DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN
Developer Quantic Dream Publisher SIE Format PS4 Release TBA
Quantic Dream is quick to wave away the suggestion that Detroit: Become Human’s tale of race-based slavery might be in any way, you know, political. Eyebrows all over E3 shot up when auteur David Cage said his dystopian android thriller wouldn’t deliver a message. Associate game director
Gregorie Diaconu backs him up: “We are not trying to have an agenda,” he tells us.
“The thing is, we started making Detroit a few years ago,” he adds. He points out that Quantic’s 2012 tech demo, Kara, was the game’s true genesis. “We try to be very sincere – stay true to each character, let you make your own decisions and reach your own conclusions about what it is exactly to live in that kind of world.”
At first, we balk at what seems like calculated shirking. But it’s understandable in a way: there is a difference, after all, between something being implied and inferred. Yet the inference is inevitable. Yes, Cage and team brought Kara to life before Black Lives Matter came to prominence. But the android/human question has always had racial connotations, and the game actively invokes them at times. Either way, Cage has had plenty of time to come up with a better line than simply pretending the link doesn’t exist.
Still, away from the fuss, there’s a videogame. We’re shown a riot scene, which features dark-skinned android Markus, one of Detroit’s several playable characters. He’s accompanied by North, a militant female android who believes violence “is the only language humans understand” and is fully in favour of a few well-placed molotovs. We must advance the protest and free our fellow androids, our complex sense of morality represented by a rather simple meter that swings between Violent and Pacifist.
We choose to tag buildings with holo-graffiti rather than smashing windows, so our needle tilts towards Pacifist ( some tags overtly link the game to real-world civil-rights struggles: “We have a dream” is actually one of the less cringeworthy slogans). Keen to show off the flexibility of choice, Diaconu has Markus and North flip cars for us. Later, we plant a cyber-flag on a bandstand, a choice that would not appear had we decided to set the structure on fire earlier. Consequence will, we’re told, radiate throughout the game. North is disappointed in our (mostly) peaceful protest, and we’re told it’ll impact our relationship. But regardless of our chosen tack, the riot scene ends with a mass shooting of androids.
While we’re left underwhelmed by this hands-off demo, playing through the hostage scenario shown behind closed doors at last year’s show is gripping. Selecting Connor’s evidence-based dialogue options causes a percentage chance of success to fluctuate, so every choice carries immediate weight. We exhale, relieved, after we finish – a very different kind of sigh to the one that leaves us after that riot scene.
Eyebrows shot up when auteur David Cage said his dystopian android thriller wouldn’t deliver a message