No matter how saintly you play, it's tough to ignore a dialogue option labelled 'CRUSH.' Rarely a lunchtime goes past that I don't ache to CRUSH the self-service checkout machines in Boots. Selecting it here made Adam launch into a systematic takedown of all anti-augmentation terrorist Zeke held dear. He didn't react well to me calling his eyepatch stupid, waving his weapon around and hugging his hostage harder. I backed off from that avenue of verbal attack, and chose instead to 'reason' with him. Look, I said, spreading my terrifying robo-arms to look less threatening. I knew he was a noble man, caught up and betrayed by forces bigger than he. A few back and forths, and I'd convinced him of his folly. But still, Zeke was certain he needed to keep his hostage to avoid the firing squad waiting outside. I had one chance to dissuade him of this, and gambled it on another 'reason' dialogue tree.
It worked. Zeke saw sense, and jabbed the hostage forward. I let him disappear off into the night, and gained the jeers of the SWAT team who had been forced to wait for my arrival. In their eyes, I'd turned up late, huffing and puffing, before letting the orchestrator of a terrible massacre go. When they put it like that, I sound fucking useless. But I've got giant robo-arms and sunglasses that flip onto my eyes when I think about sunglasses. What have they got? Big stupid faces, all of them. Let them jeer. Sure, eight people are dead, but I finished the mission without firing a bullet, and I used my words to defuse an execution. Who needs guns when I've got a silver tongue?
As soon as I could, I upgraded that tongue. There's only one dedicated social augmentation in the game, and I'd managed to earn the Praxis to activate it after completing a few sidequests. I'd been pottering around the streets of Detroit since installing it, chatting to prostitutes with the enthusiasm of a schoolchild who doesn't understand why the nice ladies are standing on a street corner. They professed their cheap rates, but none of them offered any extra dialogue options. In my haste to experience all of the game, I'd already mined out a chunk of the city's meatier conversations before awakening my new ability, and the aug only comes into play during important chats.
Walking sadly away from the hookers, I spied an open door. On the other side was an ex-cop turned security guard, a friendly fellow who I'd leant on earlier. He ended up handing out some useful information – letting me know where to look for vital evidence in working out how my ex-girlfriend died in the assault that blew off my arms. But helpfulness wasn't enough. He'd also mentioned he knew the code for a secure lockbox full of goodies. Problem was, he was the only one who did, outside of the shadowy bad dudes covering up Megan's murder. If anyone were to access the box, those same bad dudes would do bad dude things to my security guard chum. Never, he swore, would he give up that information. It might kill him.
That sounded like a challenge made for my new “convince people to do things they said they'd never do because it might kill them” aug. I wasn't sure what I expected it to do – maybe let Adam talk so fast he shatters the skull of his conversational adversary? Instead, it made smells. Pheromones, to be exact.
Mid-chat, I was prompted to 'press Z to activate pheromones.' I duly pressed the button, and released my gas. A meter appeared in the top left, three pips next to gauges marked 'alpha', 'beta', and 'omega'. The standard dialogue options were gone, replaced by a set of conversational principles more abstract: things like the 'CRUSH' I'd used against Zeke, each annotated with a small description of their effectiveness against certain personality types. As my mark talked, the meter's pips filled up with light: two in alpha flashed on as he talked about his duty, replaced by one in omega as he warned me against pressuring him any further on the topic of the stash.
Our conversation was pockmarked with these little blips, enough that it was difficult to keep up. I'd expected the social aug to allow an auto-win in dialogue, but it goes beyond that, creating a mini-game in itself. After the security guard had finished nattering, I chose an option. Broadly, Alphas are strongmen, confident and bullish. Betas are more reserved, and unsure of themselves. Omegas are insecure, but hide it with bluster and threats. I'd lost track of the pips, but I still had my human ability to read a personality. The security guard had once been a cop, and was still doing the right thing in aiding me: I figured he'd respond well to some alpha ego-stroking.
“Don't try that shit on me, Jensen, I can see right through it.” I backtracked quickly, trying to extricate the code from him. No dice. Even with the social sectors of Adam's brain whirring at triple normal speed, conversations were still fluid affairs that could be 'lost.' I briefly toyed with an approach more in line with Tom's , but had neither the strength, nor a fridge in hand to hurl full-force at the security guard's face. I let him keep his secret, and trudged out into the Detroit night.
I was keen to use my newfound talky powers again, and didn't have to wait long. After the hostage rescue mission, Jensen's charged with making his way into a police station. There's a range of entry points: a vent on the roof, a ladder in the sewers, a side-alley. I chose a simpler route, and waltzed straight in the front door. It was guarded by one man only, but moving past him unauthorised would bring the full force of the Detroit PD down on my augmented ears. I had to talk my way past. Time to get gassy.
I released my pheromones early in the conversation with the cop behind the desk, but I didn't have to. Turns out he was an old colleague of Jensen - who himself spent his earlier life as a SWAT team member in the motor city - and both had been involved in an operation that went horribly wrong. Players without the social aug can read the scenario using their pathetic, unaugmented human brains and still talk their way in, but my mental additions made the process simpler. As well as the return of the alpha/beta/omega pips, initiating the conversation also brought up a wavering line on a graph. When I selected options the cop chimed with, the line would go up; when I pissed him off, it would drop, giving me constant feedback on how my vocal gambits were paying off.
It started badly. It becomes apparent that Jensen's SWAT team had killed an augmented kid during a job, and the man behind the desk had pulled the trigger. My opening line was too vicious, excoriating the man for his stupidity, and had I mentioned how ugly his face and wife both were? He didn't like that, and his meter dropped. Quickly, I changed tack, offering soothing platitudes. That went down better, but he'd heard hollow sympathy before. My third approach worked best. From the dialogue, I'd got an overview on the man: he didn't want support or abuse, he wanted to be able to justify what he'd done to himself. I reasoned with him, suggesting that the augmented kid he'd shot was a genuine threat, arguing he did the job he was trained for. Absolved of some guilt by an ex-superior officer, his wavering brain-line shot up to the top of the meter, and he let me in. I didn't necessarily agree with what I'd said, but the social aug had let me genuinely manipulate the poor guy. I'd have told him that his hair was beautiful and we should run away together and have little robo-babies if it got me what I wanted. Feeling equal parts cruel and cool, I sauntered onto the police station's open-plan floor.