Detroit: Become Human: A flawed but worthwhile game
By Anabel Sanchez
After over five years of production, gaming studio Quantic Dream finally releases Detroit: Become Human. It’s directed by the studio’s longstanding writer, David Cage.
As with Cage’s earlier effort, Beyond: Two Souls, this game’s narrative is decision-based. A flow chart unlocks branches according to what choices the player has their character make, which, in turn, affect the outcomes.
The game illustrates a world in which androids have been created to provide services in humans’ day-to-day lives. They look and talk like humans. The year is 2038 and Detroit is now a metropolis that has become a hub for android production and retailing.
As with most futuristic, android-themed stories, the machines rise up. However, what makes this game’s storyline unique is that rather than wanting to annihilate humans, these deviants, as they are called, wish to be treated equally and given equal rights.
The player experiences the main story through the eyes of androids Markus, Kara and Connor.
The character of Markus, played by Jesse Williams, is a caretaker who works his way through a series of events, to leader of the deviants. Kara, played by Valorie Curry, is a servant prototype who desires to protect her owner’s abused daughter. Both Markus and Kara are triggered once they are confronted with moral injustices that go against their programming.
However, it’s Connor, played by Bryan Deckhart, who has the most distinct narrative.
He’s an advanced prototype who assists the police department. Partnered with the ornery and troubled Lieutenant Hank Anderson, played by Clancy Brown, they both set off to investigate the defiance of the deviants. It’s the dichotomy of their characters within the narrative and Connor’s awakening to human emotions that’s sheer gold.
Unfortunately, the overall storyline is sometimes overshadowed by the game’s near-overbearing rhetoric. In fact, the game tends to beat you over the head with the preachiness of its message.
Themes of slavery and segregation are heavily ingrained, and while certainly relevant, it’s often shoved in your face. It’s as if Cage himself, who’s been known to sermonize in his past works, is constantly belting out his message through specific characters, rather than creating an occasional scene that lets the player arrive to the association on their own.
The game is at times so bogged down by this that it borders on pretentiousness.
Even Connor’s storyline has a questionable fault. All of his investigative cases consist of the same circumstance: humans beat androids, so androids retaliate in defense. There is never a differing circumstance.
There are also several familiar tropes that are utilized: long shots of the hyped facial animation technology, drawn-out scenes of characters doing boring chores, and the usual prophet who somehow predicts the messiah’s future.
So… why is this game still worth playing? Well, because despite its flaws, it’s still an amazingly gorgeous-looking game with plenty of meat in it.
It has memorable music, life-like graphics and an impressive variety of dialogue. And more importantly, there are scenes within that will undeniably make you feel and reflect.
While not all of the twists and sub-plots are masterfully written, there is enough there that keeps you moving forward to want to find the best outcome for your characters.
You become invested in them, because despite the game’s preachiness, Cage still manages to tap into your human emotions to want justice for the characters.
In playing, one can tell that a lot of passion went into this project. While Quantic Dream still has a way to go in perfecting the art of storytelling and gameplay, they’re at least firmly headed in the right direction.