Detroit: Become Human is finally here. In our review, we said “though it comes off as heavy-handed at times, Detroit tells an endearing story that verges on the profound, diving deep into the nature of humanity itself. It proves that interactivity and focused storytelling aren’t mutually exclusive and that the two can enhance each other given a proper degree of talent behind the scenes.” It’s a complex experience, as is everything that David Cage and Quantic Dream makes, though there comes both good and bad with these experiences. Here we’re going to dive into five things that Detroit gets right with its choose-your-own-adventure sci-fi story.
Showing the Flowcharts
All of Quantic Dream’s games have branching paths that the player can choose to take. Detroit: Become Human is no different, as the player’s actions can cause the characters to develop relationships, affect world events and in some cases even make them die if they aren’t fast enough during quick time events. In past games like Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, it’s clear player actions changed the story drastically, but it was never clear exactly how much the story was changed or how else the story could have gone differently. Quantic Dream decided to simply show players the entire story with all of its permutations after each chapter through a streamlined flow-chart. All of the options the player has taken are plainly displayed, while options that weren’t chosen are often blocked out, showing players that things could have gone differently, but not necessarily revealing exactly what that difference is. This encourages multiple playthroughs, as there’s no single correct way for the narrative to end and this tale of Androids becoming sentient has a lot to show that players can’t see in a single play through. The flowcharts even reveal what percentage of players made the same decisions that you did, informing you of how other humans decided to tackle the same challenges.
Automating Mundane Moments
The early sections of Detroit are generally more laid-back than the later parts of the game, with the android Kara taking care of a whole lot of chores around her owner’s house. Luckily, when she has to pick up a dish or take out the trash, much of this is done after the player makes an initial decision to do that task. For instance, selecting a stack of dirty dishes to clean will automatically clean all of the other stacks of dishes in the surrounding area and the game doesn’t show every little second of Kara scrubbing them clean. The cuts made are smart, as having to sit through the mundane moments would slow the pace of the game down to a halt. Instead, it becomes somewhat entertaining to tidy up the house while learning more about the game’s world all the while. These moments extend to later portions of the game, so rarely are there scenes that players will have to sit through restlessly with any of the three playable characters.
Detroit is gorgeous, comparable to the PlayStation 4’s previous benchmarks God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The facial animations stand out in particular as worthy of praise. Subtle twitches around a character’s mouth or eyes can clearly indicate to the player what any give character is feeling, whether it be pain, uncertainty, fear or otherwise. Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls were both gorgeous as well, though they received some flak for dipping a bit too far into the uncanny valley, where realistic human representations come off as disgusting to the onlooker. Luckily, with all of the motion and facial capture work that Quantic Dream put into the game, they’ve managed to overcome this barrier and make their character models look beautiful without freaking out our senses.
In Detroit: Become Human, players control three separate characters: Connor, Markus and Kara. Each character controls identically but has mechanics that are largely unique to them. Connor can reconstruct crime scenes by identifying multiple points of action, Markus can “pre-construct” paths that will either be successful or unsuccessful prior to executing an action, and Kara has various unique moments, like one instance where she has to convince a cop that she’s not an android. Each character is controlled over the course of a chapter that lasts 10-20 minutes on average before control is handed over to another character in the next chapter. This constant change keeps things interesting as there’s rarely enough time for a single scenario to grow boring before a new one is put in front of the player.
As previously mentioned, the flowchart is a great edition to Detroit: Become Human, but it also has an extremely helpful function: players can go back to any decision made during the game and restart at that point, allowing them to unlock options that they didn’t pick before. It isn’t recommended to do this during your first playthrough, as things are much tenser if you allow yourself to fail or for the story to go in a direction you didn’t completely expect. Beyond that, once all of the flowcharts are unlocked, you can look at all of them and see how much control you had over the plot the whole time. Over the course of an initial playthrough, there will likely be moments you’d like to see different outcomes for and this way you can see how they pan out. It gives players control over a narrative that they were already steering in the first place, highlighting the most positive aspects of Quantic Dream’s distinct brand of gameplay.