Quantic Dream’s Best Narrative Experience So Far
Quantic Dream’s latest interactive adventure, Detroit: Become Human, is a gripping, thought provocative tale about androids becoming sentient and rising up against humans. Split between three different narrative perspectives and merging the best parts of the studio’s previous two blockbuster games, Detroit is a well written adventure for the most part with just enough meaningful choices and deviating narrative paths to give a much better illusion of choice compared to Beyond: Two Souls and the Telltale games in the same genre.
The opening chapter does well to introduce the main gameplay mechanics and tone of the game, with you taking control of one of the lead protagonists Connor (voiced by Bryan Dechart) during a tense hostage negotiation with a rogue android. What follows are three distinct subplots that see you take control of different androids as they break free of their conventional programming and become sentient in their respective plotlines.
The choices made in-game can have a massive impact on what happens to your character late on
Connor’s story is arguably the most informative and thorough, used as a crux to fill in the human side of each chapter as you piece together information on the mysterious ra9 and the deviant android virus that seems to be sweeping across the city. Much like Heavy Rain before it, there’s a slew of detective skills put to good use as you play the role of an android investigator on the brink of becoming rogue as you grow closer to your human partner Hank (voiced by Clancy Brown).
Female android Kara’s (voiced by Valorie Curry) storyline is far more emotionally charged, beginning with her adopted into a toxic family environment with an abusive, alcoholic father and his daughter Alice (voiced by Audrey Boustani). After a tension-wracked altercation between the two, Alice and Kara set off to try and find sanctuary with nothing but the clothes on their back and a world loathe to androids. Markus (voiced by Jesse Williams) rounds out the trio with a story that mirrors Kara’s choice of going on the run but with a far more direct choice of searching for the fabled android refuge called Jericho.
Without giving too much away, the story develops well with only a few plot holes and narrative inconsistencies, overshadowed by plenty of surprise twists and shocking moments to keep you engaged throughout. Having played through the game 3 times, it’s fair to say most of the big, meaningful changes are locked to the final few chapters of the game but there’s still a fair amount of deviation to be had thanks to the brilliantly implemented relationship mechanic.
It’s here that Detroit: Become Human does well to bring some gravitas to some of the less meaningful dialogue exchanges used to build character. Seemingly innocent exchanges suddenly hold significant weight as they fluctuate the way minor characters feel about you. Depending on which way these relationships swing, some can drastically alter the options available late on, opening up extra options not otherwise available.
Much like other Quantic Dream’s games, on-screen button prompts make up the bulk of gameplay
A handy flowchart at the end of each chapter is certainly a nice inclusion too, with the added ability to go back and replay checkpoints within chapters a good way to quickly check what would have happened had you chosen a different option without replaying the entire game all over again. We do recommend not doing this to find the “ideal” solution until after you’ve finished the game as the first playthrough makes for an incredibly tense affair, with strict timers on some choices and the element of unpredictability weighing heavily over proceedings.
Split across 32 chapters, Detroit: Become Human shifts perspectives often enough to avoid stagnation while advancing each of the plot lines in a compelling way before all three characters converge and join for the game’s climax. Most of the chapters follow a pretty conventional gameplay style, driven forward by different dialogue choices and on-screen button prompts. Some segments see you travelling from A to B along a linear path with most locations restricted in what you can and can’t do, used as a way to world build and traverse from one location to the next before launching back into more dialogue and cut scenes. While some may lament this style of play, playing on the “experienced” difficulty does make these QTE segments a little more challenging with various button prompts coming thick and fast, especially during some of the longer fight sequences.
Character models are impressively rendered and incredibly detailed
With each action and choice completed, the game awards you in-game Bonus Points at the end of each chapter which can be used to purchase character skins, artwork, trailers and even a “Making Of” video to add more replayability to the game once you’re finished. Whether you go back and replay the game from the beginning or just experience the alternate paths via the chapter select screen, Detroit: Become Human is an impressive interactive story with a plethora of choices meaning it’s unlikely you’ll have the exact same experience as others.
Graphically, there isn’t anything quite like Detroit: Become Human out there. Facial animations are realistically depicted, tiny hair follicles can be seen on each characters’ faces and little touches like raindrops or tears falling down someone’s cheek are incredibly realistic and add extra polish to an already beautiful game. The landscapes and general world building is polished too, with a lot of these areas making good use of rain and snow to show off the impressive weather effects the studio seem to effortlessly pull off.
Each chapter ends with a flowchart showing your choices and other possible branching outcomes promoting replayability
Much like the previous games developed by Quantic Dream, Detroit: Become Human has a few niggling issues that seem to be a staple of this game series. Movement feels stifled and unnecessarily stiff at times, the larger areas incredibly restricted and some segments feel a little tedious to play through with one specific scene requiring you to hold down L1 for around 2 minutes while pushing the analogue stick forward to move your character as you listen to a heated exchange. It’s moments like this that hold the game back from being as polished as it could be, especially given the breathtaking visuals and cinematic soundtrack accompanying the game.
Detroit: Become Human may suffer from a couple of plot inconsistencies and niggling gameplay issues that have hounded Quantic Dream in their previous games but there’s no denying Detroit: Become Human is by far the studio’s best effort. The characters are engaging, the choices meaningful and the aesthetic breathtakingly gorgeous. Perhaps with the arguable exception of Until Dawn, Detroit: Become Human is the best interactive story-driven game out there and while it may not be for everyone, it’s also one of the best games released this year on PS4.