Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Deus Ex - Boss Fights

Shamus Young | 16 Sep 2011 17:00
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The consensus seems to be that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is smart, polished, and atmospheric, as well as a worthy sequel to the classic from eleven years ago... except for the boss fights.

It's been said that the boss fights are poorly balanced, but the problem actually goes deeper. The boss fights in this game were outsourced, and it shows in a lot of ways that goes beyond simple "balance" issues.

1. Forced-player stupidity.

I'm crawling through some sprawling complex of bad guys, using my vast array of cybernetic enhancements to slip invisibly through the web of foes and security systems. I make it to the very heart of the base without raising a single alarm. Nobody sees me. No camera glimpses me. I stick to the shadows, hack the security, lockpick the doors, jump the fences, and outwit the guards.

Then suddenly there's a cutscene of me walking out in the open, under a spotlight, and striking up a conversation for no damn reason. I could have dropped them with a sniper shot or knocked them out, but instead I'm forced to suddenly behave like a character from a completely different, dumber game.

After blowing his cover and surrendering his first-strike advantage, my character allows the boss to sucker-punch him. There are four major cutscenes in this game where Adam Jensen stands there like a moron while bad guys sneak attack him and you watch helplessly. It's like having schlocky bits of Resident Evil tucked into the middle of a techno-thriller.

2. Forced Gunplay

In a game that (rightly) sells itself as a dynamic experience where you can choose your own approach, it's completely incongruous to have a point where suddenly your options are reduced to: Shoot guy.

This Ars Technica article defends the boss fights by pointing out that each character build is naturally going to have things it can't do well. The combat-focused guy misses out on hacking computers and disabling security systems. The computer hacker character will end up routing around fights and getting more loot. It's just part of the tradeoff.

Fair enough, except that the combat character can just stroll by those locked safes and secure doors and find some other way through. The hacker doesn't have that option. If combat characters found themselves at a locked door and couldn't proceed through the game until they opened it, then this would be a valid comparison. As it stands, there really is a "wrong" way to play this game, which happens to be the way most players want to play it.

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