Detroit Become Human – Review

What will you decide?

Visually stunning and well-acted, Detroit: Become Human can be messy at times due to the melodramatic tone and tedious sections, but overall it’s a solid experience. There are some surprisingly powerful moments and it thoughtful approach to oppression and self-discovery deserves merit. The narrative exploration is impressive, featuring a sprawling script that requires careful thought when approaching a critical situation.

This game is all about bonds, players will see the events of Detroit unfold through three androids seemingly on a crash course with destiny. Markus and Kara are service androids who act as caretakers for their respective owners. Both live fairly tedious existences, but their living circumstances couldn’t be any different. Markus is mentored by his owner and is taught to question everything. Kara, unfortunately, lives with an abusive, drug user who treats everyone, including his own daughter, like garbage. The third android is a police investigator known as Connor and his primary objective is to hunt down deviants, androids that have gone against their own programming. His character arc is far and away the best out of the three as he gets to see the full effect of the deviant androids on society.

As the narrative unfolds, the player will be forced to make decisions either through gameplay or dialogue. Every android is able to interact with the environment which will help get through the different sections. Connor will sometimes breakdown and recreate crime scenes, allowing the player will get to see how the crime occurred. Markus will recreate scenarios that will help get past obstacles and Kara will be able to see multiple paths to complete an objective. For better or worse each action taken will affect the world around you.

Easy guess.

In Detroit each character will have companions that they interact with in their respective sections. Dialogue and decisions made during sections will affect their relationship. For example, Lieutenant Detective Hank Anderson is Connor’s partner on the Deviant case and their interactions, though tense, can be quite comical as Connor is an incredibly awkward character. These relationships are critical to the development or lack of development for every character.  Sometimes what feels like the right action may rub your partner the wrong way and could result in a negative reaction.  Nothing is ever as simple as right and wrong, Detroit tends to live in the gray area.  This is a testament to it’s strong writing.

Strong dialogue aside, there are far too many moments of tedium that bog down the pace significantly.  This is especially true with Kara’s and Markus segments, there is a lot of slow plotting that are meant to get the player familiar with the unusual controls.  But these segments persist even later in the game.  Connor’s sections feel purposeful, as if completing them will lead to a new lead in the case.  This uneven pacing can make Detroit feel boring at times, which is unfortunate as the narrative is strong even if there are far too many moments of melodrama.  If you’ve never played a Quantic Dream game before, understand that almost every interaction is predicated off of the face buttons or the right thumbstick.  It is very awkward at first and some motions that aren’t completed smoothly can lead to some weird animations, which by the way can be unintentionally hilarious.

If Detroit: Become Human had one major flaw, it would be that there isn’t enough Sumo, the faithful dog of Hank. Seriously, that dog is animated wonderfully. Jokes aside, it’s the camera. I understand that the fixed camera adds to the cinematic experience, but it can be frustrating to navigate. More than once I caught my character moving in the wrong direction, which is problematic in the sections that are timed. This of course, has been an issue with almost every Quantic Dream game and you would think by now that the developer would’ve learned how to create a more user-friendly camera. When the camera does work however, players are treated to the spectacular visuals of Detroit.

This is a gorgeous game with incredible facial animations and beautiful environments. There were times that I would stop and admire the scenery as the futuristic take on Detroit is a visual splendor. The environments are varied and the weather effects are fantastic. There are some sections that feel like they’re ripped right out of a horror movie. Those sections are the best in my opinion. Watching snow stick to your characters hair and body only to fall off based off their movements doesn’t get old. You can always tell how a character is feeling by their facial animations. It really adds to the drama. Seriously, this is top-notch stuff, hats off to Quantic Dream for creating such a visual marvel.

Luckily, these visuals are accompanied by strong voice acting and memorable music. While Markus can feel off at times, especially when giving a speech thats required to display his determination. Overall, actor Jesse Williams does a great job. The actors for Connor and Kara seriously shine in their roles. They are tremendous in every scene and nothing ever feels phoned in. In fact, the entire cast of Detroit does an excellent job. It’s a fantastic experience and I wouldn’t mind if they just added a cinematic mode so I can just watch my playthrough.  Music in Detroit adds to the ambience and adjust perfectly depending on the scene. Epic moments will have tense and pulse-pounding music, while intimate and quiet moments will feature a more subtle score. Players can actually purchase the different soundtracks with the points earned throughout the game.

Detroit: Become Human is a flawed by solid experience. The narrative exploration is unique and is anchored by strong dialogue and character interactions. There is more enough substance to Detroit that will keep players invested in the narrative. There is no going back once a decision is made and even though the route tree can be reviewed at any time, those decisions don’t unlock until the decisions is made. Camera issues and small bugs aside, I enjoyed Detroit: Become Human, even if there isn’t enough Sumo the St. Bernard.

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The real hero.

It’s really all that holds back the experience.

4 stars

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