Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Deus Ex Training - Part 8: Anna and Stealth

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex.]
[The series began with this post.  The first post in this section is here.]

As noted elsewhere, I've been tired lately. I haven't been able to accomplish much and that's made it so I have an increasing amount of things I need to accomplish, which means that I haven't really been able to justify, to myself, setting aside time for something like playing a bit of Deus Ex.

Most of what I've written has been the sort of thing I can quickly bang out in response to something I read or thought or whatnot. Except for the "quickly" part, but it feels like it will be quick regardless. Also, I've had a sort of permaheadache that's made it somewhat hard to think.

On top of that, I'm not sure what I want to do with this next section. I think that I want to give the bit after it, your final test, its own post. But then that doesn't leave a lot here.

One would think that I could write quite a bit on the subject of Anna but I'm not sure that's true. We meet four mechs in Deus Ex. One, Sam Carter, seems to be a mech for medical reasons (parts of his body were replaced because they had been lost.) The three remaining ones represent a sort of moral spectrum. On the one end we have Jordan Shea who seems to be a decent human being, and who is retired. You don't get to see her methods or style, you're left guessing on a paucity of evidence stemming from the fact that she got out of the business. Which may say more about her than seeing her in action would, but it's essentially extrapolation based on negative information.

Gunther occupies a sort of middle spot. His methods are lethal, perhaps even draconian, and he's managed to rack up a higher body count than even Anna, but that's not coming from a position of sadism or bloodlust, it's largely coming from a position of corrupted good intentions. Gunther views the world with a black and white morality and functions as one might expect an action movie star to function. There are good guys, there are bad guys, and the solution is for the good guys to shoot the bad guys.

We never really get an opportunity to see what he does when there are also innocents involved, but I have a feeling that that category exists for him.

That gives one a lot to say about Gunther, even if there were nothing else (and there is a fair degree of other stuff) there would still be stuff to say about him just because his character (as in ethos, not as in the fact he is a fictional character) is at odds with his actions. There is dissonance there even if he never grasps that fact.

Anna is out beyond Gunther. She's simply not a nice person. While Gunther has more kills Anna is the one we see counting hers up. While Gunther's violence seems to be in the service of a cause, for Anna the violence seems to be her cause. If you get the job done without killing a lot of people she'll conclude that your styles are incompatible. She'll be the one telling you kill someone who already surrendered, and point out after he's dead that the lack of witnesses means it can be covered up however you see fit. She'll be the one tells you that teaching (bad) people a lethal lesson is more important than rescuing hostages.

She's the one who revels in violence.

And so there's not a lot there. She's evil. What more can you say?

Depending on how much non-game material you're willing to accept there might actually be something to say. There is some talk that Anna has ties to Israel but I think the original source to that has been lost (I believe it was an online thing) and while I'm told the strategy guide has some background on it I know that the strategy guide has information that is so very wrong it makes me wonder both who wrote it and what substances they were under the influence of when they did so. (Why the thing you have to pay for has information of a lower quality than the stuff that the company released for free on the internet is somewhat lost on me.)

So Anna might be involved with Israel. And if you take the continuity bible at face value, and given that it doesn't have any glaring errors and is contemporaneous with the game I see no reason not to, then Israel was destroyed 30 years before the game takes place. Put those two things together and you have the potential for an interesting story in which Anna's present state is in part due to a once complex and not-evil character becoming game-Anna via a troubled and difficult life spent in exile after her homeland was destroyed.

But that's barely above random guessing. We don't have Anna's story. All that we really get of it in the game is where it ends. And where it ends isn't a terribly interesting place. She's evil. Whatever complexity and humanity she might have had has been burned away in the untold story that came before.

So, that's Anna, and she's going to guide you though the stealth portion of this training and there's not much.

Before I get to what actually happens, I do want to point something out: I love this game. The only comment the last post got was one saying I was being too hard on it, I think that's probably because it's hard not to snark at a training mission. Don't forget to left click is hard to take seriously. At the same time, there has been stuff to talk about here and I think it's worth looking at, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.

A big part of the reason I'm doing this, and definitely part of the reason that I'm writing this post right now when I have so many other more pressing things going on in my life, is that I wanted to reconnect with something I liked. Deus Ex and .hack//Sign are both things that I've had strong lasting emotional connections to and more than that the connections are overwhelmingly positive. That's not something I can say about a lot of things.

I very much love this game, and part of the reason that I'm not shy about picking apart this or that mistake, oversight, or imperfection is that I think the game can take it. It has flaws, it could have been better, but it stands up to whatever level of scrutiny you want to level at it.

Ok, onto the actual training mission.

The stealth section is something that I can see working as a real life test, at least in theory if not in the exact way that it's presented. The reason for this is simple: it actually makes sense. Since the goal is stealth there is no need to throw around explosives, or blow up robots, or fire weapons while your skills are magically altered.

It's a test of your ability to sneak, so all you need to do is to sneak. Similarly all that you need to do to run the test is get a couple of guards on patrol who will fail you if they see you. Get through the test without being seen and you pass. It actually makes a certain amount of sense, I think.

Now you will learn to move quietly and conceal yourself, so that you will be able to avoid a confrontation altogether.

For the record, hearing that from Anna, of all people, is strange. Don't get me wrong, she has a cloak which seems like a very stealth oriented augmentation, but she's also Anna. I can see her, maybe, using stealth as a means to kill someone who was heavily guarded, but honestly I'd expect her to just kill the guards.

The test is simple. Get to the far north door without being spotted by the guards below. If one of them sees you, he will sound an alarm and lock the door.

Like I said, that actually makes sense to me in a way that the other parts of training really don't.

That said, the fact that the guard will sound an alarm if he sees you through the pretest observation window really doesn't. I've never had that happen to me until a few minutes ago. Anyway, before one starts the test one can find an item and a datacube. The item is tech goggles. The datacube mentions tech goggles.



Stealth is a vital component of all UNATCO operations; when implemented correctly, stealth missions result in the lowest possible ratio of agent and civilian casualties to hostile losses.

Situational awareness is key, and agents should not only be familiar with the tactical opportunities offered by their immediate environment, but how those opportunities can be exploited to their advantage with the appropriate equipment. Tech goggles allow agents to operate in low-light environments such as offices or labs where illumination might otherwise attract attention. With binoculars, an agent can survey an opponent's disposition and determine the best way to evade or eliminate their defenses. A rifle or crossbow equipped with scope and silencing modifications can be used to interdict targets from a considerable distance, significantly compromising hostile resistance.

Other features of the environment can also be used by an agent to enhance their ability to operate covertly or to create useful distractions: disabling security cameras, subverting autoguns, and reprogramming bots are all viable tactics employed by experienced agents in the field.

So, yay. The first time I returned to the training mission and noticed the tech goggles I was hoping that that meant there was a hitherto unknown way to turn of the lights in this section and use the darkness to your advantage. No such luck.

Also, the “illumination might otherwise attract attention” may well be a reference to the fact that your built in flashlight was originally supposed to attract attention. In the final product it does not.

I was going to move on from there, but let me say that “interdict targets [...] significantly compromising hostile resistance,” is a very euphemistic way to say, “kill.” Though the crossbow does allow for one to triumph via the use of sedatives.

Going out into the wider test will get you some advice:

Remember: don't let the guards see you. Use the crates for cover and crouch when you move.

The guards can be distracted. Pick up and throw an object near them, and they will go investigate the noise. Bottles, plants, flasks -- many things will work.

Always remember the four basic tactics to avoid detection: crouch behind concealment, stay behind enemies, move slowly to avoid making noise, and use shadows to conceal yourself. Be alert to every possibility.

Those are labeled Stealth Advice 1, 3, and 4, respectively.

The things you'll have the best luck throwing are flasks as the level has no bottles and the plants are of the larger don't-throw-as-far variety.

Somehow I don't think an out of place plant in real life would fail to arouse suspicion. “What was that noise? Oh. It's nothing. Just a potted plant.” That said, if you're attempting to get behind the guard so you can knock them out, or so that you can sneak passed and be out of that zipcode by the time they realize that they've been distracted by a plant, it makes perfect sense.

I'm not enough of a gamer to have opinions on shadow based stealth vs. cover systems and whatnot, but I know that quite a few people thought that shadow based stealth was key to the Deus Ex experience.

Now then, were you wondering what Stealth Advice 2 was? Well, first you have to fuck up:

You blew it. The alarm just closed the north door. Return to the control room to the south and press the button in the overlook window to restart the test.

Now hang your head in shame and return to the control room in the south. Then push the button. As you exit the control room you'll get stealth advice 2:

This time, don't let the guards see you. Stay crouched, stay behind the crates, and stay behind the guards.

Thanks, Anna. I thought I was supposed to stand in front the guards jumping up and down and waving my arms.

Something worth noting is that there's another item in the map you can use. It's called thermoptic camo and it's fairly neat. Put it on, activate it, and until it wears out you're invisible.

Integrating woven fiber-optics and an advanced computing system, thermoptic camo can render an agent invisible to both humans and bots by dynamically refracting light and radar waves; however, the high power drain makes it impractical for more than short-term use, after which the circuitry is fused and it becomes useless.

So I recommend using that, just because you can. Or, you could just grab it as you sneak passed and save it for the final.

Anyway, once you leave Anna will say this:

Very good. I hope you remember this lesson, Agent. They have assigned us to be partners, and I will not stop to hold your hand and repeat myself when we are facing a real enemy.

When I first played, and failed the stealth course the first time and had to reset, I thought that the way she said “repeat myself” which sounded pissed off, meant that this was in response to the fact that I'd made her repeat herself. It's not. This is the only possible thing she can say.

It still works, but I liked it better when I thought it was responsive. If you get that when you haven't made a mistake, and you do, then it makes it clear that Anna is just saying that to be a jerk. Which... fits her character, but I'd rather there be some other, less hostile, thing for her to say if you did perfectly.



  1. I don't know if you notice comments on older posts, but if you do...

    Halp. I think I'm missing some finer points of this sort of gaming. Moving around while crouched seems to take three arms and I've only got two. Press the button to crouch, the arrow key to move forward... and use the mouse to look around. Or is there some other way to accomplish this? Or am I not actually supposed to be crouching the whole time?

    Also, how, if one is crawling around on the floor, is one supposed to keep track of the guards? Is there somewhere one can watch them from and figure out their routine?

    I'm a bit discouraged that I can't figure out how to get past this. But then, I've always admittedly sucked at games.

    1. I don't know if you notice comments on older posts, but if you do...

      I notice all comments.

      In answer to your questions.

      I've just reinstalled Deus Ex and was fairly surprised to find that there wasn't a crouch mode. So my first thought is out the window. That said, there are other things to say.

      Generally speaking if you crouch behind a crate the guard will walk right passed you, putting you behind them, when you're behind them they can't see you. You can, quite seriously, walk right behind them without them noticing. Running is louder than walking, so you might not want to do that, but here's something I just did that's pretty quick:

      I waited in the stairs until the near guard walked bay twice (that is he was walking back toward the door I want to get through) I was planning on following him to the camo, and grabbing that when he continued further forward, but when he stopped to look in the direction of the camo I got an idea. I ran passed him (behind him) he heard me but didn't see me and so was just on alert instead of running to set the alarm, and I made it through the door.

      Now waiting in the stairs was itself a little tricky because I needed enough of a view to see the guard but not enough for him to see me. So I just had a sliver of a view.

      Now casually walking behind the guard most of the way is probably not what you're expected to do, but staying behind them pretty much is. So, for example, if you hide crouched behind a crate, wait until the guard walks by, and then just move to the other side of the crate so that they won't see you when they turn around, you'll be safe until the walk by again, at which point you can move to the next crate. You know they can't see you because you can see them and they're looking the other way.

      Repeat until you're passed the guards and you can leave.

      It's annoying and time consuming and I hate that part of training too. The way to do things described above, for example, was not from my first try. I got caught a lot.


      But then, I've always admittedly sucked at games.

      I actively encourage cheating. If you have the latest patch, which I don't at the moment, you press t, backspace until it doesn't say “say” anymore, and type “set human bcheatsenabled true” and if that seems like a lot be aware that for years people didn't consider that JCDentonMale was a subclass of human and so had to write “set JCDentonMale bCheatsEnabled true” that enables cheats, then repeat the press t and delete say thing and type “binvisible true” and you can walk right through.

      Just remember to set bInvisible back to false once you're passed the part that forces you into a single play style.

      Oh, also, the window that overlooks the area might give you some idea of how the guards patrol.


      Also of note is that most of the time you'll be in places that have shadows. Now it can be a bit tricky, for me at least, to figure out when that applies because your vision is augmented* so you can see better in shadows than those you'll be up against, for the most part (perhaps for the entire part, I haven't checked) so just because you could see someone in a given shadow doesn't mean that others could see you if you were hiding in it. There are also air vents and multiple approach routes and so forth meaning that stealth isn't usually as annoying as trying to get through this section of training.


      *Which is why JC can wear sunglasses at night. As for why he does, well his eyes are sort of glowing blue, so covering them up is sort of useful.

    2. Thank you! :)

      I expect to spend a lot of time flailing (and failing) early on, but I think the game will be fun anyway.