Detroit: Become Human
Developer Quantic Dream Publisher SIE Format PS4 Release TBA
David Cage is at pains to point out that Quantic Dream’s new game is not a work of science fiction. Set 20 years in the future where androids walk, talk, live and work among us, it has its basis in fact: Cage cites research claiming that 40 per cent of jobs will have been delegated to machines by the year 2030.
We doubt those near-future-gazers quite had the same thing in mind as Cage, though. This first glimpse at Detroit: Beyond Human in motion introduces Connor, a highly advanced prototype trained to assist humans in dealing with deviant androids. A small number of mankind’s worker automatons are going rogue. Disappearing, committing suicide, turning on their masters; having emotions, despite being programmed not to.
It’s a setup that lets Cage flip the traditional android-fiction narrative on its head: he wants to position the androids as the good guys, and humans as the antagonists. The cynic might say it also provides narrative justification for cold dialogue and robotic delivery. For the player, it means access to a suite of weird abilities across multiple playable characters.
Connor’s power, Reconstruct, involves using the touchpad to move a cursor around a scene to find individual pieces of evidence that can be combined to form a replay of a crucial moment. In a lavish penthouse apartment, where an android waits on the edge of the rooftop with a gun pressed to the head of a young girl, Connor watches a holographic replay of his target getting a gun from a bedroom cupboard. In the living room, examining the father’s corpse yields a playback of the fatal shots being fired, and another piece of evidence – a tablet on which the man of the house had just ordered a replacement android, setting these messy wheels in motion.
Time is of the essence, Connor’s chance of success lowering the longer he tarries. You can freeze time by pressing R2 to enter the ludicrously titled Mind Palace, which gives Connor free movement through a static scene, text overlays showing his likely success percentage, and blue dots highlighting every interactive element in the vicinity. The more evidence he finds, the better his chances.
Out on the rooftop, a series of timed dialogue choices decide whether Connor succeeds or fails: whether the rogue android dies by his own hand, Connor’s or the waiting police’s; whether Connor dies too; and the fate of the little girl. Outcomes feel worryingly arbitrary, and if Connor kicks the robotic bucket, that’s the end of his story. It would be a great shame if, after expending so much effort on making the build-up more interactive, Quantic Dream leaves the payoff to chance.
Cage wants to position the androids as the good guys, and humans as the antagonists