(This review is based on one playthrough of Detroit: Become Human.)
The initial announcement of Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human was met with a mixed response. Some were excited to see what the game’s writer and director David Cage would do next while others immediately dismissed it as another attempt at advancing a genre that had gone as far it could. Detroit: Become Human may initially appeal to a niche audience, but its memorable characters and interactive story will please any gamer.
Detroit takes place in a near future where androids serve humans as housekeepers, workers, security guards, and a variety of jobs. Androids have recently begun acting strangely and disobeying humans. These “deviants” seem to want to live on their own. You play as three androids: Connor, a detective who is tasked to hunt deviants, Marcus, a caretaker to a famous painter, and Kara, a housekeeper android.
The characters in Detroit are the highlight. Connor has a childlike curiosity and an innocent naivety that make him instantly likable, Marcus is determined and idealistic, while Kara longs for a better life for her and the child she watches over. All three of them have the same internal struggle about identity and self worth.
Detroit is a game about choices and whether you prefer to shoot first and ask questions later or a more diplomatic approach is up to you. This is also where the writing shines. I played Marcus as having a single minded vision and wanting to achieve his goal one way. Marcus’ tenacity comes through in the writing and would have been just as obvious if I had played in the exact opposite manner. This is clear in the other two characters. Connor progressed over the course of the game as he got to know his new partner Hank, while Kara remained steadfast even though my choices were all over the map.
The player is able to become close to the characters due to the strong voice acting. Detroit’s story is not original and could quickly become boring but the voice acting never allows this to happen buy giving every line meaning. Scenes receive more gravity without ever being overbearing. The entire cast does a great job with Bryan Dechart as Connor standing out.
The three leads also do a great job of making the story meaningful. Connor’s and Kara’s struggles and Marcus’ fights are not untold stories but are still easy to care about. The amount of player control is perfect as the game asks you to make key decisions without forcing the player to do every minute detail or leaving them out for too long. This makes you a part of the story and not just a passive viewer.
One of the main complaints about David Cage is how little gameplay his games offer. Detroit solves this by having less quick time events and more interaction. Connor can analyze crime scenes and reconstruct past events while Marcus can evaluate his options ahead of time and calculate what the best option is. There are also timed events that are tense and allow you to work at your own pace. There are still QTEs but they are not as intrusive.
One new bit of gameplay that is very innovative is the game will sometimes have characters interact with each other and which gives the player the sense that they are talking to themselves. This is ingenious since the central premise of the game is self discovery. The main title screen may be the most clever one ever and I became closer to Chloe than any other character.
The main grievance with Detroit is it shoe horns social commentary into its story. This is an odd complaint since androids have always symbolized oppressed members of society. This is not the first piece of fiction where android “slaves” have revolted against their human “masters.” The methods characters enact change is up to the player and does not serve any apparent agenda. An argument can be made that Quantic Dream’s android uprising story is cliched, but it never feels forced.
Detroit: Become Human does have a basic story, but the gameplay is fun and the characters are endearing. The player is given difficult choices that have far reaching consequences. The graphics are amazing and the game is an emotional roller coaster for androids and players alike.