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

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