David Cage is a name that fans of quirky adventure games will know only too well. The mystery maestro is back with a very human tale about deviant androids, Detroit: Become Human, out now for PS4. And while this latest game may not evolve beyond Cage’s tried-and-tested formula, it’s still an engrossing journey with an enjoyably twisty plot.
The themes of Detroit all seem rather familiar, especially for fans of cinematic masterpieces such as Blade Runner. We find ourselves in a not-too-distant future Earth, where androids are used as eerily human-like slaves by their owners. However, a recent spate of complaints involving deviant behaviour have the CyberLife corporation (the Tyrell of this particular tale) sweating bullets. So much so that they send out their own mechanical detective, a special new advanced kind of android, to work out what’s going on.
As with Cage’s Heavy Rain, you take control of a handful of very different characters throughout Detroit’s running time. The interesting twist here is that all of them are androids, rather than humans as you might expect.
First up is Connor, the aforementioned android detective. We join him at the game’s prologue, involving a deviant who has taken a child hostage on a rooftop garden. It’s a typically thrilling introduction, involving quickly analysing the scene for clues before attempting to resolve the situation in the best possible way. Do you try and get the rogue android to trust you and release the hostage? Or do you deceive him just long enough to make a risky move?
This refreshing level of freedom repeats throughout Detroit’s running time, but beware; it’s perfectly possible for recurring characters to be killed based on your split-second decisions.
After Connor’s chapter, we’re introduced to Kara; a basic android servant who takes matters into her own hands when her owner gets a bit violent. And the third and final character, Markus, also finds himself in a spot of bother when his owner’s son comes back into the picture.
That thrilling first chapter soon becomes a distant memory as the pace slows to a crawl, and Detroit turns into ‘Household Chores: The Game’. You’ll find yourself emptying bins and fixing meals as we’re introduced to Kara and Markus, although thankfully the game’s pace ramps back up when things head south. With Kara and Markus both on the run, and Connor hot on the tails of other deviants while coping with his own instabilities, there’s rarely another dull chapter.
Some of the best moments in Detroit are the character interactions. Kara finds herself caring for a young girl called Alice, and watching the pair grow close is truly heartwarming. Likewise, Connor’s partnership with a gruff alcoholic policeman is both hilarious and satisfying.
As always with Cage, the bulk of the gameplay is very straightforward. Walk where you’re supposed to walk, press X to look at something, and so on. It can feel like a vaguely interactive movie at times, but at others your actions have a direct impact on the story and subsequent chapters, so it’s more forgivable.
Occasionally you’ll find yourself thrust into an action scene, which is basically a series of quick time events (QTEs) as usual. You’ll need swift reactions to hit every beat, although these sequences tend to be quite forgiving, even on the higher difficulty setting. I did find the QTEs involving quick joystick motions rather hit-and-miss however. Occasionally they simply didn’t register, which was incredibly frustrating.
Still, for every dodgy moment, Detroit throws five gripping ones at your face. Some scenes will linger in memory for some time to come, including a haunting search through a scrap yard for spare parts and the scattered chase sequences which are simply thrilling.
If you like high-brow sci-fi, smart storytelling and heart-pounding action, Detroit: Become Human certainly delivers. And if you can’t stand QTEs, you can at least dial down the difficulty level to enjoy the story.