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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Urban Chaos Riot Response
An alternate interpretation based on the thin narrative, which may venture into Fridge Brilliance or Fridge Horror. There are a number of sinister and unsettling clues throughout the game that Nick Mason is not squarely on the side of righteous good, but is instead unwittingly The Dragon for the city in a power struggle with Shift-It. This point of view takes the morality of the game from black and white to grey and gray, and moves the Crapsack World straight into Dystopia territory. To wit:
  • See narm entry on the YMMV page. The RoboCop feel of the between-mission newscasts is too similar to the original to be an accident.
  • A number of disturbing allegations are made against the city mayor and your (Mason's) commanding officer, including torture of arrested gang members and the founding and training of the gangs in the first place. Towards the end of the game, these allegations suddenly disappear; explained as lies from an "activist" in a bizarre plot to make himself mayor. This might be scapegoating when you consider the detail involved (the mayor and your CO as former military buddies), and:
    • Your CO's complete lack of regard for human life as it relates to the burners. He delights in their grisly deaths throughout the game (and in the opening cinematic, no less!) and your objectives for headshots on gang members are always twice that of non-lethal takedowns.
    • The mayor's approval ratings are very low after spending millions on T-Zero and having no use for them. After the burners start terrorizing the city and T-Zero is put to use, the mayor's approval ratings are back up by the end of the game. It's possible the burners were created and trained just for this purpose, and then hijacked by power-hungry Shift-It executives in a genuine plot to seize control of the city. The burners' immense number of members, unlimited supply of military weaponry and use of municipal structures like subways and sewers for bases of operations suggests a support structure larger than a single corporation could handle alone.
  • In between story missions, Mason is sent on secret VIP rescue missions. These VIPs are described as "vital to the city's survival" with no further explanation, and the mission is described as needing to remain secret (and thus, solo). In addition, upon completing the missions the player is given permanent access to "non-approved" weapons that are much more damaging and deadly than the starting weapons, including an assault rifle with an attached grenade launcher. Several VIPs also promise to have the mayor reward you when rescued.
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