The Curious Case of Wayne Haas

6 Sep

When he pulled a gun on me, in the lobby of my own apartment building, I didn’t hesitate – a single, sharp punch and he’s out cold. But of the dozens of men whose noses, arms and ribcages I’d broken during my time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Wayne was the only one who didn’t truly deserve it.

I’d bumped into him a few days ago – he was manning the front desk at the police station I needed privileged access to. It happens we go way back – further than almost any other character in the game. He was my deputy during the botched SWAT operation that ended with me quitting the force and Wayne with the blood of a 15-year-old boy on his hands. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t entirely pleased to see me, and even less so when I asked him to break protocol and let me into the morgue.

In seconds, he was on the offensive. It’s my fault he was bumped to desk work. I’m putting his job at risk by demanding unauthorised access. I should have taken responsibility for the kid’s death. My attempts at talking him down – absolving him of blame and offering to keep his job safe – were met with accusations of condescension and, not entirely inaccurately, self-servitude. On the brink of enraging him completely, I released the pheromones.

There’s a situational but extremely helpful augmentation in DX:HR that,  when entering conversation with a person, lists some of their personality traits that should inform your dialogue choices. As a last resort before they tell you to bugger off for good, you can sneakily douse them with chemicals with an accompanying argument that will either convince them to back down, or severely piss them off. Staring Wayne down, I plumped for the ‘Pressure’ option.

Unfortunately Adam Jensen is a sufficiently unscrupulous man to perceive pressuring someone as indistinct from blackmailing them, and after a short speech in which my character coldly reminded Wayne that his bosses wouldn’t like to hear there’s a bottle of pills in his wastebin, I was let through. At this point, it was reasonable to assume Wayne was hitting the switch just so his hand would be too busy to smash my robo-shades in fury. Yes, it sucked, but I was where I wanted to be without crawling through a child-size air vent for a change. He’ll get over it.

Several days and many thousands of air miles later, I’m back in town. Wayne didn’t get over it, and he’s waiting for me.

“Your little blackmail stunt cost me my job, asshole!”

He manages to squeeze a shot off before I knock him out, but it’s not the bullet hole that makes me feel bad. Unlike the balaclava-wearing, rifle-toting jerks that are most frequently on the wrong end of my mechanical fists, up until this point Wayne hadn’t wronged me in any unjustifiable way. He was just a man, doing his job, and I’d waltzed in and snatched it all away. I’d betrayed my promise to protect him, made him an unwilling fall guy for my antics, and ruined the only solid prospect this insecure, guilt-ridden soul had left in the world. No wonder he was resorting to a suicidal gunfight – I hadn’t defeated him, I’d broken him. He wasn’t even an enemy.

For a while, this felt like a frustrating result of discord between what the single-word dialogue option could reasonably be expected to entail and the uncharacteristically harsh response that actually came out of Jensen’s mouth. In retrospect, however, that wasn’t the reason I’ll remember Wayne much longer than how I tackled every other debate section in the game. Somehow, be it through good writing or convincing voice acting or notably emotive facial animation, this £25 electronic toy had forced me to care. To care about how I’d maltreated someone I might have been able to call a friend, about what would happen to him after I left him laid out on the marble floor in a pool of dribble and broken promises.

“You got my word. Whatever happens, I’ll take care of you”. I’m a monster.

We do horrible things in games. We shoot, stab, run over, blow up and, indeed, say nasty things to murderers and civilians alike. Often, it’s because they happen to be of no consequence, but more likely it’s because the game didn’t put in the effort to make its NPCs anything more than walking props and exposition conduits. My interactions with this guy weren’t so much a display of irritating problems as they were a triumph of characterisation and worldbuilding. For the rest of the game, I endeavoured to be as little of a twat as possible. How many people you only meet twice in a 25-hour game have that kind of effect? More importantly, how many times have you wanted look a victim square in their polygonal eyes and say, without a trace of irony or insincerity, “I’m sorry”?


One Response to “The Curious Case of Wayne Haas”

  1. Adam September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Thank God someone else feels what i felt, i was gutted when i convinced Wayne and his end response was so heartfelt i wanted to instantly give him the S.I job and make sure his family life sorted out because i ruined his (like you quite rightly said) job which was his solid thing. Ubi should make a spinoff or give Wayne a definitive ending, he is THE BEST voice acted/ facially animated character, all the others: **** em, i dont care, not even Megan or Faridah… sad 😦

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