Having an interactive choose your own adventure style narrative, Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human is not your standard story based point and click game, but a deeply personal experience that intimately touches on a number of mature narratives.
What would you do if you suddenly awoke from a world where everything was so clearly black and white, and emerged into a new one that was filled with nothing but gray? Would you run and hide? Would you fight? Would you stand and speak up? These are some of the many questions Detroit: Become Human introduces to the experience; and no single answer is ever as black and white as it may seem.
In Detroit: Become Human you play as three human-like androids, each with a separate but connected story; and who slowly realize that humanity may not necessarily be exclusively a human trait. Trials and tribulations await these three androids as they make their way through the city of Detroit, across a series of choices you’ll make, that will determine these characters’ successes, failures, and ultimately their lives.
Something’s brewing in Detroit. Is it a bad omen? Maybe it’s that state of mind you can never shake: are you something else, someone else, rather than who they told you are?
"Through Markus’s eyes, all androids should be free — it seems pretty straight forward. But nothing in Detroit is as it seems."
The game immediately opens up in a high-stakes gamble against an unhinged android, holding a child hostage. As the android detective Connor, it’s your job to investigate the scene and stop this deviant android at all cost. I quickly took note how Detroit was no point and click, lightweight adventure you’d see in a standard Telltale franchise. The graphics are heavy, the voices are solid, and the choices you’ll make are almost always consequential, and will sometimes come back to haunt you later on.
After your encounter with the malfunctioning android, it’s up to you, as Connor and his uniquely programmed detective skills, to hunt down other possible androids who may also have somehow gained this virus, which could allow a string of freethinking machines lose upon the world.
Connor is teamed up with his human friend, Lieutenant Hank Anderson, who also wants the deviant androids detained; but Lieutenant Anderson might have a few reservations about how you choose the path you chose. It’s intriguing to see the relationship between these two characters — of man and machine — play out. On one hand you have an android who is determined to right the wrongs of these deviant androids gaining in number throughout the city, and on the other you have a human partner who wants the same thing, but the choices you’ll make along the way in how to get there will change your partnership for better or worse. And with Lieutenant Anderson’s constant roller coaster of a personality, it’s not always clear on what he approves of, making your every decision crucial.
Markus is the second android character you’ll take control of. Markus is a caregiver to an old man who urges his android helper to think for himself, to make decisions that benefit his wellbeing. Eventually, Markus encounters error codes where what’s right, and what he’s programmed to do, collide. Markus then finds himself as a criminal deviant on the run from the law. When he finds his purpose in the world, he becomes determined to find his place. Markus makes it his duty to free other androids from their proverbial shackles and give them meaning rather than oppression, or captivity, or both, as being the voice and leader of the android resistance. Markus has a group of freethinking androids he looks out for and leads; and his choices on how to bring these freethinkers to light must be decided through either peaceful protests or aggressive rebellions.
Through Markus’s eyes, all androids should be free — it seems pretty straight forward. But nothing in Detroit is as it seems. Markus has a community of members who all think for themselves and have their own ideas. What’s right and what’s wrong is subjective and it’s easy to be tugged one way or the other through the pressuring eyes that watch your every move. What message will you leave?
"Which choices are good? Which are bad? It’s hard to determine in a game such as Detroit with every question having influence on people, places, and things."
Lastly, there’s Kara, the homemaker android. Kara watches over a little girl named Alice who is in a mentally and physically abusive household. When Kara breaks free from her programming, she soon finds herself as Alice’s de facto mother, and has to comes to terms that running and finding shelter are the only hopes for Alice to live out a normal childhood free of anguish.
Kara’s journey for a normal life is the most emotional and takes many heavy turns. Will this be the salvation we’re looking for? Can they be trusted? What path will lead us to freedom? Kara’s struggle feels real, and her determination is constantly in flux, teetering between what must be done and what message she wants to send to Alice getting to where they need to go. Kara is a full-spectrum character where I found that fighting was a necessity on achieving my goal to save Alice. Emotionally, Kara is the most diverse and her story can pull on your heartstrings if you allow it. What she must endure to save the girl really reflects the game writers’ talents in ethos and judgements in a world mapped out to fear change.
Which choices are good? Which are bad? It’s hard to determine in a game such as Detroit with every question having influence on people, places, and things. What’s right? What’s wrong? In a world where your vision is no longer under control by a master, everything rapidly becomes gray. You can run, but you’ll lose your home. You can fight, but you’ll lose your supporters. This constant tug of war style story mechanics keeps things interesting, fresh, and always moving. And when each character’s story begins to blend in with another, the true horror of your choices is revealed.
Though you won’t always be satisfied with the outcome, and even going back and changing things can deter your decisions and the game’s predetermined decisions later on, you’ll at least find something new around every corner. I was actually annoyed when I finished my first playthrough. I didn’t go back and change anything, I left it up to chance and hated myself and many of my choices by the time the credits rolled. For being an interactive story-based game, however, there really isn’t a lot to say for twists and turns along the story. There are a couple surprises, but nothing I hadn’t already predicted long before it was revealed.
My biggest problem when coming into games with artificial intelligence that becomes sentient, is “Is it original?” Is this an idea that hasn’t been done before? Can you convincingly make a machine seem real? Those are tough questions, and the answer is: occasionally. Some ideas within Detroit are rehashed from novels, movies, and other games, but don’t let that discourage you from playing. What you choose for a story path, assuming you don’t purposely choose the most mundane option at each branch, should pan out to be an interesting and bumpy ride. I even had edge-of-my-seat moments where I didn’t’t know what my dialog selection would entail. Was I going to get caught and die, or could I somehow get out of this predicament scratch free? Those few and far between moments were exhilarating.
"Ultimately, Detroit: Become Human is a game that most sci-fi fans will want to play. It doesn’t tear the roof down at every turn, but what it does bring is a heartfelt, courageous, and a determined story that allows you to choose how you want your adventure to be told, for better or for worse."
Of course, I did go through some paths where I thought, why did I just choose that option? Those can really mess things up later on for the flow of the story and how it all ends. And there are those moments where I got distracted and I was on a timed decision, where if I didn’t choose fast enough the game would automatically select the default option for me. Those were very annoying. The branching story throughout Detroit is vast and filled with several different routes, which is good because besides choosing a few options and doing a bit of searching and looking around, there isn’t much to gain from it. There’s a magazine to read in each level, but other than that you’ll be wandering around the very linear paths trying to see what you can change to affect the story.
Character in the game are adequate to control but not pleasant. Movement with all characters is sluggish and there’s no way to turn up camera speed. Frame rate is not satisfactory. I was experiencing jitters as I panned the gruelingly slow camera from side to side.
Another annoying aspect I found is that the game never warns you when a irreversible moment will occur, or even hints at what triggers them. Sure, that sounds like fantastic storytelling to always have a spontaneous moment throughout, never knowing what to expect; but when you’re trying to collect as many clues and details to change the story up, clicking on the wrong thing — even if what you clicked on doesn’t seem to have much significance — could trigger a cutscene or irreversible action, causing you to lose a chance to see something that could ultimately change the story forever. I suppose this was a purposeful action so you can’t always be prepared for what’s next, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
The controls for each character are practically the same, except for Connor’s Arkham Knight’s Detective Mode. The right analog stick will be the determining factor on most of your characters’ actions along with some face button interaction, as well. The flips, twists, and turns with the right analog felt good when I needed them, but when I didn’t need them the right analog is also used for camera functionality. This became a hindrance. I’d often find myself in small rooms, or even in large areas, looking around enjoying the scene, seeing what the chapter has to offer; then, if I got too close to a clue while trying to see what else is around, and accidentally triggered the right analog stick, I’d end up executing an action I may have not wanted to do, or wasn’t prepared for. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but having four main face-buttons, two triggers and two shoulder buttons that were rarely used makes using a multitasking analog stick annoying.
Ultimately, Detroit: Become Human is a game that most sci-fi fans will want to play. It doesn’t tear the roof down at every turn, but what it does bring is a heartfelt, courageous, and a determined story that allows you to choose how you want your adventure to be told, for better or for worse. Without much to do besides progress through the story’s branching dialog and going back several times to execute every possible story choice for replay value, Detroit: Become Human is a game for those interested in a deeply engrossing choice-based story.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Dynamic story with tons of choice and consequence options, excellent graphics and voice acting, great replay value.
Frame rate issues, awkward camera, some annoying control mechanics, some of twists are predictable.