When players boot up Detroit: Become Human, they are greeted by an incredibly detailed android who serves as a sort of “host” for players while they browse the menu options. Remarkable facial animation helps this android look stunning, lifelike, and seem almost human. This first encounter with an android may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a great first impression, and lets players know that what they’re about to play is going to be one of the best-looking video games to date.
Detroit: Become Human is one of the best-looking games available today, on any platform. The level of detail and animation seen in the title menu’s android host can be found throughout the entire game, combined with top-tier voice work that gives a real sense of presence to the many characters players encounter over the course of the story. The production value in Detroit: Become Human is second to none, and it’s almost worth checking out the game for that alone.
It may seem odd to some for a video game review to start off discussing visuals and voice acting instead of gameplay, but that’s because Detroit: Become Human prioritizes these things over gameplay. Like past work from Quantic Dream and writer/director David Cage, Detroit: Become Human is more like an interactive movie than it is a full-fledged video game, and that’s okay. It just means those who don’t enjoy narrative-focused games will likely not be converted by Detroit, but those who do like these kinds of games should find it a worthwhile experience.
Detroit: Become Human‘s story is set in Detroit, Michigan in the year 2038. Humans can now purchase highly advanced androids to serve a number of functions, but they are more or less designed to be slaves. However, as technology has advanced, androids have started to develop human emotions like empathy and fear, and these feelings drive some androids to start questioning their enslavement and begin fighting back against their human oppressors.
With clear parallels to social issues being tackled by society today, the story of Detroit: Become Human is rather engrossing and relatable. The three playable androids – Connor, Kara, and Markus – all have distinct personalities, their own struggles, and their own points of view about the increasingly volatile situation between humans and androids. The game bounces between these three characters, which helps to keep the story from getting stale, and each one helps shine a spotlight on different aspects of android life.
Connor, for example, is an android designed to hunt down “deviant” androids who have rebelled against their human masters. Connor’s sections involve a lot of detective work as players investigate crime scenes, search for clues, and interrogate suspects. Depending on how thoroughly players search these crime scenes, Connor will unlock new dialogue options and other choices that can help shape the direction of the story.
Making choices and changing the story is a key element to Detroit: Become Human, and it’s evident with all three playable characters. Many narrative-driven games like this, including Quantic Dream’s own Heavy Rain, are built around this idea that players can have a significant impact on the story and the characters in the story. For the most part, Detroit lives up to this promise and helpful flowcharts that cap off each chapter give players a distinct idea of where exactly the story branched off. This makes subsequent playthroughs much more enjoyable than similar games, as players should know what they need to do to see different outcomes.
Now, the narrative presentation in Detroit: Become Human isn’t exactly perfect. Despite the many branching paths, the story is still fairly rigid in that there are certain directions it will go regardless of player intervention. It also seems to struggle with the sheer number of subtle variations possible, as there was one occasion where we encountered characters late in the game that we were apparently supposed to know, but never actually met before, likely because we chose a different story path.
There are also times when it seems like chunks of the story are missing. This may be due to the many branching paths and some not filling in the holes as well as others, but either way, it was distracting. This is most noticeable with Kara’s story, as she ended up in some places that we couldn’t recall her ever getting knowledge about. These moments are distracting and break immersion, but thankfully they are very few and far between.
Of course, we can’t discuss Detroit‘s narrative without touching on the controversial subject matter in the game, like its depiction of child abuse and some of the heavier themes it tackles. For the most part, Detroit handles these issues well, though there are a few moments that feel like unearned shock value. Going into details would spoil certain plot developments, but players will know it when they come across it.
With a huge script that’s over 2,000 pages long, it’s not surprising that some parts of the story seem a bit undercooked, though. This is especially apparent with Detroit‘s big “twist,” which is telegraphed from the outset and makes certain parts of the story frustrating as the game teases players about the revelation as though it’s some well-kept secret. This particular plot point drags on until the very end of the game, and when the twist finally comes, it lacks any sort of emotional impact it otherwise would have had.
It has its issues, but Detroit‘s story is still fairly well told throughout, and it’s hard to put the controller down. Sure, an unintended consequence of having three times the branching paths of Heavy Rain means that some story developments may feel underwhelming compared to other possible outcomes, but Detroit is still one of the better examples of a game in this style.
Detroit‘s story is mostly great with some issues here and there, but some may be more concerned about the gameplay. Like Quantic Dream’s previous efforts, Detroit‘s gameplay is mostly passive, as interactivity boils down to QTEs and selecting dialogue options. Players are allowed to explore environments a bit, but even then, they are often restricted to small areas that lead them to almost every significant point of interest anyway.
The QTEs in the game are mostly well done and actually add a great deal of tension to the proceedings. QTEs are typically reserved for the more action-packed sequences in the game, and some of these moments left our hearts racing and hands sweating. Unfortunately, some of the QTEs are utterly pointless, as failing them didn’t result in any significant change in the events on screen. In fact, there were QTEs that we failed, but anyone watching wouldn’t have been able to tell, as it played out as though we succeeded.
Some QTEs utilize the touchpad and motion controls to mostly good effect, though we did run into one problem. QTEs that required us to swing the controller to the left seemed unresponsive, and this was the case with two different DualShock 4 controllers that were used to test the game.
Typically a game like Detroit wouldn’t have much in terms of replayability, but Quantic Dream did a good job of making replaying the game as appealing as possible. The flowcharts for each chapter will help players discover new story paths that they may have missed during their initial playthrough, and there are collectibles to find as well. And since players can pick specific chapters to jump back into, it’s possible for them to see the biggest story changes without having to start the entire game over from the beginning, which is a nice touch.
Detroit: Become Human may not offer much to players who don’t like this style of game, but fans of David Cage’s work should know that Detroit is definitely one of the better stories he’s crafted so far. It’s far better than Beyond: Two Souls, and while it may not be as innovative as Heavy Rain, it’s still a pretty fun ride and its incredible visuals and interesting story definitely make it worth checking out.
Detroit: Become Human will launch on May 25, exclusively for PlayStation 4. Game Rant was provided a copy for this review.