Detroit: Become Human is out today!

Oh how I have been waiting for this

Way back in 2012, the developers of Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream, released a technical demo.  That demo was called Kara, and it still looks as amazing today as it did back then.

Kara - Heavy Rain/Quantic Dream Tech Demo

This 7-minute demo blew my mind.  Yes, it was essentially one room, but the imagery was amazing.  Voice acting wise we had been treated to a few stellar performances.  But the facial animation was amazing.

I don’t know about you, but I could empathise with Kara as if she were a real person put in a terrible situation, even though we had just watched her being built.

But unlike the tech demo for Final Fantasy VII, I promptly forgot about it.

Then, in 2015, Kara returned, and not in a way I expected.

Now I am a sucker for a good story and exploring different ideas, and my mind raced at the possibilities.  Well, to be honest, they raced for about three days before I actually connected the two Kara’s.  Then my mind went into overdrive.

For the next few years, I would stop and peek at what was happening with the game, and quickly step away.  And then last year at PAX Aus, this booth was proudly in the middle of the exhibition hall.

How can you walk past a display like this and not get excited?

Now I was already hyped and excited and had all sorts of possibilities running through my mind from snippets and glimpses of information.  Here was a world where people had essentially passed off all dredge work to androids and told themselves it was OK because they were only machines.

But just as we find today and many people warn, artificial intelligence learns.  It adapts.  It is not something that can be controlled by programming, as by design it is being programmed to reach conclusions on its own.

What would the androids decide to do?  There are many examples in sci-fi, from peaceful coexistence to outright war.  Would humanity, given the chance, elevate the androids from what would be slavery?  This is what I was excited to try.

So I gave in.  I walked in and watched an amazing trailer highlighting the choice based gameplay which I will talk about a little later, and some nice people told me so much about the game that got me really excited.

You don’t play one character in Detroit: Become Human

When in the reveal trailer Kara said this is ‘our’ story, I assumed she meant the androids.  And maybe she did, but there is a literal translation as well.

During the game, you will control three different characters at different points.  Kara, the android from the demo that has developed artificial consciousness.  Conner, an advanced police model tasked with hunting down other androids.  And finally Markus, a caretaker that seeks to help other androids free themselves.

The three protagonists - Conner, Markus and Kara

This was music to my ears, as this allows you to explore and experience different perspectives to the narrative, even if there is an overarching goal game wise.

I would assume the perspective from Kara to be obvious, having seen her evolve (albeit briefly) in the trailers.  In my mind, Kara may be the character that ties the stories together and is most closely related to the player, ‘learning’ about the world with you.

Connor is almost certainly a Blade Runner fans ideal character.  One of the biggest questions with the original Blade Runner was if Deckard was himself a replicant tracking his own kind.  There are obvious differences – Connor knows what he is for example – but the parallels are there.

And finally Markus.  I really don’t know much about Markus, but I envision an android father figure.  This could even extend to becoming a Morpheus like figure, equal parts leader and fighter.  It will be interesting to see where Markus’ story leads.

There isn’t one story

Sweeping branching stories are something video gamers have been promised for years, and rarely have these promises been delivered on.  There are some great examples such as The Witcher series, and some not so much.  I’m thinking Quantum Break maybe as a recent example.  I am apparently one of those weird people that quite like the original Mass Effect ending, so it just proves how subjective the topic is.

But this is Quantic Dream, the developers of Heavy Rain.  Whatever faults you find with Heavy Rain (it is incredibly meme-worthy after all), one thing I didn’t hear as a common complaint was the endings.  Yes, there was one core story, but the outcomes were never as simple as a character not appearing in the stock end scene or not.

And from all accounts, they really ramped up the branching narrative options.

You can see these flowcharts during the game. It is both a progress indicator, and gives you an idea of how many options you are looking at.

The cast

This might seem like a strange one for a video game, but Quantic Dream seems to have gone all out on casting for Detroit: Become Human.  Well, two people overall.  One I am a huge fan of and the meta appeals to my dark sense of humour, and the other a fine actor that has had some truly memorable roles.  Can you guess which is which?

Lance Henriksen. He always preferred the term "Artificial Human"
"Now remember Connor - the enemy cannot push a button, if you disable their hand." I never said all Clancy Browns' roles were good, just memorable 🙂

There is something like 500 separate characters in Detroit: Become Human, brought to life by 250 motion capture actors.  This is not an epic story being told by a dozen people on screen, this is a fully fleshed out world if the hype is to be believed, and the trailers lend credence to the thought.

And all the other reasons

I can try and describe all of the things that appeal to me about Detroit: Become Human, but there are so many.

So a few more quick points to wrap up with:

  • There is no Game Over screen.  No choices that you make can stop the story continuing.   As I will be going back and playing the different choices, it’s nice to know that a character dying is essentially another story branch.
  • Couch Co-Op.  OK, so Detroit isn’t technically a cooperative game, but I will be playing with the Rabbit on the couch and enjoying an interesting narrative experience together.
  • No planned DLC.  Another weird one maybe, but bear with me.  Today, there are not really many games that are just ‘the game’ outside of the Indie scene.  It feels like there is always another tease on upcoming content coming around the corner, with the Season Pass or equivalent the best way to experience the ‘Full Game’.  It’s just nice that there is a game that just is, the whole story is there waiting for you.
  • Batman like investigations.  The crime scene reconstructions from the Arkham series seem to have influenced Quantic Dreams, as like in the Rocksteady games you will be building holographic recreations of crime scenes to investigate.
I felt these scenes were underutilised in the Arkham games. I am glad to see Detroit using similar mechanics to rebuild a crime scene.

So I will be swinging by my local EB Games store and picking up my copy tonight on the way home.

How about you?  Is Detroit: Become Human a game you could be interested in?

Until next time,

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