Detroit: Become Human – Amazingly, It’s Quite Good

Quantic Dream finally did it, guys – they made a good game. Not only did they make a good game, they made a really good game – not perfect, but pretty unbelievable for Quantic Dream’s standard. I went into this game with the usual expectations from my vast experience of having played all but one of QD’s previous games, and they managed to blow my expectations out of the water completely. Well done David Cage.

Detroit follows the stories of three androids in the year 2038. Presonally I feel this future would be more believable if it were set a bit later, like in the 2060s, which would follow current predictions of AI development – but that’s just me. Two of these andriods have become deviant – meaning they’ve managed to go against their programming somehow, often through being in a state of extreme stress. The third character, Connor, is an android trying to find the cause of the ‘deviant crisis’, as more and more androids go against their masters and become deviant – possibly posing a threat to the safety of mankind. You see – this is a future where intelligent androids now exist and can be purchased for as low as $900 (less than an iPhone X), meaning that most people have them to help them out with stuff – they have no rights and are not recognised as living beings so you can do whatever you want with them really. They also have replaced many people’s jobs, because you don’t have to pay them or send them home at the end of the day, and because they are capable of human interaction, manual labour, intelligent action etc, not many people’s jobs are safe. They can do pretty much anything that human can. This game is set in America, and it is stated that Androids are banned in most countries around the world because of such issues, it’s listed as a big criticism of President Warren, as she has suspiciously close connections with the one company which creates androids, cyberlife. This has created big social issues becuase a lot of people hate andriods and are scred of them so androids don’t live a great life. There’s a lot of depth to this world and I bet you can’t guess what all this is based on!

I got the most of that information not from the compulsory dialogue, but from optional readings and dialogue which can be found only if you look for it. This is something that I have praised games like Gone Home for – you get as much out of the game as you put in. If you can’t be bothered with reading stuff you won’t get the depth of the world, and that might be fine with you. There is so much in this game that has been put in as an optional extra, and I love the details – this is not something Quantic Dream has ever done before with their games and it makes it so much more interesting. Depth! Depth is so important when creating a compelling world and when creating compelling characters to populate that world. QD has managed to do this very well and have created a world I am actually interestred in knowing more about, prompting exploration and replaying. What I wrote above is just scratching the surface of the lore of this world.

Previously I complained that Quantic Dream has a problem with choices in their games. Very little ever seemed to actually matter and ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ seemed to play itself almost. Detroit fixes this problem spectacularly. This game is so much bigger in scope and in the choices that can be made, I haven’t yet counted the number of endings in this game but there are a lot. Not all the endings are very good, however. I’ve replayed the game from various points to try to get different endings, and I’ve only really felt that one or two of the endings I got were really satisfying – we still have the factor of  ‘David Cage would really like you to make this decision’ to contend with. So, while choices are given to us, there is (only sometimes) an implication there of what choice you should really go for, and going against that implication is often met with mild punishment from the game. “You made the worng choice.” I think that no choice should be ever ‘wrong’, just different – this game can be pretty black and white sometimes. You have a clear ‘good choice’ and ‘bad choice’ presented to you. I watched a friend play the game after me, and he ended up making most of the same choices as me without knowing it, and only really differed when he knew what choices I had made and wanted to see what happened when you do the other thing.

And speaking of choices: combat. Look, linking this all together is hard, okay? Beyond’s combat was weird, and I understand the choice to backpeddal the combat system back to Heavy Rain’s combat. Which was a good decision. Basically, everything is done through button prompts QTE segments. Unlike Heavy Rain, they aren’t stupid in this game. You can fail every one of them (not that I ever did), and they are actually often at least slightly challenging. I felt slightly challenged while playing this game and that’s more than I can say for any other QD game I’ve played.

detroit-become-human-2
Credit: Kotaku (yeah I’m that lazy)

This game is infinitely replayable. This is partly owing to that fact that the game isn’t unwieldy long (but it’s not exactly abruptly short either), but mostly due to the flowcharts. When you complete a chapter of this game, you are presented with a flowchart of all the choices you made along with what path you went down by making those choices. It also gives you stats about the proportion of other players and what choices they made so you can know if you’re a maverick or a beta cuck normie. Sometimes the flowchart is enormous! Being able to see what choices you made, and being told that ‘at this point, you could have done something else which would have lead to a different ending to this chapter’ just simply makes you want to play the game again and do all the other things. It never tells you what the choices you could have made are, but it does tell you that there was an alternative to something you did. Sometimes I was surprised that there was a choice and prompted me to replay just to know what that would have been. Often it’s not unbelievable, one is literally if you just do nothing for 10 minutes your character dies but that’s cool to know I suppose. Also you can often guess what the other choice would be but It’s still cool to know.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Quantic Dream has come a long way in making their interactive dramas feel more interactive, rather than a film with button prompts. And the story they tell with this game is so much more compelling than ever before. You still have the crap bits that David Cage is known for, but he’s getting better.

To briefly cover what I think of the plot – seeing that it’s the main aspect of any QD game – I think it’s pretty good. I liked the characters, but felt that Connor is the only one I really liked. Kara’s story acts entirely as a ‘B story’ and has no impact on the central conflict of the story whatsoever, but it’s quite nice I suppose. There are some scenes where I felt like I didn’t understand what the point was, and by the end of the game I thought Markus had turned into a bit of a knob but I still kinda liked him as a character. Look- there are still a lot of problems with Cage’s writing style, but he’s gotten a lot better. Someone managed to remove all the random, awkward sex scenes and I think that was probably for the best. It’s quite easy to take this story seriously because the characters have character and don’t have the personalities of damp wooden planks, which really helps (not even Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe could help that). There were no awful cliche’s or gratingly cheesy lines that I could notice. This is a well written story, but I feel like it could have a bit more depth to the actual conflict within the story – it has a certain polarising effect where it’s pretty clear that the slavary of andriods is obviously wrong, and doesn’t bring up the possibility that the andriods aren’t alive and are just simulating intelligence. There’s no ethical discussion there, which makes me feel like the story has no wider point to make about reality. It makes it hard to believe that questions wouldn’t at least be raised about the ethics of andriods and enslavement, but this world would have us believe that there isn’t even an activist group looking to get andriods some kind of rights or even raising any questions. Humans don’t seem to have even ever considered that what is being done to andriods could even be considered remotely unfair. This, for me, was the hardest thing to accept about this world. I still enjoyed the story regardless, aminly owing to the well written characters. It seems Cage’s robotic dialogue works well with andriods – clever move, David.

I’ve got to talk about the music in this game. There are three separated (for most of the game) stories starring three separate characters in this game, so it kind of makes sense to score each of these stories with different composers. Philip Sheppard, Nima Fakhrara, and John Paesano worked independently of each other to create three distinct sounds for each character. You might think this would create an inconsistent theme across the game, but it actually works unbelievably well. I didn’t know about this until after I played the game and I can’t say I noticed any inconsistency in the tone of the music. All I did notice was the GREAT score for this game and how much it carries some of the scenes and the characters. The very opening scene is a masterclass of how to open a game, the tone, the atmosphere, the dialogue, the visuals, the music all come together to create something that immediately grabs your attention and makes you want to keep going. I’d recommend giving this page a view if you want to know more about the music in this game (it’s very cool!).

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Credit: OnlySP (Yep – still lazy)

Finally, graphics. I’m sorry but I have to talk about it. They’d nailed down the textures and models for Beyond: Two Souls, so there isn’t much further they could have gone in that direction for this game, just rendering the game at a higher resolution. For this game, QD’s focus was on getting the optics of the camera right. Yeah, they did that alright. ‘Cor blimey is the depth of field well done in this game. Normally DOF fails in the transition when the focus is pulled, as the game struggles to smoothly unblur and blur objects in the scene to illustrate depth. This game does it so smoothly that it’s unnoticeable. Generally, there is a great feeling of realism with the camera and how it behaves and moves – there are no impossible shots and this contributes to the next-level standard of cinematography in this game. QD is good at cinematography, but this game is a leap forward, possibly due to them hiring a professional cinematographer to not only set up cameras but also to light scenes. This game looks good, but there is a depth to the way it looks, camera angles and lighting is deliberate in order to convey a message. Just, this game looks good.

I’m so proud of David. Cage has finally managed to make a genuinely good game and I love it. I still think there is some improvement to be made – particularly in allowing the player to deliberately choose an option they know is not the one the game wants them to choose. I’d like an ending where all the androids kill all the humans but I was robbed of it. There are a few nitpicky problems I have but I don’t know how I could explain them without you having played the game as much as I have so that’ll just have to wait until I’ve started doing video reviews of games (probably won’t happen). This game is good and you should play it even if you don’t like video games, or just watch someone else play it – I managed to amass an audience when I played it and they seemed to enjoy it. Well done David Cage.

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