By Adnan Riaz
Detroit: Become Human is a promising sign of developer Quantic Dream returning to form, especially after the French-based studio’s last outing, 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls, failed to hit the same benchmark that the BAFTA award-winning Heavy Rain had set. Still, I vividly remember enjoying my initial playthrough of Beyond — although a significant plot twist was spoiled for me — but it wasn’t as immersive or engaging in its storytelling as Heavy Rain had been. Truth be told, having recently played Beyond again in its PlayStation 4 remastered form, I feel like it perfectly lives up to the hit-and-miss reputation that it’s earned from people who have completed (or attempted to finish) the title.
Just based on its 2015 Paris Games Week announcement trailer and 2016 E3 trailer alone, Detroit: Become Human looks as promising and ambitious as any other Quantic Dream title. Detroit, however, seems to be leaning towards a similar formula that made Heavy Rain so successful (for better or worse), making me feel that the so-called ‘interactive drama’ that Quantic Dream prides itself in creating will be fully realised once again. Selecting a certain choice will have meaning again; it’s an aspect that shouldn’t be treated lightly. Players will be able to dictate the narrative of Detroit, with their decisions altering how far each character’s story arc (and the whole game’s narrative) will progress and pan out.
Described as a “neo-noir thriller” by Detroit: Become Human writer and director David Cage (the same developer behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls), Quantic Dream’s latest project, as its name suggests, takes place in Detroit, Michigan. Androids, above anything else, are the core theme of Detroit’s narrative. There are some androids, for example, that act as nothing more than obedient servants for humans, having been programmed to obey their every commands. On the other hand, there are androids actively roaming the world at their own free will, looking to find their place among humans and searching for a reason to ‘live’.
For the aforementioned, one such android is Kara, who is one of the protagonists of Detroit: Become Human. Kara, played by The Twilight Saga star Valorie Curry, featured in Quantic Dream’s 2012 PlayStation 3 tech demo, which Detroit is based upon. The reveal trailer for Detroit had Kara delivering a phenomenal monologue (check it out below), showing an early sign that her story, without any question, will be an adrenaline-fuelled emotional rollercoaster. I won’t hesitate in saying that, from this early preview of Detroit, Cage has captured the essence of making Kara a protagonist that the player can firmly get behind. There’s a reason for the player wanting to embark on a spiritual journey with Kara, feeling her cause is one that not only benefits her, but also everyone around her.
Just like in Heavy Rain, Kara won’t be the only protagonist in Detroit: Become Human, as Quantic Dream revealed another playable character back at E3: Connor. Played by Bryan Dechart, star of Jane By Design and The Remaining, Connor is an advanced android working with the law enforcement. His primary objective is taking down renegade androids that have become a direct threat to humans.
Connor is first seen in action when he’s tasked with stopping an android, Daniel, during a hostage negotiation scene. Even before the segment begins, Quantic Dream captures the distrust and division growing between some humans and androids, as the child’s mother is shocked to find that another android has been sent to save her daughter. Connor’s confrontation with Daniel highlights the importance of the choice-and-consequence scenarios that Beyond: Two Souls missed.
Detroit: Become Human, unlike Beyond, is a lot more ‘interactive,’ having players scan for evidence in the environment, analysing it and assembling together the clues for a more successful showdown between Connor and Daniel on the balcony. It’s the type of feature that will make the first playthrough truly unique — as it should be in any story-driven title!
David Cage told IGN in an interview that Detroit: Become Human’s story clocks in at “eight to ten hours”, comparing it to the same length of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. I feel that this will allow Detroit’s narrative to be immersive without being crammed with filler content or the story dragging itself on for too long. It’s early days, but the writing on Cage’s part has vastly improved. Heavy Rain has aged badly in the writing department, for example, with it being borderline cringeworthy when it’s combined with some of its poor voice acting.
Besides Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn and The Coalition’s Gears of War 4, Detroit: Become Human is easily one of the titles I’m most eager to sink my teeth into. I’ve been a long admirer of Quantic Dream’s unique story concepts and means of telling a narrative through an interactive drama. Harnessing the power of a new game engine and an ambitious narrative waiting to be told, it’s hard to believe that Detroit can’t be another stellar title from David Cage and Co.
Adnan Riaz is a University of York alumni and soon-to-be M.A. Journalism student at Manchester Metropolitan University. When he’s not gaming or writing, Adnan’s normally found on Twitter complaining about writer’s block, sharing his thoughts on Manchester United and showing his support for the King in the North. Follow him: @AdnanRiaz9