Gaming has an advantage in storytelling in the form of demanding investment from its audience in the form of interaction, leading to moments where you are asked not just to act but also to think on your decisions. This gives gamers ownership over the rewards, consequences, and even the lessons they may or may not take away from any gaming experience. This column series is about such moments as those.
Faridah Malik has got your back. You might spend an awful lot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution indoors, crawling through ducts, and cracking heads where she can’t reach you. Getting out of another country without the pilot though would be a nightmare, given the myriad of assaults and murders you have a habit of leaving in your wake.
Just think about how getting through security at the airport would be a nightmare. Forget about trying to check the (optional) explosives in your augmented arms.
While not the most heavily fleshed out character, there’s plenty to like about Malik in DX: HR. She’s concerned and sympathetic for your character from your first introduction to her as a player, but remains tough and calm under pressure throughout the game. The side quest she sets you on as a personal favor is one of the better investigative mssionss in the game, with one of the most amusing mean streak endings. All in all, you have plenty of reasons to care about your plucky pilot side kick, which never seems to bode well for any character in a dramatic game…
(Spoilers follow for Deus Ex: Human Revolution).
This game is one of the few on the market to give you the option to proceed through the game without killing every enemy in your path (except a few ill conceived bosses). There are multiple methods of removing enemies non-lethally, or avoiding them entirely. This is actually somewhat incentivized by the game mechanics themselves, with slightly higher experience point payouts for knockouts over kills, bonuses for “ghosting” unseen through an area, and an awfully shiny 100 point achievement . There is also something gratifying about moving through a world as more than a mindless killing machine, choosing willfully to take the harder path and retaining something of a moral high ground over your heartless digital enemies.
After many hours of this diligent do-goodery, I threw it all away for Malik.
Upon returning to Hengsha, your transport will be dramatically gunned down as you fly into the city. Your character will make a quick exit while still in the air onto a near by rooftop, but Malik will be in a much trickier position. Trapped in the cockpit, she’ll be forced into an emergency landing on the streets below where a number of men are waiting to turn the vehicle into something resembling swiss cheese.
Faridah will be quite insistent that you save yourself, but intervening is an option. Not one to leave anyone behind, I moved as swiftly as I could taking a tranquilizer rifle, a ranged taser, and my own two fists to every goon in sight.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough. While still running from person to person, trying to spot the additional deployments, chasing down the one sneaky sniper up on the third story of the construction zone, her last words came over my radio as the vehicle exploded, Malik still trapped inside.
Progression was still an option.
Instead, I immediately reloaded my game.
Now knowing more about the troop locations, deployment timing, and that a big freakin’ mech was going to drop in and start tearing things up, I figured I had a pretty good chance my second time through. The game laughed in my face as my friend was gunned down again. And a third, fourth, and fifth time to boot. I was stubborn, but I was reaching my limits.
Whether it was even possible to save Malik yet spare the misguided Belltower lackeys was actually still in question as I was playing for hours on end the day of release (courtesy of a few days off work due to four simultaneously removed wisdom teeth). No one had done it, posted a walkthrough, or bragged about it over a youtube video. Somehow though, I knew this was more a failing on my part then the game’s. I’m good with a controller, but not good enough for both Malik… and those Belltower goons. I had a choice to make, and I made it with a Longsword 202 ERASER Extreme Range Sniper Rifle.
When she finally rebooted the aircraft, got it in the air, and took off for a safer landing elsewhere, I took a minute to appreciate the quiet. I found I really didn’t feel much like looting the bodies of the fallen despite how precious and scarce ammunition is in DX: HR. I stayed a moment longer, considered moving on, but instead saved, and decided to give my Xbox and myself a break. It was time to change the gauze in my mouth anyway. Tasting blood was bothering me a bit more then usual.
In the end, it seemed like the right choice. After all, had I gone the other route, finding my friend Faridah’s cranium getting picked over by the Harvesters later would have likely resulted in an even bigger blood bath.
I do still wonder though if I could ever play through that game as everyone’s hero, because so rarely in games these days does everyone live.