Is it possible for humans to create something that is smarter than us; better than us in every way? Is it possible for that creation to become sentient and equate to what we define as being alive? Detroit: Become Human (DBH), brought to us by Quantic Dream, revolves around story threads that have been done several times before in all forms of media, but I can’t think of one story that does it better. Can an android have a soul? This is definitely a story that will make you think about such things, even if you’re not a believer in the concept of a soul. It is one of the most thought-provoking stories that I have ever had the joy to experience.
The Future: Bleak or Bright?
DBH is set in a very futuristic version of our own world. After being immersed in that world, I couldn’t decide whether or not it was better or worse than what we have now. On one hand, there are self-driving cars and buses and you can buy an android that is capable of being your caretaker, your nanny, or even your lover; all for the price of the smartphone in your pocket. On the other hand, unemployment is at an all-time high, due to the use of androids, and the Earth is beyond the tipping point in regards to global warming and natural resources. The future that is painted in DBH is both bleak and bright at the same time and it is one of the most compelling settings that I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Not only is the setting itself interesting on paper but it is an absolutely stunning sight to behold. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best looking games of this generation. The character models and the environments are expertly rendered and animated down to the smallest details. Quantic Dreams’ past games, such as Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, looked pretty good for their time, but they both suffered from some stiff animations that just didn’t seem to make the characters feel alive. They sometimes seemed to move like robots in my eyes. I find it very ironic that DBH is all about robots, or androids if you will, yet features the most lifelike characters that the studio has ever produced. I was in awe of the visuals from start to finish. Of course, the game looks its best on a PS4 Pro with its checkerboard 4K, but if you’re running it in 1080p or on a regular PS4 you are still in for a treat. The game is gorgeous no matter what you’re playing it on.
The Detroit Trio
DBH focuses on three particular androids to tell its tale; Kara, Markus, and Conner. Kara is a housekeeper model that is constantly abused by her owner, Todd, and it also seems as though Todd is abusing his young daughter, Alice. Upon achieving sentience, Kara decides to take Alice and run away from it all. Markus, who is a caregiver unit, is probably the most pampered and well-off android in the cast; at least at first. Markus belongs to a painter who has always encouraged him to think for himself and to form his own identity. At the beginning of the game, circumstances force Markus to abandon his master and this sets him on a path where he will fight and possibly die to achieve equal right for all androids.
Last, but certainly not least, is Conner. Conner is a special prototype android that works with the Detroit police to capture deviant androids. Deviants are models that have gone against their programming in some way, usually killing or harming a human in the process.
The game forces you to switch between its three protagonists at the end of each chapter. This created a pace that never left me bored and I was always left wondering what was gonna happen the next time I made it back around to any particular character. It also helped that every character in the game was interesting and mostly well written. The script can be pretty heavy-handed at times, but the writing, along with the excellent acting and performance captures, really sold me on the characters that make up this futuristic tale. My only complaint with the narrative is that there isn’t much room for humour. The story is always very serious and when humour is injected into the mix it usually comes off as either silly or dry. I’m not asking for this to be a comedy, but I do feel that it could have used a bit more humour to lighten the mood a bit here and there.
The Decision: Do You Like QTEs?
DBH, much like Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, is as story-driven as a game can be. With its quality actors and film-like choreography, you may feel like you’re taking part in an 11-hour feature film, but this is a video game so there has to be something for the player to do. The backbone of DBH’s gameplay is built around the game’s decision system. If you’ve never played the developers’ past releases, try to imagine it as a Telltale game, or something akin to Until Dawn, but on some serious steroids. Every decision you make, no matter how big or small, will carry weight going forward and your decisions have a profound impact on the way the story develops. Your decisions will define how every character grows and evolves. This decision aspect of the game is done to a much more impressive effect than any other game like this. Every chapter of the game is densely packed with decisions for you to make that lead to branching paths for your story to go down.
I think one of the game’s most interesting features is a flowchart that is presented to you at the end of each chapter (or in the pause screen) that offers detailed information on how things could have gone differently. It doesn’t outright spoil every choice for you, but it allows you to clearly see the path you took and it gives you a good idea of when and where you can do things differently to drastically change the story the next time you replay it. My jaw often dropped at the sheer size of some of these flowcharts. They show that this is easily the biggest and most ambitious game of its kind. The flowcharts also let you compare your decisions with those of other players around the world or with your friends. It was really cool to see that I went down a path that none of my friends had seen yet. I personally think that these flowcharts help boost the replayability of the title. I would have ended up playing the game again no matter what just to see the different decisions, but with all the information provided by the flowcharts, I wanted to dive back into chapters as quickly as I could finish them. Completionists and trophy hunters should get ready to play this game several times in order to see all that it offers.
Outside of all of the decision making, the main things you’ll be doing are exploring the game’s environments and taking part in thousands of quick time events (QTEs). If you’re not a fan of QTEs then you may not enjoy playing DBH. You will use a combination of button presses, thumb stick movements, and motion controls to get through these sections. The motion controls never gave me any issues during my time with the game. They were responsive and worked as they should. The game offers the player with two control schemes; simple and advanced. I toyed around with both configurations and found that the simple control scheme dubbed things down way too much. I highly recommend the advanced configuration; choosing the simple control scheme lowers the chances of experiencing a character death during the story. Part of the fun in DBH is the very real sense of danger and panic you experience when things get rough. If you make a mistake at the wrong time, it could cost you a character. Taking this away just waters down the entire experience. Go with the advanced controls for a better experience.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Another one of the gameplay loops is taking part in detective work as Conner. You will use his special investigative abilities, which let you piece together the events that led up to a crime, as well as gain a special precognitive sense at certain moments in order to help the Detroit Police Department catch the many deviant androids that you will meet along your way to the end. You will always have Conner’s reluctant partner, Hank, by your side during these segments. Hank is a human who isn’t overly fond of androids. He’s extremely rough around the edges, but I found myself enjoying the back and forth between him and Conner. Most of the times that I laughed during the journey involved the relationship between these two characters. Hank is also an excellent example of how the secondary characters are shaped by your decisions. The Hank that I was presented with at the end of the story was a far cry from the man he was at the beginning. It was a stunning transformation that felt like a natural extension to the events of my story.
As a fan of Quantic Dream’s other games, I went into Detroit: Become Human expecting a quality adventure. I didn’t expect it to blow my mind the way it did. It seems to me that David Cage and his team are extremely close to perfecting their gameplay formula. DBH takes everything they’ve ever done and improves upon it. Better characters, better writing, better graphics, and better gameplay hooks help raise DBH to heights that the studio has never seen before. Quantic Dream has never produced a direct sequel to any of their games, but I’m hoping that changes with DBH. I absolutely loved its setting and the story was extremely thought-provoking. I would like to see what happens next, or maybe something that happened prior to the events of DBH. No matter what direction the story would go, this is a world that I want to visit again.
- Drop dead gorgeous graphics
- Captivating setting
- Great characters
- Fun QTEs
- The amount of QTEs may turn some players off