This is gonna be a bit of an odd one because I haven’t actually played this game (YET), so these are my thoughts as a viewer of various Let’s Plays. My recommended Let’s Plays for Detroit: Become Human have been done by Jacksepticeye, GT Live and Game Grumps (GG have done a sillier one but the first two channels play the game more seriously).
As I mentioned, I have only seen this game online, but god do I love Detroit: Become Human! I will be discussing specific moments within the game, so this is your spoiler warning. Now, onto the review!
Developed by Quantic Dream for PS4 (AKA the guys who developed Heavy Rain) Detroit: Become Human is a sci-fi dystopian future set in the not-so-distant 2038. In this world, beings called androids with highly advanced artificial intelligence are widely used throughout the U.S. doing various menial tasks such as cleaning, customer service, and sex work. They exist as objects to be owned by humans, ‘plastic toys’ there to make humans’ lives easier. However, some androids, known as deviants, are breaking through their programming and discovering free will, often at the violent expense of their owners. You play as three such androids; Connor, a prototype android that delves deep into the underbelly of Detroit, interrogating deviants and defusing dangerous situations with his abrasive human partner Hank (that bromance, though!); Kara, a cleaning android stuck in a troubled household trying to protect a little girl and Markus, a server android that cares for a famous painter and ultimately leads the android revolution. Each story is different, but your choices ultimately guide each character to become deviant and go in search of freedom.
Heavily borrowing from titles such as Blade Runner and I, Robot, D:BH brings up many big questions about our relationship with technology, the line between AI and free will and what it really means to be human. The androids are perfect beings that make up for what we lack and we are displayed in all of our ugly flaws. Connor is a top favourite among fans, with an in-game survey showing that 46% of players think of him as their favourite character, with Kara in second at 32% and Markus in third at 22%. Take this survey with a grain of salt, however, as each choice you make builds the characters from the ground up, meaning that every player has a different experience of all of them.
Your choices matter deeply in this game; they affect not only your character’s personality and relationships but their entire storyline. If your character dies, in some instances they can be replaced with long-term consequences but in other situations that death is permanent. For example, Connor can be replaced, but if you die repeatedly, Hank will commit suicide. If Kara or Markus die, it is permanent. Markus can become a peaceful ‘robo-Jesus’ who uses pacifism and dialogue to gain equal rights for androids or he can become a violent vigilante seeking revenge for the oppression of his species. (It would be more accurate to refer to Markus as ‘robo-Moses’ but whatever.) Kara and Alice can escape across the border to Canada or be shot in an android internment camp. Play wisely, friends!
What I love most story-wise is that each character’s story feels different – thanks in part to the beautifully crafted individual soundtracks for each storyline – and confronts different philosophical issues that are increasingly relevant to our lives. You can read magazines that discuss the political climate, climate change and public opinion regarding androids. These magazines may also report on events that are triggered by the player, which is great. Not only this, but there is an android named Chloe (aaayyyy) who talks to you in the menu screen of the game. She offers you surveys and reminds you to check your settings. At first, it seems that she is just there to hammer home the themes and world by giving the player a taste of this future, there is more to Chloe than this. At the end of your game, she says that watching you play has had an effect on her and asks you if she can go in search of freedom, with you having the final say in setting her free or not. I just love these minor story building details that make it feel as though there’s a world beyond what we see on screen.
However, what sells the game above all is the acting. The advanced motion capture technology that the devs used is excellent but not as excellent as the actors involved. In each scene, the delivery of the dialogue and hyper-detailed expressions combined with the music really portray the emotions of each character. I really connected with the characters, particularly Carl, Markus, and Kara. Connor’s journey is so engaging as he arguably has the biggest overhaul in his identity and the subtlety of Bryan Dechart’s performance is amazing.
In terms of gameplay, there are various quick-time events for chase and stealth scenes, various dialogue options and motions for picking up objects or hacking systems alongside moving each character. Once you have played through the entire game, there is the option to go back and play certain chapters again with the choice of whether to save that progress being up to you. This is a great explorative feature that isn’t often seen in gaming.
The camera is positioned at a third-person perspective, making the game feel very cinematic, as per Quantic Dream’s MO. The camera being positioned from a third person POV means that we can appreciate small details such as the way snow falls and the way light bounces around so naturally in each scene. Even the backs of characters’ jackets move and wrinkle slightly as they walk – that’s a well-done game engine!
Now for the negatives. These are minor nitpicks, but I feel that they are worth mentioning. There are some logic loopholes that I feel could have been rethought, such as Kara, a cleaning android, using a squeegee mop. Kara also has the ability to adjust her body temperature, as she warms Alice while they spend the night of their escape in an abandoned house or car. When police are scanning people’s body temperatures in the hunt for androids, why don’t Kara and the other androids raise their temperature to avoid suspicion? Minor holes like that bug me, but I doubt many others noticed them. The plotlines can be predictable; you know that all three of the main characters will become deviants. Markus’ plotline shares many similarities to the civil rights movement in the US, so knowing your history takes away some of the surprises there. Also, Alice being an android was no surprise considering she never ate, peed or drank the entire journey.
All in all, Detroit: Becoming Human is very entertaining to watch others play. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people are really into this game. It’s spawned a lot of great discussions as well as some sweet memes, like the one I referenced in the title. I love the story, characters and music in particular and the visuals are stunning. I highly recommend playing for yourself (PS4 only, though *cries forever*) or if you’re poor like me you can watch the Let’s Plays I linked at the start.
What did you guys think of Detroit: Become Human? Who’s your favourite character? Got any meme recommendations? Hit me up on Twitter on @apageoutofchloe or comment below so we can chat 🙂