Before I start the review I want to say a few things for the record before I start the review as there seems to be plenty of hate for David Cage and his story writing abilities, which seems to have created some negative biased towards his games whenever they are released. And while it is still open for debate whether or not he is a good writer (Down to your own opinions I guess), I can easily say without a doubt that Detroit: Become Human is hands down his best work since Fahrenheit and easily surpassed my other favourite game he released Beyond, Two Souls. Another thing I have seen pop up when narrative-heavy games like this get released is the claim that they aren’t really games. Which is absolute bullshit, either you like these types of games or you don’t it doesn’t make them any less of a video game because you dislike the genre.
And the final thing I want to touch on before I start the review is the claim by the anti-social justice crowd claiming the game somehow pushes an agenda and panders etc. As an anti-social justice warrior myself, I call bullshit on this claim. Of course, the game is going to touch on subjects like segregation, racism, classism, and elitism. That is the core part of the story of Detroit: Become Human, and pretty much follows the same story outline as pretty much any story about androids or machines seeking independence from their creators including games like Blade Runner, I Robot, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Ex Machina. There is no agenda’s in the storytelling none at all, it does not try and rope modern-day politics into its plot and does not become overly preachy. If you set aside all of the above biases toward the game you might find that you will enjoy it.
Having said all that let us get started with the review! Detroit is a neo-noir thriller set in the near-future city of Detroit in 2038. Androids, who look exactly like human beings, have replaced humans in doing most if not all daily tasks: they are workers, babysitters, gardeners, nurses, teachers, clerks. The story of Detroit starts with an unexplained incident that begins to affect the Androids. Some disappear without any explanation, others have unexpected behaviours and strangely show signs of emotions, including fear, hatred, and love. The rumours of “deviant” androids start spreading, but no one seems to know what is really happening. The game starts off as you play the role of Conor an RK800 model android and one of the three protagonists in Detroit: Become Human. Built as an advanced prototype.
He is designed to assist human law enforcement; specifically in investigating cases involving deviant androids. He is called to the scene of a hostage situation were a deviant android named Daniel took Emma Phillips, hostage. And depending on your choices during the opening gameplay you either get to save the girl or get her killed depending on the choices you make and the clues you uncover when investigating the scene. The more clues you uncover the higher the likelihood is that you are able to save her and unlock extra dialog options with the deviant android. After the hostage situation, is resolved Connor is sent to the Detroit City Police Department to aid in the investigation of deviant androids across Detroit and is assigned to Detective Lieutenant Hank Anderson. And this is, in my opinion, the best “buddy cop” team ever created in video games.
And one of the best parts of Detroit: Become Human is seeing how the relationship between Hank and Connor develops depending on your choices you make during the course of the game. To say they dislike each other at the start of the game is an understatement Hank hating androids (Which you will discover the reason for his hate later during the course of the game) and Connor being an analytical machine makes for some amazing character development during the course of the story. And made their story and gameplay segments the favourite part of the game for me. They are both brilliantly portrayed and voiced by Bryan Dechart, and Hollywood actor Clancy Brown. In addition to being the voices, they also lent their bodies and likenesses to the motion captures of the onscreen characters.
The second protagonist we get to meet during the course of the game is Kara an AX400 android a common housemaid android serving in the home of her owner Todd caring for his daughter Alice. During the course of Kara cleaning the house and taking care of Alice Tod becomes violent due to “Red Ice” a fictional drug in the game that can psychologically cause rage and irrational thinking. In his fit of rage, he attacks his daughter Alice and you as the player need to decide if Kara should go against her programming and defend Alice and attack Tod. Whatever you decide during the course of Kara’s segment, both Kara and Alice goes on the run. As a deviant, Kara is primarily motivated by a desire for parenting and her compassionate nature. Her sole and primary purpose even after becoming deviant is to protect Alice and make her happy again, no matter the cost.
The third and last protagonist we get to meet during the game is Markus he is an RK200 android and domestic helper for world-famous painter Carl Manfred. Markus helps Carl with all everyday tasks but mostly provides friendship and companionship for Carl who lives alone. Over time, they teach other things about art and humanity and what it really means to be considered human. In time, they become like father and son. However, this relationship causes Carl’s biological son Leo to feel anger toward Markus. And that sets him on a collision course with Leo, they end up fighting during the course of the fight Carl dies of a heart attack and Leo places the blame on Markus who is killed by police and left for dead.
These three protagonists’ stories aren’t told separately, instead, they are interwoven into the fabric of each other’s stories. And during the course of the game, these stories cross into each other and during later stages of the game you even control all 3 different characters at the same time in a single section of the game. This might not be a new thing in things like movies and TV shows, but I have yet to see being used as much in video games. But it is used to brilliant effect in Detroit: Become Human. The only weakness in Detroit: Become Human’s story, in my opinion, is Kara’s story. I did everything I could but I just could not connect with her or her story. Which is strange because I always find something I can relate to when it comes to characters in video games. I think it has a lot to do with how they wrote her, or maybe it is just me.
All of this creates a high stakes game where the threat of making a wrong choice or decision can and will mean that one of the three characters can die. And depending on your choices, all playable characters can die in the course of the story. But due to the structure of the game and the different story branches you can still continue playing. This creates a raw emotional connection between the different characters, the development between different plots and how they intertwine; each decision becomes a fast-paced and personal choice. The biggest asset of Detroit: Become Human is choice. You can choose to ruin the world of Detroit or to save it. You can choose whose side you are on, who is right and who is wrong. The problem comes in whether or not the choices you make are the right ones…
Detroit: Become Human is basically an adventure game, played from a third-person perspective. The right analogue stick is used to interact with objects in the game and observe one’s surroundings, the left analogue stick is for movement, and R2 scans an environment for possible actions or clues. And depending on the number of clues you have collected, it can unlock certain dialog options or actions during the current section of the game or somewhere down the road. While small things you discover might seem like something mundane at the time they can have a huge impact on the game down the road. The games action sequence are all taken care of with quick time events which are pretty standard for a game like Detroit: Become Human.
Graphically Detroit: Become Human is one of the most impressive games on the PlayStation 4. Quantic Dreams have created some of the most realistic body and facial animation I have seen in a game and it borders extremely close to the uncanny valley especially. Chloe the RT600 android (The first android to pass the turing test) who is your companion during the course of the game and interacts with you in the main menu sometimes comes off as being human. She would greet you talk to you about the experiences you have had in the game and welcomes you back after booting up the game. And to be honest it gets a bit freaky at times due to the facial animations, and the emotions behind the voice of Chloe.
As for as music goes I honestly could not remember anything soundtrack wise that was either good or memorable. Does it mean the soundtrack was bad? Not really I was just so engrossed in the game that I never noticed any of the music that was playing while I was making those in-game choices. The one thing I did notice was the amazing voice acting, especially from Bryan Dechart, and Hollywood actor Clancy Brown. Delivering some of the best lines and voice acting I have ever heard in a game. The game is far from perfect though, the comparably minor plot holes and story execution and direction in Detroit: Become Human can be ignored, when viewing the game as a whole and does not detract from the overall experience.
If you like a rich deep storyline along the same lines as games like The Walking Dead and Life is Strange and don’t care about a lack of “agency” which has always been illusory in video games then you will most definitively enjoy this game as much as I have. For me, Detroit: Become Human is both a reminder and illustration of the many challenges and the triumphs, the sadness and joys that humanity and individuals have gone through. To me it was life-affirming, and I considered it deep, rich and meaningful. Or maybe I am just being melodramatic about all of this who knows. Roger Ebert once said that video games will never be art. Though that statement can be and has been argued for and against I believe Detroit: Become Human is if not a work of art is definitely a game interwoven with artistic vision. And that vision was an absolute joy to watch unfold and play.