Aftershock: What Is Bob Page Really Doing in Deus Ex: Human Revolution?


“Aftershock” is a recurring feature column on Game Front. We take games we’ve already reviewed, and give them a sober second look once the post-launch dust has settled.

This editorial contains spoilers for Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If you read this despite that warning, you aren’t allowed to complain about spoilers.

I like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I don’t love it. I don’t love it because, in the end, the plot falls apart. And it’s all because of Bob Page.

You might remember Bob Page as the main villain of the original Deus Ex. In that game, he ran Majestic-12, which had forcibly taken over the Illuminati. Bob Page was pulling the strings behind the entire conspiracy in that game to unite the world under a single government using the Grey Death to beat the public into submission.

Bob Page is also pulling the strings in Human Revolution, but the game is afraid to make that clear. It is clear, though, as Page is the first character we see in the game and the last voice we hear at the end.

Otherwise, though, Page is utterly absent from the game, and his presence isn’t really felt in it aside from a handful of emails addressed to him popping up here and there.

Late in the game, we learn that the Illuminati intend to use augmentation biochips to gain control over all augmented humans. This puts them at the heart of the game’s conspiracy, although the apparent architects of this plan are a bunch of folks who do not appear in the original game. This gives the appearance that very little of what is going on in Human Revolution ties in directly to Deus Ex aside from simple world building.

But Page is there, on the periphery, doing something. And, on top of that, we presume by reading emails that Joseph Manderley, head of Deus Ex’s UNATCO, is orchestrating the actions of the Tyrants, otherwise known as those annoying bosses we have to fight during the game.

Because these characters are so important to the greater Deus Ex canon, you have to wonder why they aren’t actually in the game while being in the game, and their existence on the periphery implies that there is more going on than we are ever told. Yes, we uncover the Illuminati’s plot, but what the f–k is Bob Page doing there?

We see him interacting with what we assume are other members of the Illuminati early in the game, but we can’t easily forget that his ultimate goal is to seize control of the group for himself, as he does in Deus Ex. So is the plot really what it seems or is there another layer we don’t see?

The first, easy conclusion I can come to is that Eidos wants to give themselves room for a sequel, and that’s why the events of Human Revolution don’t directly set up those of Deus Ex. And it would be simple for the next game to reveal more about Page’s machinations, or even for them to show us more in the upcoming Missing Link DLC. But for now I’m simply left wondering, and that, I feel, is a problem.

If Eidos Montreal had simply left Page out of the game, I would accept the game as it is and be mostly happy. But Page is too important and his ultimate motivations too clear for that. And so, as it stands, Deus Ex: Human Revolution feels like an incomplete story, even within the context of the franchise as a whole. And it’s all because Bob Page had to show up for two scenes.

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6 Comments on Aftershock: What Is Bob Page Really Doing in Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

Aids

On September 8, 2011 at 3:16 am

Feels more like a hang over and you want to punch yourself in the face for being stupid enough to subjecting yourself to such a game.

Karl

On September 8, 2011 at 11:42 am

Your mistake is assuming the game’s timeline is completely linear. Page appearing at the absolute beginning and end look suiously like a narrative framing device.

Page is ultra important in DX canon, so one would assume he would be involved somewhere before the events of DX1. Bad guys do not simply appear out of thin air.

You could be right, insomuch that his inclusion is a little odd and might just have been poor storytelling by Eidos, but given the overall effort and care put into the DXHR world, I find that unlikely. My money is on narrative framing device to give context.

Ivan

On September 10, 2011 at 5:16 am

I agree with Karl. There seems, I think, no other reason for Page’s inclusion than to give context to players of the original Deus Ex. Since I didn’t play the original, though, Page’s presence creates only confusion for me.

If the upcoming DLC clarifies things it won’t matter to me as I’ve already played it four times and got all trophies, and for a bunch of reasons (awful PS3 graphics; primitive stealth mechanic; annoying hacking; average combat; inevitable but damning comparisons to Mass Effect 2…) I have no desire to play it again.

Way to go, Eidos! – create a fascinating, detailed story and world then frame it in narrative gobbledy! P.S. Please wait till the next generation of console hardware to make the sequel (or make a supercomputer PC sequel that only a few thousand people can play). My overriding ‘aftertaste’ of the game is frustration at playing a next gen game squeezed – often very awkwardly – into current gen hardware. Kudos for looking forwards though!

The Truth

On September 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

whine whine whine… if the game is so bad why play it all the way to the end.. meh

WilliamUK

On September 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

Many players will already know much of Page’s involvement from the first game. The fact that he was in the illuminati is made clear in the first game and is evident throughout Human Revolution. If Page was given too big a role in this game then there would be the risk of telling a story already told in the first game, while leaving him out altogether would ignore the fact that he was a major player behind the Illuminati’s actions, third only to Lucius DeBeers and Morgan Everett.

You must remember that the first game relied on leaving clues, and creating various paths, all of which must be explored, combined with human memory in order to tell the whole story, and, at times, often leave things to theory (Which is appropriate for the conspiratorial plot).

You said this doesn’t link to the final game, but i think it does. If you imagine that everything you faced was orchestrated by Page and focus on the details, you begin to understand Page’s rise to power between the Original and the Prequel.

For example; Reed’s groundbreaking research into so-called “Nanite-Virus chimera” implies that she is the reason why Page takes the forefront of nanotechnology. I’m sure her research may have been the genesis to the nano-tech agents, the Dentons, and the nanite plague, the Grey Death, hence them featuring in the end.

I do admit that for someone who never played the first game, this is confusing, but the game was released based on the demand of the fanbase generated by one of the most popular games ever made.

Personally, I think if you’re willing to take the time to collect the story together bit-by-bit, you’ll find a much more structured story. If you don’t bother looking deeper into the story, Deus Ex is just a cover-based stealth-shooter, which is the view taken by the less story-oriented players.

(P.S. I do, however, agree that the bosses were unnecessary, especially given their lack of characterisation)

The Ubiquitous

On July 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Well, there’s always the possibility that Bob Page is working against the Illuminati while pretending to work for them. Or maybe rolls with the punches really well and decides somewhere in the middle of the failure of the Illuminati’s schemes to start playing for himself — founding MJ-12 covertly — without Everett knowing at first.

I agree that Human Revolution leaves this unexplained, and absurdly. But given the “wheels within wheels” approach of conspiracy stories, which Deus Ex games are supposed to be more than anything else, it would be unfair to call this out of character for the series. Crude, yes, even poorly conceived. But not out of character, unjustifiable, or unexplainable.