David Cage’s latest is as spectacular and groundbreaking as you would expect from the visionary game director.
We have already covered Detroit: Become Human in a previous hands-on session we had with the game, and having played a bit more, we are happy to report it only gets better the longer you devote to it.
It’s 2038 in Detroit, Michigan. Androids featuring advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems are commonplace in society, whether they’re workers, assistants, or public service officers. In Detroit: Become Human (DBH), you play as one of three different androids. Kara is a house maid that serves a father and his daughter. Markus helps out his elderly owner around his home, doing chores and assisting with his mobility. Connor is a specially commissioned android, created to help the protective services currently tracking down Deviants; androids that have gone rogue and ‘deviated’ from their programming.
From the very beginning, DBH makes it clear that David Cage’s vision for the future is one his team at Quantic Dream deems likely to eventuate: “This is not just a story – this is our future.” Androids are becoming ‘Deviant’ and ignoring their programming, performing tasks of their own free will, and you must play through each of the three characters’ storylines to find out what’s causing it, and what, if anything, can (or should) be done to stop it. As a result, the game raises a lot of moral dilemmas, and existential questions. What is a ‘soul’? What does it mean to be alive? You’ll be consulting your resident psychologist in no time.
“This is not just a story – this is our future.”
As an android, you navigate Detroit: Become Human‘s world as any normal human would, but with an enhanced experience. As Connor, for example, you have the ability to analyse blood and fingerprint samples of people on the fly, giving you an advantage over your human colleagues. The controls are brilliant and simple; you move around using the left stick, and interact with objects by moving the right stick in a designated direction – for example flicking down to bend down. The face buttons are mostly used as different dialogue options when having a conversation, and occasionally in quick-time events (QTEs) – which don’t occur very often, we might add. You can scan your environment and see your current objectives at any time using R2, and realign the camera with R1.
DBH also makes excellent use of the DualShock 4’s more underused components; the touch pad, the gyroscope, and the inbuilt speaker. The speaker, for example, is often used for audio that’s transmitting closer to you, on a tablet or a television nearby. The gyroscope is also occasionally used in QTEs, but is generally employed as a way to convey your android is moving their whole body – shoving open a door, or climbing up on a ledge for example. The touch pad’s interface is brilliant. Your android will often need you to use the touch pad to control what their hands or fingers – Kara at one point uses it to wash the dishes. It’s nice to see the team have utilised every aspect of the peripheral – even though the console may be coming to the end of its life cycle.
Pairing together nicely with the intuitive controls, DBH’s user interface (UI) is remarkable. Normally the UI is something that wouldn’t even get touched on in a review, but this is so considered and well thought-out that it deserves a mention. Objectives are often displayed as text on walls, running alongside the architecture as if they were projected there. It’s a really clever way to integrate the text into the environment without ever being too obtrusive.
Detroit‘s biggest appeal lies in its choices. In any given Chapter, you’re given dialogue choices that will alter how your story plays out, meaning most people will have a completely different experience of the game. Some appeal to different emotions, and some aren’t even unlocked unless you’ve satisfied a certain criteria. Finding clues in your environment will often unlock more opportunities in the future, whether or not it’s clear at that moment. Additionally, this increases the replayability, as you discover the urge to go back and find out what you missed out on by saying a certain thing, or performing one action over another. At the end of each chapter you’re given a flowchart of all the choices you’ve made – with a percentage of ‘completion’ – that you can look at, too. Completing certain percentages of chapters awards you points, that you can then spend in the Extras menu. This Extras menu allows you to spend these points on everything from songs on the soundtrack to different characters’ outfits, with a little explanation from the devs on the stories behind them. A nice touch for an insanely detailed game.
“Finding clues in your environment will often unlock more opportunities in the future, whether or not it’s clear at that moment.”
As you’re playing through DBH, you’ll have many interactions with those around you. As a result, you’ll notice that people develop opinions on the androids based on how you behave around them. With the androids’ presence in Detroit increasing the city’s unemployment rates, you’ll be aware that many of the public are against the introduction of the robots, however you can influence the opinions of those closest to you. Once you have performed an action or made a dialogue choice, if it has affected someone’s opinion the game will show you in the top right-hand corner. It just adds another level of immersion to the game as well as a consequence to your actions.
Detroit: Become Human has hit at just the right moment. With Westworld Season 2 currently gracing our television screens, and Google testing out a new AI system seemingly every other week, it may very well seem that Cage is right and this is our future – whether we like it or not. Raising more important and topical questions than it answers, DBH is a thinker’s game, and while the experience of walking around and choosing dialogue options may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the themes and concepts raised within are abreast with that of current human concern. Detroit: Become Human is an adroit masterpiece, with consequence-based gameplay that affects your decision making and ultimately your final experience of the game. Discover consciousness and question your own humanity with one of the best games available on PlayStation 4 right now, but beware – these violent delights have violent ends.