This is part four of a six-piece blog series that shows my in-depth impressions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I'll publish one post on a different topic about the game every day this week through Saturday.
Part 1: Inspirations, improvements and missteps
Part 2: Choices without consequences
Part 3: Universe and relationships
Part 5: Augmentations and controversies
Part 6: in closing
The boss battles in Deus Ex: Human Revolution are a ubiquitously agreed upon area where the game reaches its ultimate low points. These battles are the emptiest, most irrelevant and unnecessarily difficult parts of the entire package. They funnel you into situations that are unlike anything else in the game. You can’t sneak around or fool the bosses, and you can barely melee attack them. For the most part, you shoot them and hope that you can scavenge enough down time to let your health recharge before they come back for another attack. Or hope that you have some Praxis points left over to get some life-saving upgrades that the game sometimes pigeonholes you into wanting/needing.
The worst part about the boss battles is that the writers and designers clearly weren’t on the same page about things. The first mistake is that the boss battles were outsourced to a secondary company — Grip Entertainment. A collective pat on the back is in order to everyone at Grip for hand crafting the worst sections in the game. But the problems go beyond the outsourcing.
It’s painfully obvious (like much of the game) that the designers put a lot of thought and work into making the bosses look incredible. They’re some of the most physically interesting characters I’ve seen in a while, yet they get nearly zero screen time and no story.
Imagine if in Metal Gear Solid the only time you saw Ninja (or Gray Fox) was when you fought him in Otacon’s lab and then never saw him again. No dialogue, no backstory — nothing. Wouldn’t you feel robbed of a great character’s narrative?
Human Revolution handles its bosses like that. They show up, you kill them and then never speak of them again. I honestly feel bad for the men and women at Eidos Montréal who sat at their computers for months (years, maybe) and drew/designed these characters. They are disrespected by every other facet of the company and Grip certainly didn’t do them any favors. You don’t get to learn anything about them. I can’t even remember their names because the game doesn’t bother to develop them at all. It’s such a shame to waste time designing such beautiful characters only to have them on the screen for about 2 percent of the entire experience. Such a shame. When you put it into perspective up against a series such as Metal Gear (from which Human Revolutiondraws a lot of inspiration) that has multiple bosses per game, all with intricate backstories and personalities, I felt robbed of a chance to know these characters and their motivations. The game never even makes it clear for whom or why the bosses are working. They’re just some sort of hired mercenaries working for money, I guess.
Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, the art director for Human Revolution, has admitted that one of his favorite game universes is Metal Gear‘s. It’s obvious that Metal Gear Solid has influenced much of Human Revolution, but why not let the narrative arcs of the characters come over as well? This problem isn’t the bosses alone, either. Although the relationships among characters in Human Revolution is intriguing, the arcs for each character never go anywhere. Adam Jensen does a lot of the course of the game, but he never changes, or is changed, by a bit of it. He’s the same person at the end that he was when the game starts, just with some metal where flesh used to be. I think the writing is generally pretty good here, but there’s an extreme lack of character arc and motivation going on that could have been added to thicken the players’ attachment to the characters. It might be somewhat rare to find video games that change their characters over the course of the game, it’s not impossible.
Photo from DeusEx.com