I learned a lot of things while playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I learned that it is always better to stun than to kill (unless I’m fighting a boss battle), I learned that the easiest way to get from a rooftop to street-level anywhere in China is to jump, and I learned that if I run out of juice for my torch, I can slip it a power bar to keep it going. But one of the most unexpected things I learned was what, exactly, a funicular is.
Somewhere around the third quarter of the game, protagonist Adam Jensen sneaks/fights his way through a television station in Montreal. Near the end of the level, Tech specialist Pritchard hops onto his headset to tell him to make his way to “the funicular”. I’m on my second playthrough of the game (I liked the game quite a bit), and the word stuck out to me.
My first thought was that I was accidentally playing Batman: Arkham Asylum and this was some sort of bizarre laugh-based torture chamber devised by The Joker. But nope… that’s techno music, and we’re in an office complex. Definitely still Deus Ex.
Throughout the level, there are all manner of signs with arrows pointing towards this “funicular”, but no pauses to explain what the hell a funicular is. It’s like they all know. I started to feel weird for not knowing. Is this just a word that got taught on the day I was absent from school?
After finding the funicular in the TV station, there is a silly, borderline-broken action sequence wherein Jensen calls the Funicular and has to defend against waves of attackers while he waits for it to come, after which point he climbs aboard and rides it down a few levels and disembarks. There is a very nice view from the Funicular (Future-Montreal has a terrific city park, apparently), but it’s all a bit anticlimactic, especially after so much mysterious buildup.
“Why not just call it a tram?” you may be wondering. Nothing really happens aboard the funicular. Couldn’t it have just been a glass-walled elevator? Granted, there have been funiculars in video games before — Half-Life had a memorable action sequence that took place on one, and Shadow Complex fans will remember the funicular near the start of the game that allowed intrepid players to reach that missile-locked air-duct. Perhaps there was originally going to be an action sequence aboard the funicular, but it was cut due to time constraints? We’ll never know.
I for one am happy that the team at Eidos Montreal went ahead with a less common name — it’s not every day that a video game teaches me a word as enjoyable as “Funicular”. That said, they missed a particularly great opportunity with their incedental dialogue. Here is a real excerpt from the game:
Pritchard: “Jensen. I’ve been tracking your progress through the 3D map. You’re getting close to the funicular.”
Jensen: “Any chance it’s just sitting there waiting for me?
Pritchard: “Where would the fun be in that?”
And… that’s the end of the exchange. Come on, Jensen, you’re just going to let that one pass you by!? Dude lobbed it in there for you! It’s right there… go on… do it…
Jensen: Well, this should put the “fun” in “funicular!”
Sigh. I guess Adam Jensen lacks the pun augmentation.