We’re reviewing Quantic Dream’s latest Playstation exclusive adventure, Detroit: Become Human. After Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, this is another cinematic adventure – but the first one that’s been built from the ground up for Playstation 4.
I remember Detroit: Become Human from when it wasn’t even a game yet. Quantic Dream had a tech demo in place that showed off an android’s face displaying emotions, if I remember correctly. It was their first showcase of what they could do on Playstation 4, and it’s what eventually morphed into what Detroit is today. The timing’s pretty good too – it comes not too long after last year’s Blade Runner: 2049, which deals with similar themes and was a fan favorite despite not doing as well at the box office and award shows as some had hoped.
Of course there are plenty of other examples too – the original Blade Runner – as well as the pretty decent adventure game adaptation of the movie by Westwood (who still has the CD-ROM version of that?). There’s also I, Robot, and of course the Philip K. Dick novel that inspired a lot of these movies and games: “Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?”. It’s probably clear that I’m a fan of the subject matter, and I went into Detroit: Become Human with high expectations because of it.
What distinguishes human from androids is at the core of Detroit, as you play through the narratives of three different androids who are all affected by the social tensions that arise from this dilemma. It’s interesting that the game ponders this question from the android’s perspective – because after all, if they’re molded after their human counterparts in every way that their creators could, then how do they not feel emotions – or even have souls?
In what’s definitely not a first in popular culture, androids are looked down on by human in Detroit: Become Human. There’s quite a bit of xenophobia at work here, perhaps echoing some of today’s political climate as well. But rather than explore these topics on a grand scale, Detroit focuses on more personal, or even more human, stories.
The androids in the world of Detroit: Become Human nearly all “live” to serve – which makes humans respect them less, almost as if they’re mindless slaves. They’ll toss garbage at them, expecting it to be cleaned up – yet at the same time there’s a group of activists that paints the androids as invaders who are there to take their jobs.
As with Quantic Dream’s last two games, there’s a classic adventure game vibe to the game, where you investigate scenes in order to gain clues – which in turn give you more conversational options that push the narrative forward or in different directions. Controlling androids means you have the ability to use a few non-human traits as well in your adventures – you can analyze an option’s chance of success, or use your built-in field test kit when you play as Connor, an android cop.
Detroit’s two other main characters are Kara and Markus, and both are very human stories where you, as an android, embody some sort of humanity as their instrument of free will. Your choices give color to their emotions, as well as steer the behavior of the humans they interact with – in essence, you as the player have to make them “become human”. This is done especially well within Markus’ story arc, as Kara’s can be a little too caricature-like and over the top at times.
As you discover that scenes can be steered in different directions through your choices in conversations, you’ll quickly realize this is a game you’re meant to play again in order to see how different it can turn out. It doesn’t implement this system as well as the Life is Strange titles do, and I wasn’t tempted to jump right back in at the end. I can see myself returning at some point in the future and starting the entire story over again though, even if it’s just to see what happens in certain key scenes when I play them differently.
As is the norm with Quantic Dream titles, Detroit features several sequences in which you’ll need to use your controller in a slightly different way. Yes, there are Quick Time Events once again, but there’s also a nifty little feature where swiping on your DualShock’s touchpad will echo your movements on an in-game touch screen.
If you enjoyed Quantic Dream’s previous games, you’ll no doubt enjoy Detroit: Become Human. If you’re into the subject matter of movies like Blade Runner and I, Robot, you’ll most likely enjoy Detroit just as well. It’s a solid adventure that hasn’t shaken off the shortcomings of its developer’s previous games, but it does showcase their talent for cinematic storytelling. The visuals are amazing, the audio is wonderful and the acting, in most cases, also hits the mark. It’s a familiar formula with familiar faults, but nonetheless enjoyable.