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Searching for the Humanity in Human Revolution

An appraisal of the personality psychology in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and trying to get Adam Jensen to open up. Spoilers

Will Ooi, Blogger

October 20, 2011

5 Min Read

[An appraisal of the personality psychology in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and trying to get Adam Jensen to open up. *Includes spoilers*.]

Sneaking in until you care, then leaving abruptly and without a trace

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Jensen looked for the staircase amongst the near-deafening, conflicting distractions of bass-heavy dance music and the raised voices of tangibly multilingual but otherwise unidentifiable background chatter in the immensely crowded Hive nightclub.

Were it not for his augmentations, he thought to himself, the noise of this busy Hengsha social scene may have caused some discomfort, although that had now been replaced by those sudden interruptions from colleagues coming in through the InfoLink embedded in his skull.

The violating knowledge that everything he could see would be instantly relayed back onto a voyeuristic screen in some cold, sanitised facility hidden away in shame and secrecy, wasn't even the hardest thing to get used to; it was the constant threat of intrusion by - quite literally - a voice in his head, cutting short his own thoughts when he dared even to daydream for a mere moment.

*Incoming transmission*

And there, with almost vicious telepathy and derisive timing, was that voice again. That most unwanted of reminders, now accompanying the clunking of his mechanical strides up those steps to further reiterate, humiliatingly, that the Jensen of old was no longer present, and nor would whatever it was that remained possess any of its own senses, either.

"Jensen, we need you to ask the bartender what he knows about Tong, and to tell him you want to arrange a meeting".

Jensen hated that damned voice: its predictable and repetitive intonations and inflexions, for one thing. But most of all, he despised it primarily for what it symbolised of him.


The only problem, though, was that the actual Jensen didn't despise it. In fact, he didn't feel anything at all apart from odd, fleeting moments where he'd weigh up whether he was annoyed or just plain angry - so as a result of his unwillingness to open up, our camaraderie stagnated in apathy. It was, at times, slightly awkward too.

We had some good times, though. Adam and I approached that bartender and we both knew something was up as soon as the conversation began. I'd like to think that he detected it via his own intuition and investigative skills whereas I picked it up through the game switching to a fixed camera to focus on unskippable/essential dialogue, but mainly and perhaps relevantly, it was thanks to those augmentations.

The Social Interaction Enhancer implant we'd installed had indicated immediately that this man wasn't giving us the full story: that he had something to hide. The tool even provided us with clues as to his personality type and, for good measure, his psychological profile, intricately detailed and incorporating a fair amount of realism.

We were becoming quite the partnership, the two of us, turning unfavourable conversations and arguments on their heads with a simple release of pheromones from that mechanical body - yet another subtle insult aimed at Jensen's sorry, hollow non-humanity - and coming up with unbeatable comebacks that fought fire with fire, challenging those alpha personalities with our own imitated counter-directness and assertiveness.

But that's just the thing: it was all fake. Not just the showmanship facilitated by the augmentations in conversations to unerringly and emphatically convince, but everything. The persuasion was but a means to an end, with little to no authenticity behind the words. There was rarely any introspection or resentment apart from that oft-repeated quote from the game that's quickly becoming an unfunny meme, and one which I won't repeat here for that very reason.

The revelations of his infancy and childhood were repressed instantly inside the armour plating and never explored any further after a brief mention in a side-quest. Any regret or reaction towards the consequences of his actions may have affected the player but certainly not Jensen - if those bionic eyes of his had even detected these moments at all as anything other than ones and zeroes.

Reunited with a lost love, there was no tenderness or compassion - not even an attempt at any sort of resumption or reconciliation; these emotionally poignant situations replaced by the efficient and methodical fact-finding of a robot, expressing those same default traits of annoyance and anger on display from the very first time we'd encountered Adam in the introductory cutscene. In this buddy cop friendship of ours, it was left to me to be stuck with a conscience while he stood there, emotionless, awaiting my input.

As impressed as I was with Deus Ex Human Revolution, especially the detail and representation of personality types and their various interactions, all I really wanted to do by the end was use the influence device on Jensen himself...if only to determine the actual re/devolution of that once-human Adam: whether he had long since died on that operating table and was now stuck in cyborg limbo, a cold Terminator-esque avatar remembering only its final, living moments akin to a zombie in a shopping mall - his current being now exclusively controlled remotely by both his puppetmasters in-game and us, the player.

But while I am considering this, the end-game Jensen, almost-maxed out with all his shiny aug upgrades, sneaks up from behind and uses the implant on me (Omega personality type)...and now I'm of the belief that, you know what, actually? That may well have been the whole point.


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