Detroit: Become Human Review - More Human Than Human

Detroit: Become Human presents an android-filled future that hits close to home.

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Elon Musk has been telling us for quite some time that we need to be more worried about AI. I’ve always agreed with him, but never took the idea seriously. I know technology will advance, and the world will continue to change, but I’ve never had a clear mental image of what that could look like. In Detroit: Become Human, Quantic Dream presents a future filled with androids and AI that is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s a future that we might already be headed towards, and if within the realm of possibility, it’s one we’re not ready for.

The Illusion of Control

The opening moments of Detroit: Become Human see an advanced-model android named Connor on his way to resolve a hostage situation. Conner is immediately met with hostility by everybody he encounters, and it sets the tone that androids are not regarded as equal to humans, despite how much more advanced they are in some cases. Connor, of course, isn’t alive and doesn’t have feelings, so he’s only concerned with completing his objective. However, the idea that androids are less than people, even as they become more human, is a central conflict that continues throughout the entire experience.

The prologue offers the perfect entrance into Detroit: Become Human. There’s a mix of free movement, searching for clues, inconsequential conversation, and dialog with severe consequences, topped off with some action-packed quick-time events (QTE) that can change how things play out from one run to the next. When it was all done there was a slick looking flowchart to show me the path I had taken, and about three dozen other paths with question marks to let me know I was only scratching the surface. I resisted the urge to replay that portion and pushed forward.

In hindsight, I was probably cockier going into the prologue than I should have been. I figured it would be a walk in the park, and for the most part it was. I never felt things were out of control until suddenly they were. It was terrifyingly realistic to make what I felt were good decisions and have everything go sideways. I didn’t miss a QTE, things just weren’t as cut and dry as I was expecting.

That was an important lesson for me; the entire narrative changed in an instant, and there was seemingly nothing I could have done to prevent it. My choices were intuitive. I checked all the boxes, but nothing worked out as I envisioned. It was at that moment I had to let go of achieving the best outcome. I shifted my focus from the illusion of beating Detroit: Become Human and accepted I was just here to experience it.

Letting go of control was part of the reason I experienced almost no frustration while playing. Normally, missing a QTE would be infuriating for someone who is always trying to achieve the best outcome, but it wasn’t; it felt like life. Sometimes the punch gets blocked and sometimes it sneaks through. Sometimes the door jams and sometimes it’s effortless. The moment I accepted that I was able to enjoy myself more.

It helps that the QTEs are much improved from what I recall in Heavy Rain. It feels as if the sweet spots for maneuvering the right and left sticks, or the motion detection when tilting the controller, have been improved. This is true in all situations except where the touch pad is used. That still feels awkward, but luckily it isn’t utilized in life or death situations. There was never a time where I felt cheated because my actions didn’t register as intended, even on the higher of the two difficulties.

A Good-Looking Android

Because Detroit: Become Human is more narrative driven than most games, the audio and visuals must be on point, and they are. I’m not someone who buys into the idea that any game looks amazing on a PS4. I’ve been spoiled by PC. I think recent PS4 exclusives look good, but Detroit: Become Human might be the best looking PS4 game I’ve played. It looks fantastic and doesn’t have the huge open spaces to deal with. That seems to have paid off with the detail and realism of character models, and it helps accomplish a crucial task for Quantic Dream: bringing the androids to life and making them feel more human.

As someone who appreciates quality audio, Detroit: Become Human didn’t disappoint. The soundtrack was used well to complement the emotional highs and lows, and gameplay felt more realistic because the detail in sound design helped to bring situations and environments to life. Whether it was footsteps getting closer or the thuds of punches and kicks, sounds landed with an impact that helped drive the narrative, regardless of the direction it was headed.

I’m getting used to well written and acted PS4 exclusives, but this could again be one of my favorites. Not all the performances are great, but most characters are played well, and I had no trouble believing them and caring about their journey’s. Valorie Curry (Kara) and Jesse Williams (Markus) are particularly strong as leads, but Clancy Brown and Lance Henriksen do an incredible job in supporting roles and help take the voice acting in Detroit: Become Human to an exceptional level.

A Lasting Impression

By all standard measurements, Detroit: Become Human is a good game. It looks, sounds, and plays better than most, and even when I finished it I didn’t feel done. I went through a couple dozen chapters to get to the end of the story, but it was clear to me that there were countless paths, both significant and minor, that I hadn’t been down. Unlike most games I play, the end didn’t feel like the end, it just felt like one piece of a larger world, and I was eager to experience more of it.

What makes Detroit: Become Human a great game, though, is that even after going back through alternate narrative branches and winding down my play time, I’m still invested. The world that Quantic Dream gave me to explore is only a short leap from the one we’re living in now, and the ideas presented have left me contemplating the role AI could play in our lives sooner rather than later. How would androids impact our personal lives, our economy, or our approach to global conflict? When Elon Musk said we should care about AI advancements I knew he was right, but Detroit: Become Human has shown me why.


This review is based on a PS4 download code provided by the publisher. Detroit: Become Human will be available in retail and digital stores on May 25th, 2018.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.

Review for
Detroit: Become Human

9

Pros

  • Incredible visuals for the PS4
  • Mostly top-notch voice acting
  • Replay factor is through the roof
  • Controls are smooth for a QTE experience
  • Narrative presents some tough questions

Cons

  • The touch-pad controls are wonky, but rarely used
  • A couple voice acting performances miss the mark

From The Chatty

  • reply
    May 24, 2018 5:00 AM

    Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Detroit: Become Human Review - More Human Than Human

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 5:06 AM

      The initial gameplay videos looked meh, but the demo sold me. Glad the full version is a good game.

      • reply
        May 24, 2018 2:59 PM

        It really doesn't feel done when you're done. I immediately had a list of several chapters I wanted to visit again to figure out what I could have changed, and how it would impact the game's outcome. If that is something that sounds appealing, there's probably 30+ hours of content in this game for you.

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 5:17 AM

      Rob Zombie has said the residuals from that song alone let him live a very nice lifestyle

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 5:25 AM

      Will this always be a PS exclusive?

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 6:30 AM

      I was watching people play this at PAX East, I don't know how fun it was to play, but DAMN is it a pretty game. Excellent design and modelling and animation etc.

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 2:21 PM

      I wanted to hear Borzoi's thoughts but she is probably playing the shit out of it!

      • reply
        May 24, 2018 6:17 PM

        I am going to buy it online at the stroke of midnight with that 20% off coupon. My internet connection has suuuuucked bad lately so I may have to wait for tomorrow for the DL to finish.

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 4:53 PM

      wow, never even heard of this!

    • reply
      May 24, 2018 8:14 PM

      sounds excellent. In hindsight, I was probably cockier going into the prologue than I should have been. I figured it would be a walk in the park, and for the most part it was. I never felt things were out of control until suddenly they were. It was terrifyingly realistic to make what I felt were good decisions and have everything go sideways. I didn’t miss a QTE, things just weren’t as cut and dry as I was expecting.

      That was an important lesson for me; the entire narrative changed in an instant, and there was seemingly nothing I could have done to prevent it. My choices were intuitive. I checked all the boxes, but nothing worked out as I envisioned. It was at that moment I had to let go of achieving the best outcome. I shifted my focus from the illusion of beating Detroit: Become Human and accepted I was just here to experience it.


      • reply
        May 24, 2018 8:28 PM

        There were some pretty subtle touches in the demo. For example if you used the gun - the scan text on the gun says androids aren’t allowed to handle a gun- and saved the hostage, you see Connor handing it back to the SWAT leader with this knowing look on his face, while the captain looks genuinely disturbed, like “is this part of its programming or did this android also just go rogue”.

        You could tell you just tipped your hand in ways that were going to have serious repercussions, but it’s done 100% visually, not verbally, courtesy of some very high quality facial animations. The player would still need to be paying attention to notice all these details, like taking the time to read that scanning text and digest the implications in advance, watch all the character reactions like a movie rather than a game, etc. These are details that expect a heightened level of engagement from the player. If someone was rushing through or reacting like every other game on the block that demands less from the player, shit’s going to go right over their head, until later when the consequences come back to haunt you.