After seeing about an hour of Quantic Dream’s upcoming Detroit: Become Human, I can safely say that this is maybe the most interested I’ve been in one of their games in a long time. Traditionally David Cage’s titles have been flawed gems – shining bright and full of ideas of what can be done in the medium, but with imperfections that are too glaring to ignore. While it’s too early to say how the game will shape up compared to its predecessors, the narrative hooks and technical elements are the culmination of the studio’s previous efforts.
I got to see the section from the gameplay reveal during Sony’s press conference earlier in the week. David Cage and Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière played through the section twice, which featured defective-android hunter Connor try and defuse a hostage situation, with a child’s life hanging in the balance. The first run-through had a negative outcome, while the second was slightly more positive.
But before we get in to that, a little context. The game is set 20 years in the future in the titular city, which is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Androids exist, and are treated as tools for menial labour, and as second class citizens. They are separated from society with identifiable blue arm bands. While the parallels to a particularly dark moment in our history are evident, I’m worried that it may not be handled with the proper respect it deserves – Cage’s track record hasn’t been great.
The demo begins with Connor entering a penthouse crime-scene. The controls will be familiar to anyone that’s played Quantic’s last two games (Heavy Rain, and Beyond Two Souls). You’ll move your digital actor around the scene with the left stick, and rotate their head towards important objects with the right. Granular control with objects also returns – move the right-stick at different speeds to determine how quickly you interact with it.
By holding down R2, Connor can enter his Mind Palace – which is basically android-Detective Vision, and an ability only available to him. The world will take on a grainy grey tone, and pertinent objects to your investigation will be highlighted with a blue dot. By interacting with them, Connor can build a profile of the defective android he is tracking, which will open up conversation options in the later stand-off.
One thing I really liked about Connor’s clue gathering was his ability to reconstruct events that happened in the past. By analysing bullet impacts in the environment or on a body, he can create likely scenarios to their origin. These are represented as interactive 3D snapshots of the past, where wire-framed humans play out their parts. You can scrub through the scenario with the touch pad, forward or rewinding, and pausing to rotate the camera. While in this view, you can uncover clues or insights that normally aren’t available.
After getting enough clues, our demo handler brought Conner to his confrontation with the defective android – known in-universe as a Deviant. In our first run-through we had very few clues, which limited our dialogue options. The result was the android grabbing his hostage, and jumping. Our other run had more clues, and as such we managed to save the girl, but at the cost of our own life.
I’m Interested to see if Detroit: Become Human just reverts back to the diamond-shaped structure seen in most choice-and-consequence titles – that regardless of what you do, you’ll always end up at the same point. It sounds cool that if a character dies early on, then the story will change, but the pessimist in me only sees the problems with that: it’s a lot of content to create for a very small amount of people. From a raw work perspective, it sounds unrealistic. But the world that Quantic Dream is crafting looks to be one of the freshest, most engaging I’ve seen from the studio.