Detroit: Become Human First Impressions

Detroit: Become Human is nearly here and a short demo has been made available on the PlayStation 4.  While the demo is short, it does give players a chance to check the game out and see if it’s for them.  I put in several playthroughs of the demo and following is my first impressions of this highly anticipated new title from Quantic Dream.

The following article does go into detail regarding the events of the demo.  Please be aware that this is considered SPOILER CONTENT.

****************************SPOILERS BELOW*************************************

Detroit: Become Human takes place in the near future and society has changed in one very impactful way.  A company named Cyberlife (very similar to the Terminator franchises Cyberdyne) has created A.I constructs referred to as Deviants.  Deviants look, speak and act nearly identical to humans; except they aren’t.  They are artificial constructed androids that are tasked to serve their human masters in all the ways that one could imagine.  Manual labor, household chores, babysitting and a million other tasks that humans would pawn off to others if they could.  Deviants are programmed to obey orders and to do so with a general expression of contentment and happiness.  Society has entered into a new utopia for humans.

Until deviants begin acting outside of their programming, hurting and killing humans, running away, starting revolutions and in some instances finding true consciousness.  The demo made available allows players to take the reins of one of the three main characters, Connor, and play through a hostage scenario within a high rise condo.  Connor is an android who helps humans track and capture rogue Deviants and this scenario shows just what they may look like.

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Detroit: Become Human feels very much like Quantic Dream’s previous title, Heavy Rain.  Movement and fine control of Connor felt a bit nicer, but it immediately invoked a sense of nostalgia and comparison for the older title.  Players have the agency to move around all areas of the room and attempt to search for clues, and question NPCs.  The game UI is minimal, with button prompts being strictly contextual. allowing the gorgeous visuals to fill up the screen.

This works well to create an immersion. I felt at times that I was viewing rather than playing a game. But there are some problems with it.  By having such a minimal UI, trying to find clues was confusing. Leading to me bumping into every nook and cranny trying to find something to lead me to the next clue.  I didn’t feel like a crack android detective as I bumbled through the house, running Connor into walls and chairs waiting for a small green triangle to appear on the screen.  When a context clue does appear, watching Conner do crime scene reconstruction with his newfound data can be quite fascinating.  I enjoyed rewinding the video of the event and searching through to find additional relevant information.  One such reconstruction allowed me to see how the victim died and that an item they were holding was flung against a wall.  This opened an additional option to search for the hitherto unknown item and investigate that for clues as well.  It’s not realistic or possible to analyze clues and reconstructions like that at all, but it was fun and felt very sci-fi.

With each clue and dialogue option unlocked, a tracker appeared. Informing me of how much this knowledge increased or decreased my likelihood of having a successful outcome.  This will differ from player to player but I would greatly prefer to have this feature turned off.  In real life, I don’t get to know how great a difference any particular preparation will make in an event and I feel it took away from my immersion in the story.

In a game Detroit: Become Human my orientation is towards experience first and not completion or exploration. This doesn’t mean I didn’t use that particular tool to assist in the scene.  It’s damn helpful and made the effort of working towards my goals more effectively.  It also prevented me from mindlessly walking around the house forever since I knew roughly how many clues and possibilities there were. But it’s a personal preference. I’d like to be spoon fed as little as possible in a game such as this.

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When I was ready to proceed to the actual hostage negotiation and confrontation, the game gave me the option to back out and keep working on the crime scene or dive into the event.  I both liked and disliked this.  For much the same reasons as stated above, this pulled me away from the narrative and that’s not something I wanted.  On the other hand, it is a necessity to include, because it allowed me to explore and not trigger the next scene by accident simply because I didn’t know a set piece event was behind the next door.   I get the feeling that Quantic Dream pulled as much of these menus and game breaks as they could out of the game and anything they left was due to the fact that without it players would experience more frustration.  I recognize that I may want less of the immersion breaking help, but ultimately, it’s for my benefit.

The confrontation between Connor and the rogue Deviant was an awesome experience, no question about it.  The world building and tension of the scene felt earned and satisfying. As dialogue progressed and certain options were either shown in a pleasing blue hue as being unlocked due to my investigative prowess or a jarring red with a lock on the side because of something I missed, emotions were flying through me hot and heavy.  Joy at seeing more options because of my detective work.  Angst at the red barring me from additional choices. Because of the timer attached to all decisions you make in conversations within the game, both those emotions quickly gave way to acceptance and assessment of the choices I had and what route I should proceed in. Would a gruff and tough no nonsense approach work?  Or is it better to appeal to the rogue Deviants better nature and attempt to empathize.  Both of these and some middle ground in between are options and it was fun and scary attempting to talk down this unstable A.I from killing his hostage.  As I progressed through the scene there were additional important items and prompts that I was able to engage in that turned the conversation in different directions.  All of these things; the investigation, dialogue choices and immediate actions during the scene helped or hindered the outcome of the event.  I loved and relished every second of the situation and I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the scene five or six times just to toy around with different decisions and the outcome they would produce.

While there were definitely some flaws that I would like to have ironed out in patches and updates (why is interacting with items not just one button press?!)  I enjoyed this brief glimpse into Detroit: Become Human.  The gameplay was fun and the way things escalated to a fever pitch had me on the edge of my chair.  I felt less like I was playing a game and more that I was directing a movie that I was also starring in.  If Detroit: Become Human is able to hold this level of storytelling across the entire game and allow the choices in each scenario to truly make a difference in the overall outcome, this may be another potential game of the year.

For more on Detroit: Become Human check out our upcoming review.  And if you want a taste of another Quantic Dream title check out Beyond: Two Souls.  It’s free for PS Plus Subscribers right now.

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