For the most part, any games that have me making choices that affect story significantly often see me seeking a peaceful resolution despite any events that unfold. In Detroit: Become Human I followed that same destiny throughout most of my playthrough. I was as peaceful as possible for the majority of the game, and after a certain point in the story I said enough was enough and turned violent against the human element. That’s a pretty big compliment in my eyes. The fact that developer Quantic Dream built a story around three androids that shouldn’t feel anything that caused me to ditch my moral compass and side with them says a lot about character development and script design.
Of course, this was on my first playthrough. I’ve finished Detroit: Become Human twice now and it’s clear that the choices players make along the way have significant consequences. Kara can die in what is basically her first chapter severely altering the way the stories play out. Granted, some choices are built to favor a certain outcome like keeping Markus, Kara, and Connor alive. Even when actively trying to make things as chaotic as possible, or as peaceful as possible, the outcomes aren’t always clear or expected.
All three of the characters present put on great performances, helping meld compassion into their journey. Kara is a service android built for maid duties, but quickly begins to care for a small child. Connor is a prototype android created to hunt deviants (androids that begin to question the world around them and their place in it). Lastly, Markus is a home care robot, designed to take care of ill owners. All three of these androids are very well acted by well known actors, Valorie Curry, Bryan Dechart, and Jesse Williams, respectively. The three actors, despite playing androids, bring a sense of believability into their parts that help sell themselves and beings that just want their own place in the world.
Despite how well the three main characters interact and are played, some of the dialogue and interactions fell flat. No matter how nice I tried to be to some of the characters, they still ended up hating androids. Some of the extrapolated backstories helped explain a bit of it, but there were some tonal difficulties with certain characters that didn’t make sense. Choices that players make will affect not only how the world perceives androids, but can have direct implications on the personal relationships of our trio of characters. I spent a lot of my first playthrough trying to stay in as positive a light as I could with most of the supporting cast, but players will find it near impossible to please everyone, especially when trying to get the most out of other relationships.
The story ultimately boils down to a massive “what if” scenario. What if androids developed consciousness, feelings, and desires? While the story is very compelling and deep, it is marred by a few logical leaps in storytelling. The biggest one involving Markus. After Markus begins to think for himself, after a certain point he gains an ability that allows him to make other androids deviant. This goes against the main point of Detroit: Become Human’s focus where most of the androids must break that wall on their own.
The way the story is told is a marvel too. Since Detroit: Become Human follows three different characters, it would be easy to follow one character for too long over the ten to twelve hour story. Thankfully, all three stories are told in segments and no one character overstays their welcome. These stories eventually intertwine depending on character choice, and push and pull apart at various moments.
Detroit: Become Human also has a pretty cool feature where at the main menu the main menu host android asks the player to participate in a few surveys. These have no bearing on the game, but I did them anyway and was then able to compare my answers to other players around the world. One of the questions had to do with who players’ favorite character was between the three main androids. I answered Kara. I like Valorie Curry a lot as an actress, and while Jesse Williams did do a great job playing Markus, Kara’s story felt a lot more intimate than the others. I connected more with Kara, even though other players can have such vastly difference experiences that each choice can change who they connect with.
Visually, Detroit: Beyond Human is absolutely stunning. The amount of detail on each character and in the world surrounding them is almost unparalleled. This level of detail brings players into the world, and connects players to the characters they are controlling. Not just the detail, but the visual fidelity and motion capture performance technology that Quantic Dream has on hand allows for some pretty powerful performances from the characters that makes players feel like they’re living in the world of Detroit. The world created here feels very alive as well. Protestors and preachers yell on the street, graffiti litters the wall of less affluent neighborhoods, and people come and go out of scenes with their androids. This is a dark vision of Detroit, and magazines and conversations really bring the history of the city to life.
Because this is a Quantic Dream game, Detroit: Become Human does follow a pretty specific path. There are more set pieces to observe however, and because of the sheer amount of variations in story-telling, it still managed to feel more open and honest than Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls before it. QTE’s are still present, and they feel about the same as the previously mentioned titles. Actions sequences still worked really well, even if they don’t have the same level of immersion as other titles. The final QTE fight was especially great, even if the ending I got at the time felt a little bit abrupt. The only thing that felt frustrating was that I never felt like I could really lose a fight. Some of the fights sequences moved pretty quickly, and I missed a couple of the QTE inputs, but nothing really came of it. Markus and Connor didn’t seem phased, and while the animation was different, I felt like I had to really try to lose a fight to make it happen.
My favorite thing that Quantic Dream implemented in Detroit: Become Human was a flowchart. The flowchart updates as players make important decisions in each chapter, and each of the branching choices it affects. It even makes a note of any decision that has a cross chapter impact. This was especially interesting to me when at the end of the chapter it allowed me to view the percentage of people who made the choices I did. This was a pretty great feature I don’t remember being in any of Quantic Dreams previous titles that was a welcome addition here.
Detroit: Become Human doesn’t stray from the Quantic Dream formula, but it does make some pretty great advances in interactive storytelling. The sheer amount of choice and variation was pretty overwhelming after my first playthrough where I wanted to experience the story in my own way. If there is one thing Detroit: Become Human has going for it, it’s player choice. The smallest decision might not have a large change in the story, but instead allows players to accomplish tasks via a different path. Some tonal deafness doesn’t help large logical jumps that Detroit: Become Human expects players to buy, but there are enough differences that players will want to go through the story at least a couple of times.
Detroit: Become Human is available now for Playstation 4. This review is based on a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.
Detroit: Become Human
- Beautifully realized world.
- Compelling cast of characters.
- Newly implemented flowchart of choices.
- Choices have deep implications to storyline.
- Some tonal deafness.
- Occasionally heavy-handed storytelling.
- Logical leaps.