Why I love Adam Jensen's troubled apartment

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Adam Jensen lives in the Chiron Building, a block of luxury apartments in downtown Detroit. When you enter, a computerised voices welcomes you home and automatic shutters on the windows rise, causing shafts of golden light to pour through. An atmospheric piece of music by composer Michael McCann—a mournful cello soaring over rumbling synthesizers—begins to play. It’s a beautiful, evocative moment and a glimpse inside the head of the game’s hero.

The stylish fusion of the classical and the futuristic in the music mirrors the decor. Antique furniture shares the space with advanced technology. A candelabrum stands on an ornate coffee table, but with fluorescent strips of light in place of candles. Unpacked boxes and empty liquor bottles are clues that Jensen—who has survived a terrorist attack in which his girlfriend was killed—is having trouble coping. And the smashed mirror in the bathroom suggests that his new mechanical limbs, installed courtesy of Sarif Industries, are causing him just as much emotional turmoil.

Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner is an obvious inspiration. Even the music is reminiscent of the work of the film’s composer, Vangelis. Harrison Ford’s replicant hunter was similarly troubled, and his living space just as dark, moody, and untidy. There are elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Ennis house in the architecture too, a real-world location used as the set for Deckard’s home in the film. Both Jensen and Deckard are hard-boiled protagonists straight out of noir fiction, and like the best noir detectives, the spaces they inhabit provide insights into their brooding characters.

Next to the smashed mirror is a note reminding Adam to talk to the landlady about getting it replaced. Look through Adam’s emails and you’ll find a message from her saying the mirror is on backorder, but access her computer in the lobby downstairs and you discover that it’s been waiting to be picked up for two weeks. This detail is very Deus Ex: a small, optional story that brings a location to life, and a reward for exploring. The bathroom is also littered with boxes of various drugs, presumably a part of Adam’s augmentation process and the recovery from his injuries.

Deus Ex mirror

In Adam’s bedroom, there’s an electronic book on his bedside table entitled The Intelligence Circuit. Written by augmentation pioneer Hugh Darrow, who Jensen meets later in the game, the book talks about ‘deep brain implants’ that can greatly increase the power of the human mind. Jensen clearly has an interest in the field, or perhaps he’s thinking about future upgrades? We also see some ‘get well soon’ cards on a dresser, a sad-looking half-eaten sandwich on a plate, and framed pictures of his late girlfriend with his also-late dog, Kubrick.

If you’re wondering how Jensen, who is basically a security guard, can afford such a lavish apartment, an email from David Sarif’s assistant, Athene Margoulis, reveals all. It refers to a year’s payment of rent for Adam and other Sarif employees who live in the building, courtesy of the company. Being security-minded, Adam also has a secret compartment hidden behind his giant TV, accessed with a code. The stash contains, among other things, a pistol and an armour-piercing upgrade.

Exploring Adam’s apartment makes me wonder why more games don’t let you visit the living spaces of their heroes.

The hidden compartment is a reference to the first game, in which Paul Denton, brother of hero JC, had a similar stash in his room at the ’Ton hotel. Yet Adam is a much more rounded character than JC. There were no insights into his character, or significant glimpses into his personal life—if he even had one. Exploring Adam’s apartment makes me wonder why more games don’t let you visit the living spaces of their heroes. It’s a powerful method of fleshing out, as seen in the austere house of True Detective’s Rust Cohle, or John Doe’s creepy apartment in Seven.

Jensen’s new apartment in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks equally stylish. He still hasn’t learned how to tidy up after himself, and the laser-candelabrum makes a return: this time in a tasteful yellow rather than blue. Jensen may have changed as a character since we last saw him, but his love of tasteful, contemporary lighting apparently hasn’t.

Deus Ex candleabra

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.