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Deus Ex, and Why Game Narratives Fail

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Deus Ex, and Why Game Narratives Fail

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 9 September 2011, 09:58:26

Tags: Deus Ex: Human Revolution; Eidos Montreal

IGN ponders how Deus Ex: Human Revolution lacks a proper story, unlike Halo.


The best storytelling games—Portal, Uncharted 2, Red Dead Redemption, Enslaved, and Bioshock, to name a few—fulfill these needs so slickly that they cast a spell over us, drawing us through the narrative with a tug far more powerful than the simple fun of their gameplay. The John Marston we see towards the end of Red Dead Redemption is a different man from the Marston we met at the beginning, and because of that development, we care deeply about his fate. The escalating tension we feel as we draw closer to the lair of GLaDOS (a fascinatingly evolving character in her own right) more or less provides a master class in dramatic arc, which is what made Portal so miraculously satisfying. Plenty of other games have Old West gun-play or spatial puzzles, but these titles are genre-transcending classics because they tell us engaging, fully-realized stories.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution does none of this. The game's protagonist, a tech-augmented corporate security chief named Adam Jensen, not only remains personally unchanged through the course of the narrative; he even pronounces every one of his lines with the same breathy intensity, no matter if he's speaking with a friend or confronting a super-villain. Leaving aside the stiltedness of Deus Ex's sections of dialogue—jam-packed as they are with bizarre emotional left turns, crazy gesticulating, and wooden voice acting—the overcomplicated narrative line also lacks a sense of propulsion. Human Revolution's "story" is, at heart, a linear and impersonal series of events that fails to build. In other words, it has plenty of plot, meaning that a lot of different things happen over the course of the game, but these assorted incidents just don't add up to much of a story. If anything, Deus Ex's overstuffed plot suffocates its story, smothering all character development and dramatic arc under the giant, overstuffed pillow of its conspiracy-laden narrative agenda.
 
Spotted at: Gamebanshee

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