Many games are making an effort to approach difficult subjects in a manner that can only be fully explored in a more tactile, interactive manner. That’s certainly been the case for most of Quantic Dream‘s games and its latest is no exception. In this Detroit: Become Human review, we will be looking at the latest Quantic Dream attempt of creating story drive, heavily emotional video games.
|Type of game:||Action Game|
|Total Play Time:||13-14 hours|
|System Requirements:||Playstation 4|
The World of Detroit: Become Human
Reviewing Detroit: Become Human in the same way you would review a typical game is difficult because this game is far more of an interactive story than a typical video game. As such, we’ll be taking a look at the things that really make this game tick – the story, its characters, and its world – rather than the actual mechanics of the game. Detroit: Become Human has received fairly mixed reviews and taking a look at its major selling points might give a good idea as to why the game is so divisive. In this first part of our Detroit: Become Human, we will be looking at the characters and world of this game.
Atmosphere & Location
One of the most surprising things about Detroit: Become Human is the game’s atmosphere. It’d be very easy for a game with this kind of subject matter to be set in the far future, or at least in something more reminiscent of the worlds of Westworld or Blade Runner than in the modern day. Instead, the game is set in a world that’s very much like that of today, just with the date adjusted out by about twenty years. It seems that the only major change is the existence of the game’s key technology, and that’s likely purposeful. The world here serves the underlying moral of the story.
The game does, however, wear its influences on its sleeve. Yes, there’s a lot of Blade Runner here, and Westworld as well. There’s also traces of Star Trek The Next Generation’s Data, the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, and dozens of other famous sci-fi androids. You’d be hard-pressed to find any idea here that hasn’t been discussed, revised, and re-imagined by dozens of authors, directors, and artists over the last fifty years or so. What Detroit does well, though, is combining those stories to explore the nature of what it means to be a person.
Quantic Dream’s tendency to let the player walk in the shoes of multiple characters continues here, with the story allowing players to take control of three different androids over the course of the game. The game itself keeps the stories fairly separate for the most part, so each character’s story feels more like its own isolated bit of the fiction. This isn’t a game like Heavy Rain or even Fahrenheit in which paths constantly cross and the characters end up working at cross-purposes – it’s a game of individual stories in a larger world.
The character that’s most like a typical video game protagonist is probably Connor, the police investigator. Connor’s job is to help hunt down other androids who have gone rogue – very much in line with Blade Runner. He’s a straight-forward ‘good guy’ who can make some big decisions in the game, but he largely seems to exist to highlight some of the larger issues with androids on a government and societal level.
Kara is a house-keeping android, one who is the caretaker for the daughter of an abusive, alcoholic human. After a few developments, players are put in Kara’s shoes as she is forced from a life within the system to a life without. Kara goes rogue or becomes a deviant as the game puts it, and she serves as the player’s window into the psychology of an android who is forced to leave behind her normal life.
The third playable character is Markus, who is the rebel of the group. Though he’s a caretaker, he eventually becomes responsible for some of the larger-scale issues of the game. If Connor is the one who works in the system, and Kara is the one who has been betrayed by the system, Markus is the character who agitates the most for change.
Detroit: Become Human’s story is split into through separate parts, though the three parts do sometimes overlap. It’s a police procedural, a story of survival, and a story of a civil rights movement all in one. If you don’t like one of the stories or characters, though, you’ll still have to play through his or her story in order to experience all the game has to offer. Given that the three stories are so different, though, there is an unfortunate chance that you are going to like one of the three less than the others.
Each story in the game explores a different dynamic. The game’s very much a civil rights allegory, with androids taking the place of different marginalized groups. One works within the system as a police officer, one is a domestic servant, and one is a beloved caretaker. One must deal with institutionalized bigotry while also being tasked with hunting his own people. One must deal with physical and emotional abuse without having any legal recourse. The third must deal with a burgeoning sense of self and a responsibility to a larger community. These are all great stories that could hold down a game on their own, but they are ill-served by being lumped together.
There is a twist in Detroit: Become Human’s story, and it’s not a great twist. It gives the game an antagonist to be sure, but it didn’t need one. Simply exploring the three stories and understanding the broken society of the game probably would have been enough without having to slap on a third-act villain.
Unfortunately, the villain’s actions also have a huge impact on how the stories of the characters end, so failure to deal with the story in one specific way can have a major impact on how the story turns out. As with many of the developer’s other games, it feels like the game was on track to being amazing before failing to stick the landing.
DLC & Expansion Packs
Quantic Dream has an odd relationship with DLC. There was DLC for Heavy Rain, but it was a side-story that didn’t impact the game itself. It very much seems like that might be the case in the future for Detroit: Become Human, but the developer is being very cagey about the possibility of more content in the future. David Cage, who is credited as the primary writer of the story, has stated that there is certain material available for more content but that he’s unsure if he wants to push for DLC or an entirely new game.
It should be noted that the game’s modest performance does make DLC somewhat less likely than it would have been if the game had been a more solid hit. Still, the fact that the developer is still considering it might be a positive sign.
Quantic Dream’s very particular type of game is hit or miss with players. If you enjoy a strong narrative and don’t mind most of the interaction being limited to timed prompts, you might enjoy this game. The story is good and verges on great at times, but it never quite manages to get where it needs to go in order to become a classic.
That’s just one opinion, though, and you might have your own. If you’ve played Detroit: Become Human, you might have thoughts that you want to share about the game. Let us know what you think about the game or of our Detroit: Become Human review by leaving a comment here.