Detroit: Become Human is the latest from Quantic Dream and David Cage known for their narrative story driven games. Let’s take a look and see if there is a game hiding under all that story!
Interactive movie is a term that gets thrown around a lot when discussing the work of David Cage and similar titles such as Until Dawn, Life Is Strange and TellTale Games: The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us. These narrative driven games are finding a market with casual and hardcore alike. But are they just games that forgot the gameplay?
At the other extreme are studios that usually included a story campaign tossing out the single player component for multiplayer titles. The removal of single player although being sold as “giving the players what they want” could be seen as an excuse for publishers to push “games as a service” and micro-transactions to retain revenue for the least amount of creative effort.
If nothing else Detroit: Become Human is a creative triumph.
I completed it in 2 long sittings which might give you an idea of its difficulty (which is adjustable) but not really of the overall experience. What it doesn’t account for is how re-playable it is.
My friend (who’s copy it was) had already played through and wanted to see what choices I would make and how my story would differ from his. It really is a game you can just watch someone else play and still enjoy. There are so many story branches Detroit: Become Human is the ultimate choose your own adventure book!
Gameplay is really the weakest part of the experience and it cant really be judged on that alone. If you hate quicktime events this is not the game for you. I’m not the biggest fan of them as a gameplay mechanic but removing them would leave the player feeling like they had very little to do in the gameworld.
Similar to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series games you have a detective vision mode but Detroit’s version is frustratingly immobile when I was using it to look for clues or interactive items in the world. I felt like I wanted to see the clues and move at the same time. In some sections based on the clues you can create a reconstruction of a crime-scene and play it back to get further information.
Also there is a pre-visualization mechanic where you can plan out a series of actions first then execute the one you want and see them play out, these were fun and I would liked to have seen those in place of the press x to not die quicktime events.
The interesting parts are that failing some of the quicktime events will cause permanent character narrative consequences and occasionally perma-death for that storyline. It does inject some variation and the story choices are the main gameplay mechanic.
The major frustrations I had were from the dialogue options sometimes being so vague you never really understood what your character might say and what effect it might have, sometimes with fatal consequences. I know they are pushing the idea of no wrong choices and it just evolves into different narrative outcomes but for a player to not know the intent of the dialogue or the effect it will have is just bad design.
A lot of player interaction is purely busywork. This doesn’t really do much to get you invested other than occasionally discovering a different narrative path option to unlock. Sometimes it feels as if the forced interactivity is there to check the player is still awake. Swiping to serve breakfast, pressing x to tidy plates is admittedly more fun than doing actual dishes but only just.
Without spoiling some of the major plot points, Detroit: Become Human is a story that will be familiar to anyone that has seen Bladerunner, Humans, Westworld and any number of films, shows and books dealing with the idea of artificial intelligence and what it means to be(come) human. You get to guide the stories of 3 main characters through an intertwining narrative with one storyline influencing the others.
Unlike the TellTale games where you are given the illusion of choice but end up with the same basic story, the narrative of Detroit: Become Human can vary wildly depending on your choices and mistakes (and they will happen often). There are entire story-lines that you wont get the first time round.
I managed to keep most of the major story characters going until the end and I got what would be considered a 75% good ending but oh boy can things go off the rails just on a fumbled quicktime event or ambiguous dialogue choice.
Nightmarish sequences of crawling over junked androids, stripping them for vital parts while they beg you to not kill them and the interactive experience of being processed in what is effectively an android concentration camp are genuinely unnerving.
Despite some heavy scenes they are balanced with some deep emotional moments with the characters of Detroit: Become Human. Kara caring for her adopted child Alice, buddy cop beats with Connor and Hank (brought to life by the awesome performance of Clancy Brown) and the conflict of being an unwilling leader with Marcus.
These story moments are where Detroit: Become Human really shines and will gut-punch you right in the feels causing even the most stoic players out there to find the room suddenly got a little dusty.
You’ll like it if you enjoy:
Interactive story games.
A compelling evolving story with moments of brilliance and complex emotion.
A lot of replay value.
You won’t if you dislike:
Death by quicktime event overload.
Seemingly random dialogue choice results.
Playstation 4 Exclusive
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