No story of a game has ever been affected by my actions in the way that Detroit: Become Human is. Decisions truly impact the plot in meaningful ways, and those ripples last from the first chapter to the last. I could nitpick the narrative to pieces, but that’s exactly what it would be, a nitpick. It’s full of good performances and some of the best graphics you can find on a console. The bottom-line is Detroit: Become Human pushes adventure games to new heights.
The game’s story weaves through three main characters. Connor, whom you may have played as in the demo, is lent out to the Detroit Police Department to investigate crimes suspected to be committed by androids. Kara is a housekeeping android with a physically abusive owner. The third, Marcus, is a prototype owned by a famous painter, who becomes the face of the android rebellion.
Like Quantic Dreams’ games of the past, Detroit: Become Human is an interactive story. If you’re unfamiliar, think of something similar in gameplay to a Telltale game but with an exponentially larger development cycle and budget. Aside from walking around in a limited space, most gameplay elements come in the form of quick time events. You need to press buttons or make analog stick movements quickly and accurately, else face the consequences your failure has on the story.The biggest thing to review for Detroit is the story itself. Overall I enjoyed it, though it was chock full of cliches and tropes, like the angry black police captain you’d find in any buddy cop movie. I thought Marcus’ chapters were the worst. His dialogue can feel disconnected with his actions. While I had him moving at light speed to an all-out android revolution, he would deliver very calm and thought-out lines about regret, feeling at odds with the tone of his sections. Maybe the game is designed around the player choosing to peacefully rebel, but I didn’t take that path and it’s the one that felt the most “off.”
My favorite parts were the detective stories with Connor and his human police partner Hank. Hank hates androids and you can either reinforce that stance or try to turn it around. Kara’s story is basically playing mother to the girl she was purchased to take care of, and works well emotionally but is the least interesting of the three main characters.
Thematically, Detroit tries to touch on numerous issues, but only ever does so at face level. Domestic abuse? Bad! Slavery? Bad! Technological progress’ effect on the economy? Bad for some but good for others. There are unspoken allusions made to these topics at points, like seeing androids have to ride in the back of buses, but there’s little effort made to say any more than surface level judgments that most people would already agree with. Instead of seeing the story of a person struggling to provide for their family because he lost their career to androids, there’s a missable cutscene with a protester asking a police officer how he’ll like it when he loses his job. I felt that was an intriguing area they could have gone into more deeply, but it’s glossed over as a side note to picking up a bucket of paint.
The branching effects that decisions make on the overall plot are truly impressive. Entire sequences can be greatly altered, if not skipped altogether. Even the primary characters can be killed off, and surprisingly early, leading to drastically different resolutions to the endgame. One neat addition to this style of game is a flowchart that shows how your decisions changed the direction of a chapter’s events. Using this it’s easy to keep track of where you can do things differently in another playthrough in order to see all of the possibilities Detroit has to offer.The graphics are among the best you can find on PlayStation 4, with checkerboarded 4K and HDR support on PS4 Pro. The entire game was animated using performance capture, so what you’re seeing is the movements of the actual actors the game is depicting. It makes for a natural look, avoiding a lot of stilted animations you may find elsewhere in this genre. Acting performances are pretty good throughout, even when I was less impressed with how the story was unfolding at times.
Detroit: Become Human represents a new high standard for this kind of interactive story adventure game. Specific plot points aside, the story was serviceable and I was given far more control of its outcome than I expected. It’s well acted and exceptionally animated. Multiple playthroughs are rewarded with varied character arcs and story conclusions. Detroit: Become Human is another standout PlayStation 4 exclusive you won’t want to miss out on.