~ written 21 September 2011 ~
I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution the other day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an over-complicated, over-generous mess, but the melding of the cover & stealth mechanics was inspired, the hubs were appropriately hubbish, and it's probably as Triple-A as Triple-A gets – for better or, well… As Eidos Montréal's inaugural creation, DXHR was something of an ambitious project, moreso given that the team was working without the august guidance of Warren Spector, creator of all video games. Small wonder then that they resorted to outsourcing some portion of their work, including the questionable boss fights.
Those sequences stuck out like a sore thumb. It was jarringly dissonant when there appeared before me a cybernetic Texan gun nut with infinite grenades, machine-gun hands, and a metal face, particularly since I'd spent the previous several hours hacking terminals and hiding behind fridges.
The game's achievements had essentially funneled me into a takedown-heavy approach, meaning I was carrying only a stun-gun and a ludicrous amount of charges. After several rounds of ducking for cover and cursing the absent spectre of Warren Spector, a neat little factoid dawned on me: on the odd occasion that I'd zapped the first boss, he would remain stunned longer than it took me to actually reload the weapon.
The logical outcome of that realisation is catalogued below. Included are short fanfic pieces for each boss, which I hope lends some humanity to a game where most characters are less interesting than the fridges.
Spoilers and half-truths below.
Lawrence was the youngest of six children born to Jonah and Mary-Lee Barrett, modest pork and cattle farmers outside of Junction, Texas. During the Great Dust Bowl of the late 2010's, Lawrence left home to join a traveling carnival show, putting his prodigious speed-eating talents to work and sending home what scraps of a paycheque he could earn or steal. Soon, however, the urge to surpass even his own consumption records drove him to augmentation – leading him to the cybernetic black markets of Central America, and into the mercenary employ of the local drug barons. Fitted with a mechanical jaw, he became their enforcer & blackmailer: farmsteads could give over their land to the barons, or watch Lawrence eat their entire crop in one sitting. The partnership was successful, but when Lawrence was sent home to besiege his own family's already-afflicted farm, he kept his mouth firmly shut. In retribution, his family was slaughtered, while Lawrence barely escaped North to put his various new augmentations to work in private security. Each subsequent Christmas, he would receive a single anonymous hot-dog with a small card reading "¡Buen Provecho!"
Born and raised in a succession of orphanages, Yelena's uncommon height and slender frame made her an easy target for child bullies. She withdrew ever more into her own psychological reality – that of Yelena, the Cold Princess, a lonely ruler of a solitary land of wind and ice. The fantasy took its ultimate expression as soon as she began to skate: the rink became her kingdom, and she took to the ice as a swan takes to the water. Soon, her prowess was noted by a retired figure skater – Irenka, the Dowager of Odessa – under whose tutelage and harsh training Yelena rose to international fame. Augments were ordered to complement her once-ridiculed physique, with Irenka promising that the world would "finally look upon your beauty and weep, child." Her career peaked with an invitation to close the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Lviv, Ukraine with a solo dance. However, due to environmental instabilities brought about by climate change, temperatures at the outdoor pavilion rose by 23°C in the hours leading up to her performance. Finding herself alone, in the spotlight, in an endlessly flat puddle of water with more than 5 billion people watching, ancient insecurities resurfaced. Irenka's violent exhortations to dance barely drowned out the damnation of the audience's laughter; Yelena stumbled and splashed her way through the set, retreating once again into her lonely Ice Kingdom fever-dream. The shame overwhelmed her, and with her ears ringing and her heart screaming for solitude, she fainted, waking some indeterminate time later in a strange military surgery room. She looked at doctor hovering overhead and asked "Can you see me?" "Indeed I can, young lady," the doctor answered, "but we're working on that."
Jaron, a member of the Israeli Defense force, was once an outspoken activist for the role of the gender-fluid and androgynous (like themselves) in the military. Unfortunately, this came at a time when the IDF was informally adopting a variation of the recently-repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies of the United States military. What had been a promising career instead became a public spectacle, as army leaders were quick to denounce Jaron's "betrayal of his body, his service, and his people." Seeking refuge from media scrutiny, Jaron left the base to become an apprentice to their second uncle, Hazzan – a recluse who lived day-to-day repairing damaged sculptures in the back rooms of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was here that Jaron's obsession with the human form began to flourish, and they soon took to grand theft, kidnapping, and ransom to fund a dizzying array of full-body modifications. One woman, on her recovery, spoke of her captor's strange habits: of dancing nude before a mirror, singing of some day "subsuming both the power of the Artemision Bronze and the mystique of the Ardhanarishvara." Police began closing in on the elusive and dangerous Jaron, before finally executing an early morning raid on the workshop at the Museum. They found a half-opened shipping crate from Belltower Associates containing Rodin's "The Kiss" (recently pilfered from the Tate Modern), addressed directly to Jaron, with a card bearing a single word: "Come." Hazzan lay at the feet of the two marble lovers, a chisel embedded deeply into the back of his skull. No investigation was pursued.
The Hyron Project
It looks like the real cyborg – was you. You or the computer with the people inside it. Some of them have pathos!