Like Westworld, Ex Machina and stacks of great sci-fi before it, Detroit: Become Human asks complicated questions about what it is to be human. What sets this PlayStation 4 exclusive apart from similar narratives is its android’s point of view and sophisticated choose-your-own-adventure style.
The year is 2038. Detroit is rejuvenated thanks to the invention of androids. They’re part of everyday life. Particularly labour, companionship and sex. Because of course people will want to bone them. It’s only human nature. When the androids start behaving strange, breaking protocols and turning on their owners, things across the city spin out of control.
You step into the roles of three very different androids: There’s Kara, a housemaid for a drug addict and his daughter, Marcus, a caregiver for a disabled artist and Connor, an advanced police model tasked with apprehending deviant androids. As the city, and country plunges into chaos, you explore three interweaving narratives, working towards a climax of your own making.
Detroit: Become Human is very much a Quantic Dream game, meaning it’s more interactive film or TV series than traditional video game. There’s still plenty of running, fighting and shooting, but it’s reserved for the increasingly tense and pivotal quick-time events. Thankfully the story and cinematics are first-rate making it a worthy endeavour. Detroit is pure edge-of-your-seat material. Fast reflexes are required. If that’s not you, play the game on the Casual difficulty setting.
The motion-capture acting is excellent, even if certain dialogue comes across stilted. The three leads do a convincing job although its veteran actor Clancy Brown who steals the show as Connor’s human, alcoholic Detective partner. Lance Henriksen even has a small role, likely cast as a nod to his work as the android Bishop in Aliens.
Detroit: Become Human has as one of the best cold-openings of any game. It’s the hostage negotiation seen in the early preview material. It’s also available as a demo. I highly recommend playing it for yourself even if you’re not convinced to purchase the full game.
As a choose-your-own-adventure, every verbal response and physical action is tailored to your on-the-fly decisions. It’s possible that Kara, Marcus, Connor or all three will die based on the choices you make. If a character dies, the story adapts and progresses without them. The same goes for the supporting cast.
What makes the immersive nature of this story so compelling, is that you’re never presented with simple yes or no, live or die choices. What you believe to be the response that thrusts Kara to safety might be the one that gets her shot in the head. Thankfully completing each chapter unlocks a flowchart revealing the number of possible scenarios and alternate outcomes for each in-game decision.
Detroit: Become Human demands a second playthrough or at least a replay of the key chapters to see other outcomes and correct mistakes. One playthrough will set you back 8-10 hours. It can take upwards of 40 hours to see all consequences.
Overall, Detroit: Become Human is not perfect, but its shortcomings can be overlooked as the story, cinematics and immersive narrative are so compelling. This sci-fi thriller asks some tough questions about human nature and doesn’t really go far enough to provide answers, but leaves you with plenty to contemplate while it loads for the next playthrough.
Detriot: Become Human is available now on PlayStation 4.
Man of Many received a digital copy courtesy of the publisher.