Detroit: Become Human – Meta-Review – Do Androids Dream?

Detroit Become Human
Image Source: DontFeedTheGamers

Release date: May 25, 2018

Developer: Quantic Dream

Designer: David Cage

Writer(s): David Cage; Adam Williams;

Genre: Action-adventure game

Platform: PlayStation 4

AButtonGames Take

It’s finally here! Detroit: Become Human is the epic looking cinematic journey game akin to games like Life is Strange, Heavy Rain, and Beyond Two Souls. Made by Quantic Dream we expect some great things from it, and it seems like it might have (mostly) fulfilled those expectations. It seems the story was written with a lot of cliche characters, cheesy monologues, and heavy handedness that you will have to just get over. However, we will definitely see the heavy improvements of texture quality, facial animations, and overall graphical excellence that might make Detroit: Become Human worth the cash. Take a look and see what critics are saying below.

Game Description

“Travel to the near-future metropolis of Detroit – a city rejuvenated by an exciting technological development: androids. Witness your brave new world turn to chaos as you take on the role of Kara, a female android trying to find her own place in a turbulent social landscape.

Shape an ambitious branching narrative, making choices that will not only determine your own fate, but that of the entire city. Discover what it means to be human from the perspective of an outsider – see the world of man though the eyes of a machine.” — playstation.com

Metacritic – Rating: 79

Kotaku – By: Kirk Hamilton – Unrated

“The PS4’s latest blockbuster moviegame Detroit: Become Human is like something my Alexa would come up with, were I to ask her to write a story about androids with feelings.

As I imagine it, the vaguely sinister, sporadically helpful digital assistant that currently resides on my desk would quickly synthesize a bunch of pop sci-fi touchstones—a dash of Battlestar Galactica, a pinch of Westworld, a touch of A.I. Artificial Intelligence—and mush them together into a robo-generated trope casserole much like the one currently cooling on my PS4’s hard drive. Her script would have all the hits: The scene where the robot risks its life to save a human, the scene where the guy who hates robots finally comes around, and at least two scenes where a robot looks at itself in the mirror and ponders its identity. All the hits and nary a fresh idea among them.

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In Detroit, it’s the year 2038. Thanks to technological advances and a shift in manufacturing demand, the Motor City has become the Android City. The rest of the world is pretty much like it is now, only worse. Climate change? Still a problem. Overpopulation? Ditto. An escalating diplomatic crisis between the the U.S. and Russia? Yup. In fact, most of this game could be taking place five years in the future, not two decades. The only thing about the Detroit of Detroit that feels appropriately futuristic is the fact that, for around eight grand, you can buy a lifelike android to help out around the house.

Kotaku - Detroit Become Human

The story, which I completed in around 10 hours on my first playthrough, focuses on three of those androids: a domestic servant model named Kara, who attends to a young girl and her abusive father; another servant named Markus who cares for a kind, elderly painter; and a prototype law enforcement model named Connor, who is investigating a rash of android “deviants” who have been violently turning on their masters. The player’s perspective hops among the three as Kara goes on the run, Markus begins organizing an android uprising, and Connor attempts to get to the bottom of why so many of his kind are rebelling. Each narrative thread unspools on its own for the first few hours, as players make decisions that redirect the story and snip off alternate outcomes. Spare a character’s life, and he may turn up to help out at some point down the road. Make an enemy, and you’ll have to reckon with her later.

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This review is based primarily on my first playthrough, which I view for the most part as canon. It is possible for the main characters to die at various points in the story, even unusually early on, but I was able to shepherd all three of them to the final credits intact, leading to what I’d call the “good” ending.”

IGN – By: LUCY O’BRIEN– Rating: 8/10

“I’m a Real Boy

The backbone of Detroit’s story – meaning the one that’s relatively fixed in place despite the choices you make around it – is big, ambitious fun that takes Phillip K. Dick’s question of whether androids dream of electric sheep to the nth degree. In doing so, however, it does suffer from a multitude of plot holes. Marcus appears to gain magical android powers when it suits him; Hank is impressed when Connor solves the most basic of mysteries; and one twist makes absolutely no sense if you look back on that particular storyline after having finished.

“Detroit is audacious and silly as hell, but it’s got real heart to it.

These were noticeable (and often pretty funny), but they weren’t deal-breakers for me. Detroit is audacious and silly as hell, but it’s got real heart to it. There were enough moments of quiet tenderness to keep me emotionally invested, and the stakes were suitably high – particularly in its final act – to keep me thrilled.

With this in mind, there is a lot of clumsy exposition and dialogue I was willing to forgive, as one would while watching a fun B-movie. But occasionally, Detroit ignores the standard writing rule of “show, don’t tell” to such an extent I was yanked out of the story. Bad guys spout monologues that spell out Detroit’s themes in capital letters. (There’s a compartment for androids on public transport, in case you didn’t get what Detroit was going for here.) Select side characters, like Hank’s harrowed police chief and the inexplicably wise and mystical Lucy – are loudly cliched, so we understand what their roles are without any real character development.

With the remarkable performance-capture technology – and performances – Quantic Dream has at its disposal, there’s no real reason for such heavy-handedness. Nor do I think Detroit is incapable of subtlety; some of the scenarios here are unusual and profound. But I wish its ideas had more room to breathe before being trampled by someone spelling out the meaning for us.

Characters are certainly capable of non-verbal expressiveness. The level of detail you can see in their faces is astounding; facial hair, blemishes, freckles, and moles are rendered in stunning detail, particularly in checkerboard 4K on the PS4 Pro. The animation is just as good; as Kara and Alice hurry through the rain on a freezing night, hunched over and miserable, I could have been watching two humans from the side-streets.

“The world here feels very real, built with a sense of history.

The world here feels very real, too, built with a sense of history. This is a miserable, dark version of a future Detroit where androids are so omnipresent that they’re old news, sold in chain stores for the price of a discount mobile phone. Little details from the sidelines tell the story of a burst tech bubble, like basements filled to the brim with discarded models or a street performer advertising the fact he is playing “human music.”

Though the path you are guided through in Detroit’s world is as linear as previous Quantic games, I felt like there was more time to enjoy these beautifully detailed environments. One of my favourite sequences involved chasing graffiti tags to find a particular location, which ended up being an eerie, silent excursion in a forgotten corner of the city. There’s also a marvelous scene in an abandoned amusement park which still creaked with enough life that I got a sense of what it might have been, once upon a time.”

Polygon – By: Allegra Frank – Unrated

Detroit: Become Human tackles civil rights without a grasp of history

“The main character’s blackness in the story is never addressed, like it doesn’t matter. It should: African-Americans have a long history of experiencing exactly the kinds of discrimination that’s so important to Detroit. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an inspiration for the androids’ demonstration. And this game is Detroit, Michigan, of all places — a city where race and class figure into so much of its politics. It has a history, but you will be hard-pressed to find it.

It’s as if the creators are using the bondage of artificial intelligence to conceal subtext about institutional racism, while somehow missing that in the game they created, that subtext is, quite often, just the text. No one dares comment on how his race factors into a story that is explicitly about race. There’s no discussion of how impactful it is for a person of color to lead a monumental movement toward equality; instead, the humans tell us point-blank that “androids are not humans,” and that’s that.

Previous David Cage games have stayed away from topics that, while tragic, had political import and relevance. That made the imposition of very granular gameplay felt less frustrating. Solving a kidnapping and murder through split-second button presses and polarized choices feels comparably pulpy. But reducing the androids’ fight for humanity — or struggles with discrimination, or escaping brutal abuse — into grabbing nearly every button on your DualShock controller is a cheap, ignorant way to skirt the real impact of these subjects.

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Only in the most grounded path, the detective Connor’s, does the fun play pair with a plot that has much-needed heart. It helps that Connor’s relationship to the enslaved androids is minimal. At most, he’s aggressively judged by the humans he works with and who refuse to trust him. This comes to a moving impasse, should you want to explore it. And if Connor’s story were the only one we had to engage in, it would certainly eliminate much of the poor dramatization plaguing Kara’s and Markus’. Connor’s story works because it subtly contends with the tensions of otherness.

With the rest of Detroit, what we have instead is a story equally overstuffed and underdevelopedQuantic Dream has mastered making a very playable, even enjoyable interactive experience. But there’s always this performative feeling behind it — always this reminder that, for as much as someone wants to help out a cause, there’s a difference between saying it and doing it.”

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Detroit: Become Human
Author Rating
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christopher
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