Ever seen a movie so engaging, you find yourself lost in it momentarily?
Imagine the idea taken a step further by making your moves impact the fate of the film. That’s exactly the premise interactive adventures thrive on and the latest in line of such titles is Detroit: Become Human. Dreamt up by writer-director David Cage and French studio Quantic Dream, it’s quite possibly the most cinematic gaming experience you’ve ever been a part of.
With detailed characters, multiple storylines and absolutely awe-inspiring visuals, it draws you into a world that isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine given the path our lives have taken. Androids and humans co-exist in this futuristic world where it’s hard to tell the two apart just from appearance or actions.
As you’d expect, it comes with all the challenges of such a scenario and puts you, the gamer, in the driver’s seat to decide if this hypothetical situation is a blissful dream or a dreaded nightmare.
OUT OF CONTROL
Right from the get-go, Detroit tests your moral values rather than your control pad dexterity to determine the end result of the situation you’re confronted with. You have multiple choices ranging from mercy to brutal vengeance. With each choice comes a corresponding progression of the plot making your moves feel more meaningful in this genre.
In order to make each move feel more organic, Quantic Dream lets you perform a combination of controller moves rather than hit a single button mid cutscene. There’s no reward for lightning quick responses. Instead, what’s critical is calculated choices you make with occasional countdowns to build up the pressure.
The game puts you in charge of three protagonists who are hyper-realistic androids. Interestingly, this lets you be the master of their fates and the reception of the world to their presence purely through your actions. It’s an empowering place to be and one that constantly tests the limits of your moral values.
One, Kara, is protective of a child abused by her violent, drug-abusing father, and the two are seeking asylum across the border in Canada. Another, a prototype android named Markus, looks to lead the mechanical revolution that forms the narrative core of the Detroit experience. And finally, there’s the police-assisting Connor who’s the stand-out controllable ‘droid. His odd-couple partnership with veteran police officer Hank – your traditional too-old-for-this, hard-drinking cop – delivers the game’s best writing, and even a few welcome laughs.
The premise is a futuristic America (specifically Detroit), where androids have entered the workforce inevitably attracting the resentment of the humans they’ve displaced. Not only does this threaten the value and power of humans, it also triggers charged protests against the whole idea and constant production of these droids.
It marks an undeniable link to the current state of affairs in the real world forcing you to pick a side to the debate and acting on the decision you’ve made. Since the game puts you in the shoes of the droids themselves, it’s solely up to you to convince the world of the benefits of such an arrangement or simply fuel their fears even further.
THE BLAME GAME
Detroit clearly establishes the fact it’s a movie first and a videogame later. However, Quantic Dream has been careful to up the gameplay quotient to meaningful levels so players feel more involved and consequential. This also makes the title a great sight for spectators with its often jaw-dropping visuals. Not only do the droids mimic humans in appearance, they emote with eerie accuracy as well.
It’s thoroughly immersive for the most part, but of course you could make it feel occasionally clumsy if you aren’t careful. Each character’s storyline is paced with much patience but that could be particularly trying for more active gamers. The saving grace is the constant switch between the multiple storylines in order to keep things interesting.
READY FOR ROUND TWO?
Most chapters offer several routes to their conclusions, with all manner of different outcomes laid out as a flow chart once they’re finished – and some of these paths will unlock new scenes for much later in the game. Knowing how things could’ve ended differently adds massive replay value to the title. That of course depends entirely on your reaction to the interactive adventure genre in general.
While the game feels engaging in several ways, its various outcomes feel generally predictable no matter what your choice. It’d be a much fuller experience if you weren’t able to foresee each alternative future. Occasionally the game will surprise you by unlocking new scenes for much later in the game based on certain paths you take.
While the game isn’t a quantum leap in the genre, it’s an admirable evolution in terms meaningful gameplay added to the mix. Cinematic adventures really do add new meaning and depth to the world of gaming and Detroit is no bad example of the concept. In fact, it successfully draws you into a world that’s hard not to imagine and puts you in a powerful position to make the experience really stick.
While there are predictable outcomes to each path, there is much entertainment to be extracted from all that the game has to offer. It’s hard to turn a title into something equally engaging for uninitiated spectators but Detroit singlehandedly achieves just that. There’s room to grow in the genre and one that’ll be rewarding in spades, but even as is, Detroit adds a whole new dimension to gaming in general.