To Detroit or not to Detroit? That is the question. And, having delved into Detroit: Become Human’s demo, I’m as on the fence as I’ve ever been.
Detroit: Become Human is an undeniably pretty game. Your purpose in this one-scene demo may be to defuse a fragile situation, but you’ll still find time to marvel at the all-too-perfect sheen of your android protagonist’s skin. Many of the other human characters share this same faintly waxen appearance; but given the game’s subject matter, it’s a blessing that you’re not sent on a detour through the uncanny valley.
This demo encompasses the hostage negotiation section of Detroit: Become Human that’s been shown before at E3. It tackles the thorny, if often visited, issue of android rights and the very nature of existence. An android, a previously sedate household model, has gained self-awareness and has murdered one member of his “family”. It’s down to you as Connor, an equally synthetic negotiator, to secure the release of the remaining hostage. It ultimately leads to one of six conclusions, three of which end with you dead, or rather deactivated.
Not so subtle
However, while these are lofty themes, this demo doesn’t tackle them particularly well. The full game apparently offers a more measured exploration of sentience, but the demo is as subtle and restrained as a gin-addled acrobat stumbling into a plate-glass window factory. Mere moments after starting, an NPC complains that you’re not a real person. Your police contact talks without making eye contact with you. And you’re clad in a jacket that has “android” emblazoned across the back. That’s all just in case the glowing LED ring in the side of your head didn’t give your status away.
However, once you’re past the metaphorical gates, things take a turn for the better. You’re given a generous amount of time to explore the apartment and uncover the “truth” behind the rogue android’s rampage. You’re also free to wander out onto the balcony and negotiate with him.
I felt a little coddled that the game constantly reminded me of my chances of success, but it’s a testament to the game’s design that you don’t need to gather up every last clue if you want to save the day. The conversation options you choose impact your chances of saving the hostage, though you may feel comfortable lying to your robotic brother. The best ending doesn’t really offer any great surprises but it does, at least, allow Connor to “live” another day.
Poking around the crime scene is curiously fulfilling. It’s a clear evolution of the investigation mechanic seen in Heavy Rain. Connor’s cyber-brain allows him to replay events (or his interpretation of them) which entails rewinding and fast forwarding said events, and rotating the camera until you spy a clue. For example, pausing the camera at just the right moment and rotating your view point will let you zoom in on, and discover, a tablet computer which slid under a table. The demo is also largely free of quick-time events – though this being a Quantic Dream game, you’re still expected to make specific joystick movements to open a cupboard.
Detroit: Become Human’s demo is reasonably entertaining, if not deep, and offers a taste of things to come. It didn’t, however, sway me in favour of preordering the final game. It certainly looks the part, but whether Quantic Dream can go beyond the superficial and deliver a game that does its themes justice remains to be seen.
Watch our playthrough of the demo below: