Detroit: Become Human takes place in a Detroit of the near future.
Androids, built, programmed, and sold by CyberLife, have become so common place that almost everyone seems to own one. The androids do everything from domestic work to hard labor to even dangerous security work. Because they are viewed as just being machines, they have no rights in American society and they are often blamed for stealing jobs from hardworking humans. Androids have become a luxury that few humans can do without. Some try to treat their android laborers with respect while other humans are abusively cruel, secure in the knowledge that a damaged android can easily be replaced with a newer model.
Detroit: Become Human is game about three androids, all of whom the player will control at different points in the game. Two of the androids, Markus and Kara, turn deviant and develop their own free will. Markus ends up discovering the android community of Jericho and, depending on decisions made by the player, can end up leading either a peaceful or violent revolution against the human race. Kara is an abused housekeeper android who, after escaping her owner, runs away with a young girl named Alice and attempts to reach Canada, where there are no laws limiting the rights of androids. On her journey, Kara discovers a mad scientist who tortures androids, a deserted amusement park that is populated exclusively by androids waiting for their humans to return, and eventually the future’s version of the Underground Railroad.
Lastly, Connor is an android who has been designed by CyberLife to track down and destroy deviants. Connor is assigned to work with police Lt. Hank Anderson to discover why so many androids have been turning on their owners. Much like Heavy Rain‘s Norman Jayden, Connor is an outsider who has been assigned to aide the establishment. Just as Norman sought refuge in a VR world, Connor finds himself summoned to an ever-changing zen garden where he is asked questions by his superior and it is up to the player to decide if Connor should tell the truth or lie. Like Norman, Connor eventually has to decide which side he is on. How Connor’s story progresses depends on the decisions made by the player. Choose one path and Connor and Hank can become unlikely allies and Connor might even end up going deviant himself. Choose another path and Connor might remain a loyal servant of CyberLife to the very end. It may sound like an easy choice to make but nothing concerning Connor is ever that simple.
Of all the games that I’ve recently played, Detroit: Become Human is tied with Spider-Man for my favorite. Like Quantic Dream’s previous games, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human tells a sprawling story where nearly every single decision that you make effects what happens in the game. Like those previous two games, there are no do-overs. If Markus or Kara dies during one of their chapters, the game continues without them. (Connor, on the other hand, is just rebuilt by CyberLife and sent back into the field.) Because the game follows three distinct (but connected) storylines, it is estimated to have over 40 possible endings, which makes it a game that very much rewards being replayed and experimented with.
Detroit: Become Human takes the storytelling and the gameplay concepts introduced in Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls and it improves on both of them. Unlike the uncertain voice acting of Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human features characters played by actors like Clancy Brown, Lance Henriksen, Minka Kelly, and Jesse Williams, all of whom do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life. The game’s recreation of Detroit and the surrounding area is visually rich and detailed and, unlike Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human does not get bogged down in quick time events. Detroit: Big Human is a game that rewards observant and intelligent players who want to do more than just push buttons while they’re playing a game.
Of course, this is a Quantic Dream game so don’t expect any of Detroit: Become Human‘s political subtext to be subtle. When t comes to dealing with issues, this game is even more heavy-handed than Beyond: Two Souls. There’s barely a good human to be found in this game’s version of Detroit. The best of them is Clancy Brown’s Hank who manages to hate everyone, human and android, equally. (Of course, who Hank or anyone else in the film ultimately turns out to be, depends on the choices that you make during the game.) The most interesting of the human characters, though, is Carl Manfred, the artist played Lance Henriksen. Carl tries to teach Markus how to be human and it’s a confrontation between Carl and his real son (who is jealous of Carl’s relationship with Markus) that leads to Markus setting off on his own. If Carl dies during the confrontation, he remains an inspiration to Markus and his revolution. If Carl survives, his later reaction to Markus will depend on what the player has chosen to have Markus do over the course of the game. Is Carl as benevolent as he seems or was his earlier kindness to Markus just his way of assuaging his own guilt over essentially being a slave owner? The answer depends on how you play the game.
In the end, it’s the sheer number of possible endings that truly sets this game apart. This is especially true of Kara. I haven’t discovered all of the endings yet but, from those that I have reached, Kara’s story always seems to get either the best or the darkest possible conclusion. Markus, meanwhile, can either be an android of peace or an android of war. After everything that he is forced to endure over the course of the game, it’s difficult not to go for war every time. As for Connor, it’s all up to you. Ultimately, everything is up to you.
I look forward to replaying Detroit: Become Human and seeing what other endings this game has to offer. And I look forward to seeing what will come next from Quantic Dream.