Detroit: Become Human

It’s not so much about the story but the presentation of it. Similarly, the level of involvement makes for a more immersive experience. Naturally, a player *can* choose a more casual play approach, but, I do not recommend it.

Apart from Omikron: The Nomad Soul (which encompassed many different sub-genres), Quantic Dreams affairs much like the point and clicks of yore, are often backed by story and a certain cinematic pizazz to it all. A common moniker for such experiences: “interactive movie”. More recently, Telltale had had great success with their Walking Dead series, especially given that they had been multiplatform. As of late, Quantic Dream has focused more on console exclusivity for their IP. Very few of their games came out on PC and even so only in the very recent year with some announced upcoming on the Epic Games Store. One of the very first games I played from this developer was, of course, Omikron, but the one I liked the most and actually finished back then was Fahrenheit, more than a decade ago. Americans will know it as “Indigo Prophecy”, a name which I didn’t quite like but that is just one opinion…

Nevertheless, watching a movie is one thing, participating is another. There is a level of emotional engagement involved in choosing words, actions, reactions of a character and changing the story. Netflix tried to incorporate this in their movie “Bandersnatch”. Although it made less noise than I expected, I believe it was a first success nonetheless. There is an amazing amount of work gone into such stories. How often have you watched a movie and groaned at a specific character’s choice and wished you could just tell the idiot to “look out!” or do something else? Netflix has created a precedent in the movie industry. Even in gaming, not many apart from and David Cage’s Quantic Dream dare tackle this beast.

Imagine: for a specific scene you need to shoot as perfectly as possible a specific course of actions and consequences, action and reaction from multiple characters. Then, you have to go back and *reshoot* for alternatives. The handy flowchart in Detroit easily illustrates what his entails for one episode. Every node has to be mapped out, breaching out to different outcomes and each means extra work for the actors, the film crew, the writers, the graphic artists etc. When you sit and think about it, it is grueling and difficult work. It gives a whole different perspective on the 40 and so dollars I paid for it. Quantic Dream did not twiddle their thumbs and just “land” the game on our laps.

Detroit: Become Human is not entirely grounding breaking in its narrative. It takes concepts, which were the core of “I, Robot” by Asimov and puts a certain modern or “realist” spin on it. XXX, the undertones of slavery and the parallels to the segregation of the black population/ the apartheid are vibrantly evident. To go farther into this, I would recommend actually playing through in a less casual way. At the same time, there is the surprising fact that in many cases, which I shall not disclose, playing a character to the best of their persona will not be what you, as a player, desire. Needs and goals can clash. Going fully into “X” person’s character and M.O. may be detrimental to another. I should have expected this but I did not. It felt so much like playing a movie that I forgot characters you play can die if your choices, with them or with others, lead there. At the same time, I found out though that not all NPC deaths are immutable. It is not impossible to find ways to “save” them or keep them alive for as long as can be. Hint: always check the flowchart to guess what could be feasible.

All in all, Detroit: Become Human is an enjoyable experience for lovers of story-heavy games and choose-your-own-adventure books. Much of the important moments of the narrative are based upon the given characters own agency. Nevertheless, you as the player shape that agency to some extent, as well as other characters’ opinion of them. This simple fact makes the story last longer in my own mind. This is especially true given the parallels I can draw to the android plight as a person of color whose race has gone through what they are going.

 

Note: There is a Quantic Dream Collection out since the release of Detroit which includes also Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. It is a good deal for those who have never played any of those games before. Quantic Dream Collection – PlayStation 4

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