A Narrative Adventure Like No Other

Detroit: Become Human

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Detroit: Become Human

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Detroit: Become Human was a project that began with a tech demo in 2012. Six years later, we have the developer’s best release thus far. 

Playing Quantic’s latest often left me wondering if “interactive fiction” is a better label for it than “video game”. Where titles such as God of War masterfully weaves an impactful narrative with engaging combat, Detroit simply chooses to emphasize storytelling. There are fights and shootouts, but not in the way most gamers expect. 

The game starts with a fantastically rendered, fourth-wall breaking greeting by Chloe, the “first android to pass the Turing test.” It’s there to impress us with the in-game world’s tech, to flirt with the possibilities of what might be, but we all know that reality is, in fact, grim. 

Cue the opening sequence with Connor, the specialist android built to deal with emotional, ‘Deviant’ peers. Transition to Markus, a caretaker android at the forefront of the bubbling human- machine conflict. Segue to Kara, the housekeeper android that gives us insight on what it’s like to be on the run. Detroit’s story is told from their perspectives, all refreshingly different and more personal than it is heroic. 

However, there’s just one glaring problem: their characters don’t resonate as androids. The world and gameplay may treat them as such, but they behave and think like persecuted humans rather than AI coming to grips with self- awareness. It’s less of an issue with Connor, as he’s partnered with a human detective who has an unreserved love for alcohol and the exact opposite for androids. That back-and- forth, combined with plenty of investigative gameplay, is probably why his story turned out to be the most interesting of the lot. 

Writer and director David Cage isn’t too interested in exploring the sci-fiquestions that advancing AI brings, only the struggles and brutality of inequality. Kara’s story made it clear that this was taking cues from history, and that discrimination is the actual subject at hand. 

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There IS a writing team involved, multiple composers, and different directors of photography, all working to give the three storylines a unique look and sound. It’s honestly mind- boggling how, together with all the branching paths, that the entire production manages to be as cohesive as it is. 

The bulk of the game’s entertainment comes from its penchant for crafting thrilling, cinematic encounters, moments where you’re completely spellbound and pondering over your next move. They’re the kind of moments that showcase the strengths of gaming and interactive fiction, injecting tension, fear, or suspense in a way that not many movies or books can hope to compare. 

Whether you’ll enjoy playing Detroit: Become Human is more a matter of personal taste. 

Quantic Dream loves to incorporate interactions at the quirkiest or most mundane of times, but they’re decidedly less complex than Heavy Rain’s finger Olympics. And if you can’t be bothered about the analog stick wiggling and button mashing, there’s a simpler control scheme that lets you recline in your sofa and treat this like a Netflix binge. I think having the “Experienced” scheme makes for a more engaging experience, but what’s important here is that there are even options to begin with. But, as mentioned, don’t go in expecting to run-and-gun or pull of sweet combos — that’s just not how this studio works. 

What they do excel at is pushing technology to the fore. Detroit: Become Human is gorgeous, the PS4’s power is saved from rendering large open- worlds to drive deep into the uncanny valley with its hyper-realistic character models. The quality isn’t consistent between all the characters, but the jump isn’t terribly jarring either — merely noticeable. 

Just as impressive are the voice work of the actors, again going back to Quantic Dream’s advantage of having an entire mo-cap studio at their disposal. I have to bring up Connor once again, brought to life thanks to the amusingly deadpan delivery of Bryan Dechart. 

Detroit: Become Human is characteristically Quantic Dream, in that this exhilarating narrative on androids and racism is approached with equal parts grace and gaffes. 

With the scope blown up to a gargantuan scale, so too have the studio’s strengths and weaknesses been amplified, yet the team’s positive work on the latter has made this an experience worth remembering 2018 by. 

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Yes, there are moments of action in the game and things to do, but don’t come looking for a shooter. 

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While the gameplay is about androids becoming “human”, the actual graphics of the androids are breathtakingly realistic too. 

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The improved follow-up to Heavy Rain we all deserve. Tap X to play already. 



Quantic Dream 


Sony Interactive Entertainment 




PlayStation 4 




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