimes make Jensen react in dialogue to make a few larger-issue decisions, it kind of becomes a player-driven narrative based on how you play, since people react to your past actions. The dialogue is generally written cleverly enough so you can (in your own head) justify why Jensen would do what he did in a believable way without always needing the player to select a dialogue option that reflects this.

      There are a few places where it falls apart, but it works alot better than creating a bloodbath and then pretending Jensen is a stand-up nice guy, like in most games.

  7. wodin says:

    Has the game improved since the leaked beta?

    My gripes where… graphics on many NPC’s where mediocre…facial animations where poor….seemed rather unpopulated…..sparse slum apartment building….end of level boss way to hard to kill…no hwere near enough ammo to play it as a shooter..

    • PleasingFungus says:

      All of that is still true. Luckily, none of it matters.

    • John P says:

      The last point’s pretty important. For a game that’s supposed to be about playing how you want, they make it pretty difficult to play as a shooter, sometimes impossible if you run out of ammo. It has a very strong preference towards stealth.

    • 1R0N_W00K13 says:

      I don’t know…I felt it taught trigger discipline more than anything else. Stealth is a good way to play the game, for sure, it can make much of the game much, much easier. But you can viably play predominantly as a shooter provided you conserve your ammunition and hunt down more supplies – and I like it that way. If you had an abundance of ammo you’d feel more pressured to taking the shooter path, and personally I got much more satisfaction out of skulking around and hiding in ventilation shafts.

  8. wccrawford says:

    “desk draws” … I always thought that was just an accented way of saying “desk drawers.”

    I never thought about the paycheck thing, though… But then, I’m not far enough that I’ve heard it mentioned…

  9. phenom_x8 says:

    For all RPS reader who have been able to play it (and not being bothered to visit this site just for a second while playing ) :

    Is there any bug,glitches, or something annoying about the retail / DL version of the game you’ve played? I’m afraid it was a little different with the review code played by RPS chum!

    Almost forgot, can you all share some impression towards this game ?
    (PS : John or Alec or Jim, it is possible to make one post/article for this things? Please!!)

    Thanks before!

    • paco says:

      Tons of technical issues for a small range of hardware which only happens to include most nvidia users and some ati users.

      Honestly, there are people who are running it no problem whatsoever, everything maxed, then there are people that aren’t. Same with most PC games.

      If you encounter real issues, just turn AA down to Edge AA, put shadows on normal, turn on vsync (unless it leads to annoying load times or bad mouse issues) and turn down most of the other options, then try them one at a time till you find a balance between stability and performance/eye candy whatever you wanna call it.

      Its still the best single rpg I’ve played in years. It has some issues, bad animations and faces for everyone but Adam, the technical problems, but besides that, it literally BLEEDS Deus Ex vibe and old school charm.

      All this is in, of course, my humble opinion only.

    • dehumanized says:

      The first time I loaded the game, mouse control was really screwy. X sensitivity was very high, Y sensitivity was very low. This cleared up the second time I booted the game up. It’s possible disabling the game’s vsync and forcing it through my graphics card control panel fixed it.

      The other issue that I am experiencing, ongoing, is that my game will frequently CTD when loading a save. It’s mostly just an annoyance… no data is lost and it doesn’t take too long to restart the game and try loading again, but it’d be nice if it were fixed.

    • povu says:

      I’m hearing some complaints about the loading times being long, even for a simple game reload in the same area after dying. On the PC. Does anyone have any experience with that?

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, loads are pretty long. Did wind me up a bit.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I started playing it last night, got partway through the first real mission. Some first impressions on just the technical side of it.

      At first, the mouse control had that disconnected, floaty feel that I hate in games. it was helped a little by adjusting the X/Y sensitivity, but then I tried turning off V-Sync and suddenly the mouse control was fine. Feels very direct and smooth now. I’ve been able to re-map the keyboard to my preferences for crouch, cover, run/walk, etc. I’m still having some trouble using the cover system, but that’s me getting used to it.

      My monitor is 4:3 aspect ratio, running the game at 1600×1200. At first, the game defaulted to a letterboxed 16:9 window, but I was able to reset the aspect ratio to 4:3. At that ratio and the default FOV, things looked too tight, but there is a FOV setting where I was able to change it to 90 degrees (I think?), and that feels just right. So, kudos for a “real” PC game here!

      So far, I haven’t run into anything that smells like a bug, but then I’m not that far into the game yet. The environments look pretty good. NPC faces are a bit rough, but no worse than New Vegas which was a game I enjoyed. Where I really notice the low-poly optimization is with stunned or dead bodies on the ground, but it’s not immersion-breaking.

      I love the save-on-demand and quicksave ability. The loading times do seem fairly long, but for me, that just gives me an incentive not to screw up as often. It’s only a minor annoyance. I’m enjoying it very much, so far.

    • PearlChoco says:

      Povu and Alec: load times seem to be MUCH shorter after disabling v-sync in display settings…

      http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2077247

    • Bob says:

      Did you guys get the defrag ingame files thing? I can’t say my loading times are overly long. I had the laggy mouse issue but found a fix on the Steam forums. I’m happy to say that’s the only glitch so far. Touch wood. Oh, yeah disabled vsync as well.

  10. briktal says:

    It isn’t stealing, it’s confiscating contraband.

  11. TheTingler says:

    Second picture from the end: you utter bastard.

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    Anthile says:

    What the hell is going on in screenshot #4?

  13. Burning Man says:

    The Witcher 2 disappointed me in this regard. Repeatedly, the fact that Geralt was merely being controlled physically and that he had his own thoughts and opinions, was made clear, and I hated it every single time. Especially when he had those cartoony cutscenes and voiced opinions completely counter to mine.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Well, the Witcher series is a more narrowly focused RPG, where “role playing” is more like an actor stepping into the role of Hamlet in a stage play. You don’t get to play Hamlet any way you want; you’re supposed to inhabit the role of the gloomy Dane.

      I think there’s room for both types of games. I enjoyed asking myself “what would Geralt do?” in both Witcher games, instead of “what do I feel like doing?”, which was the way I played Mass Effect and similar games where the player character is more of a blank slate.

  14. LennyLeonardo says:

    Really great article. Not sure if I agree with everything, but whatevs.
    I think there’s a lot to explore in the relationship between the player and the player character in games like this. Up with this sort of thing.

  15. hardboiledgregg says:

    That is the calmest reaction to being stabbed that I’ve ever seen.
    …not that I’ve seen many…I mean, any.

    On a serious note though, if it is incorporating a film noir style I can see the reason for a more dispassionate outlook on the protagonist’s part even if the issue is very personal.

  16. jellydonut says:

    ‘The downside of this sensible story streamlining, or at least of DX3’s particular and often low-key approach, is that, at least at first, it loses some of videogames’ traditional world in peril/only you can save it element, and how that can make you attach to your character and their purpose.’

    Personally I am completely tired of this ‘OMG SUPER HIGH STAKES’ bullshit. It’s never believable because no games are able to reach the scale necessary to provide immersion at this level. I prefer ambition that fits into the box we are currently in due to technological/development/cash limitations.

    We’ll see if Mass Effect 3 manages to live up to its massive hype – I’ve got a feeling the ‘fight for earth’ is not going to be very epic if they take the ME2 route of letting us command all of 2 people for the entire god-damn game again.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Seconded. I’d say that the more videogames explore types of narratives other than ‘world in peril – save it!’ the quicker the medium will mature. Devs should concentrate on creating more convincing worlds in the first place, rather than more elaborate plots to have them nearly blowed up.

    • mrbungle says:

      Have you ever played Chibi-Robo? It’s about a borrower-sized robot whose task is to clean up a family house – and save a failing marriage. It’s brilliant, even stranger than it sounds and a much more realistic goal than just “Hi save the world.”

  17. Alexander Norris says:

    I am disappointed that the first line of that post wasn’t “I never asked for this,” Alec.

    (Or “A BOMB!!”)

    Also;

    The downside (…) is that, at least at first, it loses some of videogames’ traditional world in peril/only you can save it element

    That element is the single worst thing that CRPGs do, and Human Revolution starting off on a personal level is part of what makes it so damn interesting. If it’d just been yet another bloody “save the world” quest it wouldn’t be anywhere near as palatable.

  18. grotty says:

    Well, this is why every game ever made should feature the player as the voice in the delusionary player character’s head. Conflict of motives resolved, Zach.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I agree. I think Deadly Premonition’s take on the player/avatar relationship was well done (shame I can’t say the same about much else in that game).

    • Kaira- says:

      And yet it was one of the best games last year. Right, Zach?

  19. Doth Messar says:

    I love that third picture down. The woman is having mixed feelings about being skewered.

  20. Jesse L says:

    Did you see that, Zach? Clear as a crisp spring morning. We don’t have any problems with player/avatar dissonance, do we, Zach? Why don’t you handle this comment, you’re good with comments.

  21. arccos says:

    “Being the thief in question, I feel a moment of real remorse, if twinned with frustration that this dilemma only exists in these emails – the characters themselves, least of all Jensen, will never reference this directly, no matter how distraught they sound in these emails.”

    Actually, I’m still early in the game, but a conversation I had with a throwaway NPC already had her asking security chief/thiefJensen to look into the office thefts. Smlies and nods of approval ensued.

  22. nimzy says:

    And while you’re busy with all that, and wondering when you’ll get paid, I’m sitting back and trying to get a grip on how much things have changed by the time the game starts: corporations are more powerful than governments. Adam’s treated more like an elite special forces operator than some Officer Chunk, if you’ll excuse the Bloodlines reference. He waltzes in and out of crime scenes, hostage situations, has the license to kill a la James Bond and no one (in authority) bats an eye at his activities. Meanwhile the population quite rightly see you as the emblem of everything wrong with society: a corporate superman that can go anywhere and do anything, and the police will just look the other way. That’s why I’m going through the game without killing anyone, that’s why I’m consciously avoiding stealing people’s belongings — all in the service of proving those people wrong.

  23. Homo_erectus says:

    I’ve played for 3 or 4 hours now and the game is just not grabbing me. I don’t know if it’s the spotty performance, the constant “Hey dummy use these controls to do this thing” elements of the UI that clutter the screen, the fact that jensens voice acting is D grade porn movie bad, or the “you can play any way you want as long as it’s sneaking around” game play.

    Or maybe I’m just old and curmudgeonly.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I agree about Adam’s voice, and forgot to mention it in my earlier comment. I’m having to consciously filter it out, and pretend it sounds like something other than Clint Eastwood on his death bed.

    • Homo_erectus says:

      Yeah, I like to pretend that he’s REALLY constipated.

    • Homo_erectus says:

      I’m 3ish more hours into the game and am really enjoying it now. Of course, there’s been almost no combat in that time. I’ve mostly been walking around talking to people and sneaking into places I’m not supposed to be.

  24. nootron says:

    ***SPOILER***

    I was a bit annoyed last night at the game. Once i was freed from the intro and was free to explore the base, I did so. I went around talking to a few people and then headed for the helipad.

    It was then that I discovered that, because I spent a few minutes talking to people instead of immediately b-lining for the helipad once I was in control of the character, each and every hostage was killed before I even began the mission.

    Huh? I understand that choice and freedom is an important theme in this game. As is consequence. And I respect that. But the game failed to convey the urgency of hostage situation. If anyone had said, “You can chat up the locals later man! Get to the helipad NOW or hostages will die!” then I could have heeded that warning or not and lived with the consequences.

    Instead, I am now playing through the beginning again. I now know that “freedom” means don’t waste anytime admiring the scenery or talking. Just move from mission to mission with all haste, or the game may punish you.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      But it does tell you to hurry. First with David Sarif’s message to you, telling you to meet him at the helipad ASAP. Then Pritchard also reminded you to hurry. You should’ve hurried—there’ll be plenty of time to explore the offices later.

      I liked it that when people in the game told me that it was urgent, it actually was. That’s something few games have the guts to do.

    • John P says:

      It tells you to hurry, but it’s not different from any other game that tells you to hurry. If they made it clear — ‘Get up here now or those hostages WILL die’ — then okay.

      But the game undermines itself. There’s a time limit on the hostages surviving, but the game makes you take a walk up to Pritchard’s office and have an idle chat about your augmentations and exchange a few insults. If the game really wanted to convey the time pressures, Jensen wouldn’t be able to have a lengthy conversation with Pritchard. He’d rush in, tell him to shut up and fix this because I need to get going right goddamn now, hurry hurry.

      As it is, it feels like the designers trying to be clever. Ha ha, they won’t see this coming! If they did it with something a bit less high-stakes, then okay. But if a bunch of people die because the game didn’t communicate the urgency well enough, and then makes me feel like an ass about it? That’s not cool.

    • JackShandy says:

      Spoilers; The exact words are “Adam, get to the helicopter NOW or something really bad is going to happen.” He’s practically yelling it. Honestly, how much clearer could they have been without going “ADAM THIS SECTION IS A TIMED MISSION.”

      And the death of some NPC’s you’ve never seen before is not high-stakes.

      Edit, The first mission is designed so that there’s a lot of side things the first-time player will probably fail at. I like that – It starts you off at a low point and makes you determined to improve. Games like ME2 make it too obvious how to avoid failure, leading to perfect runs first-time – when that happens, it doesn’t make much of a satisfying story, and what do you have left to try to change in repeat run-throughs?

      This just seems like complaining that it wasn’t obvious enough that you could save paul.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      That’s it. It’s not high stakes, but that there are stakes—not just a “you took to long, mission fail, back to checkpoint you go”—is something unusual, and (I think) worthwhile.

  25. Linfosoma says:

    My Jensen is a little conflicted right now. He wants to go on without killing anybody, but doing so is so hard, and killing people is so easy and gratifying.

    The thing Im liking the most aobut this gane so far is how morally gray it seems to be, in Mass Effect I always picked the Paragon dialogs because the game told me so, but in DX the options are not clearly laid out like that. For the first time in a while I feel like I can freely help people because I want to and tell others who I dislike to fuck off regardless of the results, since I dont feel Im being scored for it, and I like it.

  26. Berzee says:

    The thing is…at least in DX1 (maybe not here) — if you want to play as someone who charges straight for the objectives blowing stuff up instead of crawling on his belly through the sewers, you will soon be so dirt poor that you’ll have to start, what? that’s right — obsessively looting every house and office and tunnel in order to get rockets and money with which to buy rockets so that you may return to your original plan.

    I only noticed it now because I liked crawling on my belly through the sewers so much that I did it every time I played before. But I am somewhat strapped for time these days and so I decided “I’ll do, not a speeeeedrun, but at least a direct run.” And now I find myself with quite a different dilemma than “I am JC Denton” or “I am not JC Denton”, and it is this:

    “I have not got enough rockets.”

  27. povu says:

    Jensen is going to have to work for Sarif Industries for a 100 years with no salary, to compensate for the augmentations. Those things are expensive!

    • Linfosoma says:

      @ Povu: That’s kind of a good point. Im not far on the story yet, but you do have to wonder if there’s some kind of “we own you and you have to do as we say unless you want to give us back your augs” thing going on in the relationship between Adam and Sarif.

    • povu says:

      Well people would have a hard time ‘convincing’ him to give them back. :P

      Unless it’s true like that Purity First propaganda vid states, that they can remotely switch the augs off.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hidden_7 says:

      SPOILERS (Though not super huge ones)

      A few side datapads and emails you can find indicate that Sarif went further than he strictly needed to to save Adam’s life with the augmentations. He was allowed to do so due to a clause in Adam’s contract, and seems to see it as a sort of loyalty buying move. Sarif doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of awareness when it comes to seeing the side of the argument where someone might NOT want to be augmented.

  28. Berzee says:

    This was a nice article, by the way — I don’t quite know if it has a mighty main point to make, but it was surely a fun thing to read about your instinctual burglaries.

  29. hjarg says:

    I have just one question for you, you evil hostage-murdering maniac! Did the game react to you doing that?

  30. Maldomel says:

    I’m a bit confused here. Aren’t many game heroes acting the same way, with a big ol’ ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude?
    So, why focus on Jensen?

    Also, is it really ok that he acts like an emotionless thief most of the time? Except for cutscenes?

    • Berzee says:

      “why focus on Jensen”

      not sure, but i thought it might be related to the DXHR discussion in the thread: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?1163-Risks-rewards-amp-loot-in-RPGs-%28and-FPS-RPGs%29

    • Maldomel says:

      Thanks, I think I get it better now.

      Also, to quote the man in the link:

      “I guess the real question is, would it really be an RPG if you took this stuff out? Is it worth trying? Could you get all your ammo from HQ + the bad guys, all your credits from your paycheque, and all your skill-up points from completing assignments, and only choose how to allocate them all? Would you just get accused of “streamlining” and “consolising” and whatnot? Would it still be fun?”

      I also tend to take everytthing I can because I can and because it makes the game easier overall (more xp, always large with ammos,…), but really sometimes it feels dull to storm places and take the most out of it that way.

  31. Simplex says:

    “that meant I’d dangerously try to hack every computer ”

    In the leaked beta, I never managed to hack all computers in the detroit police stations (especially the ones in the big hall) without getting the attention of police officers – has anyone managed to do it?

    • UberMonkey says:

      The trick to hacking things in plain sight is to build a box fort around the object in question. You’ll find more than enough cardboard boxes on the second floor of the police station to build little “privacy booths” around you and the computers/panels in question. Make sure they’re stacked 2 high (and use the big square boxes) since you stand up when you start hacking.

      I’ll admit that this strategy felt a little like cheating, but it was such a funny moment when I realized I could do it that I just went with it. Obviously this is only going to work if you’ve been allowed in, since you probably won’t be able to build box forts if you’re avoiding being seen entirely.

  32. Mr Bismarck says:

    You may not be Adam Jensen, but if you want to you can wear his coat!

    The coats are currently pre-order only. No word on if a pre-order gets you into some sort of coat beta.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hidden_7 says:

      I saw that and was rather dissapointed, because to me THE thing that makes Jensen’s coat stand out is the flowery print on the shoulders. It sells the cyber renaissance theme without being too over the top about it, and is a cool and unique look. It’s the thing that lets you pick Jensen’s trenchcoat out of a line up of other protagonists’ tenchcoats, and any replica that’s missing that element seems like a complete failure of a replica to me. That being said, I completely understand why they didn’t do it. A feature like that would probably be too expensive for the price point they are shooting for, as well as possibly being a little too in your face for the subtle reference aesthetic they seem to be going for with that clothing line.

  33. mawl says:

    and yet you are Adam Jensen

  34. yhalothar says:

    UNLOCK ALREADY GODDAMIT

    Somewhere in here is a lesson about paying for games I want to play, but I wonder if it’s the right one.

  35. HothMonster says:

    So in one of those picture you are stabbing Josie…is that an option in the first mission I missed or is this something that turns up later in the game? I don’t want to know everything I just want to know if they are giving you the ability to be that evil at the beginning of the game and i missed it.

    edit: sorry not you, Adam Jensen is stabbing Josie

    • UberMonkey says:

      I actually did the non-lethal version of this completely by accident. After the mission was over, I walked up to her with the intention of having a pleasant chat, tapped Q for some reason instead of E (too much TF2?), and promptly punched her in the face in the most dramatic manner possible. I was too busy laughing to do anything about the SWAT team that swarmed me and gunned me down.

      In other words, it’s not really so much an option (like a dialog option) as it is a product of the extreme degree of gameplay freedom; Simply walk up to her and hold your melee takedown key.

    • HothMonster says:

      That makes more sense. I was thinking there was some you failed the company now you must die, or you know too much eat elbow sword.

      I accidentally punched her husband in the face the first time I met him so not sure why I didn’t put 2 and 2 together.

  36. TooNu says:

    I’m replying here to say that I will read this article in late September, so I’ve saved it to my favourites. No spoilers small or large thanks :) but I will read this. Awww.

  37. Zwebbie says:

    In general, I think the player not being the protagonist is a weakness in a game’s design. It feels as if you’re playing the stunt double, but whenever a story has to be told, it’s Steve Blum (or whoever) to replace you. Sorry, player, we don’t trust you with the important things.

    Which is why stories that work in other media don’t work in games. The ‘wtf is going on here’-stories, like in Planescape Torment or STALKER, are effective in games because the playing and the story are the same. I can’t even see their protagonists are characters, because that’s a field filled entirely by me. Special mention to The Void, where the story revolves entirely around the gameplay mechanics. I love it.

    (Prime example of a bad game would be BioShock: it could’ve been a journey into an alien universe with its own rules, but instead the background is explained over intercom within five minutes of starting and the story focuses around the worst plot twist since Fahrenheit, with the player being replaced by automatic hands whenever something more significant than shooting hast to happen.)

    DXHR is about grand themes, such as what it means to be human. But what stays with Alec is petty theft and hacking, because Adam Jensen is already handling the big themes – no need to concern yourself with those.

  38. barules says:

    Amazing and thoughtful article.

  39. Jahandar says:

    To some extent, can’t the same extent be said of many game characters?

    For instance, I’m not Gordon Freeman. I’m not a scientist. I don’t share the same goals as him. I want to explore the Black Mesa facility and shoot some aliens, he just wants to GTFO.

    • HothMonster says:

      but you are gordan freeman. He has no voice, and no goals. He makes no decision you do not make for him, well both of you are really just guided along. Yet the point remains, he is a empty vessel that you fill

      Adam has a past, an opinion, reactions and thoughts. These parts of him are largely uneffected by what you do outside the main quests.

      Gordon does not exist until that tram ride, he does, says and feels nothing that you do not do or feel, and he disappears when the game ends only to pop back into existence when you start the second game.

    • JackShandy says:

      You absolutely aren’t Gordon Freeman. You’re some guy who happens to look like him, and you’re not sure who all these people are or how they know you but you figure you should probably just run with it.

      “Hey, gordon, remember all those great times you had with me, your friend?”

      “Um, no.”

  40. JackDandy says:

    Interesting read! I can’t wait to play the game myself, though… come on, weekend!

  41. Alan Alda says:

    The moment I started to care about Adam Jensen a bit: (Really really minor spoilers) Reading the emails in his apartment… you know how you’ve just woken up from an extended near-death experience with your life in tatters? Yeah, some ‘friend’ put your dog to sleep while you were out. What a nutpunch.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hidden_7 says:

      Adam’s apartment really was amazing wasn’t it? It was an element that really sold HR to me as a worthy successor. Sure, it got a lot of things right that DX got right, and the things it’s lost are missed, but not too painfully, but this was a thing that HR got right that DX didn’t, couldn’t. That is, world design. The incidental details. DX’s world was rather necessarily sparse because of the technology of the time, but it also didn’t seem to be trying to tell that much of a story with its environment. HR on the other hand, is really going full out. The email about the dog, driven home by the picture of the dog on his desk. The broken mirror. The weights thrown forgotten in some corner. The unpacked boxes. The clockworking hobby.

      All of these features, as well as I’m sure more I’ve missed, say a lot about Jensen, without having to stop the game to deliver this explication, or forcing it on the player. It’s there for you to discover if you’re interested, if you want to know more about the protagonist, but you don’t need it, it doesn’t force you to care if you’re not interested.

  42. John P says:

    One of the smartest things Deus Ex 3 does, in contrast to its revered forebear, is to trim the crazier fat – to throw out the vast majority of the wildest sci-fi facets (greasels and grays, I’m looking at you) and conspiracy theories in favour of laser-focusing on mechanical augmentation of human beings, and the moral, political and industrial repercussions of this.

    I disagree with this very strongly. The sprawling scope of DX1 was one of its great strengths. It felt like there was always something to uncover, something new to learn, some extra information that confirmed you still don’t know the extent of what’s happening.

    In HR, everything is related to the bloody augmentation debate. People get augmentations. People fight over augmentations. People discuss augmentations. Endlessly. Reading an email? I bet it’s about augmentations. See that newspaper? That’ll be about augmentations. Having a conversation? Hey I bet you’re talking about augmentations aren’t ya? It’s like nothing else happens in this world.

    It’s a stark difference between the original game which felt like a simulated world with a lot to learn and explore, and this prequel which feels like nothing happens beyond what you’re currently doing.

    • Dr. Lucien Sanchez says:

      Agreed wholeheartedly, this bit is disappointing to hear and will result in me putting off purchasing the game (though I don’t think my current rig could handle it anyway, if the leaked beta was any indication). Absolutely loved the original, but for me it was all about the story, all about uncovering more and more layers to the conspiracy.
      It actually took me quite awhile to get into Deus Ex the first time around, because the whole ‘nanoaugmented super-soldier’ thing seemed kinda stupid and trite, combined with the standard badass gravelly voiced protagonist. The conspiracy was what kept me playing, the slow reveal of all these different organizations and players, that first time encountering MJ-12 troops in the sewers and being like, ‘wait, who the hell are these guys?’, never knowing whom to trust or where the story was going.
      The augmentation vs. purity thing was the most boring aspect of Invisible War as well.

  43. sinister agent says:

    I love how the second image just screams “Mohawk police! Everybody on the floor NOW!”.

    Punk hairstyles get a raw deal in videogames.

  44. JackShandy says:

    I really loved how often the game asked your opinion. RPG’s see the protagonist as the constant inquisitor, a blank slate that mines NPC quest-shops for all the data they have – nothing like a real conversation, where people share data equally. Human Revolution does a lot of cool things with conversations, but the one I liked the best was how often NPC’s swivel around and ask avout you instead.

  45. bill says:

    Is it not possible to have games that respond to your play-style in things like cutscenes?

    One of the striking things about the first deus-ex was the way people in-game referred to your actions. Though it was mostly superficial, it created a great illusion.

    Surely the next level would be for things like story and cutscenes to reflect your actions? If you’ve not killed anyone then you get the non-lethal cutscene. If you’ve stealthed the whole game then you get the steath cutscene. Steal lots of things and more people start using locks. Kill lots of NPCs and have people start carrying guns.
    And have your voiceover or relationships (and even main story) vary depending on your actions.

    Doesn’t Witcher 2 do that?

    • Premium User Badge

      Stijn says:

      Sort-of-spoiler: the very last speech before the credits changes depending on your playstyle, exactly like you describe.

  46. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Meh, I always thought Jensen’s salary went towards the debt for all the prosthetics they used to rebuild him from a chunk of meat. All that hardware has to be worth a few million, right?

  47. Deatharte says:

    I absolutely loved this game BUT, there’s one things that nags me, and will continue to nag me for quite a while.

    *MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

    When you get to Singapore, and talk to the doctors, they all mention the upgrade that was handed out. I did get it, but Jensen never thought to think…”Aw crap…I took the upgrade”. C’mon! Game-breaking immersion!

    *MAJOR SPOILERS END*

  48. LostViking says:

    Haha, the office theft thing was too funny.
    I did the exact same thing, and didn’t dare steal the credits in her office either ;)

    To be honest that made an impression because your actions generally didn’t make too much of a difference.