As we inch ever closer to the development of artificial intelligence more and more narratives imagine the implications of machine/computer intelligence. Detroit: Become Human is the latest video game entry into the genre, and it aims to test your moral compass as you control a trio of androids questioning servitude in the year 2038.
Detroit’s story follows Connor (a police investigator prototype examining recurring cases of deviant androids) Kara (a home service model whose objective is to help around the home) and Markus (a robotic companion and carer who questions his submissive expectations). Offering roughly ten hours of gameplay, the narrative alternates between these three characters across chapters. These three playable characters begin as a blank canvas awaiting a personality, characteristics and life to be painted onto them. The large range of dialogue allows for the player to create both their own story and their own characters. It was easy for me to keep Conner an analytical and professional machine as it felt as though his character was destined to react in that nature, but pushing another button might have led him to become more humorous, sharper and ultimately more human.
Kara and Markus can also be tailored like Connor, but, ultimately, their narratives feel more fixed. Kara’s deviant behaviour stems from human like compassion as she wrestles with her programming to save a helpless child from her abusive father, so it’s easy for players to effortlessly carve out her path. Markus is so focused on his goal to achieve equality for androids and humans alike that his actions seem to only effect those around him rather than his own personal nature.
Detroit’s story is well-constructed, perfectly paced and filled with heart-stopping moments where the wrong choices can mean life or death. Just like Quantic Dream’s previous effort Heavy Rain, even the lesser of two evils has severe consequences for the character and those around the android forming relationships can be shattered in an instant if the player pries into one’s personal life. These clever touches remind us that our characters are attempting to mimic human characteristics therefore breathing meaning into Detroit’s title. The narrative is continuously strong, and scenes paired with powerful music emphasise the power of the story that you as a player control. Each choice, no matter how major or seemingly trivial, has dramatic effect on the outcome of each chapter. A flow chart captures your progress and highlights the sheer number of optional dialogue responses, actions and scenarios which you will likely miss, allowing Detroit to have immense replay-ability.
The level of immersion which each chapter offers sets Detroit: Become Human aside as a completely unique game. Every chapter is fuelled by intense action and drama with quick time events dominating the numerous fight sequences which appear in all three characters story lines. Whilst these quick time events only require two buttons they come fast and can easily catch a player off guard, resulting in serious consequences.
Stepping aside from the narrative it’s easy to find other things which make Detroit a memorable game. Visually, its stunning. Incredible detail has been poured into the environment of the city of Detroit, this futuristic cityscape feels alive and intricate. Environmental factors such as rainfall and snow interact with the characters as they would in real life, with rain dampening hair and snowflakes melting on skin. This level of detail expands to the android as well with character models being so realistic that, at times, it feels as though you’re looking at a photograph or watching a well-executed sci-fi television programme like Westworld.
Detroit: Become Human isn’t completely flawless though. The opening of the game will encourage you to complete mundane and tedious tasks such as tidying, drawing a bath and opening and closing windows. Kara’s household chores are far from the exhilarating crime-solving tasks which Conner is presented with later, meaning that a clear and favourite narrative emerges, leaving us sad when we alternate to Markus or Kara leaving Conner on standby until his next chapter. All the characters suffer with control issues and its common to find yourself fighting against the fixed camera angles as you attempt to walk through the streets without running into every streetlight, wall or piece of furniture in your path.
Overall though, its Detroit’s ability to manipulate human emotion which causes it to become a truly memorable experience. The game will present you with a selection of imperfect options, and plenty of your choices will leave you questioning your personal ethics. Detroit: Become Human is intelligent sci-fi at its finest.