Detroit: Become Human Review- Choices Make Lives Matter

Posted June 4, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Quantic Dream

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Release date: May 25, 2018

Available on: PS4

Developer Quantic Dream, headed by David Cage, is well known for making games where your choices create branching story lines. This was done effectively in both of their PS3 games, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. That trend continues in their first game designed for the PS4, Detroit: Become Human. Once again, choices matter to your characters’ lives, with the result that two people’s playthroughs may be widely different. The branching story lines and multiple endings give the game built-in replayability, though how many times you return will depend on how well you enjoy the game’s story.

Fortunately, the story is well done, though a familiar one to sci-fi fans. Set in the year 2038, the game follows three androids in the city of Detroit. Connor works with the police department, helping to track down deviants (androids who go off their programming). Kara is a domestic who takes a little girl under her wing. Markus works caring for an elderly man, only to become falsely accused of a crime. The three intertwine as androids become self aware and seek to break free from their human masters. It’s a story that should resonate well with fans of Blade Runner and the HBO series Westworld. All three characters are quite likeable, and are well voiced.

The story tackles plenty of heady themes, including whether an AI could be considered alive and therefore should have civil rights, along with slavery, domestic abuse, fear of technology, and the impact on the economy from a legion of robotic workers. Some of the themes are readily apparent, while others are discovered as you explore your environment. There are magazines to read, newscasts to listen to, and, in some spots, observing human/android interactions. Nothing ever feels heavy handed, though some may find some scenes leaning on melodrama. The cast does a great job bringing the characters to life, featuring notable talent like Clancy Brown and Lance Henriksen.

But what about gameplay? Those familiar with previous Quantic Dream titles know what they’re in for, while those new to the developer may be disappointed. Controls are a series of QTEs, though only in combat may the prompts move too quickly for some players. The control scheme has been mostly streamlined from past titles (you don’t need any of the finger gymnastics that were necessary for parts of Heavy Rain), though occasionally there can be some movement issues where your character may walk or spin in circles until you get oriented with the proper camera angle. It’s a minor issue, but one that does pop up from time to time. Exploration is also limited in some areas, as you’ll come up against a barrier that tells you you’re going the wrong way. It makes for often a more linear experience instead of an open world.

Fortunately, the world is quite beautiful to look at. Character models are very well done, with some approaching photorealism. The environments are nicely detailed, and the prompts are easy enough to see. Enhancing the pretty pictures is the terrific musical score. The game also has a very unique menu screen which is worth checking back on between chapters. There’s even an interesting survey to take to see where you’d fall in conjunction with the game’s themes. Since there are multiple endings, you’ll want to do more than one playthrough. These can last anywhere from 8-12 hours, depending on how much you interact with the environments and other characters. It’s often interesting to sit and observe, and on occasion an NPC may take notice of you. Those observations can help inform your choices on how you move forward.

It’s these choices that make up the core of Detroit: Become Human. Some don’t affect things too much, like whether you read any of the magazines or not. Others can profoundly determine the game’s outcome, if a character lives or dies or if you choose to be violent or peaceful. I did two playthroughs for this review, one leaning on more violence and one on a more gentle approach, and as a result my endings were both very different. Each chapter ends with a flowchart denoting your choices. For those trying to 100% every scenario, this is quite helpful in seeing which choices you’ve completed and which you need to unlock. From the flowcharts there looks to be around ten different endings, so it’s easy enough to get your money’s worth. It helps that the choices do carry weight, and that the story is worth revisiting. Definitely do watch through the credits for the final choice.

The choices work well overall in conveying the game’s emotional moments as well as those filled with suspense. Evading detection on the street while trying to escape or trying to make sure you don’t arouse suspicion as a police officer looks around the house you’re in can be very tense affairs. Combat is fast moving, but most should be able to keep up with the button pressings and mashings. Of course, failing does open up a different branch in many scenarios, so those hunting for that platinum trophy may want to purposely screw up these scenes. Once a choice is made, it’s done, save from going back and redoing that specific chapter or playing through the entire story again.

In all, Detroit: Become Human is a fantastic story-driven experience, and is one that can vary wildly based on the choices you make. Choices carry weight, and some are timed, making you arrive at a decision with the risk you may choose poorly. I found several choices that had me between a rock and a hard place, which helped to up the tension. Those who aren’t fans of QTEs or previous Quantic Dream games probably won’t be won over by this one, despite its streamlining of control inputs. Limiting your ability to explore or the occasional movement quirks keep the game from perfection, but didn’t significantly affect my enjoyment. It’s a game that can easily prompt discussions over its themes after playing, and it’s good that players can have very different experiences based on their choices. Detroit: Become Human is well done sci-fi, and that coupled with excellent voice acting makes this well worth checking out.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus