Game Review: Detroit: Become Human

Release date: 2018
Version played: PlayStation 4 in 2020

A cinematic experience from Quantic Dream (Farenheit/Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain), released onto PlayStation 4 and PC in 2018 is Detroit: Become Human. Players control three separate androids — police detective Connor (Bryan Dechart), domestic aide Kara (Valorie Curry) and live-in nurse Markus (Jesse Williams, Grey’s Anatomy) — as they react to the changing world around them, and the emergence of so-called ‘deviants’, androids who begin to ‘think’ outside their programming. Gameplay is performed through exploration, quick time events and real-life controller movements, and the story can branch in nearly unlimited ways, leading to almost 50 different possible endings. A strong guest cast of supporting characters also appear, including Hank Anderson (Clancy Brown), North (Minka Kelly, Titans), and Carl Manfred (Lance Henriksen), the latter of which has no shortage of experience as an android himself.

+ in terms of presentation, the game looks and sounds fantastic. Characters are detailed and lifelike (or realistically not lifelike, as it were). All of the voice acting is great to superb, with personal favourite Clancy Brown getting much of the highlights, though I did find myself quite partial to Kara (Curry), too
+ as far as gameplay goes, the game is much like Quantic Dream’s previous games, Farenheit and Heavy Rain. The game’s branching story arc is phenomenal in pieces, but many stories end depending on one major decision, ie. the option of ‘go here, or go there’, or ‘save x, save y’. For the most part, there is enough leeway to craft your own personal story which will be different to many others, even if only in superficial ways

– frustrating deviations from the description, such that a single word choice, like ‘territory’ or ‘Hank’ sound promising but end up being something dumb to say. I understand the point of railroading, but they could still be somewhat more clear. For example, often choosing not to press any button will default to ‘X’, unlike The Walking Dead where silence/not choosing an option is a genuine (and sometimes the best) option. Similarly, too often characters made poor choices ‘because they had to’. Following a creepy dude into his basement, and even saying that something feels off, is just poor game design
– some of the controls are clunky, as if the developers learned nothing from Heavy Rain. I understand what they were going for, with twisting your controller to open a door, or flicking it up to climb a ledge, but they felt unresponsive, especially in the middle of a barrage of different inputs, where you are not always playing with the controller held ‘flat’ in front of you
– two seemingly major plot points are mostly abandoned, becoming red herrings at best, which made me really mad. Another major, MAJOR plot twist is so poorly executed I was sure I must have skipped an entire scene (this later gets explained and treated as some sort of big reveal, but anybody could have seen it coming a mile off). There is far too much plot armour/happy coincidences/dramatic irony for my liking. For example, doing an action as one character and then having to determine what happened as another afterwards, felt like the wrong order to do things: why not ‘reconstruct’ the event first, and then play that out as the other character
– with so many different deviation points, I don’t know if this is a fair criticism, but I hated the ending that I received. There is only one real point I can recall where my story would have deviated, but I am certain I was choosing the more peaceful of the options, only for what I interpreted to be peaceful in fact being the violent approach. Not for any other, but in that instance I would have liked some sort of indicator as to which outcome I was selecting

> I played through this on ‘Experienced’ (opposed to ‘Casual’) and was told I had a higher chance to lose characters. I only had one character die, so maybe I am just really good at the game?
> at time of publishing, I finished this just over a week ago and have since replayed a handful of the bigger story chapters to see what I could change. I’ve pretty much lost interest

Should you play this game: In the early goings and so far as about the half way mark, I was slightly leaning on the positive side. The choices felt important and I was looking forward to some stories beginning to intersect. Soon after, it felt like all my decisions were forcefully guiding me in a predetermined direction. Some unclear options and a few genuinely boring sequences led to an underwhelming ending and no desire to replay things to try for another. This might be worth one play through, but only if you can handle the negatives above.

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