Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Detroit: Become Human: PS4 Review

Detroit: Become Human: PS4 Review

Developed by Quantic Dreams
Platform: PS4

Quantic Dream has always been heavy on the story-telling elements in their games.
Hard Rain was a detective story, Beyond Two Souls a teen-based narrative - and now Detroit: Become Human is a story that touches on the more existential elements of artificial life.
Detroit: Become Human: PS4 Review

It's not unlike something Asimov would have hinted at in some ways, and there are elements of Philip K Dick's writing within as well.

Set in Detroit in 2038, you take part in three story perspectives, dipping in and out of narratives in chunks like a story's chapters, following the threads set out.

As either Connor, a police negotiator, Kara, a house android or Markus, a carer, you are essentially an android, reacting to what's going on around you and finding the boundaries of your program tested by events within.

For Connor, it's the case of a homicide that sees his belief systems challenged - the game opens with him leading a hostage negotiation as an android stands near a cliff, child hostage in his arms. For Kara, it's a case of starting again after being apparently hit by a car - thrust back into the house of an abusive drug-taking single father, her challenges lie in whether to protect Alice, the child of the house. And for Markus, it's caring for Lance Henriksen's character, a famous but seriously ill painter.

Detroit: Become Human may be a case of starting off with the mundane - certainly, Kara's you must do the housework narrative is less than thrilling - but what emerges is a real sense of choices having implications, something which this genre of games hasn't always managed successfully.
Detroit: Become Human: PS4 Review

Taking in the Butterfly effect of choice from Until Dawn and building on it, Detroit: Become Human's various threads untangle with degrees of domestic cataclysmic effect. Ripples emerge from the raft of choices, and with each mini-chapter giving you a chance to see the options you had, without revealing how to unlock them, delivers a feeling the game can go more than one way - and certainly pushes for replayability.

The flowcharts make for an impressive part of the game, showing you there are real levels within levels to partake after you've finished the current story. And the darker sides of abuse are examined throughout, giving the story an adult feel and a bleakness that's occasionally hard to shake.

It looks incredibly cinematic as well - visualisations of Detroit bustle with the kind of life glimpsed in a grubbier Blade Runner, but there's a world here that merits immersion and exploration.

Which is why it's a shame to see that Detroit: Become Human only allows you to walk the path pre-laid in for you. Granted, decisions can shape the story, but going off storyboard and wandering isn't allowed - with big red barriers coming down in place to tell you you're not allowed to.

Looking at this generously, it could be seen as the android's programming conflicting, but more than likely it's a creative decision to stop people trying to go rogue and open world. It's a shame, because it does little to move Quantic Dream away from the criticisms they've garnered in the past from simply allowing people to interact in elements of their pre-programmed movies.
Detroit: Become Human: PS4 Review

Frustratingly as well, some of the moving mechanics are difficult with some actions only being triggered if in the right spot - it's an annoyance which distracts from total immersion throughout, but it doesn't spoil the smaller moments of the story and the impacts of the decisions.

Ultimately, Detroit: Become Human may explore what it's like to be human, to be presented with fallacies, and situations that scream uncertainty, and in Quantic Dream's hands, it certainly is a game to experience - even if occasionally, that experience is flawed by some of the game's intentions.

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