You don’t see too many produced demos anymore, but upcoming PS4 exclusive Detroit: Become Human has published one ahead of the May 25 release. I spent about an hour playing through four different endings, and didn’t see all of the possibilities.
The demo lets you play through a scenario you’ve probably seen parts of in a trailer, notably the E3 2016 reveal. Connor, an android, is sent in to de-escalate a hostage situation. Another android has taken a girl hostage after killing her parents, in what is called by the news as the first human killings by an android. You are free to roam around the apartment and investigate at your own pace to try to learn as much as you can about the ongoing crime, and when you’re ready you may confront Daniel, the malfunctioning android.
I played on what appeared to be the “normal” difficulty, referred to as “experienced.” Controls were similar to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, using joystick inputs like quarter circles to interact with the surroundings. A flick of the touchpad, for example, will start playing a video on the girl’s tablet, revealing the seemingly great relationship the girl and the android had prior to today’s events. Camera control felt wonky. I’m sure it’s something I can get used to, but it felt unnatural and floaty, and more difficult than it needed to be to focus my attention where I intended.
Alexa, Help Me Win
The demo features something I’ve never seen before, a companion Amazon Alexa skill that is said to help with your play. If you own one of Amazon’s smart speakers you can enable this skill and call out to it as you play. The skill appears to be designed specifically for the demo. By saying “Alexa, ask CyberLife about Emma,” the speaker will provide you with additional information about the hostage that is otherwise not available in the game. Supposedly these bits of information can help you piece together the investigation. I forced myself to keep using it, but ultimately is never comes across as anything more than a gimmick. It provides the kind of background text that you would be reading in games like Horizon Zero Dawn or any Assassin’s Creed game. It was nice to have these informative bits read out, but people who don’t own one of these devices will miss out on the deeper world building.
Upon completing the demo, you are shown a timeline of events that occured, with branching paths that diverges based on decisions you make or clues you do or do not find. This is a handy feature that will greatly assist completionists trying to see every possibility. That is, of course, assuming this is something that is seen in the full game. Detroit promises that decisions will have long term impact, so simplifying each encounter into an easy to read graph may not be practical, and this could be something made for the demo to show off how many different ways interactions can end up. Touching on the Alexa skill briefly once more, at the end you can ask the skill about specific events on the timeline. The voice will respond and give you a hint towards a different way you can play it out, like “an innocent person still died, try to save everyone.”
I was impressed with what I saw in this short demo. The motion capture and graphics looked stunning in HDR on my PS4 Pro, and walking around a police filled apartment made good use of surround sound. The different outcomes feel natural and I actually wanted to play through multiple times to see what I could find. This is a game that wasn’t highly on my radar, but the demo did it’s job and now I’m looking forward to next month’s release of Detroit: Become Human.