Detroit: Become Human Review
The year is 2038, and humanity has reached a critical stage of technological advancement. Androids are now part of our every day lives, helping and serving, but after many unfortunate events, some androids seem to have taken matters into their own hands.
Detroit: Become Human is the latest interactive cinematic adventure experience developed by Quantic Dream and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 4. It was released worldwide on 25 May 2018, and has already gotten highly positive feedback. Quantic Dream was very secretive about their new project, and merely teased us for a while with “Project Kara” as their tech demo. Little did we know, at the time, that this was more than a mere tech demo. The developers put a lot of effort into setting the scene for us, by visiting Detroit in Michigan, and the script took over two years to complete. Much inspiration for this game was taken from Ray Kurzweil’s video “The Singularity Is Near” which explains and compares the rate at which human intelligence develops to that of machines, and could become dangerous. What are your thoughts?
Androids Make Choices
The story of Detroit: Become Human revolves around three androids specifically, namely; Kara, Connor, and Markus. Each of these Androids have stories that take place at the same time. I will not spoil the story or the events that take place with these characters, but I will make reference to the Demo that was released. We were fortunate to play as Connor in the Demo, and you will be happy to know that the first chapter in Detroit is the very same level from the Demo, which gives you a chance to choose the path you felt was the best in the Demo and continue from there. Now, as seen in the demo, the danger of Androids who disobey and go against their programming becomes a prevalent issue. These androids are referred to as Deviants. A Deviant will “deviate” from it’s original instructions if it experiences something shocking that causes them to defend either themselves or others who are being treated unfairly or violently. In cases like with the Demo, a Deviant is a bad thing, and in other cases perhaps not so bad. This is the main theme of the game, and it is up to you to decide what will happen with the androids.
I like to describe these games as an interactive cinematic experience, because even though you are playing a game, there are a lot of cutscenes that you are treated to, but instead of merely watching, you can interact as the cutscene progresses, choosing what your character will say or do in specific scenarios depending on how you want to play the game. What I really enjoy about this game is that you find good and bad in both “factions”. Not all humans, or androids, are good, or bad, and sometimes good intentions will lead to bad actions. Quantic Dream is skilled at putting you in the middle of moral decisions, and those decisions are what drives the direction of the game. Every chapter contains crucial moments that will ripple into future chapters, which means that this game has a plethora of outcomes that can be explored. Once you’ve finished a chapter, you are able to go back to revisit any previously played chapter and explore different outcomes, but it is recommended by the developers, and even myself, that you play the story to completion once, and then go back afterwards to find the other outcomes, unless you pressed a button you didn’t mean to, so that you can enjoy the experience properly.
It’s quite refreshing being able to play from an android’s perspective. This gives you quite a few perks, and one of the first that you are able to play around with being able to process events occurring in a single second. By pressing R2 when you are in free-roam, everything stops moving and you are able to process your surroundings in order to find the objects you are able to interact with, and to view your objectives. Once you exit, you are able to free-roam once again and interact with the objects you saw in your previous view. We once again get to experience the unique interactive experience that was provided in games like Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, where opening a door isn’t done by simply pressing a button. You need to shift the right joystick to the right and then spin it counter-clockwise. Sometimes opening a window will be a combination of shifting the right joystick upwards, and then lifting the PS4 Controller. This happens a lot during our ventures, which really is unique to this genre of game. It still feels like you’re interacting with the game a lot more than you really are, and during the moments where you aren’t interacting, the game has drawn you in to the story so well that you don’t realise you are playing a game. It’s like you’ve become the director of a movie that has quite a few endings scripted out, and your challenge is to get the ending you consider to be the best one.
There is an unpredictable element to the controls sometimes, which presents a unique challenge every now and then. I find this presents the player with a fresh interactive experience in every chapter. You never know what action will be required because there are so many different ways to go about things. Whenever a scene ramps up and becomes more jam-packed with sudden changes, and you find yourself needing to adhere to the Quick-Time Events, you can be sure that you’ll be panicking to hit the right button at the right moment. You experience the same panic that your character must be going through. Press the right button in order for your character to do what is necessary in order to… SURVIVE! Most QTEs meant life-or-death, which can get your heart racing as you sit upright and at the edge of your seat to not lose focus. A mistake or two during the QTEs isn’t going to destroy your chances, but if you get many consecutive mistakes, then you’re in real danger. One thing is for certain in this game, be prepared for anything! The only advice I will give to you is that it is good to try and interact with as many objects as possible, because you never know what might come in handy unless you actually explore the environment before progressing the story, unless there is a time-issue, like there was in the Demo. Later on you will need to choose how the androids are going to deal with their new “deviation” to unite with humanity. Are you going to take a Violent approach, or be a Pacifist. Which methods will you use to bring about peace between humans and androids?
A Beautiful Futurescape
From the very moment I launched the game, I was greeted by some of the most amazing visuals I’ve ever seen. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Chloe, your out-of-game assistant who speaks to you whenever you have launched the game, exited the story, or choose a new menu item. She even speaks to you every now and then if you have the Starting Screen open for a long time. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you if you decide to get this game, but she surprised me on more than one occasion, sometimes even astonished me. I’ve suddenly become paranoid that there is an A.I. that has hijacked my PlayStation 4. After her interaction with you, she returns to her usual non-chalant android-self, but as the game progressed, I noticed some changes in her. That aside, once in the game, you get bombarded even further with beautifully crafted sceneries of a futuristic Detroit, with many people who are still facing many issues, except that androids are now being put into job positions which kicks other people out of theirs. This naturally causes further aggression against androids in general, even though it’s very similar to when automated machinery replaced certain work positions in factories years ago, and just like before, these workplaces, or even governments, don’t put in measures to assist these people. The aggression and blame gets put onto an easier target.
Accompanied by these scenes is the evocative soundtrack, boasting of a beautifully composed music score that helps immerse you into whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. Truly speaking, whenever a heart-wrenching scene comes up, you can be sure that the music will complement it, and not comfort your reaction whatsoever. There was even a scene where I found myself feeling major shock and disbelief at the horror on the screen, accompanied by the music that emphasised the harrowing scene. The sound design of Detroit: Become Human was done brilliantly well, and coupled with the graphics, is a scene to behold. Quantic Dream has also outdone themselves with the motion capture system they used. The characters, even though still being video game characters, look like they have truly identifiable human qualities, especially when it came to the eyes (pay close attention to the eyes!) Speaking of actors, the cast of Detroit: Become Human is an impressive one, and I even found myself being pleasantly surprised by one actor in particular. Clancy Brown joins the cast as Connor’s detective partner, Hank. When I saw him on the screen, I could barely recognise him under all the hair, but when he spoke, I was certain. Other lead actors include Valorie Curry (Kara), Jesse Williams (Markus), and Bryant Dechart (Connor).
With all these elements; A great cast, impressive motion capture tech, talented technical developers, an insane budget, and brilliant composers, Detroit has a lot going for it. I feel the high aspirations that Quantic Dream had, were met, and even though I had some difficulty navigating the characters every now and then, eg. getting Kara or Connor to move behind a table when they were stopped by an imaginary wall, I still thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The game has a lot of things to address with all the themes in the game, dealing with things like slavery, domestic abuse, oppression, segregation, poverty, drug abuse, and a lot more “real world themes” that a lot of other games are too scared to address. It feels like Quantic Dream is trying to send out a message with this game, aside from the question about whether androids would be a good or bad thing. The androids often seem to be more human than robot, especially Connor, who has on many occasions been referred to as the “most advanced prototype”. I have a lot to say about what he is and “isn’t” able to do, but in my honest opinion, when playing as the other androids who are learning to “become more human”, every choice I gave the characters came from my perspective as a human. My moral compass dictated what an android should do. This is in and of itself a whole ‘nother topic that can be discussed, but in my opinion puts the game in a whole different class, which I really enjoy.
Here’s a scary thought – In 5 years, this could already become a reality. Androids are already being developed, and we’re already dealing with the early stages of artificial intelligences that we’ve see in movies, eg. Alexa, Siri, Google, etc. Slowly but surely we’re being prepared to be accustomed to what is coming. In the lore of the game, it was said that the first android was brought out in public in 2022, and it’s quite a possible estimate.
Detroit: Become Human has far outweighed my initial expectations, and has further impressed me by how brave it is for tackling morally demanding themes such as poverty, slavery, domestic abuse, general violence, etc. I have always enjoyed story-driven games that depends on your choices to bring about the ideal outcome, and Detroit boasts more than 40 endings! A single playthrough can take you 10-12 hours, and Quantic Dream says it can take around 40 hours to get every ending. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I heard that number, which only made me more determined to get the best possible ending. Coupled with this is the incredible graphics provided not only by the talented 3D Modelers, but also the motion capturing technology that was used. The detail to the eyes and eye movement drew my attention the most in the game. The story pulls you in from the onset and only has you wanting more the further you go. The game has not left me dissatisfied, leaving the debate that it encourages open for people to decide. Regardless of this debate, the game itself is impressive and I recommend it! You can get your own copy, at the time of this review, from BTGames for R825.00, which is surprisingly lower than I initially expected.