Detroit: Become Human is the latest offering from studio Quantic Dream, known for interactive story games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. While Heavy Rain received universal praise across the board upon its 2010 release, Beyond: Two Souls paled in comparison, containing a sloppy narrative, lack of permadeath, and hardly impactful choices. Detroit: Become Human rights the wrongs of that game, but not without a few missteps.
Set 20 years in the future, Androids are the hottest product around. They look like humans, act like humans, and most recently have taken up human emotions. These particular Androids are called Deviants, and they’re sweeping the nation. You play as three Androids: a servant named Kara, a revolutionary named Markus, and a detective named Connor. Connor is a special model created with the sole purpose of solving the mystery behind what makes Androids turn Deviant. Connor’s segments stand out in that you use his detective programming to solve Deviant-related crimes. It doesn’t require much thinking from the player, but it’s possible to miss pieces of evidence that could help progress the case and unlock an additional story path. Unlike the other two characters, Connor will not die permanently as there are multiple copies of him. However, there are still consequences to losing him.
Markus is the leader of a group of Deviants who just want to be free. Whether or not you decide to tackle these issues violently or peacefully is up to you. Kara on the other hand has a very straightforward objective: to escape the country with Alice, the daughter of Kara’s abusive owner. Like most interactive story games, the actions of each character will affect how the stories of the the others turns out. This is what was missing from Beyond: Two Souls, since you only played as one character. And since Markus and Kara can die permanently, it makes certain choices and quicktime events feel all the more stressful.
Writer and Director David Cage took two years to write the script for Detroit: Become Human, and it shows with the detailed lore and hundreds of possible branching paths. Every time you complete a chapter, it shows the path you took and the paths you didn’t. It’s clear that the game urges you to play multiple times to witness other possible outcomes. While David Cage is known for his skill of creating multi-layered interactive stories, subtlety is not one of his strong suits. The Android resistance can be compared to the Civil Rights Movement and the many protests that occur today to combat racism, so much so that the story puts Androids in the back of the bus, people complain that Androids took their jobs, and the words “Android Lives Matter” are said at one point. You could argue that subtetly isn’t always necessary in writing, but when the characters constantly remind you of how important your choices are, you would ask them to take a step back. Not to mention some of the dialogue comes off rather hoakey, but fortunately not as much as Cage’s previous games.
This could be thanks to the cast made up of experienced actors such as Valorie Curry, Jesse Williams, Clancy Brown, and other actors you may have seen in supporting roles in film and television. Some actors however are clearly European and couldn’t hide their accents well enough. The high quality motion capture and beautiful graphics engine helped their performances shine, even though we still haven’t figured out how to get the eyes right just yet. Despite the story’s blatant flaws, I was more than interested enough to keep going and figure out just how it ends.
As a game, Detroit: Become Human feels clunky. Walking around and controlling the camera feels very stiff and interacting with the environment doesn’t always happen when you want it to. Fortunately you’ll be spending about 90% of the game going through dialogue options and quicktime events for it to even matter, and those moments work well when the motion controls and touchpad aren’t involved. Come on guys, are we seriously still using the touchpad? Move on.
In the end, Detroit: Become Human combines the best of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls to create what might just be the best game under Quantic Dream’s belt. That said, it’s far from perfect and probably won’t be the PS4’s best exclusive this year. David Cage really needs to learn how to master the art of subtlety. Social commentary is more than welcome in video games, just please do it right. Despite those criticisms, I couldn’t help but enjoy the crazy ride Detroit: Become Human took me on through its detailed branching path system. I’m extremely eager to to begin my second playthrough!