DETROIT: BE­COME HU­MAN

De­vel­oper Quan­tic Dream Pub­lisher SIE For­mat PS4 Re­lease TBA

EDGE - - SONY@E3 -

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

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